My blog is one year old today.
I started writing it because Greg was drinking heavily after yet another attempt at detox and I could not get any professionals to help me stop him or slow him down. I felt I was going to blow a gasket or go mad or both. Everywhere I turned for help, I came up against a brick wall. GPs can only advise or prescribe drugs. They don't really want to get involved on a practical level. Hospital accident and emergency departments just ensure there are no serious problems, patch the alcoholic up and send them back home again without admitting them. (You cannot blame them - they are inundated with drink-related emergencies. Their eyes roll heavenwards when told the patient is an alcoholic). Professional alcohol counsellors can advise and refer for detox, but can only do so if the patient volunteers to seek help (which of course they rarely do because they don't see they have a problem in the first place!) Detox clinics have long waiting lists and (again) the alcoholic has to be the one to make the first move. Families of alcoholics are usually the ones left to deal with the problem on their own and all you can to is try to cope with it on a daily basis. Damage limitation. There is no wonder cure or magic wand. It requires tough love. Love is really a misnomer, because love tends to sail out the window when you are coping with the problem on a daily grind. It is not the person you married and chose to spend your life with. I have always felt that if you had a partner who develops something like cancer or dementia, you would know it is not their fault and you would continue to love them unconditionally, whatever life threw at you. But with an alcoholic who hurls abuse at you and is very much wrapped up in themselves, you are left to deal with a major irritant in your life, sharing a house with a lodger - one whose references you wished you had checked out before you let them the room!
A year ago Kay was trying to revise for exams and having to deal with Greg shouting and ranting as he invariably does when he has got through a full whisky bottle in about twelve hours. Once he is inebriated, his mild temper can rise drastically to Incredible Hulk proportions if anyone dares to interrupt a TV programme he might be watching or contradict him in any way. He will shout if we go to bed leaving him asleep in front of the kitchen TV on a dining chair. He will shout if we wake him to try to transfer him to bed. He will shout over the silliest of things. A no-win situation. Damned, if you do, and damned, if you don't! All this shouting in the evenings coincided with Kay trying to study. She is a conscientious student, but I would defy anyone to concentrate with all that noise going on. Also Greg will follow us from room to room if we try to diffuse the argument by walking away, so often the only real escape is to jump into a car and drive off for a while. But it's not the sort of thing you want to do, say at 11pm, or when you are trying to study for an A-level Chemistry test the next day. So in utter desperation, I contacted the school at least to warn them what was happening at home. They were very sympathetic, as well as helpful, and after that I found the confidence to start my blog. I was close to breaking-point.
I have found the writing of the blog very therapeutic. It is the verbal equivalent of hitting a pillow with your fists. My outpourings have probably saved me many a time from being carted off to the funny farm or dissecting Greg into a million pieces with a blunt knife! Your comments have buoyed me up more than you will ever know, even if I have not thanked you personally, and I feel as if I have made many cyber friends on here. I am so grateful for that. Greg has not been happy for me to write the blog, but I have gone to great pains to change our names and whereabouts, so that he will not be embarrassed or found out by his friends or ex-work colleagues. I have often given him the chance to read it, as I had hoped it might be easier for him to read as a third person about the damage he was doing to himself and to his family rather than me telling him, but he has religiously avoided reading the blog at all.
A year later, so much has happened, but many things stay the same. In September, Greg became very ill again, was rushed into hospital, came out a month later detoxed and returned to a reasonable state of health. But slowly things have deteriorated and he is back to the similar patterns of last year. Not quite as bad, but almost. He is almost back to a full 70cl bottle of whisky per day. He maintains he is in control of the alcohol and will never again revert to the states he has been in in the past, but to see him late in the evening - either angry or asleep on an upright dining chair - it is easy to see what is still in control. He came out of hospital not smoking a single cigarette any more and is now back to about 30-a-day. He has lucid, sober moments - during the mornings I can still reason with him, he will often deal with household issues, or even go out in the car to fetch more supplies of cigarettes and whisky. But already by lunchtime, I am losing him again and by supper-time, he is asleep and awake in hourly turns. Kay and I retire to bed, not knowing if he will fall asleep with a cigarette and burn the house down. It does not do much for my anxiety levels.
In that year, I have also made new friends by joining a local Al-Anon group which is there for families of the alcoholic. I am not sure if it is helping me in the way I would have hoped (ie practical solutions to deal with the alcoholism), but the programme focuses on how to repair yourself, look deep inside yourself and detach from the alcoholic. At the very least it gives me a couple of hours away from Greg each week and, as I have said, it has forged some new friendships. We all have the same in common - we live with an alcoholic husband/wife/son/daughter/mother/father - so there is no need to put on a pretence (pretence is something I am good at with neighbours or other parents at Kay's school or those friends and family who are blissfully unaware that Greg drinks). At Al-Anon we can relax and discuss our feelings openly. Usually someone weeps as they tell their story. Months and years of pent-up emotions come flooding out. The rest of the group gather round and console. The emotional support is palpable. We know only too well what that person is going through. We've been there. Correction - we ARE there.
So, it seems a strange anniversary to celebrate, but celebrate I shall. Whether I shall continue to blog depends on so many factors, most importantly of all whether I decide to stay with Greg once Kay leaves for university in September. My frail, arthritis-disabled mother sixty miles away deserves a heck of a lot more of my attention than I can give her at present and I aim to spend a lot more time helping her. Greg's problems are self-induced. Hers are not. I have no struggle with where my loyalties lie. However, I am still trying to keep an open mind and don't want to make any urgent decisions for the moment. Al-Anon advises - "One Day at a Time", so maybe I should not rush a decision, but I know which way my common-sense is pulling. Al-Anon sees alcoholism as an illness and not something we should berate the alcoholic for. I am not sure I buy into that philosophy, but now and again, it does make me feel more pity for Greg than I used to feel. However, whether I want to spend the rest of my life just watching him slowly drink himself to death (quite literally), I don't know. He sits zombie-like all day in the kitchen/diner watching TV and drinking and smoking. We don't do anything together and we don't go out anywhere together. We don't share a bedroom together. We don't even have conversations. Not much of a life to look forward to, if I stay. But I know that deep down underneath, Greg is still the wonderful man I married. Just like the extremely narrow waist I used to have........ it's there somewhere, just hidden. He was a kind, educated, caring individual. Always the first one to help someone in trouble and to understand the other person's viewpoint. He is a man who, for some strange reason, has decided since retirement five years ago to become an alcoholic and now cannot find the long way back.