Thursday, January 29, 2015
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 (http://www.lindasfrontporch.com/one-on-one-visits-with-linda/). 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:
at 8:18 AM
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
I was honored to have participated in Perri Peltz’s Show on SiriusXM Stars yesterday. I was in excellent company with Peter Santoro of LESC, Dr. Mark Willenbring of Alltyr, and Dr. George Koob of the NIAAA. I want to send out a special thank you to Perri Peltz for inviting me to her show.
Over the next few posts I’m going to be expounding on the questions I was asked during the program. The answers as so much deeper than a few seconds response can cover. This particular post is also a bit of a continuation to my previous post “What’s normal anyway…”
I was asked why spouses/families stay or continue to try to help the alcoholic in their life. My simplified answer was that it was like the Frog Soup Syndrome. In case you are not familiar the theory is that if you put a frog in a pan of hot water it will jump out immediately. If you put the same frog in a pan of cold water and slowly bring the water to a boil the frog will stay in the pan and eventually become frog soup.
By the same theory if we think what we are doing is “normal” and continues to do what feels normal but add a few things here and there it will continue to be normal for us. After years of being on that particular level of normalcy, we may eventually discover that we are actually so far away from normal that we don’t even recognize the state we are really in. It could possibly be the state of frog soup. That’s when the spouse hits themselves on the forehead and screams “What was I thinking?”
Often times the hit on the forehead is accompanied with the realization that the alcoholic is now too sick to be on his/her own. Leaving him/her now would be like leaving a person dying of some incurable disease along the side of the road and driving off. It often feels immoral to just walk away.
There are a lot of reasons why people stay with in a relationship riddled with alcoholic insanity. Some stay because they love the alcoholic – or rather – the person the alcoholic was before the alcohol took over the brain. Others stay for practical reasons such as being unable to afford to live without a joint income. Many spouses say they took vows when they married and to leave would be in violation of those vows. And still others stay because they can’t find a way to climb out of that pan of frog soup.
I took my husband back into my home to protect my daughter from moving her nearly-dead alcoholic father into her home. I had stayed married to him and he was my responsibility – not hers.
The bottom line is that the answer is not cut and dry. There is no absolute correct path. There are as many reasons for a person staying in (or going from) a relationship with an alcoholic as there are reasons for doing anything we do in life. Sometimes we make choices about staying or going even when it may appear that we are doing nothing. Doing nothing puts us in a position of choosing to be in that pan of hot water that’s getting hotter by the minute.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
I’m very excited about being on Perri Peltz’s radio show on Tuesday (1/27/2015) at 1 p.m. Eastern Time on SirriusXMStars Channel 109. Not only am I going to be on the show, but I’ll be following Dr. Koob of NIAAA. That’s an honor and a hard act to follow. He’s about science and research and I’m about life experience. I think that just about makes us a complete package.
I think life experience as a wife of an alcoholic is subjective. No one person is just like another and no one marriage is just like another. But, there are commonalities and sometimes it’s as though they are not just commonalities, but rather everyone is alike. Really, we are not. I’m happy to have discovered that.
There was a point in my marriage that I thought we were like every other married couple we knew. I felt normal. My husband would get up in the morning, we would have coffee, he would go to work, I would take care of the household, he would come home, have dinner, watch some TV, tuck the kids in and go to sleep. It was pretty much the same routine every day. Of course there was a couple of scotch on the rocks when he got home, then wine with dinner and maybe more scotch during TV.
Even though I did not grow up in a home that had alcohol, this routine didn’t feel out of the ordinary to me. This is how life was depicted in movies starring the likes of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Don’t remember of Ozzie Nelson kicked back a drink when he came through the door. But, if it wasn’t actually on TV, it still seemed that it might be something he would do. I imagine those productions made it seem “natural” to consume alcohol after a hard days work.
The description I give about my marriage is one that was within the first five years of our couple-ness. After that things went downhill. During the early years, I would look around and see my friends husbands drinking what seemed to be an equivalent quantity of booze as my husband. Maybe they were alcoholics also. After all, most of our friends were serving about the same submarine and were attending the same social functions. Maybe it was a “birds of a feather” sort of thing.
I didn’t wake up to the fact that something was wrong until we were transferred to a new city and stayed with friends until our new house was available. The husband of the couple did not have any alcohol at all until after dinner when he would pop open a can of beer while watching a movie on TV or playing UNO with the other adults. He played with the kids in the yard while there was still daylight and helped with the homework while the wife cleaned up the kitchen after dinner. When I witnessed the dynamics of this family, I realized that there may be some issues in my own family.
I don’t know why it took me so long to really realize that something was wrong in my marriage and in my family. I’m a stubborn woman with a positive outlook and that may have been my downfall. I wanted with all my heart to be “normal.” But, eventually, I could see that my husband’s first love was alcohol. It was worse than discovering that he had a mistress – which happened at just about the same time.
The topic on the radio show is about how alcohol affects families. The details and scenarios of that destruction is a point that I hope to address. Please join me and Perri Peltz as we talk about standing in the wake of alcoholic destruction. We will be taking callers. “The Perri Peltz Show” is Live on SiriusXM Stars Channel 109 from 1-2pm ET. The call in number for listeners is 888-947-8277.
at 10:40 AM
Friday, January 23, 2015
I’m very excited to post that I will be a guest on “The Perri Peltz Show” on January 27th at 1 pm Eastern Time, Sirius XM Stars Channel 109. Listeners are invited to call in to 888-947-8277 with questions or comments.
Also on the show will be Dr. George Koob, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Dr. Koob oversees the Institutes budget for research in scientific areas such as genetics, neuroscience, epidemiology, prevention and treatment. Be sure to tune in early enough to be able to hear what Dr. Koob has to say. It should be very interesting to hear his points of view and learn what the Institute is doing in the world of alcoholism.
Dr. Koob will be a tough act to follow. I’m up to the challenge. I’ll be focusing on families of alcoholics and how alcoholism destroys more than just the alcoholic. It would be awesome if my readers would call in with questions or comments.
Mark your calendar and join me with Perri Peltz for this live broadcast. We will be taking callers. “The Perri Peltz Show” is Live on SiriusXM Stars Channel 109 from 1-2pm ET. The call in number for listeners is 888-947-8277.
at 6:03 AM
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
In the comments of one of my posts the question was asked: So does ANYONE out there have a story about ACTUALLY coming out on “the other side” and everything being “alright”???
The simple answer to the question is YES. The reason we don’t hear so much about those stories is that the chaos has settled down so there’s not so much need to keep reaching out for support.
I do receive “success” stories, but success comes in different forms to different people. “Being all right” is subjective to the person seeking that condition. For some it means that the alcoholic quits drinking and the family switches to a healthy dynamic without the influence of alcohol. For others it means the non-alcoholic is able to break away from the alcoholic and is free to create the life they want without the chaos of alcoholism. Even care givers of end-stage alcoholics eventually find peace after the death of the alcoholic. For those people, the death is what leads to everything being all right.
The OARS Family and Friends Group have members who are still in horrible alcoholic situations and then there are others who are no longer living with the alcoholic. Even though the alcoholic is not drinking and they are not living with the drunk, there are still things that come up in everyday life that are sometimes difficult to handle. These people reach out to others who are either in their situation or just simply under the circumstance. In that case, even though they are on “the other side” they still find themselves faced with the aftermath.
If anyone wants to share a “success” story, please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the words “Success Story” in the subject line. I’ll share your story in the blog.
at 5:05 AM
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Below is a guest post from AJ Richichi, founderof www.ChronicleMe.com:
Although illustrated as the best time of year, the holidays can be very difficult for people suffering, and who have suffered, with addictions with grief triggers. A few years ago, my grandfather passed away in the middle of the summer. Months later around Christmas time, it became evident for the first time that he was gone… forever. I felt as if he died once more, as his favorite chair remained open the entire night and his favorite foods remained untouched. The Holidays became a reminder of his absence, not a celebration of family and the New Year.
Grief is a difficult thing to manage. It lies with you as you try to sleep and remains with you throughout the day. It’s complicated and varies with each experience. I wish I had the solution or could develop an equation to find ‘x’, however I’ve come to understand that, for me, grief and other stress in my life can be significantly reduced with a number of things.
1. In depth conversations with family. Instead of asking dead-end questions about their day or the weather, ask questions about their job, work, or personal life.
2. Exercise. Whether its 30 minutes before everyone wakes up for the holiday party or after you open gifts, exercise can give you much needed time to reflect and decompress.
3. Go out to breakfast with your parents. As a young adult a few years out of school, I’ve found that my relationship has changed with my parents. Through countless discussions, I've matured to realize that me growing up was challenging for both parties. When my relationship is good with them, all other elements of my life tend to be less stressful.
4. Read! Blog or book, magazine or newspaper, find a quiet place and learn from other perspectives, viewpoints, and opinions.
The holidays are a time of cheer and joy. However, it can be a hard month based on your particular situation. It’s important to keep a positive mindset. How do you deal with the holidays? What’s worked for you in the past? I’d love to hear your thoughts. –AJ
AJ Richichi is Founder of www.ChronicleMe.com, the positive social network based on supporting fellow community members. Working alongside countless self-help organizations, ChronicleMe has recently launched infographic campaigns to help raise awareness and educate millions of people with topics including mental health, sexual assault, suicide prevention, domestic violence, and cyber-bullying.
at 6:52 AM
Monday, January 5, 2015
Oh My… another fresh new year just waiting for some adventure and excitement. I have a calendar with 365 empty squares. There’s even more empty squares if you count the ones without numbers. They all look lonely, boring, and open to possibilities.
I grew up with my mother repeating “Do something productive with every minute of your time, because you’ll never have those minutes back again. Once the day is gone, it’s gone forever.” I imagine that’s why I must am driven to do something every day. Even if I plan to relax, I’m always working on something – needlework, reading, writing. It’s always something going on in my brain or in my hands.
My calendar process is much the same as my budgeting process. I put things onto the calendar that
are “proposed.” Then as that day comes, I put in what I actually did. Of course, doctor’s appointments, etc. are pretty much not proposed, but actual things that must be done. Working my calendar in this manner, I can see if I’m accomplishing anything or not. Sometimes I accomplish things, but not the things I want to accomplish or not as much as I wanted to do.
I’m a list maker. In the morning, I make a list of things to do that only a person with three clones would be able to complete. About half of the items end up on the next day’s list, some fall off the list completely. I am flexible, but still wish I could get it all done.
Living with an alcoholic means a constantly evolving list of things to do in a order that’s as flexible as a strand of cooked spaghetti. There is no constant, no consistency, no order, no logic, in the tasks that need to be done or the priority of completing them. It’s especially frustrating for me as a person who has a vision but has trouble reaching the ultimate goal.
So I’m looking at this empty calendar and asking myself where to start. Hmmm… I can enter birthdays. That’s a good place to start. Then there are other milestones that can go in the appropriate square. That will at least remind me to remember to wish someone a happy birthday or anniversary or whatever.
Next to be scheduled would be all the recurring events – like the annual house lease renewal; my mammogram; annual writer’s conference; or the anniversary of my blog. I need those little reminders.
When Riley was drinking I would enter things into the calendar like – “jail” if he were a guest of the city overnight; vomiting blood; fell down stairs; and other things that I might be asked by a person in authority at some point in time. I also keep a calendar in my Workbook for Caretakers, so I always have an account of how many times he falls or vomits or eats a healthy meal.
After putting in all that vital stuff, I plan for what I would like to do. Let’s see… I want to go to the NIAA meeting in Washington DC every quarter. I want to attend several conferences and seminars on alcoholism. I’d like to host seminars and begin live OARS meetings. I’d like to take a vacation. WAIT!! What is a vacation?? As unrealistic as it is, I plan a vacation every year. I haven’t managed it in more than 12 years, but I plan it anyway.
The empty squares are fewer now, but I still see time to do things. If Riley were not either drinking or having cancer, I could plan some dinner parties. I love to host dinner parties. I could plan for the great-grandkids to come for the weekend. I could take them to Busch Gardens or the Pirate Festival. But, drinking or cancer always eliminates the real possibility of this happening. What the heck! I write it in anyway.
With a fresh calendar and a plan for ways to spend my time so that my idle hands will not become the devil’s workshop, I can start my year. Seldom does my calendar ever work out to be a factual rendition of my life when I look back on New Year’s Day. I will probably only follow through on a few of the planned outings, conferences, meetings, and least we forget the vacation. They most likely won’t happen. But at least I had a plan. Someday that plan may work out right down to the minute. Won’t that be different?
What do you do when you get a fresh new calendar? How do you make things work?
Monday, December 29, 2014
Today’s post is the 300th since I created this blog on October 19, 2011. There have been good responses and bad responses; words of encouragement and comments of distain; some readers gained knowledge and support while others were disappointed. I’ve talked about medical issues, personality traits, sobriety and drunkenness. I have offered support groups and tried to impart cold and hard facts. I’ve had several readers who spent many hours on trying to get me to stop writing posts and even had death-threats from an unlikely source. Through it all, I persevered and tried to maintain my open, honest and informative attitude while trying to always keep a sense of humor. I’m proud to have been able to meet that goal.
In this journey, you’ve read about Riley’s absurd ideas and beliefs from the brain of a man who could no longer see logic or reason. You’ve read about Riley’s heart attack and his entry into hospice at a local nursing home. Then there was his miraculous recovery where he further solidified my name for him as the Immortal Alcoholic. Now I am sharing with you about Riley’s cancer and my frustration at being his personal home health aide while living in a medical desert.
You’ve also come along as I created the Workbook for Caretakers of End-Stage Alcoholics; held several seminars/workshops; finished and published The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife; and now… beginning my public speaking/seminar endeavor as a business that gives back. We’ve come a long way Baby!
Thank you for sticking with me. Thank you for understanding me when I’ve been down in the dumps. Thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for sharing your experiences and resources with the other readers. Thank you for being a part of “Team Linda.” For those of you, who don’t like my bandwagon, thank you for challenging me.
Several people have been suggesting that it is time for me to relax and enjoy my retirement. They say I should focus on crafting, sewing, gardening, cooking, etc. Leave all this alcoholism nonsense behind me and let it all go. I just nod and smile because even though they may be very close to me, I think they just don’t “get it.” I’m not finished yet. There’s still so much more to do and as long as I’m physically capable of working on the projects of my choice – I’m not going to sit in a rocking chair and idly knit booties.
Now that the first round of treatment for Riley’s cancer is nearly complete (his last day of radiation will be New Year’s Eve), the doctors and social workers have taken me aside and talked to me about expectations for the future, as well as handling the present difficulties. Riley has a 50/50 chance that his cancer may be in remission after treatment. One doctor believes that is an optimistic prediction and would suggest his chances be lower. In each interview, they have expressed to me that I need to pick up where I was before Riley was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer. I was planning a seminar that got postponed; I was beginning the sequel to The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife; I was compiling a book of short stories; and, trying to grow the support group numbers. I’m told it’s time to bring all that to the fore-front once more and accept that Riley may not be around much longer. I should be planning my life with the reality that Riley will most likely die within the next couple of years either from cancer; the treatment side effects; and/or, the high possibility of him returning to drinking.
WAIT!! What did you just tell me?? I thought I heard someone say that Riley is going to die in the very near future. Haven’t I heard that before somewhere? Didn’t I act on that advise once before with disastrous results? The definition of CRAZY is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I’m not crazy enough to believe that Riley’s time is near – I may believe it, but it’s crazy to act on it. I’ll believe Riley is not immortal when I have his ashes ready to be shot from the torpedo tube of a submarine. Until then, I will continue to believe he is not going anywhere anytime soon.
However, I will take the advice offered to me. It’s time to get back to doing what I was doing before the diagnosis. With the possibility of having a real home health aide for a few hours a day, I can see a bit of freedom looming on the horizon. Time to get back to work!
Post 300 is a Thank You to my readers and a declaration of returning to my own form of sanity. If I were a drinker, I’d make a toast to the past 300 posts and the upcoming 300 posts! What the heck… I’ll use my V8 juice! Here's to 300!
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Now available for speaking to families and friends of alcoholics at your event, rehab center, etc. At this time I charge only for the cost of my expenses. I also speak to alcoholics about the life that they create for their loved ones when they are inside the bottle.
My casual, interactive speaking style engages the audience in the topic. Not just another Powerpoint presentation, but rather a conversation with the attendees. There's some humor and there's some heartbreak, but the bottom line is that it is all real.
I have 10 (ten) open dates at this special expenses only rate. Reserve your date NOW! E-mail me with SPEAK in the subject line: email@example.com
Monday, December 22, 2014
We celebrate Christmas and I mean no disrespect to those who don’t celebrate Christmas, but rather some other seasonal celebration. In this post, I use Christmas because it is what happened in our house, but it could really be any holiday – Hanukkah, Kwanza, or others. But these are my memories and this is how I remember it.
It happens every year. Just like clockwork the holiday season arrives and we all breathe a deep sigh. For some people it is a sigh of joy and delight, but for others not so much. There are those that a sigh is used to boost their strength or indicates a feeling of “here we go again.” I know both kinds of sigh and, believe me, the first one is much better.
I remember Christmas’ of joy and delight. I remember seeing twinkling in my children’s eyes and the fun of visiting Santa Claus. It was a happy time filled with gatherings of family and friends, tree trimming, and… oh… so much… fabulous food.
Then there was the other kind of Christmas. Those Christmas’ were filled with worry, doubt, anger and disappointment. When Riley was in a period of making alcohol his mistress, he did not attend the children’s winter concerts nor did he participate in any preparation for the holidays. Mostly, Riley was just absent both physically and mentally. When he was around for a gathering, he was always so drunk that he broke glasses, knocked over Christmas trees, and made suggestive comments to any woman within sight.
After a few of these Christmas failures, I learned not to really include Riley as a factor in the season’s celebrations. I attended parties alone or with a friend. I never even implied to the kids that Riley would go to their concerts. I didn’t expect he would help with things such as shopping, tree trimming, food preparation or going to see Santa. He became an invisible entity within the house. But, then, I didn’t have to worry much about his presence because he was rarely at our home.
I considered myself as somewhat of a single parent and acted in that manner. I refused to let Riley’s “scroogness” have any bearing on my finding joy. I suppose you could say I “detached” from Riley and just continued on. It doesn’t matter what word you use to describe it, the end result was that it worked for me.
Riley was still somewhat a part of things at Christmas. He read the gift tags and handed out the packages to all of us. He ate Christmas breakfast with us and often stuck around for Christmas dinner. But after dinner he was gone and wouldn’t return for days. It was almost a blessing he was gone because I didn’t have to have conversations with someone who wasn’t quite able to follow the chain of exchanges.
The Christmas’ since Riley had his heart attack have been decreasing in intensity – at least for me. Riley doesn’t seem to care about Christmas except that we have a tree and a huge Christmas feast. We don’t have company during that time so it is just two people trying to enjoy some holiday spirit. But, the enjoyment feels forced.
This year, there will be no tree and our neighbors will be bringing us a plate full of their Christmas feast. I did send out Christmas cards to a few people, I made some holiday wreaths, and that’s about it. I don’t feel that I’m missing anything. My daughter and the rest of the family will be getting together for the whole big Christmas blow out. But, it’s too far for us to go to them especially with Riley as sick as he is so we will talk in the morning and probably in the evening. They will post pictures on Facebook and I’ll be able to see the great-grandkids smiling faces. That will be enough for me this year.
I have hopes of better Christmas’s in the future. I envision that I will be able to go to my grandson’s house and spend several days enjoying the season. The great-grands will be ages 9, 5 and 1 years old. They will be helping me bake cookies and make tree ornaments. We’ll see Santa as he rides down the street on a fire engine. There will be shopping with the adults and lots of yummy food.
Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas future… good and bad, even some just so-so. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which kind it will be until it is upon me. One thing I know for sure is that Christmas will come again as it does every year. Same date, without fail Christmas will arrive.
Today I’m hoping for a sigh of joyful expectations for all my readers for this and every holiday season.