Absence of Sanity

I woke up this morning to a beautiful sunrise. The orange hue made the tree tops appear to be silhouettes resembling black construction paper cut-outs one would find in an elementary classroom. There was a quiet peacefulness that promised a fresh new start. But, in my world, promises are never meant to be kept.

The smell of fresh coffee calls to me. The creamy, hot, dark liquid tastes just as good as it smells. I sink into the big blue overstuffed chair and enjoy watching the neighbor dog briskly scamper across the street looking for her BFF to come out and play. Anxious to join her friend, Jade whines to go out. As I open the door for her, I hear Riley make his way to the kitchen. I take a deep breath and feel my muscles stiffen. Reality is upon me. No matter how pretty the sunrise, wonderful the coffee, peaceful the morning – it is just a prelude to insanity.

The Plan is Flawed

The Plan

My plan is always to just let him go. Let the alcoholic come to its inevitable final conclusion. He will bleed internally and I will ignore the nosebleeds and weeping scabs on his arms and legs. I will pay no attention to the fact that he eats only spoonfuls of food that have often have been from a 3 week old leftover that has been hidden in the back of the fridge. When he stumbles over his own feet, falls down and loses control of his bladder, I will let him lie in his filth until he figures out for himself how to regain a vertical stance and clean up the mess. Well… that’s the plan…

The Flaw

The First Law of Robotics:  A robot cannot cause the harm of a human or through inaction allow a human to come to harm.

In order to adhere to the plan I can no longer view this alcoholic as a human being or remember that he is the father of my children or a person that I once loved and would lie down my life to protect. I must view this person as one who is not deserving of medical attention and or any attempt at preserving his physical life.

I don’t know how to do what I must do in order to fulfill the plan because to not care about a human life; to not make every attempt at prolonging or saving a life; feels somehow immoral. Although I’m not the epitome of virtue, I just cannot, in essence cause a person’s death by reason of non-action. For some reason, I feel I must adhere to the first law of robotics.

Maybe I’m not really a human, maybe I’m a robot that was built specifically for this alcoholic. Was there something my parents had neglected to tell me??

Life Expectancy

I’m in an unusual situation. My alcoholic has exceeded any reasonable expectation of continued breathing time. He has been through the rehab process 13 times. I’ve been told at least eight times that he will not live another 6 months without detox. Since he refuses to detox and refuses to stop drinking, I anticipate and plan for the end which, unfortunately, always feels as though it would be a blessing. We have even gotten to the place of having hospice involved in his care during his final days. But his final days never arrive. I always end up insisting he go to the emergency room, he detoxs, we are told he won’t make it this time, and he recovers.

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When the Fat Lady Sings

When I first took Riley back in after being told he was very sick, I took him to the medical doctor’s and was told he had about two weeks to live if he did not stop drinking. Of course, he did NOT stop and in about two weeks he had an esophageal varices while detoxing in the hospital. He survived. He survived the detox, the varices, the trauma of withdrawing from the booze. He survived it all. He went from the hospital to a six week stay in a nursing home. Then he came home.

Two weeks was what I had been told. Two weeks is all the time I planned on giving to this alcoholic who had monopolized so much of my life. Two weeks and my life would get back to focusing on me and what I wanted to accomplish. I could do two weeks of almost anything. Piece of cake.

Nine YEARS later, my alcoholic husband died. NINE years of taking care of his entire existence and putting myself into a box on a shelf in a dark closet.

Well… finally he was gone. Finally, I could get on with my life. Finally, I could focus on my own happiness and needs. I could leave the house whenever I wanted and desired. I could take a long weekend or maybe even a month. There was NOTHING to hold me back now.

But first I needed to tie up loose ends. Then I had to “get organized”. Then I had to get rid of my husband’s things. Then I had to… and this… and that…

I floundered around doing whatever I thought it was that I needed to do for that day. I jumped from task to task and never really finished anything I started.

When Riley was alive, it was easy to know what I had to do each day. I had a schedule to adhere to. Someone was depending on me to do certain things at certain times of the day. I always knew what was required of me.

All I could say for sure is that I wanted to move to Florida. But I had things that needed to be done first.

It took me more than a year to actually start taking care of myself. I came to the realization that my own health was failing and if I wanted to enjoy my life, I had to make sure I would have a life to live. I had left so many health issues unattended to that it took a few months just to decide where to start. Despite my excellently rationalized planning, it turned out that what I wanted to do first was what I would have to do last.

Everything on my list of things I wanted to accomplish now that I’m not anyone’s caregiver got pushed aside so that I could focus on things like my aching shoulder, knees and hips. (Funny I never noticed how much they hurt when I was taking care of Riley.) I stopped posting so much on this blog. I stopped concentrating on writing a brand-new book. I scheduled doctor appointments and surgeon appointments. I cleaned the pantry and bought the food on my doctor’s new food list.

Gradually, I began adding other things to my list of things I wanted/needed to do. I took the class that was required to earn my “certified” standing as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist. I attended events of groups that focused on recovery from addiction. I networked. My progress was intentionally slow. I wanted to allow myself the time to “let things sink in.”

Well… I guess I let things sink in enough because now I have a full plate of things that I want to accomplish. I have a major surgery coming up. I published a new book, “Postings.” And I have my very first ever real-live two-day interactive workshop set up for early November.

I’m excited about all the new things on my agenda. I’m especially excited about the workshop because it will be unlike any other workshop that most people have attended. It will be full of unexpected guests and unusual topics. It will be INTERACTIVE and the key to it all is the word “WORK” in workshop. Besides the food is incredibly delicious.

I still want to move to Florida, but that will not happen until I’m recovered from this first surgery. I finally feel that I’m no longer floundering around trying to “get my stuff” together.

The fat lady sang a final song and I’m enjoying the silence outside the chaos.

The Wind Began to Switch

Every year I post my rendition of how living in a house with an alcoholic is similar to Dorothy's house in the Wizard of Oz. Last week was the anniversary of the premiere of that movie, so I believe it is time to repost. It's hurricane, tornadoes and cyclones... oh my... we're not in Kansas anymore!

This is a re-post so please keep that in mind as you read about Riley and I waiting out a tornado.

Tornado warning… (5/3/2011)

When the Emergency Broadcast came over the television announcing that we were under a Tornado Warning, I gathered my stuff – blankets, pillows, laptop, water, etc – and put it in a secure place in my bathroom. I was ready.

Riley was in his rocking chair watching his usual NCIS. I told him we needed to get his bathroom ready in case the worst came about. He just said – “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” And being the good little caretaker that I am – I stocked his bathroom. Both the bathrooms are small and there is really only room for one person in each.

As the night wore on, I settled in and listened. Wind, rain, hail, more rain, quiet, wind and more wind – but there was no rumble. I was waiting for the rumble sound of an oncoming train. It never happened – and I was thankful.

As I was waiting, I could feel the house swaying with the wind. We have a brick rancher – solid as possibly could be – but the wind was so strong it was moving the house. I thought of the three little pigs who built their last house of bricks. What a smart thing to do.

In spite of the three little pigs’ wise decision to use brick in the construction – some lyrics kept running through my head -- but they weren’t verses about the pigs’ quest for a secure dwelling. Instead, I was hearing in my head the lyrics to a song from The Wizard of Oz.

The wind began to switch – the house to pitch and suddenly the hinges started to unhitch.

Life with an alcoholic is much the same as a house in the middle of a tornado. This first verse could well define what it is like to watch the beginning of an alcoholic downfall. Things are unsettled, the family never feels secure and things start to fall apart.

Just then the Witch – to satisfy an itch went flying on her broomstick, thumbing for a hitch.

The alcoholic (the Witch) needs to satisfy the craving for alcohol and so he/she seeks it out. Sometimes they ask others to help them obtain the alcohol – as in hitching a ride to the liquor store.

And oh, what happened then was rich.

I think if we substitute the word “sad” for the word “rich,” this would be exactly correct. Because what happens after the alcoholic gets the booze is rich with sadness.

The house began to pitch. The kitchen took a slitch.

Things become increasingly upsetting in the alcoholic household as the drinking continues.

It landed on the Wicked Witch in the middle of a ditch, which was not a healthy situation for the Wicked Witch.

The consequences of the alcoholic’s actions cause him/her to land in unpleasant situations. Eventually the health of the alcoholic deteriorates and puts the alcoholic’s life in danger.

Who began to twitch and was reduced to just a stitch of what was once the Wicked Witch.

The person who was once a vital, productive, happy member of the community is reduced to becoming a mere servant of alcohol. At that point, the entire family is not in Kansas anymore, but rather in some uninhabitable place – like Antarctica. No matter how many times you click your heels, those ruby red slippers are not going to help you now.

I’m told by fellow country dwellers that this is unusual weather for this time of year. Funny, in Linda and Riley World – living in a tornado is a way of life.