Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I always seem to struggle through the month of February. In my mind it’s a small month that is packed with stuff – National Freedom Day, Groundhog Day, Rosa Parks Day, National Wear Red Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Susan B Anthony Birthday, President’s Day, and let’s add Arkansas’ Daisy Gatson Bates Day. In spite of all the listed holidays, February is still known to be the month of love. Valentine’s Day seems to over-shadow all the others.
My struggle with this month of love is that I am a romantic disguised as a cynic. I make jokes about the best thing about Valentine’s Day is the day after when the candy can be bought at 75% off. I send funny cards and reserve all my goosheyness for my great-grandbabies who loved getting my little gifts declaring my love for them. If you pull back the mask and look underneath you will find that I’m not just a romantic, I am utterly and completely hopeless. I am also a realist. I suppose that means I’m a realistic hopeless romantic.
I was watching a television program about a wedding. It was beautiful. The gown was incredible with bits of shiny beads, pearls and lace. It fit her like a glove and her beautiful figure was easily recognized. Flowers were everywhere and all the guests were both smiling and crying. It would surely be a day the couple would remember for the rest of their lives.
As I watched and listened I noticed that somewhere inside me I experienced a bit of stinging when the vows were said and done and the minister pronounced them “husband and wife.” It was like the words were said in slow motion – h u s b a n d and w i f e. That part is always saved to the end of the ceremony, like they don’t tell you the punch line of the joke until the end. Husband and Wife. As if their names were no longer John and Mary, but rather “husband and wife.” I turned off the television and decided to put it out of my mind by baking some bread. I like to bake as a distraction from things that are disturbing.
The baking didn’t help because I kept thinking that I didn’t really know what all that meant – or maybe I did know what it meant and was uncomfortable with it. I’m sure it’s the later of the two. I am a wife and I have a husband. It’s a path I chose many years ago – more than 40 in fact. It was decision made with open eyes. As is the case with most newlyweds, I was young and inexperienced. When I think about it now I don’t understand how young couples can be expected to make sure life-altering decisions at such a delicate, tender, age. It’s like saying at age 15, I’m gonna love roses my entire life and then realizing when you’re 40, that you like hydrangeas better. I suppose that’s why divorce was invented.
Strangely, I've never been a wife to a man that I felt I could have spent my entire life with. I've been married to an abuser (Peter) and to a drunk (Riley). If I have to measure, I have far more affection for Riley than I ever had for Peter which is understandable with all things considered. I am now, and have been almost forever, Riley’s wife. That means I do wifely things. I cook, clean, organize, manage, and take care of him because he cannot do these things for himself. Sometimes I do a better job than others, but I always do something for him on a daily basis. He is my husband and that means he is my responsibility.
I could have chosen to get a divorce when I realized that taking the vows meant I would be forever tied to this other person. But, I didn't. I’m a hopeless romantic. No matter how bad things got, I stayed the hopeless romantic. I believed he would leave his mistress, Ms Vodie Aristocrat, and return to me with a renewed vigor towards saving our marriage. That did not happen. When the mistress left him behind, she left a broken man who was not recognizable as the man with whom I took my vows.
People ask me how we have been able to stay together so long. They say we must have a secret to making our marriage work. I want to scream out that the only person the marriage works for is Riley. The secret for couples to have a long marriage is to marry someone who will feel a sense of responsibility and will not leave when things are unbearable. And if you split up, make sure you maintain some semblance of a bond, so the healthy one will come to the aid of the unhealthy one during bad times. My advice is to forget love and marry for loyalty. Did I mention that I’m a cynic?
I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. I’m jealous of the people who I believe have found that true and everlasting love that will sustain them for their entire life, yet I'm happy for them. I long to have had that with the man that I believed would be a true and loving husband. I realize that will never happen. I fantasize that there is still hope for me. I believe that I have little time or energy left to really search for him. I refute the idea that a Prince Charming will ride up and save me from the beast. I would probably tell me to ride on and go save his own self anyway. I know that I want true love. I doubt that it will come to me in this lifetime.
Maybe there should be two types of marriages. First there should be the young love marriage that allows for the procreation of our species. If it lasts forever, that’s great. The second type of marriage is one based on practicalities like common interests, friendships, sexual compatibility and has nothing to do with producing offspring. This second type of marriage would happen at a later age when each individual has already been through the first type of marriage. Each individual would know themselves as their own person and would be better able to communicate wants, needs, desires, dreams, etc. In fact, the second type of marriage doesn't even have to be a licensed marriage. It could be just two people who join together with a common goal.
In my opinion, the chances of have a “first type” marriage that lasts till death do part is rare. No one is the same at age 60 as they are at age 20. If what you’re looking for is a “death do part” marriage, don’t get married until you’re already in your 50’s. It’s easier to keep the romance alive over a period of 20 or 30 years than it is 50 or 60 years.
This year on Valentine’s Day I did my usual cynical stuff. I laughed and carried on. Inside I was conflicted. Maybe just staying in bed under the covers for the entire month would have been a better way to handle things. Oh no… wait… I just realized that June will be upon is in no time. June is the wedding month… here I go again.
at 8:05 AM
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Below is a story that was submitted by one of my readers. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
Thank you, Emma, and please write more for me. -- Linda Jane
When I was twenty-one, my mother mentioned, almost in passing, that the woman I had identified as my great grandmother for all of my life was actually a step great grandmother. No matter, I had loved her the same. But something nagged at me—if she was my step great grandmother, who was the woman that had actually given birth to my grandfather? The answer had been buried, it seemed.
By interviewing my family, I was able to uncover very few things, a testament, I think, to the secrets we’re able to keep. My biological great grandmother wasn’t spoken of because she’d committed an early suicide—managed to acquire a number of pills, disappear into the woods, curl up in a cave, die. She didn’t leave a note. She did leave an ex-husband and three children with whom she had limited contact. She did leave a legacy that was apparently not worth mentioning.
But it would have been worth mentioning to me, more so as I watched my own mother sink into a depression that lasted several years. More so as I watched her disappear into a kind of functional alcoholism that, while kept within the confines of our family like so much else, greatly impacted her children.
And when I started college, living away from home, learning how to thrive outside the confines of family, I began to feel depressed too. At this point, prior to my mother’s revelation about my biological great grandmother, I felt like a freak. I had no context for what I was experiencing.
It might also be worth mentioning that my father, while blaming mental health issues on my mother’s side of the family, is not without his own. A long time addict, he has dabbled in every drug imaginable—most recently (though it’s now been ten years) spending time in jail for the manufacture of methamphetamines.
All of this to say that it is no surprise that I might experience some issues of my own. In college, I walked into the office of a mental health professional and broke precedence. The experience of talking to an unbiased professional offered tremendous clarity for me—my family was comprised of codependent addicts and it wasn’t just me who thought so. And I was predisposed to these types of behavior too, more likely than many of my friends to display the traits of an addict, more likely to overindulge at that fraternity party again and again and again.
But now I was aware. And knowledge is power.
So, instead of dwelling on the inherent darkness in my family, I chose to make something positive of it. I don’t do drugs, but I occasionally indulge in a glass of wine. It’s always in a social situation, and never when I’m upset or feeling down. I see a counselor regularly, even if everything in my life is going perfectly. I work with addicts and families affected by addiction. I practice innovative rehabilitation. And, most important to my process of acceptance and change, I write.
I write about my great grandmother and my mother. I write about my father and sisters and grandfather and friends. Joan Didon (who happens to be one of my favorite authors) says that writers are always selling somebody out—it’s true, but it’s a price I suspect most are willing to pay.
Emma Haylett grew up hauling hay and birthing lambs. Now, she completes the metaphorical equivalent in the city where she helps coordinate drug treatment programs for addicts and families of addicts.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
My refusal to be extorted by the local propane companies means the past couple of days have been difficult. I say “difficult” because it has not been impossible. The thermostat in the hallway reads 49 degrees. But, I reason with myself that the hallway is small without any direct heat and I should expect it to be colder there rather than the rest of the house. The thermostat on the living heater is reading 57 degrees. Now that’s more tolerable.
Riley sits in his favorite wing-backed chair with a heated throw over his lap. He is dressed in sweat pants, T-shirt with a sweat shirt over it, thermal socks and his fuzzy lined slippers. He has on his Santa hat to keep his head and ears warm. I keep him supplied with hot coffee. He had hot oatmeal with blueberries for breakfast and he’ll have chili for lunch. Dinner will be beef stew. So he’s doing pretty well.
I’m in my office which is registering 52 degrees overall, but I have a little heater under my desk that keeps my legs and toes warm. I’m also in a sweat suit with a little sweat-type jacket. If my ears get cold I simple pull up the hood. Yesterday I was able to work in here for about six hours. I’m hoping for the same today. If I get too cold, I’ll just transfer to my bed and crawl under my electric blanket.
We do have heat. We have a really nice electric heater in the living room, Riley’s room and my bedroom. When I cook or bake the kitchen warms up. If I build a fire in my office fireplace, I can heat the whole front portion of the house. Since the electrical system still has an old fashioned fuse box, I am careful not to overload any circuits. Heat is not impossible; it just requires some planning and caution.
I saw the weather report and was disappointed to see that the next week or so will be very cold. I’m starting to rethink my war with the propane companies.
My issues are that my landlord really doesn’t want me to get one of those huge tanks. I agree with him. The last time we had propane heat, I left propane in the tank when I moved. That tank lasted for a whole winter season and I used it for cooking as well as heat. Even if we had propane now, my thermostat would probably be set for between 65 and 68 degrees with it set down to as far as 60 after we go to bed. So I don’t want/need a giant tank because they will fill it all the way up.
According to the propane companies, the size of the tank is related to the size of the house. It doesn’t matter that I have the vents closed in the laundry room, halls, and small bathroom – they get enough overflow heat from the rest of the house. It doesn’t matter that I don’t feel I NEED that much propane. They want me to have a tank that holds more than 200 pounds.
So… if I say “Come on out and I’ll sign your papers!” The nightmare doesn’t end there. There is a fee for bringing the tank, a fee for setting it up, a fee for filling it up, and a deposit in case I decide to run off with the tank. The cheapest it will cost me to do all that is $400 and then the price goes up depending on what company. There won’t be an extra $400 in our budget until March.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I have to sign a contract that I will use a certain amount so that they can come and fill the tank on a regular basis. I believe they come out about every six weeks and fill it back up to the top. If I don’t use a certain amount and they can’t refill – I have to pay a fee. I don’t feel I want to be penalized for being conservative with energy sources.
My landlord is talking about putting in a heat pump because he too has had a bad experience with the propane companies. That’s why he removed the last tank from the yard. This house was vacant and had been vacant for several months when the propane company came in and filled it without his knowledge. He then received a bill. A disagreement ensued which left the propane company with the task of crediting back the money (he had a direct payment plan) and removing the tank. I didn’t know I had called that company until they told me they would not do business with anyone at this address.
We just have to get through this winter. I’ll encourage the landlord to have the heat pump installed during the summer or fall. That will free me of being held hostage by the propane companies.
According to The Weather Channel the coldest days are in January. February is just a little more than a week away. I feel like we are marathon runners who are looking at that tape across the track and just praying we actually make it across the finish line.
How many days until Spring?
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Below is a video story of Cynthia Estevez saved her own life through exercise after having been in an auto accident. This is an amazing young lady. Although her experience is that of being an alcoholic, I believe caretakers and other family members can help themselves greatly by adding exercise into their daily routines. It creates a time to reflect and relieve the stresses of the day. Take a look. I found it to be inspiring.
Thank you Cynthia... I may never be able to jump from the floor to a tabletop, but I certainly can take a walk!
Thank you Cynthia... I may never be able to jump from the floor to a tabletop, but I certainly can take a walk!
Sunday, January 12, 2014
I just checked my e-mail for the first time in months. I was really surprised to find so much mail in there. Since I’ve stepped back from doing so much “alcohol” related stuff, I haven’t been so diligent to check things like the e-mail. I just want to say that in the next week, I’ll be answering your mail and trying to answer some of your questions.
What seems to be asked a lot is “How is Riley doing?” Well, Riley is doing just fine physically. However, he isn’t doing so well mentally. The residual results of alcohol dementia are permanent and he will never be any better than he is right now. In fact, he is getting worse. The memory loss and the loss of logical, practical, common thinking create many other problems. Those problems may not seem to be problems for him, but I am the one left to find resolutions.
We continue our early morning talks over coffee, but I try to keep them as short as possible. If I don’t, I often forget that he is hampered in his thinking and then I try to talk to him as I would any other rational individual. I must always remember to be careful of the questions I ask and not to get upset with the statements he makes. It is difficult to remember that he looks like a regular guy, but he is really just the after effects of a lifetime of abusing his brain with alcohol. He is really just a 10 year old boy in the body of a 70 year old man.
According to Riley, I am the warden in the prison in which I have forced him to be incarcerated. I am to blame for every problem, inconvenience, issue, damage and anything else because I called the paramedics instead of letting him die. I have brought this on myself, in his opinion. I should not complain or try to get him to do anything because none of this is his fault. If I would have just let him die, I would not have to put up with him anymore.
He knows that his drinking is what caused the downward domino effect of his life. He knows the alcohol is what has damaged his brain. But, it doesn’t matter because if I had just ignored his cries for help… it would all be over.
An example of Riley’s off-kilter thinking is shown in our conversation from this morning. Last night I made a casserole from my Mom’s recipe box. I love it. When it’s baking, the aroma takes me back my childhood with memories of family dinners complete with laughter and rounds of talking. This casserole is one of my comfort foods.
I usually make a whole recipe and divide it into two casserole dishes. I bake one and freeze the other. Riley had a huge helping of casserole, baked potato and green salad. He finished and then asked for seconds of the casserole. No problem. I eat far less than Riley. I had about half the amount that he had. At the end of dinner there was less than ¾ cup of casserole left over. Before going to bed, I decided to have that one last little bit of comfort casserole.
This morning Riley complimented me on the casserole and asked if there was anything left. I told him I had finished it last night and that there was only a very small amount left. “Well! If I had known you were going to eat it, I would have eaten it last night with my dinner!” I asked him if he understood what he had just said and he responded in an indignant manner that of course he understood. He informed me that he would rather eat it even if he wasn’t hungry instead of me having the last bite.
It would do no good for me to explain that he was being selfish. I simply said that I was going to my office for a while. Inside I was seething angry. Why bother to ask him to explain himself further? I needed to not give him the opportunity to say anything more that would hurt me.
So when you ask how Riley is doing imagine this. He has excellent homemade dinners including homemade bread and desserts. He does only what he wants to do as far as cleaning is concerned. The majority of his day is spent watching TV and napping. He does not socialize. He is unable to drive so I do all the driving. I handle all the finances so he doesn’t have to worry about any of that. He ignores all house rules that he doesn’t like. For having spent most of his life soaked in alcoholic poison, I think he’s doing just fine.
I, on the other hand, am not doing so well. I’m exhausted and have caretaker burn-out. Frustration seems to be the highlight of my day. There is very little time for writing, sewing, cooking, shopping and even my laundry often has to wait for an opening on the calendar. Yes. I still do all those things, but I must always wait for an opportunity. And yet… I DO understand that the inconveniences are really my own fault for managing to keep him alive.
If I could afford it, I’d put him in an assisted living facility. But, unless I can personally live on about $400 per month – the facility is only a dream.
Tonight we are having beef fajitas. It’s not one of my favorites, but if there is just a little left over I think I might put it in a small container and hide it behind the fresh vegetables in the fridge. He’ll never find it there.
Monday, November 18, 2013
I don’t pay much attention to buildings that offer the opportunity to buy hard liquor in bulk. The last time I was in such a store was while Riley was in hospice at the nursing home. That would be more than a year ago. I wanted to buy a small bottle of tequila because I was in a highly unusual mood for a Margarita. I was disappointed that the main ingredient for my desired cocktail was so expensive, but I bought it anyway and haven’t been back since. When you only drink every three or four months, even a small bottle has a tendency to last a while.
In North Carolina, the liquor stores are all state government alcohol control board operated. They are aptly name “ABC” stores. In my mind that seems like a childish name for such an adult product. But that’s off the track a bit.
I was driving down the main road in our town which has only two ABC stores. There is one as you enter the beach area and another just about midway down. Both stores are on the same main access road which runs the entire length of the Outer Banks. The one store I frequented when Riley was drinking was the one about midway. It is flanked on one side by a CVS store and a major grocery store. Across the street are numerous fast food restaurants. It is a busy, bustling corner.
I was going to the grocery store and when I turned at the appropriate street, I noticed that there was no longer an ABC store on the corner. It was gone. Like there one day and gone the next. But, even more than that there was no sight of there ever having been a store of any kind in that location. The building had been replaced with an empty lot.
What the heck??? Was there now only ONE ABC store on the island? My first thoughts were what are all those alcoholics going to do if they only have one store to get their precious liquids? This area has the privilege of have a large percentage of “drinkers”. ABC stores close on Saturday evening and do not re-open until Monday morning. An image when through my head of drinkers who needed to have their supply replenished before the store closed and who had waited until the last minute to complete that chore. The image goes something like this using myself as the alcoholic/drinker in need:
I drive to my usual ABC store and see that I’m the only car in the parking lot. I think how lucky I am to get such prime parking. The inside of the store looks dark, but maybe it’s because I’m getting here so late. When I reach the end of the walkway ramp, I find the front door to be locked. I check my watch. No shouldn’t be closed because it’s about 10 minutes before closing time. I step back and look at the building quizzically. OH! Wait! There’s a sign…
This store will be permanently closed as of (whatever day is the day before today). We will re-open at our new location in the Surfside Shopping Center at our normal opening time.
Oh my goodness!! I don’t even know where the Surfside Shopping Center is! Do I have enough time to get there? I grab my cell phone and call a friend to find out if she knows where the new store is. She tells me it is right next to the Stamp Store. OK. I know where that is, but I don’t know if I will make it in time.
I put my car in gear and head to the Stamp Store. I run every red light and weave in and out of the traffic. Panic is setting in as I realize I may not have enough time. Then I see the sign over the window front “ABC” Beverage Store. I park right in front and push open the door as the manager heads towards me to lock out anyone behind me.
Phew!! I made it! That was a really close call. I must never wait until the last minute again.
I’m so happy I am not a person who must have a stash of alcohol available every single day. I have been blessed to not have that penchant or gene or whatever it is. On the other hand, I know the business hours of every single Starbucks and Coffee House on the island. I would probably die from withdrawal if I had to survive an entire weekend with my java.
To each his own poison...
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
I never thought anything could be worse that looking after Riley while he seemed to be drinking himself into oblivion. The constant cleaning up after him was tiring and never-ending. Trying to talk him into eating a meal or taking a shower seemed to be futile. But now I’m beginning to think those difficulties were just a minor inconvenience. With Riley no longer drinking it would seem that my problems have left the building. I was wrong in thinking that leaving the drunk building would be better than entering the sobriety building.
Sobriety is a good thing even if Riley doesn’t agree. It has been more than a year and he still prefers death to sobriety. The word by itself conjures up ideas of rational conversations and being able to go out and enjoy a social life with him. It makes me feel as though I don’t have to goad him into showering or washing his hands after visiting the bathroom. Oh!!! Blessed be sobriety!!
Today, I can tell you that this sobriety is no walk in the park. All of the long term, near fatal detoxes and rehabs and bouncing back to the bottle which led to strokes and heart attacks, have left Riley with progressive dementia. So you may be saying “Well, that’s better than drunk.” In some cases I guess it might be, but in Riley’s case, not so much.
A day as Riley’s caretaker means getting up at 5:30 a.m. and chatting with him over coffee. His conversations are often disjointed and follow no line of logic. He doesn’t seem to have opinions of his own anymore because most of what he says is just repeating of what he has heard on the news which he watches just before we have coffee. Sometimes he doesn’t know what day it really is and most of the time he has no recollection of anything more recent than 20 years prior. When he does remember, the memories may be of a certain place with certain people, but they may be the wrong people associated with the wrong place. He will insist that he absolutely knows what he is talking about and often times tries to drag me into an argument over facts and times.
In Riley World, everything must be done in a certain order and time. He is mentally bound to his routine and any change to the routine causes him distress. The fall-out from that is that I’m also bound to his routine. I’m not a routine kinda gal – I get things done in my own time and way. The contradiction is difficult for Riley and trying to stick to his routine makes me miserable. I live in a state of constant re-adjustment and accommodation to the now sober Riley.
I recently had a doctor tell me that Riley is like a 12-year-old boy in a man’s body. I’m no longer a counterpart in his life, but instead I’m the mother of a disobedient pre-teen boy who believes he can still do all the things he did as an adult. He sees nothing wrong with eating a whole box of Oreos in one day and talking about the body parts of female newscasters. Still he will not shower and manages to get his hands covered in his own excrement. I find hand prints on the bathroom walls and wiped onto hand towels. If I specifically remind him to wash his hands, he will do it but only with grumbling about how mean I am.
I’ve had so many people tell me how wonderful it is that Riley is not drinking. Their praise is genuine, but their understanding of the why and how is way off. I just smile and nod as though I know a secret that I’m sure they would not comprehend. No point in trying to make a point. The truth is that the drunken Riley is very much the same as the sober Riley. He just isn’t drunk.
Riley does not express his anger. He is passive-aggressive and still is able to act on that whenever he sees fit. And – he sees fit a lot. Although, now it feels that he doesn’t even know he is doing it. He is not calculating and doesn’t make a plan to get back at me. Now, it just seems to come with the territory of living with a dementia patient. My anger is far more vocal and immediate, but I’ve learned that I must keep that anger in check because nothing I say will be remembered the next day. I can explain to him why, where, how, etc., but the same explanation will be required the very next day or hour.
I think what makes me the angriest is that if Riley had stopped drinking way back when – this would not be an issue now. Everything that is wrong with his health has been a direct result of alcoholism. I always dreamed that one day he would get a firm hold on sobriety and we could go back to being happily separated. That will never happen now. Riley has become a pre-teen boy who is fighting battles that would be normal if I were his mother rather than his wife. Who am I kidding – none of this is normal by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes I wonder if he isn’t really Benjamin Button.
The anger I feel towards myself is something I work to control every day. I’ve been asked “When will it be over?” by readers who are dealing with a seemingly immortal alcoholic. What I want to say to them is probably not acceptable to society and would come across as me being a selfish, cold bitch. I would tell them that it will go on as long as the non-alcoholic makes that 911 call just in the nick of time; rations the alcohol; makes sure the alcoholic gets food; and, generally takes care of things. Those things keep the alcoholic alive and if your alcoholic is truly end-stage, it is the only thing keeping them alive.
Personally, I’m angry with myself for doing what I feel was the “right” thing. I believe most people would have done exactly what I have done. I could not find it in myself to let Riley die in the bedroom across the hall from me while he cried out for me to please get him help. I believe there is an inherent part of us as human beings that makes us uncomfortable to just allow another person to die and not get assistance.
That’s why hospice is so valuable – the hospice workers relieve us of the responsibility. If Riley had his heart attack just a few hours sooner – the decision to call 911 would have been out of my hands because I would have called hospice instead. Riley would probably not be alive today. At 4 p.m. his hospice services were terminated because of a half-point reading on his lab results. At 9 p.m. he had a heart attack that lead to where we are now.
My decision to retire from all things “alcoholism” was a good decision. I find that most of my time is now spent in dealing with the aftermath of alcoholism. I’ve turned the OARS support groups over to very capable managers who are doing an awesome job. I’m thankful for them. The group is growing and providing much help and strength to many who have a loved one in the middle of alcohol insanity. You may join the group by using the invitation link provided here:
I’m still here – lurking – reading your comments and being proud that you are all supporting each other through my blog. However, I am concerned about those who have posted links to that are not relative to the real subject matter. I will go back to moderating the comments and try to weed out the ones who seem to abuse the commenting privilege.
I have another post on the burner – something a little more of a humorous nature. Watch for it. I think you will enjoy it.
Monday, October 14, 2013
I see I’m being asked if I’m ever going to return to posting on this blog. The answer is YES. In fact, I’m working on a post right now, but don’t expect to find it today – probably on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Although Riley no longer drinks, his physical condition has become extremely demanding. He is left with dementia which is progressive in a downhill manner. When he was drinking, I thought nothing could be worse than that. I was wrong. The dementia is far worse. Thankfully, there is help on the horizon and I might be able to get back to some type of life of my own.
Please continue to support each other as I have seen you all doing over the past months. I do read your comments and happy to see that you respond to each other. Unfortunately, I’ve also been unable to answer my e-mail in a timely manner. I hope you will see an improvement over the next month.
Thank you for visiting my blog and continuing to read even when I haven’t been here. I appreciate all of you so very much.
at 11:50 AM
Saturday, July 20, 2013
I’ve been advised by my doctor to try to slow things down a bit. Immediately after the words left the doc’s lips, I told her I was planning the first ever live OARS workshop and meeting. “Ohhh…” she said… “Well… I want to support you in your endeavor to provide information to people involved in alcoholism, but would you at least consider taking a little break after the event?” I told her I would think about it. And I did think about it long and hard. And then I discussed it with my family. Here is the result of all that thinking and discussing.
For the past month I have not posted on the blog. I have not answered e-mails. I have only very marginally been active in the support groups. I have taken a break from all things alcoholism. The only exception is that I held the workshop event as planned.
For the past month I have not posted on the blog. I have not answered e-mails. I have only very marginally been active in the support groups. I have taken a break from all things alcoholism. The only exception is that I held the workshop event as planned.
I’m feeling refreshed, renewed, relaxed and can see how all the alcohol related activities have been sources of stress. I’m also feeling guilty. I’ve gone back over my (130+) e-mails and I’m concerned that I can’t address each one individually. I feel guilty because I did not respond to them in a timely manner. I’m going to try to respond to the running current theme of the messages on my next post. Hopefully, that can help several people at a time without each receiving an individual response.In the OARS Family and Friends Group, I always stress the need for the family and friends to find a way to have a productive and satisfying life outside of the alcoholic chaos. Call it detachment if you want. I call it survival. The goal of the group should be that the member finds strength enough to stand on their own and be confident in their own decisions. The goal should be that they not NEED the group so much but are able to give their insight to others who are still in need.
Personally, helping others through the alcoholic maze has been a means of survival. I found strength in helping others survive. Doing research and posting the results, participating in OARS discussions, writing my own life journey (The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife—available on Smashwords),reviewing books by new authors, and finding new means of reaching out, have all been a part of my route to survival. It has been expensive, not just financially, but emotionally and physically. Oh, there’s so much more I would like to do – but my financial, emotional and physical budgets seem to be running tight these days.At first, when I agreed to this little vacation, I thought… so what am I supposed to do? Sit around and watch QVC and re-runs of Oprah? Get fatter from trying all the recipes on cooking shows? The idea of this did not make me happy. I couldn’t imagine not having anything to do. I promised my kids that I would take some time to see how retirement feels. I said I would “try it on for size.” So I would see it through to the best of my ability.
It took some effort on my part to focus only on the event and nothing else. When the event was not as big of a hit as I had hoped, I took it as a sign. I cleaned my office. I cleaned my bedroom. I took naps. I watched SpongeBob Square Pants the Movie nine million times with my great-grandson. I scanned family photos. I enjoyed watching the sunrise and began sleeping better. I realized that I didn’t NEED the alcohol related work as much as I thought I did. I discovered that I didn’t do it because I needed to but rather because I wanted to do it. However, I want to go zip-lining and hang-gliding, but know it is probably not something I should do.I’m not retiring this blog. I’m still going to be posting here. I’m still going to try to address concerns of those who write to me. But things are changing. I will no longer be able to answer each and every e-mail. Instead, I will continuously offer the link for joining the OARS support group. (http://oarsffgroup.ning.com/?xgi=4R6sAeUek4uZ9X ) That’s my recommendation for being one of the best sources of support for people involved in alcoholic insanity. But, you won’t find me there as often as I have been in the past. I will lurk… interject… just not so often.
One of my goals has been the formation of OARS as a non-profit organization. I’m no longer pursuing that goal. Instead I have (and will continue) to encourage the members to go forward with that project and make OARS non-profit a reality. I will be here to support and advice, but cannot take on the responsibility of such a long-term commitment. This endeavor needs someone who can commit to several years of getting it off the ground – someone younger and in better health than I. There are several people within the group who truly want this to happen and are willing to make sacrifices to see it happen, but they all have regular jobs and time limitations.If anyone who reads this is interested in helping with sponsorship or mentoring or taking on the task – please contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the people who are actively trying to make a go of keeping OARS going and turning it into something as big as we all think it can be.
I’m not sure about continuing with the workshops. I haven’t made that decision yet and unless I get another grant – I don’t have the money to do it up right.I’m not retiring. I’m just taking a step back. I’m finding, or rediscovering, other uses of my time. I’m writing another book containing real-life stories of people who have walked in the shoes of loving an alcoholic. (If you have a story you want to share, please e-mail it to me.) I’m collaborating with two other family members to write my family history book. I’ve promised a family cookbook with my Mom’s recipes – time to make good on that promise. I rediscovered my passion for writing when I began this blog. It’s time to use and expand that passion. It’s time to take my own advice.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can provide any of the following:
1) Guest post for the blog with new information or insight;
2) Help in making OARS a non-profit organization;
3) Have a story you would like to see in my next book (all stories are identity-protected);
4) Suggest a topic for a blog posting.
Thank you for being my faithful readers. Thank you for providing me support and encouragement. Thank you.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
The other day a friend told me about a condition that explained a lot to me about why Riley is still in such denial about alcoholism creating his current physical limitations. The word is ANOSOGNOSIA. Of course, the first thing I did was look it up in Wikipedia.
“Anosognosia is viewed as a deficit of self-awareness, a condition in which a person who suffers certain disability seems unaware of the existence of his or her disability.”
“Anosognosia results from physiological damage on brain structures, typically to the parietal lobe or a diffuse lesion on the frontal-temporal-parietal area in the right hemisphere.” This distinguishes the condition from denial, which is a psychological defense mechanism.So, as I understand it, damage to the frontal lobe can cause a condition that prevents the patient from understanding or accepting their own disability. The damage can be the result of any number of things, such as a stroke, lesion, traumatic brain injury, and any other factor that causes injury to the brain. Using those criteria, then I suppose that would include brain damage from alcohol abuse.
What seems to be a simple state of denial that alcohol is a problem, could in fact be the result of Anosognosia. If this brain damage is present, it may be one of the reasons why alcoholics have such a high rate of relapse after going through a near fatal detox. They simply don’t know that their disability is alcohol. It could be the reason why Riley looks at me in confusion when I remind him that alcoholism is his disability and the only medication is to NOT drink again.
I don’t think that all denial is a result of brain damage. I know that denial is a part of the alcoholism cycle – for both the alcoholic and those who love an alcoholic. There must be some type of brain damage for the Anosognosia condition to be present.
In the beginning we family and friends deny the alcoholic condition because we just don’t want to believe it. We don’t want to see that our future may be bleak if the person we love is addicted to alcohol. We know enough to know it is not something we want for the alcoholic or for ourselves. It’s like turning our eyes away from the movie screen just as the axe is about to break open the head of one of the characters. We know it’s happening; we just don’t want to witness it. We know alcoholism is happening; we just don’t want to have a front row seat. Instead of closing our eyes, we deny that it is even on the screen.
Denying the real problem doesn’t serve us very well. The sooner we accept what is going on, the sooner we can find ways to keep ourselves from being the victim under the axe. Once we accept what the real problem is, we can take action to maintain our own sense of self even in the midst of alcoholic craziness.
As the person who is not addicted we cannot point a finger at brain damage and say that is why we do what we do. We do what we do out of desperation to save the alcoholic. Saving the alcoholic becomes the only thing in our lives that has a priority. The sad fact is that we are like Don Quixote jousting at windmills. We cannot save the alcoholic from alcoholism. We can call 911 when the alcoholic body starts shutting down, but we cannot save them from their own denial. The alcoholic’s alcoholism is the property of the alcoholic.
We can understand and accept. If Anosognosia is an issue we can learn about it and realize that it is hopeless to fight it. We can learn everything we can about alcoholism and the related health issues because knowledge is the key to survival. We can find ways to keep our own health from falling victim to stress related illnesses. We can stay engaged in our own lives with our own interests. We can maintain a circle of friends that support without judgment. We can find our own avenues of peace and calm.
It’s not easy to do all that stuff in the above paragraph. It may seem simple, but it is extremely difficult. The first step is to stop believing you can change the alcoholic. Stop denying that there is a problem with your own thought process. It’s not easy to look deep inside ourselves and try to find the person that existed before the insanity. That person – maybe the art lover, stray animal feeder, avid baker, exercise nut, writer, computer whiz, organizer extraordinaire, coach or something else – is still inside you. That person will help you survive alcoholism and be happy if you can bring that person out into the open.
It doesn’t really matter to me if Riley has Anosognosia or not. It makes it easier for me to understand his point of view. But, it doesn’t really change anything. Riley is still an alcoholic who will quickly be an end-stage alcoholic if he finds a way to return to drinking. I provide him the means to have a healthy life without alcohol even if he finds it unpalatable. That’s all I can do for him. He is no longer accepted at rehab centers even if he had a desire to go. If it was a possibility, I would encourage him to go. I no longer spend hours trying to talk some logic into his damaged brain. Instead, I accept it for what it is – something I cannot change.
I have found my passion. Actually, I’ve reconnected with several of my passions over the past year. I like my life. I don’t deny that there are problems but I separate my fixable problems from the unfixable. I guess that’s the wisdom of knowing the difference.