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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Monday, February 19, 2018

Month of love... Redux

This post was first published on 2/19/2014. I felt it was worthy of a re-post.

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 such 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.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Forget the chick flicks

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you will know that I have a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. In my opinion, the best part is that on the 15th of Feb, all the Valentine candy will be half price. That’s a decent reward for enduring all the syrupy sweet advertising and romantic chick flicks.

It’s really isn’t that I’m not romantic because I truly am a romantic at heart. But, I don’t need a specific day to remember that I should be romantic to the people I love. Well… I know it’s not just about the romance; it’s really about expressing your feelings for those you love. I like to send little cards to my grandchildren and others who have a place in my heart. It’s fun for them to receive a little something in the mail.

Would I like to get a bouquet of peonies today? Well, of course I would. They are my favorite flower and I’d love to get them ANY day of the year. Although it would be nice, it is not a requirement for me to receive anything on this day. I would really rather just not look at today as anything special. However, if you want to send me peonies, please send them because you like me and not because some greeting card company has declared this as being the day dedicated to “love.”

Back in my younger day, I would be all ga-ga over whatever my man would give me or do for me on this day. In fact, Riley was an awesomely romantic guy. He would make dinner reservations and have a single red rose at my place at the table. He would send flowers to my office. Of course, as our marriage sank into that alcoholic abyss, he never even noticed it was February; let alone what day it was. Valentine’s Day lost any importance to me.

Over the years, I treated today just like any other day. I ignored the love birds swooning over one another and tried to find a direction for my eyes that didn’t include any lovers. I confess that it was difficult. But I had the kids to focus on and they were always excited for the day when they would receive little cards from school mates. For them, the best part of the day was the cupcakes and punch during their class party.

Now that Riley is gone and I’m now unmarried, I still don’t long for all the Valentine Day hoop-la. I’m still thinking, “Oh wouldn’t it be nice to get flowers,” but not really caring if I do or not. Valentine’s Day is still a day that I stay home, draw the curtains, and stay in my jammies. I won’t watch any chick flicks on TV, but will do a marathon viewing of any and all Arnold, Segal, Sylvester, and Willis movies that I can find.

I know… I know… you’re thinking that I’m jealous of all those people who are popping open that heart shaped box and inhaling the lovely aroma of chocolate. Maybe you think I’m secretly crying in my coffee because no one realizes that I’m essentially alone on this day of love. You could be right. But while I might be missing that chocolate essence and the attention from a man who cares about me, I don’t begrudge anyone else’s experience.

I suppose it’s a part of my philosophy of living until you die. If you can’t have everything you love, then love what you can have. Life is too short to sit around and mope over not having the sweet stuff of your dreams. Do what you enjoy and enjoy doing it. How productive is it, in the grand scheme of things, to wring your hands and cry buckets of tears because you can’t always have what you want?

You are probably asking… “What about Sam?” Sam and I have a very long distance relationship. We are not your typical couple. I don’t need him to fawn over me and shower me with gifts. He gives me what I need by engaging in conversations that have more to do with each of our activities, plans and interests. We don’t judge our relationship by other people’s standards and we don’t adhere to rules made up by whoever it is that makes up rules. Things are good and that’s the best Valentine’s Day gift I could have.

Valentine’s Day can be tough for those of you who are in an alcoholic relationship. My suggestion is to make yourself your own Valentine and do what feels best for you. Make yourself happy because you are the best Valentine that you’ll ever have.  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Six words equal Survival

When I first started writing the blog, I had already done months’ worth of research in order to get answers that were written in a format that I could understand. It didn’t happen overnight. I recall how I came upon each subject for research in The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife.

However, there was a topic that I just couldn’t get my head around. The idea of recovery for the people who care about the alcoholic seemed to escape me. In my mind the only way for a spouse to recover from all that nonsense was to just get a divorce – leave him/her – kick ‘em to the curb! But there are also parents and children and friends and partners and co-works… the list goes on. What would be the answer to recovery for everyone?

As time went on, I discovered that the families and friends may need recovery just as much as the alcoholic. That’s why Al-Anon was created. It was to provide courage, strength and hope to the families and friends of alcoholics. There are 12 steps and 12 traditions that provide the handrails up the recovery ladder. Al-Anon provides a wonderful place for those just starting out in the realization and acceptance of being involved with an alcoholic.

But for me, the concept of recovery goes far deeper. There are so many of us that cannot or will not dump the alcoholic for some reason or another. Often when the alcoholic becomes end-stage separating from the alcoholic becomes just as problematic as the drinking itself. Everyone must make their own decision on leaving, staying, or whatever. For those people – the caretakers of end-stage alcoholics – recovery is most important. Maybe even not just the end-stagers, but all-stagers remaining in the situation.

Instead of the word “recovery” I like the word “survival”. How does the family or friend SURVIVE when in this impossible, nonsensical, frustrating situation? I sum it up with several words. KNOWLEDGE. SUPPORT. HEALTH. PASSION. LAUGHTER. SMILE.

KNOWLEDGE – As the alcoholic succumbs to different illnesses and conditions through the stages of the disease, do your research and learn everything you can about the physical biology that going on inside that alcoholic body. Also, learn about your legal standing, the workings of the hospital and hospice, know absolutely everything about your health insurance. Don’t just depend on an answer from a friend of a friend who once shook hands with someone who may have drank too much at a party… Find out for yourself through internet research, the library, speaking with a professional. Knowledge is the key to survival – I’ve said it a million times. Make all decisions based on knowledge that you know to be a fact.

SUPPORT – No matter how much research you do, there’s nothing like confirmation from someone who has been in your shoes. An exchange of ideas and experiences can be a life preserver in the midst of a super storm. Don’t just stick with only one support program because there are many out there. So if one doesn’t work, check it off your list and move on. Something will fit and you will be grateful to have found it. I offer OARS F&F Group on Facebook. You must e-mail me to be sent an invitation to the group.

I offer inexpensive ($10/hour) coaching sessions via the telephone. Send an e-mail to ImmortalAlcoholic@gmail.com and I'll provide you the telephone number.

Sometimes insurance will cover a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in substance abuse.  

HEALTH – While you may be consumed with the health issues of the alcoholic, don’t forget that you may have your own health issues that need attending. You can’t take care of anyone else if you are too run down to take care of yourself. Get your check-ups. Take your medication and stay as physically fit as you possibly can. You will need all your strength to survive the chaos.

PASSION – Find your passion in life. Do you like bird-watching? Are you a writer? Is cooking your thing? Whatever it is, find it and do it. Don’t let anything the alcoholic is currently messing with stop you from enjoying the satisfaction of doing something you really want to do. While being involved in the activity you will most likely meet other people who also enjoy your passion. Having friends who are uninvolved with alcoholism is often a breath of fresh air when you feel your head is surrounded by the smog of drunkenness. Don’t deny yourself some normalcy. Those who are really – I mean REALLY – lucky can turn their passion into a new money-making venture. I’ve heard that if you make money doing what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. How awesome would that be?

LAUGHTER – Laughter truly is often the very best medicine. So you’ve been crying for days and the depression hole is so deep that you can’t even see the light from the top. STOP whatever it is you are doing and just laugh. Laugh at a comedy on TV; the squirrels playing in the yard; the crazy thought you just had; something some uninformed know-it-all said to you yesterday; the outfit you threw on this morning. It doesn’t matter what you laugh at or even if it is funny or not, just laugh anyway. Laughing fills your lungs with oxygen which makes your brain function in a clearer manner. It makes you feel physically more refreshed. It’s not just about attitude – it’s an exercise for good health.

SMILE – I have found that I smile at everyone I possibly can and I feel a bit calmer inside. I like to believe that I’m helping someone else by sharing that smile. When I wake up in the morning, no matter how I feel about another day, I always say “Gooood Morning!” and I say it with a giant smile. Even though my day may go rapidly downhill, I have started out on a good note. My mother used to tell me that if you smile, people will either think you are a happy person or wonder what you have been up to. I like both of those reactions.

I think we can all benefit from surviving whatever it is that is causing stress. Survive from being a caretaker of an alcoholic. Survive from the stress of having an alcoholic boss. And when you are on the survival road… don’t forget to smile!

There are books out there that may help. The following may be found on Amazon.com by clicking on the title:

The following titles were written by me (Linda Bartee Doyne):

     Workbook for Caretakers of End-Stage Alcoholics
     The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife
     Surviving the Chaos

You may also be interested in:

     The Alcoholic Husband Primer (Survival Tips for the Alcoholic Wife) by Wren Waters
     Living with a Functioning Alcoholic by Neill Neill
     The Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome by Wayne Kritsberg

Sunday, February 4, 2018

One path, two directions

This post is dedicated to Annette.

Our backgrounds are very similar even though you are much younger. Our timelines would follow the same path up to the age that you are right now. The two paths, yours and mine, do NOT have to continue in the same direction. You can go a different direction than I did and avoid much of the chaos that I experienced.

You told me that you can see your future in my past. That’s good because if you can see it then you have the ability to change it. One of the reasons I write these posts and my books is to give people an idea of what it’s like if they do as I do. I hope they read what I write and say “I’m not going to be that person.” I want people to have a better life than the one I choose.

I’m not saying you can’t have a life if you stay with your alcoholic. You, most certainly can have a very fulfilling and happy existence in spite of the obstacles that the alcoholic may throw up as road blocks. It’s not easy. It takes work, time, and planning to get to all come out good – but it is possible.

Annette, you are a young woman without children and NOT married to your alcoholic. I know you love him. I know you want what is best for him. I know you think that if you do just the right thing he will stop and go back to being that guy you met ten years ago. I know you’ve invested time, money and, more importantly, your heart to this relationship and to him. But, “him” isn’t, at this time, the person you fell in love with.

Alcoholism changes a person. Someone who was gentle and considerate can become a mean and unfeeling louse. Angry confrontations that would normally end with a reasonable conversation may end with a black eye. Life with an alcoholic is unpredictable, nonsensical, and irrational. As a non-alcoholic, partnering with an alcoholic is like mixing oil and water. It doesn’t work.

Get out. Get out now. Don’t wait for some miracle to happen. No miracles are coming no matter how hard you pray. Don’t wait for him to see the light. He’s blinded. The longer you stay the more difficult it will be to become free.

It’s not going to be easy. You must have a plan for where you will live and who will be your support system. I suggest you have your own residence before you make an exit from the alcoholic’s home. Establish yourself as an individual and show that you are looking forward to a life on your own.

Housing is simply logistics. There will be emotional challenges. You will wake up in the middle of the night and realize you are alone in your bed. And you will cry. You will carry the groceries in my yourself and curse him for not being considerate enough to save your relationship just for the purpose of carrying in the 50 pound bag of dog food. You will call him names. And you will cry. When you unpack your photos of the good times you two shared you will examine each one as though you are seeing it for the first time. And you will cry. You’ll stop sitting the table for dinner as often opting for plate in front of the TV. And you will cry.  

Eventually the crying will happen less often until those tears turn into irritation, disappointment, and anger. That’s when you will start to have a life again. That’s when you will become open to possibly having a relationship with someone new. You will find yourself being cautious as to the person you date. It will take you longer to commit.

You may look over your shoulder often to see if the alcoholic has miraculously appeared as a responsible sober person. While it is possible, it is NOT likely to happen. I could tell you to stop looking, but you will not. He will probably come to you at some point. It will be difficult to prevent him from entering your world because, after all, you love him. You know now what it is like to be with him as an alcoholic. You know now that he is an alcoholic and alcoholic’s get drunk, stay drunk, and will put the drunkenness as a priority above you. So if you let him back in, you know what to expect.

Sometimes a person must leave the alcoholic multiple times before finding a way to stay out of his life. Don’t beat yourself up for following your heart. The heart always wants what it wants. It is not practical or logical or reasonable. It is what it is.

Annette, don’t be me. Go live your life and do good things for yourself

Friday, January 26, 2018

Would I do it again?

Wow! I looked at my calendar and we’re almost done with January! I’ve been very busy working on the sequel to Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife and my new book, “Huh?” ABCs of Understanding Women, that I have been amiss at keeping up with the blog posting. I do apologize for that.

I’ve also been plotting out my book tour and adding all the new locations onto the map. I have a nifty little program that plans the best route for hitting all my stops in an organized manner. It’s the coolest thing. So far, it has me going to Florida then coming back to Virginia for a break and then going north as far as Maine. I can’t wait for that fresh lobster.

I’m going to be including some mini-seminars along the way. There will be free admission with the purchase of two books. More details and a calendar will be posted when the plans are finalized.
Topics for the mini-seminars are going to be what is suggested by you, my readers. If you have a topic you would like covered, please post it in the comments. Also make sure you add your nearest city and state and I will plan that topic for your area.

It has only been four months since Riley’s passing and I have visited friends and family as well as going to the gym and library. The freedom I’m experiencing has been wonderful. There is life after caregiving an alcoholic.

There are a million reasons for people to stay with an alcoholic and just as many for leaving. But now that I’m not under the day to day stresses of taking care of Riley, I can say without hesitation, having my freedom is very nice. If I had it to do over, I would probably have done the very same thing. Remember that it wasn’t for Riley that I took him back, but rather for my daughter.

Riley was fortunate that he had a place to go and a person to take care of him. Most alcoholics have driven away most people who once cared about them. Although Riley had a large social circle, he did not have friends who were willing to deal with the complications of end-stage alcoholism.

I have been invited to participate in a program on “unconditional love.” While I can see no possible way to give unconditional love to an alcoholic, I believe we can give that to ourselves. In doing so, we can forgive ourselves for whatever is haunting us, and begin to live a life of hope instead of despair. Watch for details, here on this blog about this up-coming program.

A new book came on the market today thru Amazon.com. It’s my latest creation which was inspired by the man in my life, Sam. One day, after explaining my point of view, he wrinkled up his eyebrows and say “Huh?” I responded with something about him not understanding woman in the least. His response was “Write me a book.” Never tell a writer to write a book unless you’re serious. I wrote a book. “Huh?” ABCs of Understanding Women is a simple read with an alphabetical listing of words defining explanations of what women mean.

There is an explanation of what it means when she says she wants an “honest” man. There’s a reason why she never has anything to wear when her closet is packed. Definitions of an open relationship and monogamy are included. There’s also a handy little guide to gift giving and the five days of the year that always required a gift.

The book was written purely as an entertainment piece and not to be construed as dyed-in-the-wool exact explanations. Although, I believe, there is some good advice between those pages. It’s really only a book of common-sense. But, hey, I’m a woman… so the explanations might be a bit slanted.

Let me be clear, Sam has not read the book and is hesitant to do so. I believe he thinks the book is filled with “man-bashing”, but that is not the case. In fact, I believe women will be more offended by the book than men. So, if you do read the book, please send me a comment so I can pass it on to Sam. Since I wrote the book for him, or at least was inspired by him, maybe he will change his mind and read it after all.

Just a reminder for all of you who need help with your taxes. Gina Mewes is available to help with all your tax needs, especially if you believe you may be in “tax-trouble.” See the note on the side of this blog for contact info.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Banquet of life...

Live, Live, Live…

When you are growing up you think of your life as being “normal.” But when you get older, you realize that the standards and attitudes of those around you have shaped how you see the world and how you live your life. My mother was a firm believer of living each day as though it were your last. Of course, she meant that I shouldn’t wear dirty socks because I might not have a chance to change them if today were my last day. The words I still have in my head go something like… “Don’t waste time, these are minutes you will never be able to live over again.” I don’t think I really appreciated that sentiment until recently.

There are people in this world, people who read my blog, who wouldn’t do well in my mother’s world. They believe that they are living each day if they can simply get through the day without conflict. I see that as putting one foot in front of the other without looking at the path. I guess that’s what I’ve been doing over the past few years. I’ve just been getting through.

Basically, I’m not a “getting though” kinda person. It’s not enough for me to drive by the ocean, I have to have my feet in the water and sand in my toes. I don’t want to just see the color of the fall leaves in Vermont. I want to create syrup from the sap. It’s the world from my perspective.

In March I’m packing up my house, putting it all in storage, and taking my dog and my show on the road. I’ll be stopping at every wide spot in the raod and visiting the largest ball of twine. In reality it will be termed as a “book tour” so I can write it off on my taxes. I’ll be promoting my books, and possibly holding “mini-seminars”, in any city, town, and/or cross-road where I may be summoned by YOU, my readers.

So far, I’m going to Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington. If your state isn’t listed, send me an e-mail and tell me where you are… I’ll come to you.

I will have with me copies of my new book (yet un-named) which will be the story of Riley’s life and journey through alcoholism. ALSO, my new romance novel may be out by that time as well. The only place you will be able to get those books is through ME, while I’m on tour. They will not be available on Amazon until my trip is completed.

While this is a book tour, technically, my purpose of travelling is to start really living again. I’ve been chained to Riley for so long that my new freedom calls me to be mobile. Now’s my chance to see all those things I’ve never seen in this amazing country. Oh… I’ve driven across country many times, but always to get from point A to point B. This time I’ll have more points than there are letters in the alphabet. I want to dance in the rain in an open meadow. I want to see what Niagara Falls looks like from the back of the fall. I want to take pictures from the top of Hatteras Lighthouse. I want to ride in a horse-drawn carriage in Savannah. I want to eat lobster fresh from the docks in Maine. I want to spend the night in a teepee. In short – I want to live, live, live.

There is a scene in the movie “Auntie Mame” where Lucille Ball (as Mame) “Life is a banquet and most sons-a-bitches are starving to death.” Although I prefer Rosalind Russell in the starring role, I like Lucille’s version of that particular line much better.

I don’t want to starve anymore. I want to get out there and live my life. Funny thing though, I didn’t know I was starving until my friend, Sam mentioned that he might want to buy a motor home and travel around the country. Sam lives a quiet life and I think his idea of travelling would be following some pre-destined route on a set schedule without any deviation. I like to have a general idea of my direction and then make up the schedule as I go. I want plenty of time to eat the largest pancake on this side of the Mississippi or to take a tour through Bellingraph Gardens.

I would love to take Sam on MY trip with me and show him what it’s like to be an adventurer. I don’t need a motor home or a fancy RV. I just need a list of places to go and see, my dog and my car. I’m simple like that.

My intention is to feast on the banquet of life as long there’s life to feast upon.