Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Crazy is as crazy does...
Just because the alcoholic in your life is sober for the moment, do not assume that everything is back to normal. Be aware. Sobriety doesn’t always equate to normality.
Riley has not had even a sip of anything alcoholic since May 4, 2012 when he had a near fatal heart attack. He’s not supposed to be alive right now. According to numerous doctors, nurses, social workers, etc. he was so close to death during his last hospital stay I was coerced into trying to “get on with my own life.” Believe me, I welcomed the suggestion. But, deep down inside I knew I had been here before and not to completely trust what they were telling me. I went forward, but with guarded trepidation.
I gave away some of his clothing and books. I melded his file folders into mine. I got rid of the old computer monitor that originated in the 80’s. I threw away the very old worn tennis shoes and saved the new ones. His mattress and most of his other bedding, along with his area rug, were sent to the dump because they were so covered in human excrement. It was a step in going forward as I had been advised.
On August 4th I was told the ones who advised me to assume and prepare for his imminent death had been wrong. The situation had changed and I was to take him home and care for him as best I could under the circumstances. I was given vague instructions as I loaded him into my van. This was to become another segment in my journey through this adventure in the world of insanity.
Almost four months later, Riley is walking without assistance from me, but rather with a walker and, sometimes, a cane. He is able to shower by himself and feed himself. He can wash dishes and clean out the refrigerator (well… sort of…). He takes great pride in going around and making sure all the clocks are set correctly in accordance with the time displayed on the cable network channel. The highlight of his day is making lists – grocery lists, to-do lists, phone call lists, etc. When outsiders are around he can communicate with them logically for about 30 minutes. Most of his stories are never real, but they don’t know that.
I know it doesn’t sound so bad does it – or is it? There is an aspect to all this that most people wouldn’t even notice if they did not live with him. Even his doctors are starting to say that he is competent. He knows the date, the president’s name and can remember a list of numbers for a short period of time. In fact, he may even be capable of living on his own. How I wish that were true.
My day starts every morning with a cup of coffee which is gratefully made by Riley. It is between 4 AM and 5:30 AM. Each day I try to only engage Riley in conversations that I think will not create any conflict. I try to suggest projects for the day within his means of ability. I ask what he wants for dinner. Simple little diatribes to start the day. But, things always seem to take a turn for the worst.
Riley will ask me why I have decided to paint the kitchen in certain colors when those colors were never even mentioned in the plans. He will ask me why I don’t do this or that and I will have to repeat everything concerning the subject over again every morning for numerous mornings in a row. He will ask me when he is getting his computer back and when I tell him he can’t have the computer back – he tells me he’s leaving as soon as he is done with his coffee. I try to reason with him that the computer is off limits because of his being visited by police officials concerning his illegal porn usage. He doesn’t remember it and so believes I’m lying about it ever happening.
A peaceful morning almost invariably turns into a frustrating round of trying to make sense of it all for Riley’s sake. He may be able to remember that string of numbers, but he can’t remember anything about yesterday. He does not believe he ever had a heart attack and thinks I just put him into a nursing home because I was tired of him. He wants me to tell him how many days until he can start drinking again. He wants to know when he can drive. And mostly, he wants to know when I’m going to get out of his life.
Riley has turned into a mean old man. He dislikes the grandchildren’s dog, kids, friends and anything else he relates to them. He becomes angry with me and the world at the drop of a hat. If I don’t share his interest in the latest news story, he claims I’m not concerned about political issues. He must recount to me every episode of every NCIS he has watched that day. If I mention that I’ve seen all of them more than once, he replies that can’t be true because he’d never seem that episode before. In Riley’s mind, I’m a lying, conniving, underhanded, prison warden who revels in making him miserable. He doesn’t hesitate to tell me so every chance he can.
I’ve heard that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Somehow I think that if I just keep explaining things to Riley that eventually he will see that I’m not the bad guy and grow to accept his circumstances. The only person I’m hurting is me. The only really crazy person in the room is me. I know better. But, my instincts are to try to answer his questions with honest answers. Try to give viable explanations without being cruel. I’m reaching the end of my ability to keep going in this manner.
Riley has new projects assigned to him now. I suggest he go for a walk around the block since we now live where there are blocks instead of pastures. I suggest he go with me to the grocery store. I’ve shown him how to use the washer and dryer, although each week we have to repeat the lesson. I don’t dial his brother’s phone number for him anymore. In short, I’m forcing him to try to be more self-reliant. Maybe by doing so, he will eventually REALLY be ready to live on his own with just an occasional visit by a family member to check up on him.
Of course, the minute he is in his own place, he will be drinking alcohol. If he has his car, he will drive drunk. His health will fail rapidly and his days of immortality may be over. This is where my moral compass kicks in. I must get rid of the car before he moves out. And I have to turn a blind eye to whatever he is doing during his downfall. It feels like I’m killing him.
There is no great love lost between us, yet I still feel a responsibility. And then, there is forever the issue of not wanting my daughter to pick him up, dust him off and destroy her life. The question is… by the time she scoops him up to take care of him, will he be so far gone that he will not be too destructive to her sanity.