09 October 2008

Counselling for me

Around about this time in May, the Alcoholic Advisory Centre (AAC), where Greg went for counselling, contacted me. They were considering starting sessions for people like me who live with alcoholics and wondered if I might like to come along to an introductory meeting to plan what people wanted from these meetings and when/ how often to hold them etc. Various people in my circle of friends and relatives had suggested I should attend Al-Anon to help me, but I had not had the opportunity or time to attend Al-Anon meetings. I had felt a bit guilty about this and had decided that, as I already knew the AAC and had taken Greg there frequently for his counselling, I might try there first. Also things at home were becoming difficult to control or manage and I needed some advice. Ironically, at this same time, Greg had stopped going there because his one-to-one counsellor was leaving the AAC to live abroad and the AAC suggested, as they were cutting back on resources, that Greg attend group meetings instead, which of course did not appeal to Greg in the slightest.

My first meeting with the AAC was in June 2008. There were about six different people there including myself, plus the organisers. It became quite clear from an early point in the meeting that I was different from all the others. The alcoholics in their families were their children....twenty-somethings who still lived at home but went out on the town at weekends and rolled home drunk on an irregular basis. The advice from the AAC was to be firm and set boundaries such as not to allow the drunk back in the home until they sobered up. The parents should maintain that it was the parent's home and their sons or daughters must observe their rules and their standards. This meant tough love and sending their sons and daughters away from the front door, when they were drunk....even if it meant them sleeping rough overnight. When I told my story, it was evident that this advice could not apply. For a start it was my husband who was the alcoholic and therefore I could not ban him from his own home. Secondly he was already in the home all day every day. Drunk all the time. Not just occasionally at weekends. Nor was there any time of the day when he was sober and I could reason with him. There was no advice for that. The organisers conceded it was a difficult case to handle. All I could do, they said, was to persuade him to come to the AAC for his own counselling meetings, which, as I mentioned above, he would not do, now that his one-to-one counselling had stopped.


Together with the other families, I helped to shape up further meetings to decide how often we should meet (once a month), on what day (first Thursday of the month), what time, how long, and the sort of topics we would like to cover (visits from GPs or doctors at hospitals; experts from carers' organisations; talks on rehab and what it entails; advice on how to deal with given situations etc). There was even a suggestion that they might arrange day-trips to the seaside or theatre visits to give us a bit of social respite. Since then, there have been three meetings at the AAC and sadly the numbers have dwindled to such an extent that last week I was the only one there. It was a bit embarrassing really. The organisers have decided to stop these meetings now, because they do not really have the resources (and I suspect because the uptake has been poor).

I have only recently also started to attend Al-Anon. I am not entirely certain it is my cup of tea. I was told by the very nice Al-Anon meeting leader, the minute I walked through the door, that not everyone takes to Al-Anon and I should give it at least six meetings before I decide. I think I had made my mind up within the first twenty minutes that it was not for me, but I shall persevere, just in case. To be honest I was looking for practical help and advice - what to do when in a middle of a nightmare situation, when an emergency call-out doctor cannot even be bothered to open his mouth let alone help me, or when a desperate visit to a hospital results in them sending Greg home again without addressing the problem. My impression is that Al-Anon seems to be more a cross between a battered wives' refuge (they were ALL tired-looking women at my particular group meeting) and a bible study group (lots of ten-commandment-like mantras and prayers to a "higher power"). There is no advice or practical help. One by one the women - all partners of an alcoholic - sit around telling their stories, while the rest of us sit in silence and are not allowed to comment. All the stories are very sad and make me want to cry but at other times, I get the overwhelming feeling that I am taking part in a French and Saunders sitcom and want to laugh out loud. A lot of the women have been coming for years and seem to find it helps them tremendously but, to be honest, I feel I get just as much relief from writing my blog. Everyone has their own unique way of relieving the pressure. I shall persevere, but at present I feel my time is better used elsewhere and my blog is more cathartic.

15 comments:

Elaine said...

I tend to agree with you. Group meetings for Mums of unruly toddlers may be great, but when you're dealing with a situation in which you have no control at all, it's unlikely you'll be able to get any practical advice. Talking about it obviously helps but like you said, you can do that here.

I wish there was an answer for you. I try to put myself in your situation and ask myself what I would do, but to be honest I have absolutely no idea. I'd like to think I'd pack mine and my daughter's bags and just leave. I'd like to think I'd value our lives and futures enough to walk away - that I'd ease my guilt by telling myself I had tried everything to no avail. I'd like to think that I was walking away because that was the only thing left to do. But in all honesty, I'd probably spend my days doing exactly what you're doing.

It's so terribly sad. x

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi Rosiero, I saw this article in The Times and you may have already seen it. It may be of some help to you. Knowledge is power and I too find that blogging is cathartic:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article4861010.ece

Good luck with everything. I liked your French and Saunders description of the AA meeting. Priceless and wonderful. Hx

Hadriana's Treasures said...

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article4861010.ece

Hadriana's Treasures said...

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/
article4861010.ece

I'm hoping you will be able to see the entire link! (It keeps cutting off.)

rosiero said...

Hadriana - many thanks. I had not seen the article but am printing off a copy as I write to read at leisure and digest.

nuttycow said...

You have to get relief however you think best. Maybe AlAnon isn't for you. If you think the blog is your best way of sorting out your head, then continue to use it.

Sometimes just writing it all down helps.

aims said...

Before I read your post today I am giving you this link to the sitemeter site.

http://www.sitemeter.com/

Now I'm off to read your post.

aims said...

Yes - groups are not for everyone. That is why we call ourselves individuals.

It's okay to not fit in Roseiro. I know that Al-Anon has their main mantra - Let Go and Let God. It helps a lot of people and might be something you reach for in the darkest hours. However - the results cannot be measured in an immediate change in your circumstances can it?

I tried group for mental health and felt the same way. I sat there stunned at what I was listening to but wanting to laugh and to hurt them! I hated them! When the doctor took me aside later I told him how I felt and he was aghast! Then he quickly recovered and said - ah well.....group is not for everyone.

I so wish that there was someone you could call and get immediate caring help. That just breaks my heart.

blogthatmama said...

I'm willing something to work for you - it all requires so much effort and it must be so disappointing when it doesn't help.

rosiero said...

Elaine - As always, I do appreciate your support. It just helps me feel I am not struggling alone.

Hadriana - many thanks for that link. I read it in bed last night. It is sooooo like the situation I have been where professionals are not all that helpful (you can understand why when alcohol-related disease is costing the NHS so much). The home detox sounds interesting tho scary and I shall certainly consider it.

nuttycow - I find the blog really does help to get it all down and out of my system.

aims - thanks for the link - now up and running on my blog. As for group therapy, I agree. Some people just don't function in a group. Think I am one. Comes from being an only child, I think.

blogthatmama - sometimes, I just lack the time and energy to go looking for new sources that may (or probably won't) help me.

Nota Bene said...

I think the notion that the blog is more cathartic is excellent as you know there's a group of people out there who read and respond and support.

Is it time for you to give yourself a treat...a whole day of being pampered....?

Michael said...

Greg should try the AA hotline and get to one GOOD meeting. A miracle can happen when one alcoholic sits down and talks to another. I am living, breathing, proof.

Try reading this, it may help you understand something about his thought process.

http://www.silkworth.net/bb/towives.html

Lakeland Jo said...

This is my first visit to your blog and I am very struck by your courage.
I hope you are looking after yourself in all this and giving yourself a pat on the back for doing such a great job in such as challenging situation.
I had a very stressful year in 2007because of health problems and I found listening to a thirty minute hypnotherapy cd of deep relaxation really helped me cope. I listened every day and still try to do it a few times a week- it makes an amazing difference. My favourite is Paul McKenna ( like the voice)- there are loads around.
All the best

rosiero said...

nota bene - being pampered sounds good. After all that gardening I've done today, a hot tub would be good.

michael - thanks for the link. I shall give it a read.

lakeland-jo - I find relaxation tapes very good too. I must make myself find the time to listen to them.

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