HELLOSlept well, woke up shaky and wobbly but my head seemed to clear quickly today. Only 4 detox tablets, 2 morning and 2 evening, alongside my normal tablets. Spent most of the morning getting the kitchen back into shape after the weekends visitors. It’s not much of a kitchen but I’m a little OCD about everything being in the right place.
Group meeting today. Just two punters and one councillor. Still managed to have a very interesting discussion. Did an exercise, can’t remember what it was called now, where you list 10 things that you would really like from your life in the future. Then discuss the chances of achieving any of them whilst still drinking. Very interesting. Helps with the understanding that alcohol is in control, so many things you want to achieve will never happen while you let it remain in control. Interestingly enough, when making the list very few people include being dry as one of the 10.
Sarah and I managed day two of our couch to 5k challenge this afternoon and I have a feeling I am going to be rather stiff in the morning. Tomorrow will be a bit of a challenge, Sarah is back at work for the first day since the start of the detox. My first full day completely on my own right up till the nurse arrives around 4 oclock. Also, it’s the last day of my current medication. Completely dry and relatively drug free from Thursday. That’s the point that all the defence and coping strategies really come in to play. Al that time on my own to fill constructively. Feeling fairly confident, one of my man projects will be job hunting, so watch this space for more details.
Today I received an email from someone I chat with on twitter. I had asked for stories from people who lived with addicts and the affects it had on their day to day to lives, partly to see the kind of affects my addiction could have had on others. Addiction is generally a fairly selfish thing. Well this email left me reeling. It is one hell of a story, very well written, straight from the heart and absolutely no punches pulled. It’s a long story but would like to include it in its entirety, with no judgement or narrative, just as it arrived to me.. Please set aside some time to read it all and take it all in. Its not a bedtime story so maybe try it tomorrow.
Hi Jon"First, I'm so impressed with what you are doing. Its amazing, and I really do wish you all the success in the world.
I've attached my bit - it is way too long I think for your blog, but I am sending it in its entirety for you to cast your eye over. I am happy to reduce it to something more suitable for the blog. It has been a valuable thing for me to write so you have helped me in my recovery and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that.
I'd rather it was published anonymously because I'm still ashamed. I haven't got past the shame yet - that's a work in progress.
Let me know what you think."
The biggest thing is frustration: frustration at the drinking, at not stopping, at the constant mix of major and minor illnesses which consume so much time, at the fact that all aspects of everyone in the family's life ends up revolving around ensuring that the addict is ok.
The other side of addiction:
My husband was to all intents and purposes a functioning alcoholic: he could dress himself (mostly); he could wash himself (but often didn't bother). Until the past few years he held down a well-paid and demanding job and was highly respected by his colleagues. I'm not sure what the turning point from heavy social drinker to dependent alcoholic was but I remember being shocked when the liver consultant told him that he must stop drinking if he wanted to be alive in five years. He didn't stop drinking.
There is a perception that alcoholics are drunks. Some are, of course, but while my husband was never sober, he was seldom drunk. If he woke in the night he drank; when he got up in the morning he drank. To bust another myth, he didn’t drink spirits from a paper bag. His drink was red wine; he wasn't a spirits fan at all, although he would drink anything at all if there was nothing else available.
He was a complicated man. I never doubted that I and our children were loved, but I did always feel that he loved access to his bottle just that little bit more. His entire routine focussed on having access to alcohol. If he drove he would always have wine in the car with him. If he went into hospital there was usually a small bottle of wine in his bag. If he went anywhere, there was always access to alcohol. Always.
His decline was gradual at first, but sped up towards the end and despite all the years that had passed with him being unwell, we were still not prepared. He was hospitalised on many occasions mostly under dramatic and unpleasant circumstances, including a run of 5 flashing blue light ambulance admissions over a 6 week period via the Resus Department of the local hospital where we were on first name terms with the staff, was particularly harrowing. Clearing up after episodes of vomiting blood was like a TV murder scene. Clearing up both him and floors and clothes after repeated episodes of foul smelling, oily diarrhoea was my worst nightmare. As you’d expect these episodes of diarrhoea in a variety of places - supermarkets, pubs & other social situations were mortifying for him. At one point in his illness he lost all but a small amount of vision. Almost miraculously his sight recovered but never fully and he always had problems with his eyes thereafter. He developed a narrowing in his throat which meant that for months at a time he would only be able to live by drinking prescribed fortified drinks. Periodically, he would have the scar tissue in his throat torn open by the very unpleasant process of dilatation to allow small amounts of food to pass into his stomach. He lost most of his body muscle so that at 6ft tall and weighing around 7 stone he looked dreadfully thin. He struggled to walk around the house; he sometimes had to crawl up the stairs. If he fell over, which he often did, then he had to wait for someone to help him get up because he didn't have the strength to do it for himself. His skin became like the paper-thin skin of the very elderly, so fragile that even the slightest knock could pull off several inches of skin or leave him black and blue. The bruises took months to heal. He was at the point of losing his teeth. Sometimes he would stay in bed for days because he didn't have the energy to move. He had to have a chest drain for one infection and on two occasions had excessive fluid drained from his abdomen (10 litres of fluid. 10 full litres. Think about that, on a 7 stone man).
My account is not meant to shock, but to highlight what we had to deal with on a day-to-day basis while still trying to function: to study (one child dropped out of university with the stress of his condition, the other delayed starting because she wanted to spend time with him in case he died), to work full time and keep food on the table, the house tidy, and maybe even occasionally have a bit of fun and a life of our own.
As this shows, living with an addict is hard. It is like watching someone commit suicide very slowly: death by a thousand cuts. I was ashamed of him and even more ashamed of myself that I should feel like that. Our children didn’t like to bring their friends home because they were uncomfortable with questions about why he looked so ill, why he didn’t work, why he always had a drink on the go. There is also terrible guilt that I couldn't help him, that I wasn't enough to make him stop drinking. I know that our children feel the same. They know it isn’t their fault, but they blame themselves nevertheless.
In the end, of necessity, all addicts are selfish. It isn't that they don't care or even that they don't want to change, but they are in the grip of something which is literally consuming them.
I knew at the time how difficult it was day to day (it brought me to the point of breakdown as I tried to hold everything together), but it is only now that he is gone that I guiltily realise how much more life I have. I don't worry that I will wake up and find him dead or get home from work and find him lying at the bottom of the stairs, get a phone call to rush home from work, or worse ring and get no answer then have to ask someone to call in and check on him. I don’t have to worry that our children experience any of this. There are not endless emergency hospital admissions and routine appointments to juggle around work; there will be no more avoiding family social events because he looks and feels so unwell. Avoiding awkward questions becomes an art form over time.
But you know what, I miss him, I miss him so much. He was a good husband in many ways and a wonderful father when the children were young. He was involved and active as a parent in all aspects of their lives. He loved me devotedly. He could be generous; he had a fantastic sense of humour and he had a brain the size of a planet. I miss our shorthand conversations, the serious and not so serious discussions that we had. I miss his physical presence. Ultimately the saddest thing about all this is that I was missing all of these things for the last few years of his life. That is the worst thing of all about living with an addict