Wednesday, August 9, 2017
It’s been a very long road from the time I took Riley back in until today. He’s still alive. Hes still wants a drink or two or three or more. Things don’t change while they are changing. Nothing has gotten any easier along the way.
I thought I’d get used to all the drunken chaos, the household mess, the ridiculous rantings and demands. I thought I’d just ignore it and move along through my day. After all, he is my estranged husband and hadn’t really been a part of my life for more than 15 years. I can handle this, I thought. Everything would be OK.
As Riley became less “sick” and more drunk, things did not get better. I tried to ignore it. He was like that roommate that constantly drank all the milk or used up all the clean towels. He was like the child who refused to pick up after himself or clean his room. But, it was OK, I thought… he’d fall prey to his addiction soon and I’d have my house and life to myself again.
I kept my personal life personal and did not involve him in any decisions at all. I provided with him with what he needed and didn’t begrudge the money it cost. I maintained my previous friendships but seldom had them over to visit. I was starting to lose a grip on my social life.
Auto-pilot never kicked in gear. I got to a point when I realized I was simply “getting through” each day. Riley would get sick, go into hospice, and I’d think… “The end is near. I can have my life back.” I would make plans and reconnect with old friends.. and then… he would pull through to torment me another couple of years. Each near death encounter sent me deeper into the role of caregiver and less into the role of being myself. Finally, I had no idea who I really was. I had no identity of my own. I was just Riley’s caregiver.
Now, 9 years later, I still have times when I don’t know who I am. Thanks to the family and friends who have encouraged me to find my voice, I have managed to start this blog, write the books, collaborate with HBO on Risky Drinking, and tell it like it is. But, Linda is still someone I’m rediscovering outside the chaos. Linda is rediscovering who she is and what she wants. It’s a soul-searching task.
So, my anonymous friend, to answer your questions, I’m sorry to report that it never gets any easier. Your only saving grace is if you are able to hold on to who you really are so you don’t become lost through this process.
“Surviving the Chaos” was written with people like anonymous on my mind. It’s available on Amazon. Get it today for the low price of $10. Here’s the link:
COMING SOON! The sequel to “Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife.” In the sequel to my journey through the chaos, you will learn about Riley’s childhood and family dynamics. Discover his Navy adventure and how it played a big part in his inability to completely rehabilitate. This new book picks up where “Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife” left off. See how far we’ve come. Look for it on Amazon before Christmas.
In the meantime, refresh your memory by reading The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife. Get your copy here:
at 9:09 AM
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
I met Matt Paust way back in the 1980s when he was a reporter. Over the years, he has retired from the news biz and became an author of political satire novels. Matt has changed his direction to writing poetic rhetoric – poems of a sort. Sometimes when I read what he has written, his words strike a chord deep inside me. I feel he has found his words hidden away in some far corner of my heart or brain.
The poem I’m posting today is a man talking about a woman but it could easily go the opposite way. For me, it explains how I feel how my life has gone with Riley. I’m sure many of you will relate. However, it’s like anything else, you will either like it or not.
By Matt Paust
You sit there, eyes on the floor where she just walked
hell, you think, that's what it is, hell
it's written on your face, you know, the hell
she's made your life a hell, a living hell
is what you're thinking
The charm you thought she meant for you alone
more commonplace than you should know
her whimsy frightens you
you wrap your heart in wrath and hurl it back
Life with her has come to this
denied mistrust entwined with covert scorn
homicide at times worms through your thoughts, wriggles out fleeing
memories of fleeting seconds when true smiles
yours, hers, joined in fierce implacability
I'll be posting more from Matt in the days to come. Be sure to leave a comment and I will pass it on to him.
A Living Hell...
A Living Hell...
In my first book, The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife, I strive to show the contrast between Riley, the loving husband and father, as opposed to Riley, the drunken bastard. Back in the day, I loved Riley. Maybe I still do, but I do not love what alcoholism has done to him, his attitudes, his morals, his and my life. Riley doesn’t make my life a living hell – alcoholism does. I don’t hate Riley. I hate alcoholism. I don’t hate my life. I hate how alcoholism has changed my life.
It’s sad that the end stages of Riley’s alcoholic life have destroyed so much in my life. It’s even sadder that I allowed it to happen. I did what most every wife does when faced with alcoholic chaos. I didn’t know any different and no one, or any group, really seemed to help me figure it all out. Now that I have it figured out, I wonder if it is too late. I’m praying that it is not.
Riley is back in hospice and, for about the tenth time, the family is waiting for the grim reaper to knock on his bedroom door – or maybe climb through the window – descend from the ceiling -- whatever. Actually, the only person waiting is me. No one believes he is really going to make an exit. After all, he IS the Immortal Alcoholic.
As I’m waiting, I’m having fantasies about how I will manage the new life that is just beyond my fingertips. I imagine a life that is not a living hell. I imagine being able to eat a whole meal without interruption or not being called when using the bathroom. My fantastical mind ramblings take me to France and a tasting tour through the countryside. And then I remember – he IS the Immortal Alcoholic.
I believe God is testing my patience. OK God! Even the SAT’s have a time limit!
The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife -- Part 2, The Update
at 9:22 AM
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
About ten years ago I had a heart attack brought on by stress. These are the steps I used to help myself heal:
1. I made a list of the things causing me stress.
2. Every time I got upset or angry over a specific situation, I wrote it down and included it in my list.
3. I examined each item on my list and categorized it as:
a) something that can be resolved via an action by me;
b) something over which I had no control;
c) something that time will resolve.
4. The items that were the things that could be resolved by taking action were categorized by the least stressing to the most stressing.
5. I worked on resolving one issue at a time. I started with the one that required the littlest effort and went from there. This list is never-ending. There will always be something that gets added on with resolutions that require time, money or emotional expense.
6. The stresses over which I have no control, I pushed aside thinking I would come back to them after I had dealt with all the more pressing stuff.
7. Resolutions which simply involved letting some time pass, were also pushed aside. Actually, I wrote them on a calendar as a reminder. When the calendar reminded me of the item, I would check to see if the issue had been resolved. If not, it went back on the calendar.
One of the biggest things I learned in my heart health recovery, is to take time for laughter. Find humor every chance you can. Laugh. No, I mean, LAUGH your butt off! Laugh at the backed-up traffic because it allows you some time to listen to great tunes while you’re waiting. Laugh at the price of a new car because you don’t really have to spend that much money. Laugh at political speeches because of the ridiculousness of statements being made Laugh at everything and anything. Every time you laugh, you physically release stress.
My basic personality is to fix things. People call on me to help them with their problems all the time, but really all I can do is listen, suggest and encourage. What I really want to do is take the responsibility from them and do what they should do themselves.
For example, a friend has a bestie with serious health problems. The bestie had some medical tests done and has received the results. The friend calls to check on her and wants to know the test results in order to provide the support the bestie needs. But, the bestie is dodging her calls and ignoring her texts. The friend is very concerned and desperately wants to help the bestie. She asks me what she should do. My response… get in your car, drive to her house and don’t stop knocking until she answers the door. You’ll have your answer when you see her face. That’s when you will know what to do.
What I really want to do is go to the bestie house myself and ask her what’s up. Tell her to get over herself and let others help. However… her illness is not my circus and her test results are not my monkeys. I cannot interfere with this relationship. They must figure it out on their own.
Figuring it out is the hardest part. Most of the time there are many optional answers to a situation. It’s difficult to discover which is the right one.
If you’re dealing with excess stress in your life, take control and resolve everything that you can. Stress will kill you as much as a speeding bullet. Cover your heart with a Superman cape and ricochet those bullets to oblivion. You’ll be happy you did.
at 12:49 PM
Thursday, July 20, 2017
There’s a big change going on out here in Rileyville. Good changes are knocking at my front door. I was informed that I would have an aide for at least 30 hours a week and respite time. Evidently the Medicaid application was approved however I wasn’t notified until yesterday. Sounds like heaven to me! After eight years of taking care of Riley, I will finally turn him over to someone else and have some time to myself.
I have always said that in spite of what’s going on in my life, I am happy. Today I feel excited about having the opportunity to take my life back. I am happier today that I have been in a very long time.
This weekend I am moving my office upstairs where I will not be able to hear whatever is going on with Riley. I’ll get a baby monitor so I can talk to the aide but it will not be in Riley’s room. I’m anxious to see how this is all going to work out.
There’ve been a lot of changes in my life lately, but isn’t that how life is? Without change we cannot grow. I recently re-connected with a friend that I hadn’t talk to in nearly twenty years. She was surprised at certain things about me. I was once a sweet, quiet woman who always did as she was told. I was a follower. Now I’m a tell-it-like-it-is kinda gal. I’m open about my life, my needs, my outlook. I am certainly not quiet, in fact, sometimes people want me to shut up. I’m leading my pack and making things happen instead of waiting to see what’s going to happen.
Change is inevitable. We can count on it. Sometimes it’s good and other times it’s not so much. One thing is for sure, we must deal with it when it comes along.
Most of the time we won’t even know we are changing. One day we will just realize that something is different. Embrace it and know that even not-so-great changes can have their advantages. Seek out that advantage and make use of it.
If I had not had the major change in my life by taking Riley back in, I would not have started this blog, written my books, helped produce the HBO documentary. I would still be working in an office cubicle doing real estate title exams. Not that that would be a bad thing, but my life is more purposeful since starting this blog. Of course, I’ve had really awful experiences with Riley, but one of my changes is to not focus on those times. I need to let them go.
What I am saying to you is to stay positive in spite of chaos around you. How do you do that? You keep your own life in sight. The alcoholic is responsible for his/her life and you are responsible for yours. You only have enough room in your life for the things that are relevant to you personally. I love the line “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Stick to your own circus and deal with keeping your own monkeys under control. Make this change in your life so that your life will change.
at 7:02 AM
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Fear can be a good thing. It prevents us from putting our hands into an open flame. It makes us think twice before acting on something that may be dangerous. It’s that little voice in our head telling us to turn left or right or to not turn at all.
I believe there is a “fear scale”. At one end is the mild feeling of apprehension – like crossing a busy street. At the other end if full blown paranoia – like believing the boogey man is hiding in the closet. Too little fear can be just as dangerous as too much.
As the wife of an alcoholic, I can tell you that I have many fears that range all up and down the fear scale. Here is a sampling.
The fear that my husband will make a miraculous recovery and go back to drinking;
The fear that he will make the same recovery and not go back to drinking;
The fear that he will die a painful death;
The fear that he will never die;
The fear that I will die before him;
The fear that I will never have a sane, happy, loving man in my life;
The fear that I will have someone in my life that will become ill and I have to take care of him;
The fear that someone will come into my life and I will be the one who becomes sick;
The fear of living out the rest of my life alone;
The fear of trust;
The fear of not trusting;
The fear of losing myself by being what someone else wants;
The fear that I’m deceiving myself by thinking I really know who I am;
The fear of being unacceptable or not being accepted;
The fear that becoming accepted means I have to change;
The fear of not being heard;
The fear of being heard but misunderstood;
And the list can continue on and on…
What has worked for me is to take each fear as it rears its head and address it in the moment that it is happening. But, I’m a procrastinator so my timing is often way off which means I just plunge head first and worry about the consequences later.
I refuse to let all my fears rule my life. I have a fear of cutting myself when chopping vegetables, so should I never include vegetables in my recipes? No – I chop the damn vegetables and keep a box of bandages close at hand. I weigh my options. Is the fear of doing something greater than the fear of not doing something?
The point of this post is to suggest to you that you not let your fears stop you from fulfilling your dreams. Sort out your good fears from your bad fears, keep track of where they are on the fear scale and then live a full and complete life.
at 6:28 AM
Monday, July 3, 2017
For more than 20 years I longed to have my husband stop his alcohol abuse, but he never managed to find a way to love sobriety. Too many times the family gathered by his bedside and held a death watch expecting him to expire within minutes. He always survived.
In 2012 he had a major heart attack that would have stopped life for most normal people. But, then, he is not normal. After weeks of watching him go downhill, he finally started recovering. He made it through although his life would change greatly because he would not be able to obtain alcohol. Finally, I had my wish. I had a sober husband and I expected things to change for the better.
Be careful what you wish for. He was home and he was sober. He also had brain atrophy which left him with a form of dementia. He was able to walk, feed, dress and care for himself. He could not hold long conversations. Clearly, he was miserable with this new lifestyle. Still… I did not buy alcohol for him.
He has gone on a slow descent ever since his heart attack. Five years later, he is completely bedridden and dependent on me for every bit of care. I’m in control of everything in his life from what he eats to the changing of his underwear. The biggest decision he must make each day is what he is going to watch on TV. Although, he can no longer change the channels without assistance.
I have my husband. I have a person in my home who looks like my husband but there is no conversation, no laughter, no exchange of ideas, there’s just a fog of unhappiness. I got what I wanted – a sober husband – but this is not how I imagined it.
Riley’s life is empty. It is as though he is being held captive. I’m told he can live in this physical and mental state for many years. He longs to go to a bar and get wasted. He wants to drive even if he is drunk. He wants his old life back. The life that has him consuming a gallon of vodka a day and endangering others on the highway is the life he wants. He doesn’t long for a life with me or close family ties to his grandchildren. He doesn’t want to go on road trips or socializing with sober people. He wants to be drunk. He wants to die drunk.
The next time you are in the emergency room because your alcoholic is vomiting blood or some other such ailment, don’t be so quick to decline a DNR or hospice. Think about Riley and his self-imposed prison and my prison-term as his caregiver. Life at any cost is not always a life at all.
at 9:45 AM
Thursday, June 22, 2017
When I come upon someone I know, either by accident or design, the first thing I say after “hello” is “How are you?” I expect to hear back that the person is fine or that things have been rough. The conversation proceeds on from there. “How are you” feels like a natural segue into a deeper exchange.
Over the past eight years, I have been taking care of Riley and it has been a chore to say the least. My own physical and emotional health have gone downhill. There has been a host of people in and out of the house whose sole purpose was to help me with the care giving responsibilities and relieve some of the stress. Everyone who has helped has been awesome.
People who talk to me always start out the conversation with the phrase “How ya doin’?” I’m asked that question on the average of five times a day from well-meaning, concerned individuals. Riley asks the same question at least four times a day. It feels that everyone is always asking how I’m doing. It gets exhausting repeating the same answer over and over again. I try to keep it short – “I’m OK.”
How am I doing? Well, that fluctuates from hour to hour and even, sometimes, minute by minute. It depends on what and/or who I’m dealing with at the moment or what answer I’m waiting for each given day. There’s Medicaid, Veterans Administration, social workers, nurses, doctors, friends and family who are constantly asking questions and/or concerned for my well-being.
Decisions that need to be made bombard me daily. All the while, I must go to Riley when he calls me 4 or 5 times an hour. I must answer his questions on things that have no answers.
How am I doing? I’m frustrated, confused, tired, sick and I don’t want to explain the reasons behind the emotions every single day, over and over again. I’m not doing well. Can we just leave it at that?
Riley continues to s..l..o..w..l..y decline. His declining only creates more work for me.
I’m tired. I need a vacation where “how ya doin’” means “Can I get you a fresh ice tea?” Yes, a vacation would certainly help. Maybe a short cruise or a stay at a mountain resort. But, it will have to wait until Riley is gone and I won’t have to pay for a sitter for him. Anyway… it doesn’t matter what I need… I’ll continue to be “doin’” the same way I’ve been doin’ for a long time now. It will get worse before it gets better.
at 10:09 AM
Saturday, May 27, 2017
I recorded and saved the HBO documentary “Warning: This Drug May Kill You” which was directed by Perri Peltz who was one of the producers of Risky Drinking. I wanted to watch it at a time when I would not encounter any interruptions by Riley or the telephone. I waited until after 10 p.m. when the house was quiet.
In the back of my mind I was thinking this film was just another warning not to do drugs. I’ve seen so many of these types of films on drugs and alcohol that I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing it. I thought… what can I learn from this film, probably nothing. But, I couldn’t ignore a film directed by my friend, Perri Peltz. I was so very wrong to have doubted the film’s power. Within the first very scenes, I could feel my need for a box of tissues and a punching bag representing pharmaceutical companies.
Warning: This Drug May Kill You is a different approach to the drug epidemic our country currently faces. I didn’t understand that most people addicted to opioids became addicts through no fault of their own. It isn’t always someone using drugs for recreational purposes during parties or to be a part of the crowd. Instead it starts with a prescription from a doctor who wants to help the patient ease the pain after an accident or surgery. It was all so innocent in the beginning. The end is a completely different story.
The film contains four different story lines, with the same underlying theme:
A mother of three, Wynne was prescribed opioids after a painful C-section. Ex-husband Britt remembers that as she became addicted, “Doctors were just throwing pills at her [and] she became a totally different person.” In 2008, with Wynne in her tenth rehab facility, Britt filed for divorce. Though Wynne, who shared custody of her children, made an effort to be in their lives and appeared to be getting better, a bout with kidney stones found her leaving the hospital flush with pain meds. Her teen sons found her in bed the next morning, an overdose victim.
Teenager Brendan was prescribed opioids following surgery to remove a cyst; four years later, addiction claimed his life. His parents, Brian and Gail, had supported his efforts to get clean. Fresh out of rehab, however, Brendan overdosed, and was revived by Narcan – a drug that can reverse heroin overdose, but often leaves addicts more vulnerable. Unaware of the withdrawal symptoms he was facing, Brian and Gail were devastated to find their son collapsed in his bedroom, having overdosed again, this time fatally.
David and his wife, Judy, are still reeling a year after the loss of their daughter Georgia to an overdose. Her story is all too common: After suffering a back injury, Georgia was prescribed heavy painkillers, and soon graduated to heroin. On Thanksgiving, David found Georgia comatose in the living room, with a syringe nearby.
Suffering from kidney stones at age 16, Stephany was treated with Dilaudid, Oxycontin and Vicodin. She ended up sharing the pills with her older sister, Ashley, and when their supply was abruptly cut off, both turned to heroin. Stephany vowed to get clean after Ashley fatally overdosed, but the process has been difficult. With her mother’s support, Stephany enters “A Way Out,” a 30-day state-sponsored rehab program involving local police departments
I was proud to be a part of the production of Risky Drinking. Although there were some things I would have liked to have seen done differently. It was an excellent portrayal of the life of an alcoholic. In my opinion, Warning: This…, is a far superior film.
Warning: This Drug May Kill You is not about what life is like for an addict. It’s more about how the addict got to be an addict and what the family goes through trying to get help for the addict. It’s about the pharmaceutical companies feeding the pubic with false information – intentionally. It’s about the doctors who fail to monitor use of the drugs after they are no longer needed. It’s about US as a community who shake our heads in shame towards the one person who needs our support and understanding the most. It’s about the addict who lost the ability to say – “I’m not taking this prescription.” because they don’t understand how devastating it can be to them.
Thank You and Kudos to Perri Peltz, director, Sascha Weiss; producer, Larissa Bills; editor, Geof Bartz. For HBO; senior producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins for asking the hard questions. Thanks to all of you for being brave enough to take on this topic from the viewpoint expressed.
If I had been a part of Warning: This Drug May Kill You, I wouldn’t have wanted to change one thing.
The documentary will also be available on HBO ON DEMAND, HBO NOW, HBO GO and affiliate portals. Please watch with anyone you know who is taking pain medication so they may become informed.
at 11:08 AM
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Sometimes I make a decision and this little voice gets into my head and whispers “Rethink your decision” or “Great idea”. It’s disturbing, really. I may be totally confident in my decision but once the little voice steps in, I begin to doubt my reasoning process. I think and rethink, process and reprocess, decide and undecide.
It’s not just the big decisions, it could be something as simple as what flavor ice cream to buy. You should see me buying bed sheets off the internet. OH Boy! What a conundrum!
Finally, I’ve reached a point where I am starting to trust myself to make the right decision for the circumstance. I will listen to that little voice and I’ll check myself, but I won’t dwell on it as I have in the past. I’m so proud of myself – it only took me an hour to decide on which pair of sandals I wanted. Believe me, that’s progress!
But there’s a deeper trust issue that inspired me to write this post. That’s the issue of trusting our kids to make the right decision. When kids are young children, they need assistance in making choices. They lack experience and are unable to see the possible consequences of their decisions. So, I’m not talking about the very young, this post is for the older child – closer to adulthood and beyond.
A parent asked her high school graduating son if he wanted her to encourage the boy’s alcoholic father to attend the celebration. The boy’s response was that he didn’t care if the father was in attendance or not. The mother wasn’t sure if this was the correct decision because this would be a “once in a lifetime” event and the father might regret not being there. The son might regret not having his father there. Should she intervene and remind the father of the ceremony? What if he comes and makes a scene? So many questions making the decision more difficult.
In my opinion, it’s not the mother’s decision to make. The young man already decided that it makes no difference to him if his father is there or not. If he wants his father, it is up to him to remind the father or to ask the mother to remind him. The mother should not step in unless the graduate asks her. The decision is up to the young man.
By the time a child graduates high school, they have already learned valuable life lessons. It is time to put those lessons to use. The child has advanced to being the captain of his own boat. The parents can advise, support and observe, but should not make the final decision. As parents, we may not like or approve. It’s difficult to watch as they take a walk towards a cliff but we, as parents, must let them make their own mistakes and learn from them.
We must trust that we did the best we could to teach our kids right from wrong and to look both ways before crossing the street. We can try to continue to tell them what to do, but believe me when I say, they WILL stop listening.
Don’t worry because as the years pass you will eventually find yourself asking your kids for their advice. As the world changes, technology changes, and/or standards change, we may find it hard to keep up in the ever seeming faster paced world. I know. I can’t figure out my cell phone without my daughter’s help. It’s frustrating.
We must trust that we did as good a job as we possibly could while they grow up with an extra issue of alcoholism in the household or family. We must trust our kids to have learned our life lessons. If we don’t, we are doomed to live in a sea of doubt and worry. That’s not where I want to spend my later years of life. I trust my kids and grandkids. In fact, sometimes I think they are smarter than me.
at 5:00 PM
Thursday, April 6, 2017
In my deepest of dark moments, I still can see a bare speck of light. But if I blink or look away when I look again, the speck is gone. It alternates that way – deep black with the light and then nothing but black. I wonder if it will ever be light with bit of black so I keep looking.
Over the past few months, while I’ve been rather silent, I thought about retiring this blog and all things about alcoholism. I thought about just letting it go. There’s so much that I’ve wanted to do and have not accomplished. There’s so much that needs to be done without the time or money to do it.
This journey of the blog has been long and hard. I keep going by putting one foot in front of the other but it’s like walking through quicksand. I take breaks. I try to shift my focus. But, my status as an alcoholic’s wife and caregiver are still there – almost haunting me.
I find myself so angry with anyone claiming to be an alcoholic that I have no words for them. The fact remains that the alcoholic was not the one that was meant to receive the most advantage from my blog. I wanted to give my support to people just like me – a non-alcoholic faced with caregiving an alcoholic. Doesn’t matter how we got here. It matters that we are here and in need of some information, encouragement, support or just some plain truth.
The whole point was that we would get better and eventually move on from the world of alcoholism to a world ruled only by you. It’s not easy and often nearly impossible under circumstances beyond your control. No matter. I’m here and taking care of a sober alcoholic who is still in denial and has all those ugly alcoholic traits like narcissism and altered memories.
There are times when it can be humorous if you’re in a state of mind when you can let humor into your thoughts.
For example, Riley was reminiscing and trying to remember where he had worked and who his workmates were. He kept thinking I was working in the same place as he was. But I never did. He asked me why didn’t I remember the cute little typist who was assigned to typing his tech manuals. I was patient (well… I tried to be patient) explaining that I never worked there. When he started trying to name off all the women he slept with at each work place, I wanted to throw the TV at him. The final straw was him telling that the cute little typist could F*** all night long. I left the room.
That could have had a humorous little slant to it rather than generating irritation. After I left the room, I called Carrot and told her what had just happened. She burst into belly-aching laughter. She then told me how I could have played into it and said things that would have turned things from hurtful to humorous.
I could have claimed to be that cute little typists or all of the women whose name he could not remember. I could have made up stories about being in his office and create scenarios that would have baffled him. By the time we finished talking about it, I was also rolling on the floor. I’m thankful to have someone in my life who always makes me laugh.
A follower told me that my posts recently had turned dark. I’ve been going through a dark time without much of a speck of light. There’s nothing to do but keep trying to find some kind of humor which will keep the light shining. Even if the light is far off in a distant black hole, I must keep encouraging it to glow. Otherwise, it might burn out forever.
at 3:00 PM