Voices for Recovery
My name is Linda and I’m the wife of an end-stage alcoholic. My husband will die as a result of alcohol related circumstances. He has been through detox eight times and has been turned down for medical treatment at two different reputable medical centers. Rehab centers peg him as not being a viable candidate for rehabilitation. He openly declares that he does not want anything to do with sobriety and prefers living in an alcoholic haze. The pain and chaos generated around him is of no importance to him and he has said as much many times.
I’ve been asked to write my story. The only problem is that my story starts out just like everyone else’s horror story. I could tell you what it is like to have an addicted husband and to raise children in an alcoholic household. I could tell about the infidelities, broken promises, repossessed cars and foreclosed home. But, my story is really not unique. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before and really there is nothing new.
Where my story takes an unexpected turn is when I tell you that I left my husband after spending 20 years in the center of his insanity. We lived happily apart for nearly 15 years. I established myself in my profession and created a home and life for myself that did not include alcoholic behavior. We had never gotten a divorce because I did not want to lose my military benefits which I feel I have earned. Also, I knew that in order to protect my daughter, one day I would have to step in and take care of him since he is ten years older and an alcoholic.
A couple of years ago I was contacted by my husband’s roommates to tell me that I would have to come get him or they would have him declared a danger to others. He could no longer live with them.
My daughter wanted him to come live with her family. I said NO because this is exactly why I had stayed married to him. I did NOT want my daughter’s life to become the center of his alcoholic circle. I moved him into my home.
After I found a doctor that would accept him as a patient, I realized that he probably had less than 6 months of life left. I thought that I would see this through until the end and then that would truly be the end. But, I got him to the emergency room just in time to save his life. He spent months in a nursing home so he could regain his physical strength. When he finally returned to my house, he immediately began drinking once again.
Now I find that I’m in an unusual situation. My husband has exceeded any reasonable expectation of continued breathing time. He has been through the rehab process 13 times. He has been through detox eight times – three since he has been living with me. I’ve been told numerous times that he will not live another 6 months. But, he does live, I get him to the emergency just in the nick of time – and he lives. He has become my immortal alcoholic.
How do I do it? How do I live with a man that no longer holds my heart? How do I tend to him when he is covered in his own urine and feces? It seems that those are the more important issues to be addressed. After all, I can’t stop him from drinking or killing himself.
I want to tell you how I cope and survive through all of this.
1. I’m a rational realist – No one person can CHANGE any other person. I cannot make my husband stop drinking. He is the only one who can do that. Most alcoholics die from an alcohol related disease or event. I’m realistic about his life expectancy and I have planned for the inevitable. His alcoholism is terminal. I take the attitude of planning for the worst and hoping for the best.
2. It is what it is – Whether you believe it is a biological disease or a disease of choice, the result is the same. It is alcoholism. It’s an overpowering need to consume alcohol to numb or distort reality. As a non-alcoholic I am not privileged to that world. I did not create his addiction and I did not “drive” him to it. I am in no way responsible for his alcoholism. It is sad, disheartening, frustrating, irritating and INCURABLE. But it was not my creation.
3. Take care of my physical health – I have established a relationship with a primary care doctor and I’m honest about my living situation. I receive regular check-ups. I don’t want to create an additional problem for my daughter by letting my own health deteriorate.
4. Take care of my mental health – It’s my opinion that having a mental health professional is just as important as the primary care physician. Talking things through often gets me through my own issues even when they don’t relate to my husband. I want to maintain my sanity and not get sucked up into believing the irrational – so I talk to a therapist.
5. I keep my objectivity – In the grand scheme of things, who is the alcoholic hurting? I provide a buffer zone between him and my daughter, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren. He can only hurt me if I allow him to do so. My husband is/has ruined his own health and his health belongs to him to do with as he wants. Being objective means separating his actions and desires from mine and not letting them get mixed up together.
6. I maintain my own life – I have a job and can survive without his financial support. I maintain my own friendships and I don’t worry about if they like my husband. I also don’t care if my husband likes my friends. I go places and do things without my husband because I want to enjoy my life without subjecting myself to becoming the monitor of his public actions. I have found my own interests and then I follow through on making those interests a part of my life.
7. I try to help others. I write a blog (www.immortalalcoholic.blogspot.com)about my life with an end-stage alcoholic. It not only contains history about my life with my husband, it also has factual information concerning biological functions of an alcoholic body and how to find help. My readers e-mail me and I offer help in any way that I can. I also have The Immortal Alcoholic Facebook Community page where my readers can participate in discussions on relevant topics. I also am hoping to team up with two other substance abuse specialists to plan a local event for Recovery Month. Helping others keeps me focused on what is important and provides outlet for sharing information I’ve gained through this experience.
8. I find the comedy – There is comedy all around us. Even the most serious of circumstances hold some kind of comedy. Even if the alcoholic doesn’t think it’s funny. Who cares?? I see it for the comedy that it is. I’m not afraid to laugh out loud. I no longer worry about whether or not it will hurt his feelings. If he is in a drunken stupor, he’s really not aware of me anyway. So when he’s looking in the oven for the milk – I laugh. When he puts his coat on upside down – I laugh. I could cry because it is so sad – but how would that benefit me? I’ve already cried, yelled, screamed and it never did me any good. So now I laugh.
9. Enjoy every sunrise and sunset – Every morning that I wake up and take a breath – is a gift. It is my responsibility to enjoy my life and take advantage of every moment. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow – so I take joy in today.
My story is not so much about my life in the past, but more about my life in the present and future. My past would not read so differently from any other, and I can do nothing to change the past. My present is unique and I would not be in this situation if I didn’t have my daughter. My future is whatever I chose to make it – bright or dark. It’s all up to me.
I hope what I have written here helps someone in some way.