Sunday, March 29, 2015

A wise old person...

It is difficult to be of an age when you have become “experienced”. I often heard said that older people are sagacious or sage, wise, and/or educated. Not educated as in a Master’s degree in anything, but educated via the school of life.

In other countries the senior citizens are revered for their life of information gathering. In the USA, unfortunately, that is not the case. Instead children are intent on having to do things by self-learning which is often a “hard row to hoe.” But none the less, they must try and fail, try and fail, and then try and fail until they find their own path, their own knowledge.

We often try to instill our knowledge into others’ lives by making suggestions, offering solutions, and trying to provide direction. But it falls on deaf ears. After all what could an old person know about today’s life challenges? I recall telling my parents that things have changed since they had my problem and their suggestions just won’t work now. 20/20 hindsight is great and I now feel that I should have taken my parents advice. But, I guess I needed my own “try and fail” experience.

As an old person, a wiser and more experienced person in general, I often become frustrated with what I deem to be the lack of respect for my knowledge. Friends and family seem to always be telling me what to do as though I have no clue how to figure it out for myself. When I don’t take their suggestions I end up hearing – “I tried to tell you” – which is the same thing as “I told you so.”

I know of a young man who is addicted to pain killers. He came by the addiction, like many people do, after a severe injury to his back and being prescribed copious amounts of pain medications. It was perfectly legal. He was relieved of pain, but now he had a habit to feed. The young man managed to quit the drugs and stay clean – that is until he re-injured his back. Then it was the same old merry-go-round.  Once again he kicked it, but his beloved dog died and he needed to ease that pain.

I’m seeing this through the eyes of an old person who has heard the same story (sort of) many times. I feel like I’m riding in the front seat of a locomotive and I can see the on-coming light which I know is a train about to collide and destroy everything in the tunnel. I can see what’s ahead for this young man, but I can do nothing about it.

He was offered rehab and at very reputable and expensive center. He could go on a grant and pay very little for the 60 days of intensive therapy at a facility that specializes in addicts who are in physical pain. To top it off, his mother is willing to pay the balance. This appears to be an opportunity of a lifetime. I encourage him to seize the offer and take the time to get well.

But, the young man has his own idea of how to get out of his addiction. Since he can no longer live with his parents, he’s decided to get his own apartment. He has a good job and can afford the rent. His theory is that if he has to pay rent, he won’t have enough money to buy his drugs of choice. In his mind, he is forcing himself to be responsible. Well… I can see how this MIGHT work, but that oncoming train is moving pretty fast.

It is frustrating that I feel I can predict his future based on past experiences with other young people. I try to keep an open mind but the memory cards in my brain are being pulled out faster than greased lightning headed for a lightening rod. It’s faster than the train.

I have learned to not give my predictions or advice unless it’s requested. I was open and honest with the mother when she asked me what I thought. I told her that her son will end up in rehab and by the time he goes that nice cushy rehab center will be off the table. The apartment will simply give him a more private place to practice his drug use. Eventually, he won’t be able to pay the rent or hold his job because the drugs will prevent him from staying as responsible as he is right now. He WILL crash and it will lead to a much worse situation than he has now OR it could lead to his death.

I remind Mom that there is really nothing she can do. He’s on his own “try and fail” mission. I explain that he’s an adult making adult decisions. At this point, she has very little influence over him and the harder she tries to control him, the more resistant he will be. I want to say… “Let him go and experience his own failure or success. Let him go and maybe things will happen quickly while he can still take advantage of the offer given to him.” But I don’t say that to her because in my sage-ness, I know she is not ready.

It’s time to close this post because my daughter is ready to show me the “proper” way to clean the kitchen.  I guess I've been doing it wrong for most of the last 60 or so years. On the other hand, maybe she knows something I do not. My wise old mind knows that there is always something new to learn. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Silence of the children...

Most of the people who contact me are spouses of an alcoholic. But the alcoholic family extends far beyond the wife or husband. The children of the couple become damaged just as much as the spouse. A blog follower contacted me about her son’s acting out. She was in tears because she didn’t know or understand what the problem his adolescent mind was addressing.

Way, way back when Riley was in his very first ever rehab center – a Navy mandated and operated facility – I was fortunate enough to attend the family program. It was an intensive four-week program and I learned more than I ever thought possible. In several of our classes, I learned about the dynamics of the alcoholic family and how children might present themselves in their own course for survival. There were these titles for the possible personalities of the kids. There were:

The HERO – This child is the “perfect” one. He/she is the envy of other parents. Good grades, well-mannered, always helpful and mature beyond their years. This child silently hopes that by being “good” will ease the stress on the alcoholic and possibly instill the desire to not drink any longer.

The SCAPEGOAT – While the Hero is trying to resolve problems, the Scapegoat is creating problems in order to deflect attention away from the alcoholic parent. This child spends a lot of time in the principal’s office due to misbehavior, bad grades and may even begin abusing substances.

The LOST CHILD – Ignorance is bliss for this child. This child may spend may be found alone, in the bedroom, reading, or doing hobbies and isolates himself from the rest of the family members. He avoids stress by ignoring the problem.

The MASCOT – This child often grows up to be a comedian. He/she is the life of the party, the jokester, making light of the situation, no matter how serious it is. What this child is really trying to do is to ease the tension and keep the peace through humor as a distraction.

No matter what the title or role of the child in the home, the main purpose is the same. That is to Keep the peace, avoid confrontations, and generate the opportunity for everyone to be “all right.” They are all a means of survival until they can just “get out” of the situation. That is, for some just a temporary solution because many children return home after moving out to “help” the sober spouse take care of the alcoholic.

I believe the children are the least recognized group of individuals in the entire scope of the alcoholic family. They don’t write comments to blogs. They don’t go to their school counselors and tell on the alcoholic. They seldom confide in friends about their disappoints and hardships created by the alcoholic. They deal with it as best they can – almost in silence.

As the non-alcoholic parent, it is our job to protect our children as much as possible. It is my contention that VERY young children should not be around an alcoholic parent. But, as the children grow into adolescence, we must take special precautions so that they do not feel responsible for the addiction. It is extremely difficult, but the child must remain the child and not take on the burden of any adult responsibilities as they relate to the alcoholic.

I’m reminded of a movie I saw where the alcoholic parent leaves his son in the car while the father goes into a bar and get totally smashed. He returns to the car and demands that the son drive him home. The boy was only about 12 years old. He could barely reach the gas pedal. Yet, the drunken father demanded that the boy drive him home. The young man complied – after all it was his father and he didn’t disobey his father.

I don’t remember the circumstance of why the boy was even in the car with the father at all. But, this is a situation that could have been avoided if the child had felt enough confidence to say “NO” to his Dad. It could have been prevented even before that if the mother had established  with the child that he was not to get into a car with his father.

There are a million different scenarios that could explain why the boy was in the car. It’s easy for me to sit back and say “Well… (humpf) I would never let that happen to my kid…” But the reality is I may not have been able to prevent it. I certainly would not have prevented it if I never said to my kid – “Don’t get in the car with Dad… or if Dad goes into the bar, call me to come get you… or something to let that child know, he does not have to put himself in danger to appease his Dad.

The boy was a good kid – probably a Hero.

I think I have a point here somewhere and it’s this: Let’s not let our kids try to take on the role of solving our problems, easing our tension or deflecting our attention from the real issues created by the alcoholic parent. As non-alcoholic parents we owe them a childhood.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rest in peace Doc

Way back in 2010 I received a comment on a post from a woman named Gerry. She had a blog that included videos of her and her friend Doc. The videos were very entertaining and Riley and I watched them together over our morning coffee. Doc was a true “character”. He was a self-professed alcoholic with no intention of stopping. His attitude towards drinking reminded me of Riley and Riley related to Doc’s posts.

Riley was drinking beer only during that time but his beer consumption was about 15 cans a day. Of course, his drinking increased to nearly a “handle” (the very large bottle) of vodka a day. It was after that in 2012 when he had a heart attack and was put into hospice. He was not expected to live, but in his immortal style – he made it through.

Doc, on the other hand, entered into hospice and died within hours of signing the hospice papers. Doc was not immortal and I believe he had no desire to be immortal. I could be wrong, but that was the way it seemed to me. I remember a post where Doc states that he's decided to leave his body to science.

Gerry and Doc had a unique relationship. They were companions who lived in the same apartment complex. You can see in the videos that they simply enjoyed each other’s company. They both shared a high level of knowledge and intelligence. They were quirky, fun and often made me go “hummmm…” when listening to their points of view.

Doc has gone on to that piano bar in heaven where he is surely singing and acting out to entertain other alcoholics who have lost the fight. I imagine him quoting from obscure books and telling outlandish stories – most of which will be true. 

I will miss him as will many people who have followed him with Gerry on her blog. I know for a fact that Gerry will miss their friendly banter and discussions on such things as cleanliness, politics and other matters. You can see his last video and a video tribute here: .

Rest in peace, Doc… Thank you for the hours of entertainment. And thank you for donating the shell of your soul to help us better understand the biological complications of alcoholism. I can almost hear you saying "I didn't need it anymore, so what the hell -- let 'em have it so maybe they might learn something."

By the way... Be sure to visit to find Gerry's book Daughters of the Shadow Men: A Memoir. Great writing, Gerry!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

More than numbers...

One thing I've learned through writing this blog is that families and friends of alcoholics are eager to learn everything they can about alcoholism. They want to know about all the associated diseases and accompanying illnesses. Even though they know there really is NOTHING they can do about it, still, they want to know. Knowledge is the key to survival and, after all, isn’t that what we all want? Just to survive all the chaos, heartbreak, confusion and insanity is really what we all want.

Whenever I feel arrogant by thinking that I am extremely well informed about all the biological stuff, something comes along and kicks me in the butt to wake me up to the fact that I’m not always as smart as I think I am. That was the case when I learned that Riley has “end-stage liver disease.” It was news to me. I have diligently examined each and every lab report for his liver function levels. I really haven’t seen much to indicate that he was having problems with his liver. Because he is not drinking, I was under the impression that his liver would repair itself as it has after so many of his detox experiences.

Ahhhh… The liver… it’s a miraculous and complex organ. While it cannot repair damaged cells, it can regenerate new ones.  When an alcoholic drinks so much that cirrhosis sets in the liver has scar tissue that cannot be reversed. While portions of the liver may begin to function properly to a certain degree, the liver is still compromised by the scar tissue and cannot completely and totally do its job.  It’s a descending spiral after that – the liver cannot clean the blood properly and so it does not heal and continues to get worse even if there is no alcohol ingested.

In Riley’s case, there have been too many detoxes, too many relapses, and just too many times the liver has been asked to “heal thyself.”  His liver doesn't have enough good cells left and too much scar tissue. Even though his lab reports say he is not in critical danger, the truth is that his liver is failing. When I looked back and ran a graph on his albumin levels, I can see a steady descent over the past six months. It was small – just a half point or so down one month and then near normal the next, then a couple points down. He has been doing the three steps down, one step up dance for quite a while.

If we can’t rely on the lab report to tell us, then what are the signs that the liver is failing? I didn’t realize I was reporting these signs to Riley’s doctors as I was telling them about “how he was doing.” Here is what I observed:

Confusion/Hallucinations: Riley often thought Alea was in the house in the middle of the night and asked me why she was there. She hadn’t been to our house in more than six months. Another instance was that he didn't know where “that dog” came from. He was referring to Jade, who has been his companion for about six years. He often lost track of what town we lived in and who certain people were who came to visit.

Extreme Tiredness/Weakeness: At times Riley was only awake to eat his meals. After eating he would go back to bed until the next meal. There were times when he wouldn't even get up for food.  Currently Riley spends 75% of his day sleeping.

Loss of appetite: Riley has always had a very healthy appetite. He likes to have all the food groups represented including dessert. Now he eats only half of what is on his plate and often skips lunch altogether. He passes on his favorite ice cream and isn't much interested in the homemade treats that I make for him.

Weight loss: It has always been very frustrating for me that Riley can eat his way through the entire menu of a fancy restaurant, including dessert, and never gain an ounce. He eats anything he wants whenever he wants and the scale seldom got over 175 pounds. Now, although he appears to weigh more, he is steady dropping pounds. But, he looks much heavier than he is. He stomach area is flabby which, as it turns out, is simply fluid retention.

Loss of muscle: Riley is a strong person. But, his leg muscles have atrophied to the point where he can no longer stand unassisted.

I’m sure there are other signs and symptoms that are not covered here. These are the ones that have been observed by the doctors at the cancer center and Riley’s primary care doctor.

Riley doesn't seem that bad too me. He is a cantankerous old man who feels he should be entitled to anything and everything he wants. I’m told that I’m suffering from frog soup syndrome. (Recipe for frog soup,1/25/2012) I’ve been warned that he could appear perfectly normal one day and be gone in less than 24 hours. Like I said before, I’ll believe he is dying when I see his ashes in a box.

For more information visit:
The National Institute of Health site: 
or just Google “Alcoholic Liver Disease”.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Still immortal...

We sat in the doctor’s office waiting for the news about the status of Riley’s cancer. He completed his first round of treatment and four weeks later had a CT Scan to determine what or where we go from here. We had been told that it was highly unlikely that the cancer would be gone. Usually it took more than one round of treatment before a remission actually took place.

Actually, cancer or no cancer, Riley did not seem to be getting better. In fact he is much worse with weakness, confusion, hallucinations, lack of appetite and weight loss. I thought the cancer had just taken hold and was not all over his body.

During one of Riley’s more lucid moments, we had a discussion about the quality of his life. He was not happy with the way he was living at that moment and knew it would never be the way he wanted it to be. If he couldn't live his life in an alcoholic cloud, he didn't want life at all. The decision was made that if he needed more treatment – he would decline.

Finally, the doctor entered the examining room. She sat down and opened Riley’s chart, read a few notes and then looked up. “The cancer is gone,” she smiled and then said “Congratulations!”  She said there would be no need for further treatment and that another scan would be done in 3 months and every 3 months after that for a while.

I should have felt relief, joy, and happiness for Riley. But the only thing that I could process in my tired brain was that he was truly immortal. How many lives does this man have anyway? I heard myself saying that the good report meant I would not get the help that I needed to care for him. There would not be hospice nor would there be any support other than what I currently had. I suddenly felt overwhelmed with the realization that I would most likely die before Riley.

After Riley wheeled himself out of the examining room, the doctor stopped me and said “Just because he isn't dying of cancer doesn't mean he isn't dying and that no help is on the way.” She advised me to go back to Riley’s primary care provider because there would be a report sent to him with recommendations as to the course of further medical treatment. I said I would make the appointment right away.

Everything happened very quickly after that. Just after I got Riley into the house and settled, I got a call from the hospice center. It had been recommended that Riley be placed into hospice as a result of his general overall physical condition. I was ecstatically happy. The Calvary was coming!
It seems Riley is cancer-free but still dying. His body is beginning a process of shutting down. I didn't know exactly why. His blood tests all looked pretty good with no blaring alarms. He was losing weight but still had a pretty good appetite. He was just as obstinate as ever – a bit mean and extremely controlling. But, that’s a normal day.

In the meantime, Alea had found and leased a beautiful old farmhouse out in the countryside of Virginia. It was close to many medical facilities and was not in a medical desert. She called and told me “Mom, you’re moving on Monday.” I had no idea how I was going to get everything packed and ready to go in such a short time, but I was happy to be moving on to a more resourceful area.

Riley’s hospice care was transferred to a Virginia agency; the truck pulled up to the front door; and we were suddenly sleeping in this big old house with a giant sized front porch. I hired people to do the cleaning of the old house and get anything out that didn't belong there. I knew I wasn't getting my deposit back, so I simply instructed them to leave the house “broom” clean. It was done and I through with the Belhaven portion of my life.

I certainly don’t want to mislead you. I loved Belhaven. I made solid friendships that I know will last a lifetime. But it was also isolated from my family and difficult to get services, repairmen, and health care aides. Belhaven was beautiful – a peaceful little town with a heart. I look forward to visiting during the next “Pirate Festival” and spending time with my Belhaven friends.

The Immortal Alcoholic still appears to be immortal – hospice or not. At this point, I will believe he is dying until I get his ashes in a box.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Harmony's Success Story

My guest poster, Harmony Rose, is the wife of an alcoholic who allowed forgiveness to set her free. She submitted her story to me in response to requests for success stories. A link to her book is at the end of this post.

This is Harmony's story:

I can honestly say “Love at first sight” is where our story begins. When my husband and I met it was as though time stood still. Our relationship moved very fast.  After three months of dating my daughter and I moved in with him.  He had three other children and a grandchild.  My husband and I went to the bars often and although I wouldn't drink he did and he would become very intoxicated. We had fun, we played pool, we played darts, he never went without me at first, but that all changed.

We were together for a year & a half when I had to have major surgery to remove my left adrenal gland and a large tumor, it was adrenal cancer. Seven days after my surgery was the first time my husband stayed out all night drinking and didn't come home.  That is when everything started to change.  You see for once I needed him to take care of me, it took me months to recover but when I couldn't focus all my attention on him he abandoned me.  We were married three years.

If I had to hit on the key notes of our life I would say it would be this. I mostly tried to raise the kids myself (including my stepchildren but that is a whole other story entirely) he went from drinking at home to going out to the bars.  Some nights he would come home some he wouldn’t.  Sometimes he gambled his paychecks away I would never know what to expect because life with an alcoholic is a roller coaster ride!

Things progressively became worse over the years as did his drinking.  I was becoming more bitter & resentful. I never could understand how this man could drive a car home so drunk and never get caught.  One night I got the phone call after 12 ½ years of his binge drinking that my prayers had finally been answered he had been arrested for a DUI.  I thought now things are going to change they will get better we can be happy.  Boy was that putting the cart before the horse. The first few months were okay the tension was lifted he went to a treatment program for 5 weeks then started AA meetings.  At about 3-4 months he started becoming worse than when he was drinking and this baffled me, why was he not getting better, was he secretly drinking? Nope he was what is called a “dry drunk”.  You see although he was actively in AA he now thought he had all the answers and he was so high on the “pink cloud” they talk about that his ego was bigger than he was.
Selfishness and self-entitlement are a big factor in alcoholism.  My husband continued to not drink but that was the only change he made he wasn't making any internal changes emotionally.  If you can imagine the first ten months of sobriety were far worse than when he drank. The lies, abandonment, verbal abuse, blame, and finally the infidelity that about killed me!  How is it that my husband the “sober alcoholic” was far worse than the “drunk alcoholic”?  We separated, he moved into another room in our home after his indiscretion and he needed to decide if “he” wanted to be married to me anymore.  This is where I contemplated taking a bottle of pills so I wouldn't feel the pain.  Instead of doing that I decided to surrender which led me to an amazing spiritual experience.  I put the pills down and suddenly I felt a warm sensation flow through my body slowly from my head down to my toes as if I was being hugged from the inside out.  After that and talking with my therapist I realized I never truly forgave my husband for anything so for the first time in my life I gave him complete forgiveness for it all, the lies, the abuse, the infidelity, the abandonment, the neglect, everything.  I could have walked away at that point but instead I chose to stay and love my husband stronger and deeper than I ever had before because I wasn't giving up on our marriage or on him.  I knew deep down that my husband wasn't my husband it was the alcoholism it was the disease, he was a very sick man.

So I began showing love at every turn even when my husband couldn't I stayed strong.  A few weeks after that my husband’s sponsor had him read something in the big book of AA that touched him differently this time.  That evening I came home from work to find that he had moved back into our bedroom.  This was our chance to start over, or at least I had hoped.  That was September “2013’’ three months later for Christmas my husband got a ring got down on his knee & asked “will you marry me again”!  June of “2014” we renewed our wedding vows on our 11th wedding anniversary.  We have now been together almost 15 years.

I actively go to 2 meetings with my husband every weekend & I support him 100%.  I am so proud of the man he is today! He is my best friend the absolute love of my life. He has been clean & sober for 2 years 5 months now.  We are more in love and happier than we have ever been. We hope to inspire others to know that addiction doesn't have to mean the end & recovery can mean a whole new beginning. We are proof that miracles do exist you just have to believe and hold on to hope! We have rebuilt our marriage, our life, and our family that was once destroyed by alcoholism.  If you ask my husband or read my book this is what he will say “My wife never gave up on me. When I thought I was dead inside it is she who saved me from myself”

My book is titled Married Under The Influence my author name is Harmony Rose it is my memoir of what life was like for me being the wife of an alcoholic.  Thank you for letting me share.  I hope you take the time to read our whole story it is full of strength, hope and forgiveness!

                                                                                         Best Wishes, Harmony

Here is one link to my book: You can also find it on,, and Google the title other links will pop up.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Lately, I seem to be dealing with a lot of people who have gone through some really – I mean REALLY – tough times. Every idea, thought, dream, confidence is being tested and the result is that they are having difficulty trusting in their own abilities. They have lost a sense of self which has created low self-esteem. Each and every one of these people who have always been self-confident, problem-solvers, often gave advice to others on how to improve the other person’s life. The spark seems to be out of feeding flint. There’s no little bundle of fuzz to help catch the spark into a blaze. Something is wrong.

Many times over the years, I could relate to the above paragraph. Many times I have said I was just going to walk away from everything that appeared to be creating a problem including the blog, the support groups, my husband, the house, and even, my dog and cat. I know. I know. Running away is never the answer. But, when things seem to “not be fixable” and I can’t figure out what to do, I doubt my abilities to finish or DO whatever needs to be done. My self-confidence is trampled upon until it’s just as flat as a critter run over by an 18-wheeler.

I can hear my mother telling me to “get over it” and to “pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with it”, and (my personal favorite) “if you aren't solving the problem then you ARE the problem.” Phew!! My mother was a great believer in using a work-around system to try and try again. If one thing didn't work, try a different approach, make a new plan, but don’t ever quit.

Although a bit drill-sargent-y-ish, I think my mother was right. Mother’s always seem more right as we get on in years. Wish I had listened to her more when I was in my 30s rather than waiting til my 60s.

Anyway, I believe there are ways to build our self-esteem after a devastating disaster in our lives. One of the most common is to seek professional help. A good therapist can go a long way to making us understand that not every loss or fail is a sign that we are not competent.

I have some simpler things that I often do when I start to feel defeated. I go to the salon and get pampered a bit. Invite a friend and after the makeover go for coffee, dinner, or anything that is out of the ordinary. A physical change can sometimes led to a mental change.

Do something physical. Go for a walk, swim, or to the gym for a nice sweaty workout. While improving your health you can improve your state-of-mind. I find that when I’m walking I often let my mind wander and sometimes it strikes upon a solution to my current issue. I don’t consciously seek the answer, I just let my mind go and do its own thing.

For a financial issue, I get advice from my banker or anyone who knows and understands accounting, budgets, etc. Maybe someone can help set up a budget or review the situation. When I'm totally stressed over not having enough money, I take a look at my own budget and see where I can cut expenses or how I can best pay the bills around my paydays. Sometimes I call the creditor and ask if some kind of arrangement can be made to help the situation.

Don’t forget about the BIG bills. I constantly worried about the IRS until I called them and worked out a plan to get caught up on my back taxes. It was easier than I thought it would be and now I’m not thinking I’m a low life because I owe money to the government.

A friend of mine was fired from her job after 17 years of very loyal service. The firing had nothing to do with her job performance or ability. But, after being denied for unemployment and applying for jobs all over the state, she feels “unemployable” and “incompetent.” She fears she will never work again in a field in which she has always excelled. I suggested that she go to a temp agency and take on simple assignments. That way her self-confidence might come back up to par. Maybe she could go back to school and take a few classes that would show her that she’s capable of learning something new.

If you doubt your ability as a parent, re-evaluate your how you have handled parental crises in the past. Take a long hard look at your children and ask yourself: Are they healthy? Are they clean? Are they well-fed? Are they happy? Is there anything you would not do to keep them safe? If you feel you are doing the best you can, then that’s all you can do. Don’t ask anyone if you are a good parent. People have a tendency to tell you what they think you want to hear. This would be a great topic for that professional counselor that I was talking about earlier.

The most important thing about getting your mo-jo back is --  don’t stop. Don’t give up and let someone else’s ideas run your life. Whatever it is that is making you feel inadequate is the thing you need to do more of. You might not succeed on the first couple of tries. But if you quit you will always feel as though you CAN’T do whatever the thing is. Instead just keep trying and telling yourself that you CAN. Tell yourself that often and soon you will believe it. Once you believe it, then you will DO what needs to be done. Think outside the box, get a new plan, and look at your options.

It isn't that you’re not good enough or just can’t, it’s that just haven’t found the key to your dilemma. Patiently try every key on the ring and eventually one will open the door. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

All ya need is love...

Spouses of alcoholics have a very special love-hate relationship with any holiday that demands us to be “loving” or encourage us to buy greeting cards with professions of undying love and commitment. It’s bad enough that we have to endure “family” holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it’s then followed by New Year’s Eve when we are supposed to kiss someone at midnight that conjures up feelings of love and romance. In fact, even Christmas is a romantic holiday when faced with buying that very special gift for the very special someone. In the end the only feelings it generates are ones of disappointment, anger and loneliness.

After November, December and January, we get the ultimate slap in the face – February as the month of love and the most romantic Valentine’s Day. Oh my goodness, just let me hide under the covers and not re-emerge until it’s over. Oh wait – that won’t work because close behind February are all those months where Spring is in the air and all things are fresh and new – like love. And just when you think that’s over and summer is ahead we are met face to face with the Wedding Season.

Ahhh…. Weddings…. That’s when you want to pull the bride aside and ask her “Do you reallllly want to do this???” “Do you know what you are getting yourself into?” You want to tell them about the dirty underwear behind the bathroom door; the shaved off whiskers that remain in the sink; beer burps and farts when trying to be romantic; special dinners served cold because he stopped to have a beer with a friend on the way home; and on… and on… But somehow you never get to say any of those things because the bride is so beautiful and giddy – why spoil the day. Besides just because it was like that for you doesn’t mean it will be like that for her.

I’ve made a change. I’ve stopped dreading almost half of every year and have decided that those months aren’t so bad after all. I found a way to forget about having someone to kiss at midnight or send a syrupy card to on Valentine’s Day. I found a way to rejoice in my own form of “loving” those previously dreaded days.

It’s simple really. I just have no expectations of anyone except myself. I have decided that the most important person that needs expressions of my love is --- ME! And of course, my kids, friends and pets.  I don’t need a man or spouse to convey love. I have all I need.

For Thanksgiving I make each of the grandkids their favorite dessert. On Christmas morning, I give a beautifully wrapped gift of something I really want – to myself. New Year’s Eve is spent, with a bubble bath and champagne as I watch the ball drop. Then I fall asleep relaxed and calm.

But Valentine’s Day is a little more difficult because I am a true romantic at heart. I send out cards to all my favorite people. My great-grandkids get a small box of chocolates. My daughter and grandson’s wife each get a bouquet of flowers. My cat and dog get special treats. I fix myself a special dinner and watch action/adventure movies on TV. In short, I make it a special day for all the people I love and who love me. It doesn’t have to be a man – it could be other people who are important in my life. Showing my love to them makes me feel as though I have celebrated the month of love in a very special way.

It all goes back to taking care of you and loving yourself. It’s about putting your feelings, needs and happiness first. There are worst things in the world than being without a spouse or partner.

Sometimes we do have a romantic partner, but the romance has left the building in favor of a liquid love. It is much stronger and powerful than the vows we took on our wedding day. The liquid love is far more important to the spouse/partner than getting a special gift or displays of affection. What was once the same as those blushing brides is now gone – lost. We are left with emptiness.

What to do? Love yourself. Be happy within your own head. Love your partner, but accept the fact that you have different priorities now. Everyone needs to express themselves – so express your feelings to others in your life that hold a special place.

Will it take the place of a hot, sexy, evening with candles, champagne and chocolate? Probably not. But, it will make you feel special when that child, grandchild, friend says to you… “Oh thank you so much! That was so special! I love you too!” So love yourself by giving love to others because they are worth it. You are worth it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Is it the end?

Sometimes I’m asked if a spouse is at end-stage or how to tell if a spouse is at end-stage. One of my most popular posts is a definition of end-stage alcoholism. You can find it here:

An end-stage alcoholic has usually been through detox and/or rehab several or many times only to return to drinking almost immediately after being released. Most likely they have other health difficulties such as cirrhosis or pancreatitis or a combination of issues. The most common theme is that they simply do not want or cannot stop drinking. If they try to stop on their own they will have tremors and will probably go into DTs which can be life-threatening without medical assistance.

The best way to determine if an alcoholic is end-stage is by observation. Extreme yellowing of the eyes and soft tissues of the face is one of the first physical signs. Vomiting blood; explosive bloody diarrhea; lack of appetite; swelling in the belly; inability to walk; loss of the ability to “be in the moment”; and, hallucinations are all signs that the end may be approaching.

Just because someone is end-stage does not mean death is imminent. End-stage can last years or it can last days. It just depends on the severity of the health issues. Sometimes if the alcoholic can get into a medical detox program, they can recover from many of the health problems. For example, the liver can regenerate cells and become functional again. However, if a return to drinking occurs, the process just repeats itself over and over again – hence The Immortal Alcoholic.

I don’t want to mislead anyone. The long-term consequences of the biological damage will remain. Dead brain cells will always be dead brain cells. Brain atrophy (shrinkage of the brain) can continue to progress at a more severe rate than most people of the same age with dementia. Once the damage is done to any of the organs, it is done and although functioning may improve greatly during abstinence, once that bottle hits the lips everything will go back to that pre-detox status very quickly.

The next question asked is what to do if you believe you are dealing with an end-stage alcoholic. There’s really not much that can be done except prepare yourself for the various scenarios. What will you do if your alcoholic dies? Are you dependent in some way on his income? Housing? Or any other basic living needs? If so, have a plan for what you will do when that support ceases. If he goes to the hospital, detoxes and lives, knowing that the likelihood is that he will return to drinking, what will your plan be on how to handling that situation? It’s hard to think of all the various routes until actually faced with them, but there is a need to try to imagine and have a plan. My motto is hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Don’t forget about the legal stuff – get a medical power of attorney and a general one if the alcoholic will consent. Try to find out what the alcoholic would like as far as services are concerned. You must consider that this is just like any other terminal illness and handle the legal issues as such.

That being said, there are some things you can choose to do if you suspect end-stage is fast approaching. First off, do NOT take away the alcohol. At this point removing the alcohol should only be done in a medically safe environment. It is possible to gradually reduce the amount of intake if you have control of all alcohol access. It can take quite a while, but it will be less traumatic to the alcoholic and can eventually lead to him being alcohol free.

You can try to get the alcoholic medical help, but most doctors want to treat people who WANT to live and alcoholics often do not make good patients. However, getting a full CBC blood test with INR can give you a good idea of life expectancy using either the Child-Pugh or MELD scores. You can find more specific information concerning these two tests in The Workbook for Caregivers of End-Stage Alcoholics available only on this site.

There really is no definitive program for what to do when you discover you are living with an end-stage alcoholic. So I leave you with these suggestions: Be knowledgeable; Make a plan or several plans; Hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What to do...

The question was about what to do if your spouse, partner, or other family member is over-indulging in alcohol. The answer: It depends. And to further complicate matters, there is no easy answer.

If your loved one is in the early stages of alcoholism you can take whatever opportunity you can to try to talk to the person. The opportunity would be when you can talk rationally without anger or nagging. If you become a nag, the alcoholic will close any doors to communication because they just don’t want to hear about it. But, if you can find a moment when you are both open, try mentioning that you were sorry that he/she couldn’t participate in… (whatever was going on) and maybe next time he/she can plan to drink after the event. If you preface your comments with some type of understanding or veiled apology, the conversation will not be confrontational.

I also suggest getting brochures and information about the different types of support groups for alcoholics – AA, Smart Recovery, etc. and leave them around the house where they will clearly be seen. You can research rehab centers and when you find something interesting, like San Patrignano Rehab Center in Italy, you can start a conversation with, “I was reading on line and discovered that there’s a place in Italy that takes addicts and treats them free of charge.” You can tell how their program works and that it would be great if there was a place like that here in the United States. You can even say – I know this wouldn't fit for you, but I was just finding it interesting. There are other rehab centers that are more like a vacation in a luxury resort rather than a rehab clinic. You can mention them and say… “I would love to go there.” The point is you can open up discussions and lite a little fire of interest in the not-so-totally-soaked brain of the alcoholic.

Of course, none of the above works if the alcoholic is past the point of communicating reasonably. In that case, there is almost nothing you can do. The alcoholic is not going to listen or open any doors of communication because he/she will always feel that they are being pushed into rehab. They don’t believe anything is wrong with them, so why listen to someone who wants to try to convince them that they need help?

The most important thing that you can do in any stage of alcoholism is focus on yourself and not the alcoholic. What is it you want to do? What are you passionate about? Develop your own interests and actively participate with others who share those interests. Join a book club, quilting group, dog lovers group or any other kind of group that you find interesting.

If you have kids, use them by taking them to different places or encouraging them to do things outside school and home. I used to pack a picnic lunch, put the kids in the car and ask them what direction they wanted me to drive. Eventually we would find a place to have our lunch and try to find our way back home. In reality, I always really knew where we were, but it was fun to let them try to figure it out. I also watched the newspaper for “free” events, festivals, fairs, etc. and hauled the kids along. These kinds of activities got us outside the house and away from the alcoholic. It was a great bonding experience and created some pretty awesome memories.

The bottom line is that the alcoholic is going to do what alcoholics do – drink. They will do this without regard for what it does to you or the family dynamic. There’s no point in confrontation, anger, or threats because they will fall on deaf drunken ears. If you do make any threats, you must be prepared to follow through on the consequences that you've set. If you threaten to leave, be prepared to leave.

There are obviously a few things that you simply cannot let happen – like blindly letting the alcoholic drive drunk or allowing complete control of the finances.  Use common sense while letting them find their own way.

If you are a parent of an alcoholic child the whole game changes. See: Do just one more thing

Soooo…. It all sounds so simple – right? Well… not so right. This will be the hardest thing in the world to do. The NOT doing anything to “help” or “strongly encourage” the alcoholic will be the most difficult thing you've ever done. It’s just not natural to let someone you love fall down a never-ending rabbit hole. All our instincts will tell us to do SOMETHING, do ANYTHING. Ignoring anger, frustration, disappointment is almost impossible.

You will need support and you can find it by joining a group such as OARS or Al-Anon and/or getting a personal therapist. I offer one-on-one support coaching through my website LindasFrontPorch ( To join OARS on Facebook or the independent website, send me an e-mail requesting an invitation.

Here’s a list of other relevant postings: