20 December 2010


In the last few years of Greg's life, we did not have deep meaningful conversations any more, in fact for the most part we hardly spoke at all. We yelled at each other when alcohol made him impossible and his alcoholism made me angry in frustration, or we kept conversation purely to the functional, such as "what time is your hospital appointment?" or "I'm taking the dog for a walk". Otherwise we lived separate lives in silence. In any case, Greg's mind bordered on that of someone suffering from Alzheimer's. He was often very confused - a condition caused by the excessive alcohol. He would misread the clock and think it was a quarter past ten at night when it was really ten minutes to three in the early hours of the morning, so would ring me, if I was away from home at my mother's. Getting woken from a deep sleep by a phone call at that time of the night used to chill me to the bone, but I got used to it, as he did it so often... and not just to me. He would also confuse me with his mother and often phone her to ask her something that was clearly intended for me. He would phone up friends and talk for hours on the phone to them, and I could hear him often repeating the same sentences over and over again in the course of the call. It was like he was on a continuous loop. He even once rang a friend and in the course of the conversation asked how her partner was; the partner had died some six months previously and Greg had "forgotten" this. He once was a very intelligent man holding down a very stressful job with hourly deadlines. That all seemed to fade to nothing in the space of a few years once he had retired and turned to alcohol. So our conversations dwindled too.

I am now 9 months further on from Greg's death. The letters, emails and official practicalities arising from his death are beginning to finally wane. My last recent piece of action was to organise an entry for Greg in a book of remembrance at the local crematorium and to attend a small candle service last week which the local undertaker invited me to at their funeral parlour. With that done, Greg' death passes into history. I am facing the first Christmas without him, comparing this year with last. I still have not been able to cry. But the numbness following his death and the subsequent anger have passed into another phase. I have lots of questions to ask him and the one at the top of the list is "WHY?"

  • Why did he want to drink so much after he retired?

  • Why couldn't he have found some hobbies?

  • Why was he hellbent on killing himself?

  • Why was life so horrible that he wanted to leave it?

  • Why did he want to leave me on my own with so much life ahead of us?

Was it that he was so unhappy at work that it made him retire when he did, or was it really the ill-health he claimed as the reason? Was retirement such an anticlimax after such an exciting but stressful job? Was life at home with me so boring? I wonder whether I missed vital signs when he was younger. If only I could sit down with him now and ask him those questions and hear his answers, but all I am left with rolling around in my head is "Why?" It's a question which I think of when I wake and before I go to sleep and often in the middle of the night too. The sad thing is, I am never going to get those answers and sometimes the silence in reply to those questions is agonising.


nuttycow said...

Oh AD, it must be a horrible time of year for you. When's Kay coming home? I know it can't be helped but try and forget the questions. As you sa, sadly, it's something you'll never know (and, deep down, I'm not sure Greg would be able to answer if you could ask him)

I'm thinking of you and I hope your Christmas is filled with laughter and good memories.

Much love,

Nota Bene said...

There's probably no answering 'Why?' I don't suppose he knew... I'm sure that he didn't initially deliberately choose that path. We all do things without knowing why we do them, it's just that most times the consequences are not serious.

I hope you get through Christmas OK. I'm sure it'll be hard. But 2011 is a new year and I hope it brings you rich rewards.

Linda said...

The truth is, Greg could probably not have told you "why". When Riley is not drinking, I ask him that question and he never has an answer. There is nothing you could have done. You did everything you could possibly do.

You may have trouble crying because you've been grieving for so many years prior to this.

This is the worst season, surround yourself with your family and understand that, although it sounds cruel -- Greg gave you a gift this year. He gave you the gift of a season without the influence of alcoholism. Thank him and remember him. Say good things about him. And don't forget to laugh. Laugh at all the insane things he did and anything else you can laugh about. Laughter will help ease your pain.

My next blog post will be inspired by your post.


Flowerpot said...

I am so sorry Addy but I agree - I don't expect Greg could have answered those Whys either. Are you getting any counselling or do you not feel that's right for you? I do so feel for you. I am dreading this Christmas as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is an answer. I'm still asking why after my dad died nearly 10 years ago. Sometimes there is simply something that triggers these events, something that goes deep into our lives and has nothing to do with the way we actually live. I do believe that every in life happens for a reason, but I'll be damned if I ever find out the reason for my dad's death.

Big hugs.

CJ xx

AnyEdge said...


I have asked myself those same questions about my own drinking:

Why did I waste twelve years of my life drinking?

Why couldn't I stop when I knew it was so destructive?

Why did I love alcohol more than the people I was supposed to love?

I have come to understand that there is only one single, simple answer for me: I am an alcoholic. That is the whole of the answer. It just is. And it is only through a rigorous program of spiritual discipline that I have any relief from it.

I am so sorry. You're in my heart this holiday season.

Working Mum said...

To understand is to forgive? Is that why you seek the answers? Whatever the reason, I fear you will never find out, but you still have a life to live and I hope that you can live it to the full for your and Kay's sake. God bless you both this Christmas. WM x

Eliza said...

That WHY must be awful, I can't offer anything constructive to help, just a virtual hug. I'm sure Christmas is going to be hard, all I can do is wish you the best Christmas possible and a positive hopeful new year. (((hugs)))

Linda said...

Addy, I've dedicated to you a portion of my new post on www.immortalalcoholic.blogspot.com. I hope you read it and that it helps you in some way. -- Linda

DogLover said...

Dear Addy, I remember so well that feeling of leading a separate life from one's drinking partner. What a terrible thing to experience at the time and just as awful when one thinks back on it. So sad and such a waste of the partner's life and one's own life. I have shed a tear for you.

As to your questions, isn't every answer, "Greg had an illness called alcoholism". He was powerless in its grip. It was too strong for him and for you; you didn't cause it and you couldn't cure it or control it.

What I try to do is forget the bad part of our life together and remember only the earlier, happier times before alcoholism took everything away from my Yvonne.

I do like AnyEdge's reply. He's clearly one of these wonderful recovering AA members, who have seen it all from the other side and found the strength that eludes so many.

Furtheron said...

I hope this holiday season is as good as it can be... try to enjoy it with your family and friends.

Why? Because...

I'm reminded of a passage in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous ... look here http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/bigbook/pdf/BigBook_chapt3.pdf and from the paragraph starting "A man of thirty..."

I clearly have no idea if this relates to Greg or not but here was a man who was very successful but after retirement picked up the bottle with the same sad consequences that happened to Greg.

Thanks for this blog - slaps me about the face when I need reminding that my alcoholism is not all about me.

Have Myelin? said...

Why? Because he was an alcoholic. Alcohol had POWER over him. Thinking of something you have no power over...such as the need to go to the bathroom. You can hold and hold it but there will come a point where you must, must go.

Drinking is like that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Addy,

It must be very hard for you. There are so many reasons why people drink to excess and I do know retirement for a lot of people is a very difficult existential time in their life.

Please don't think it was anything to do with your relationship. In the states you described I'm sure that would have been overplayed were it the case.

I can only say that sometimes things go on in the mind which are overpowering. As a father and husband who wants to do so much for his family but is frustrated that he can't to the point of wanting to blot out existence it is hard even for the individual to know why they are as they are.

All the best


HyperCRYPTICal said...

Hi Addy,

Sadly, you will never find the answers to your questions and Greg would not have been able to povide you with the answers either.

Alcohol has the dominant role in a partnership and it is hard to divorce yourself from it. I have so much admiration for those who do - it must take incredible strength.

I have so much admiration for you too and will be thinking of you at Christmas.

Take care and kind regards.

Anna :o]

Anonymous said...

Have a different Christmas this year, and put the questions to the back of your mind. Often, the subtext behind a "Why?" question is: "It must have been my fault in some way, to greater or lesser degree."

What I've learned is that we are, all of us, alone in this world. Our lives touch others but when it comes down to it, we are responsible for ourselves and no-one else is responsible for us.

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

It must be awful to have so many questions to which there is never going to be an answer. I sincerely hope that the coming year brings you closure and enables you to move ahead with your life. In the meantime I wish you and Kay and your Mum a peaceful Christmas, with many happy times ahead. A x

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to wish you a peaceful Christmas and say I'm thinking of you.

CJ xx

Anonymous said...

dear addy

as a recovering alcoholic i can tell you the answers to 3,4 & 5 could well have been that he was so dependent on alcohol physically and mentally he probably rarely thought of those things - he was just driven by this powerful urge which stopped him thinking of anything else or being able to think long term... i can't speak for him but i think that is part of it, plus his poor neurological function maybe meant he wasn't capable of forming these thoughts, his midbrain was just screaming at him constantly "booze! booze! booze!".

The first two questions i don't have an answer for, but I can tell you that I have met many, many alcoholics whose drinking really took off after retirement and I do wonder why they didn't think to take up new things - my dad has just retired at 71 and taken up sailing. He's had issues with alcohol in the past so I'm relieved he's keeping active.

Achelois said...

I thought I had commented but I must have thought my comment. That happens to me a lot.

I think everyone's comments have validity. It is only natural that you ask why... why why why.

I don't think there is an answer, not a complete one. Alchohol holds its grip differently for each person addicted to it. Its a vice like grip though. My guess is that alchohol takes its hold long before anyone would even know that it is a problem, for the alchoholic perhaps its the very first drink they ever had. Why some can have a drink and it be ok and others not I am not clever enough to know the answer. Why some functioning alcholics can deny they have a problem and some who are obviously not coping on any level remain in denial I don't know either.

All I know is that its not fair, none of it is fair. Its not fair that Greg's retirement which should have been a happy time spent together was stolen from you and then his death. I don't think any of his behaviour was planned though.

A close relative who is in hospital right now over christmas with drink related malnutrition seeems to have forgotten the person he was. A kind, loving, intelligent man.

I also don't think Greg would be able to answer why and neither could this close relative.

I hope Christmas brought some joys and not too many bittersweet memories.

I wish that 2011 brings you joy, love, happiness and no more why's.

With an alchoholic there are no why's, if they had answers they would stop drinking. Its nothing you did or didn't do I know that for sure.


Retiredandcrazy said...

Questions without answers Addy. Don't torture yourself. Listen to what AnyEdge has to say.

Sam said...

oh my goodness..this is so sad and tragic. thank god you have family and are staying strong through it all..i dont know if i could. i had my own dealings with alcoholism (lost an uncle to it and there was a point in my life where i could literally not go 12 hours without a drink) and the impact it has on everyone is heartbreaking.. you're in my thoughts and prayers