Thursday, January 1, 2015

Thursday, September 27, 2007 - Revisited


Thursday, September 27, 2007 - Revisited

 There's an elephant in my living room.

 I live in a senior/disabled home facility. The old people are dropping like flies around here. I was taking care of a guy down the hall, whom I thought was about 70 years old or older. Turns out he was only 55. I'd make sure he was breathing every morning, fix him some toast, or help him into the bathroom. Picked him up off the floor more than once. He died. He's the 3rd within the last month or so.

There's another guy, who's 52 years old, but looks 65-70. Death by alcoholism happens more often around here than old age does. I've been taking him to the store almost everyday this month. I shall call him DrunkGuy.  He had been calling a local taxi service, and paying $7.00 a day. I needed money this month so I told him I'd take him, and charge only $5.00.  My conscious is fighting with me.   He buys beer every day.  Our landlady had told him after his last "episode" where we had to call the ambulance for him, that he couldn't bring beer into the building anymore.

 Now .. I KNOW she can't dictate that because alcohol is legal.  And our lease says nothing about no alcohol. He probably knows the same thing.  For months now, he bought only 3 beers a day.  I knew the reason why he went every day was because that's how he limits himself.  If he bought 6 beers (enough for 2 days), he'd drink them all in one day.   I know he gets the DT's if he doesn't drink.  I know that going thru DT's without medical intervention can kill him - I don't remember the numbers, but it was around 40 percent, I think.  I know he'd walk to the store if he couldn't get a ride.   And I also know he'd fall down on the side of the road if he did, because he's so weak.   He lies and says he needs to get milk, bread, butter, a newspaper, etc.   He gets those things, and then it all spoils.   The newspaper is used to "hide" the beer cans in the see-thru grocery sacks.  This morning, I was out the back door of the building, taking the dogs out to pee in the garden area.   When I got back to my apartment, I could tell DrunkGuy had been there cause it stunk to high heaven in my doorway.

He's pickled.  He might as well be stuffed in a jar of ether, along with a rotten egg - to account for the smell.

The seniors gripe at me for taking him to the store each day, cause they know the landlady told him no more alcohol.  A part of me delights in knowing she has no right to enforce it.  Another part of me needs the money - just call me an opportunist enabler?   Before this month, he'd run out of money halfway thru the month, paying the taxi service and would need a ride from me for the last 2 weeks of each month.  Since he was out of money, he'd not be able to help with gas.   He doesn't remember anything from day to day, so I hated to set up any IOU's - he just doesn't remember things, and I have an aversion to taking advantage of that.  Hell, I could tell him he needs to pay me 200.00 for last week, and he'd fork it over.   I put a little calendar in the car and mark off each day I drive him, and when he pays me, so he knows he's not getting screwed.

I guess it comes from being married to my alcoholic.  We made good money.   He much more than I did, but I averaged $3,000.00 a month with my daycare business. Before I went to treatment, I'd spend money just to get even with him for all the wrongs I perceived in our relationship. Perceive, schmerceive! I knew some things for sure. He didn't come home 5 nites out of 7. He said horrible, horrible things to me when drunk. He'd hide cocaine in the house and I had up to 20 kids a day in my daycare. He lied. He took vacations in other countries without telling me. I didn't care if we ended up in the poorhouse - it would serve him right, was my thinking.  If he forgot that he'd already given me money for the house payment, and gave me some more, I wouldn't remind him that he'd already given me enough. He'd be in the shower, and I'd tell him I needed 20 bucks, and he'd tell me to get it out of his wallet, and I would. Then that nite he'd say "Hey, I forgot to give you that 20 bucks, here it is", and I wouldn't say a word. That kind of thing. I thought of it as my "fee" for putting up with a drunk.

But then I went to Codependency treatment and got all healthy, dammit.  Talk about how to ruin a good thing... we ended up divorced cause I got "healthy" enough to not put up with it. 

But I can't figure out whether I'm enabling DrunkGuy or not. At first I thought I wasn't because I'm charging him for the rides, rather than just doing it. He has to pay for it. He has to be responsible that way. He's either paying me or the taxi service. Right?

And yea, the beer is killing him. But so would a walk to the store in the dark, should he not be able to get a ride.

When taking career testing, both times alcohol rehab counselor came up as the number one job for me. I understand the dynamics of addiction, and I'm not judgmental about it. I believe my boundaries now to be solid, and don't get sucked in, nor do I take the outrageous behavior personally. My husband once told me he'd never have a baby with me, cause I produced monsters. (In reference to Jacob's birth defects). At the time, that crushed me, and for years I'd bring it up in every fight. If someone said it to me now? I'd walk away without looking back, ever, and feel good about it. The lesser insults, like ... telling me I'm too heavy? Whatever. Or ... telling me I don't know how to fry chicken? Yup. What of it? I just don't take things personally anymore, and I know where the line is of what I will accept and not accept.

I also know my heart won't be broke should I have to cross that line and leave that relationship or friendship because it's no longer about being abandoned, or giving up on them, but it's about valuing myself enough to do what's best for me should the other person not care enough to do so with me. That's all it is - nothing personal. Possibly the MOST important lesson of my life. 

Smelling DrunkGuy's smell at my doorway this morning, and seeing that he bought SIX beers today, and remembering that he couldn't carry his grocery sacks yesterday means that he bought six beers yesterday ... it was clear as day to me - he's killing himself. Alcohol will kill him. The same as it killed my friend down the hall, and the 2 other guys down the other hall. They're all the same. They don't eat, they lie, they think everyone believes their lies, they stop eating, the food rots in their apartments, they fall and fall and crash all over the floors, they pee and poop everywhere but the toilet, they don't change their clothes, they don't shower. Then one morning ... they're dead.

 In struggling with my conscience this morning, I thought ... "What if I was in love with someone who reached this level of drinking, what would I do? I remember telling my husband once that I couldn't stick around to watch him die. At the time, it was an manipulative thing to say ... I'd never seen or known anyone who died from alcoholism. Knowing what I know now, I could have stayed with him. But I had kids to raise, and my codependency healing hadn't taken full root yet, so I had to get out.

I have a long history with alcoholics. I could have become one myself after Jacob died.  But I had 3 year old SonOne to take care of. In my 20's, I'd drink once or twice a year to get drunk on purpose, like for New Year's Eve, or some other party. I didn't drink at all during my 30's. I got MS in my 40's, and tried like hell to drink, but could never get drunk - I think it has something to do with my medications, altho you'd think just the opposite. My father was/still is? an alcoholic. I was married to an alcoholic. One brother was an alcoholic, another was addicted to cocaine, speed, pot, and I think he tried heroin. A sister is 11 1/2 years sober. I think I stayed sober cause I had to be the designated driver. Or be the responsible parent. I also hated the loss of control. My husband and I would go camping, dirt biking, or snow machining most weekends, and the entire camp would drink themselves stupid, while I got some sort of satisfaction in taking care of everything.

 It fit real well with my codependent nature. One of the "genetic" factors of alcoholism is the personality traits that are developed for coping, and they do get passed on down from generation to generation.  While married to my alcoholic, I saw a commercial on TV for a treatment center. It said "We can help the one you love stop drinking". Ahem. What a hook. In fact, they had to pull the ad because it was so manipulative. Something about ethics.  If you live with an alcoholic, it's a given that you're codependent. Codependency means you spend more time thinking, worrying, taking care of, doing for the alcoholic than you do for yourself. You think you're responsible for making the world work correctly. You take on all the shame, guilt, and worry ... which works out well for the drinker - so he/she doesn't have to feel anything cause the family members are doing it all for him/her. If he/she falls flat on their face at a party ... you're the one embarrassed - not them.  At the same time, you get alot of pats on the back, for putting up with their crap.  I thrived on that attention.  It made me feel... saintly.  No joke.  That was my payoff for staying. 

The coda behavior then carries over to other relationships. For me, it meant that I tried to control EVERYTHING. Living with alcoholism is a shaky deal - you're never really sure of anything, so the more you can control (which includes manipulating), the safer you feel. That need for control/safety doesn't bode well for healthy relationships. Co-dependency = micromanage. I think the meaning of micromanage would be having someone in the passenger seat giving me directions ... to my own house.  My sister does that!  : -)  It also means self-sacrificing yourself until you disappear, even to yourself.

I always used to tell my support groups that "You pick out what you need to work out". Meaning, like meets like. Good grief. I need to find a better way to say it. It meant that I chose alcoholics and/or drug users to be with, because they were familiar.  The chaos, sneaky, high drama was familiar.  I unconsciously chose my relationships based on MY own issues that needed working out. My first husband was emotionally distant and unavailable. As was my father. My second husband was an alcoholic, and it was the smell of beer on his breath that brought back memories of my father. It wasn't until then that I realized what the family secret had been (one of them) ... it was his drinking. I'm not even sure if it was hidden necessarily ... but it certainly wasn't explained that he was a jerk because he was drinking, nor was it understood back then what the effects of drinking were on families.

Each man that I was with had a major issue that triggered mine, and by being with them, my memories of childhood were triggered, and I began to heal, once I knew what the label to the problem was. Maybe that's another reason why I don't hate alcoholics - to me, it was a healing journey. When my step-son started to blame me for the problems in our family because I wouldn't let him go places with his father (drinking and driving), I listened to that commercial ... "You can help the one you love stop drinking", and so I went in to see how I could get my husband to stop drinking ... by hell, I was JUST the person to do it! So my step-son wouldn't hate me.  What a perfect hook - it fed right into my need to fix everything. I took a damn test, answering 50 questions. I didn't like the results of the test, so I asked if I could take it again, pretending I wasn't married to the alcoholic, "the way I used to be before I met him", because I was sure the problems were because of the alcoholic. The counselor said "Sure!" with a little smile on his face. Asshole. Because sure as the sun rises in the morning ... the score for my second test? Only one point difference!

I wasn't the way I was because of him! But wait one damn minute, buster, why in the HELL was *I* taking a test??? I wasn't the one with a problem - I came in to help my alcoholic husband, so why was I the one being talked into treatment? The bottom line was that I chose to go into treatment because ultimately it wasn't about the alcoholic. The REAL problem was why did *I* choose be with/stay with an alcoholic. I couldn't change him, but I could learn to change me. I learned my lessons, and took SonOne and my stepson with me to the family treatment also. They learned it was a disease and were able to separate the father from the disease, and not to take it personally.  I hope.  I hope we all learned that we could hang on to our love for the alcoholic, but hate the alcohol, while learning to set our own boundaries. So often it turns out that the alcoholic ends up all alone, having burned out all the friends and family and children, etc.

Today, looking at and smelling DrunkGuy, I didn't have any answers. If I loved a man who'd reached that level of illness ... my first gut answer would be "just love him". In sickness and in health stuff comes into play, doesn't it? But the truth of the matter is ... 3 beers vs 6 beers makes it a whole 'nuther story. At three beers, he could still take a shower, have a conversation, focus his eyes on me, and remember he loved me. At six beers ... none of that. And without him being able to remember he loved me, I'd be committing personal suicide, having to take care of someone who couldn't shower, who smelled like pickled rotten eggs that had been peed and shit on. And the second truth of it is that 6 beers ALWAYS turns into 9 beers. Which become not personal suicide, but murder ... helping facilitate 6 beers into 9 beers, forcing the issue in order to end the agony?

There's more than one alcoholic in my life and I can't help but wonder if they saw what I saw, these 3 people who have died by alcoholism in my world - if it would make a difference? Altho my boundaries are strong and I will not ever be hurt again by someone's drinking ... I do struggle with ... understanding perhaps too much? Does my understanding and 100% acceptance feed the problem? They are able to be honest with me about it, but does that make it seem like it's okay? Am I smiling as I watch/help/support/understand someone to their death? I know I'm being dramatic at the moment, cause I freaked out alot this morning. Looking at DrunkGuy today ... I was looking death in the face. And today ... it really hits too close to home.

Because I love my elephant in the living room....

Thursday, September 27, 2007 - Revisited

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