Meanwhile, I was worried sick, both for the effect it was having on our finances and Greg's health, not necessarily in that order! After all, we were living on a small pension - a fraction of the salary which once came into the house - but with all the same outgoings, including a mortgage that had not reached full-term. With three of us to feed, not to forget the dog (and cat) too, and a young teenage daughter who naturally now and then wanted to spend a little time with her friends at the cinema or eating out or shopping for clothes. There were also the unexpected costs too such as school trips or plumbing emergencies. Our money could not stretch to a bottle-of-whisky-and-40-fags-a-day habit as well. It was around this time that Greg took out the first bank loan to ease the burden on the finances but it heaped on the pressure mentally, as to how we could cope with the repayments, given all our other outgoings. This was not the sort of early retirement we had planned for. As for me, to be selfish for a moment, any dreams of having nice walks in the country, or a pub lunch, or doing whatever retired couples do, had been dashed.
Health-wise, he was suffering big-time. He looked old, haggard and unkempt. His personal hygiene left a lot to be desired. He did not wash, shave, clean teeth, or change clothes. His clothes were very old and made him resemble a tramp. His trousers were so baggy they often fell down and he had to tighten his belt to keep them on. They looked more like the sort of trousers you would see a clown wearing at the circus. He also lived and died in a body-warmer and it was filthy. I could not get it off him to wash. I later discovered his love for it was because it had lots of little inside pockets, where he would hide his bottle of the day, so it
was always close to him. He said he did not see the point in spending what little money we had on new clothes, even if we suggested buying him clothes for his birthday presents. He was barely eating. I have since learned that the more the alcohol consumption increases, the more the appetite declines. Meals that he once loved he could no longer face. He would toy with the food on his plate and give up after a few mouthfuls. In the end he asked me to exclude him from the meals I was cooking and he would get something for himself later, but I knew he never did. He just did not have the appetite. He looked pale. He now spent a lot of the day sleeping on the sofa. He began to talk gobbledegook in his sleep and wave his arms randomly around like a snake emerging from a basket. Once he awoke, he would go into a rage, if anyone dared to interrupt a programme he was watching, even if to ask something harmless such as when he might want his supper. It was impossible for me to gauge his mood. I am conscious, that for anyone else reading this, the question will arise, well why did you not talk to him about it or help him? Why not just replace his clothes with clean ones? The fact was that any attempts made by me to discuss anything were dismissed by him in a shouting match. He would just go from 0 - 6000 decibels in one word.
Then he would go on and on and on about how I was interfering and to leave him alone. There was so much anger and frustration bubbling up in him - about things that happened in his job, about work colleagues, about things in our marriage. I sometimes had the feeling he was beginning to sink into a deep depression. He would often chant over and over again "Leave me alone. Leave me in peace". In the end, I did just that - I left him to it. He wanted to be master of his own fate and body, so I let him. I was forced to watch his deterioration and could do nothing to stop it.
One day, in total frustration about the situation we were in, I made an appointment to see our GP on my own and, fighting back the tears, I poured out the story to her. She was horrified about the amount he was drinking, about the fact that he was deliberately not going for his regular blood tests for the diabetes. He had apparently not been getting repeat prescriptions of his medication either, so we concluded he must be going without some of them. I told her I was worried where this was all going to lead. She advised me to persuade him to come to see her.
In tears I told Greg what I had done and he was initially angry but then said he understood why I had done it and agreed to come with me to see the doctor. By now he was finding it difficult to walk even a few yards from the front door to the car. At the GP's surgery I had to support him from the car into the building. He felt his legs giving way and would almost crumple in a heap. It took me all my strength to hold him up. The receptionist even put a chair in the hall for him, so that he would not have to walk all the way into the waiting room.The doctor was quite firm with him and said he would kill himself if he continued much longer like that. She asked him if he had a death wish. She said he must try to reduce his alcohol consumption gradually, as we had been told before by the hospital and other doctors. She wanted blood tests to see what state his liver was in. He sat there so meek and mild and took it on the chin. If only she could see what he was like at home when he shouted.
She also advised us to seek out a local Alcoholic and Drug Counselling Service (ADCS). They would be able to advise how to cut down, or arrange a stay in a detox clinic. As we tried to leave the consulting room, Greg collapsed like a pack of cards on the floor. The doctor and I managed to scrape him off the floor and sit him down, then after a bit of a rest he, holding tightly on to me, and I staggered out along the hall back to the car. Of course getting him to have the blood tests at all was another hurdle we yet had to face. Again we had all the rigmarole of just getting him in and out of the car into the local hospital's pathology lab for the blood tests. Naturally we got a lot of funny looks as he staggered, supported by me, past the fifty people or more waiting for their turn. After a few days' wait, we returned to the doctor's surgery for the results. They were not good. They showed that his liver was not healthy and was very swollen.