27 February 2012

Two years and counting.........

It's coming up to the second anniversary of Greg's death and I'm surprised at how my feelings keep changing. All part of the grieving process, I know, but nevertheless strange to experience it for oneself. Two years ago, I'd just come through six years of hell, living with a full-time, non-functioning alcoholic. Six years of us both shouting, weeping, frequent trips to A&E, doctors, detox, counselling clinics, queuing at supermarkets with cratefuls of whisky, cleaning up toilet accidents on the carpet, because he could not make it in time. Not to mention the sleepless nights worrying whether I'd wake up at all the next morning, because he might forget in a drunken stupor to put out his cigarette and burn the house down. In addition there was the shame and embarrassment of being seen out with him, as he never washed, cleaned his teeth or changed his clothes and had lost all sense of social propriety.

The climax of these six years was the final week of his life up to 6 March 2010. Looking back now to his final visit to A&E at the very end of February 2010, I was annoyed that yet again here we were wasting doctors' time over something that was in his power to stop and that his many promises over the previous years never to get in that state again had been broken. He was admitted to a ward and I was forbidden to visit him, as there was an outbreak of the winter-vomiting bug and visitors were not allowed. I was furious with him and stormed out of that casualty department, both soul-destroyed by yet another broken promise, yet elated that I was going to have a night or two on my own where I could sleep peacefully for a change in a smoke and alcohol-free zone. An oasis of respite in a desert of despair.

A few days later, I was to be tested on the principle of "be careful what you wish for......." as he was moved to Intensive Care for the last 5 days of his life. It was only then that the hospital allowed me to visit him, but by then he was already unconscious. Watching him die was harrowing. Physically he no longer looked like my husband. The alcohol had ravaged his face, his hair and his body. Gradually bit by bit his body was delivered over to the toxins. His lungs were full of water, his kidneys started to fail and his liver was diseased beyond help. He was bleeding internally and because of the kidney failure he was swelling up like a sumo wrestler, but his skin could not cope with this sudden increase in size and was bursting all over, oozing liquid or blood. I could no longer converse with him as he had been sedated to the extent he was unconscious. The only sound in the room was that of the life-support machine. I didn't even get to say goodbye, although I whispered it to his lifeless body.

My life changed drastically from then on. I heaved a sigh of relief with thoughts that the living nightmare was finally over and I could dare to breathe freely again. I picked myself up and started to deal with the many practicalities that came steam-rollering in. People to tell, a funeral to arrange, letters to write, bills to pay and accounts to close. Once the hurly burly had stopped, my daughter had returned to university and I was alone, I threw myself into house projects to distract me. The house had been badly neglected as Greg had had neither the health nor sanity to do it himself any more and all our spare money had gone on his cigarettes and whisky addictions, so there was no possibility to get a professional in to do it. It was a case of killing two birds with one stone - a much-needed refurbished house and a distraction for me. Whenever I thought of Greg, I was still angry for what he had done to himself and to us. That anger inside me was hard to shift. I couldn't cry at the funeral or in the weeks and months afterwards, even when I tried as hard as I might to think back to the more distant happier times.

Then came a period when I mellowed a bit. I thought how sad it was that he was missing out on things...such as Kay's progress at uni and her placements at hospitals. He was missing out on important world issues too, as he used to work as an international journalist. Things like the demise of Gaddafi and bin Laden, the Euro crisis, the London Olympics, the Middle East problems to name but a few would have had him working extra shifts when he could still work and had him sitting on the edge of his seat shouting at the television news in his retirement. Now, he would never know these things and I felt a certain sadness that he wouldn't know them.

Next week is the second anniversary of his death and I find my anger is subsiding even more. Possibly it is due to the fact that the passing months have helped to erase the nightmare. It is true that when I read some of the archive to this blog, I have to pinch myself that things were actually as bad as that. On the other hand, everywhere I turn there are constant reminders. Programmes on TV highlight the escalation of binge-drinking, SOS buses, fly-on-the-wall documentaries featuring doctors dealing with alcoholism. Even some of the soaps carry alcoholic storylines. Kay is being confronted with it too in the line of her hospital placement. She recently examined a 57-year old man who was an alcoholic in the final stages. To cap it all, I heard Alistair Campbell say on a recent Panorama programme that maybe Labour got it wrong introducing a 24-hour drinking culture to this country. Tell me about it! What have I been saying all this time?

Two years on, I miss Greg like crazy. Selfishly, I wish we still had our golden years together to explore the world and see a bit more of life or just muck around at home together. I wish he were here to potter as he wished, switch on the radio or TV and soak up all the current news. I wish he were here to see Kay as she grows into a beautiful independent young woman and I wish he were here to grow old disgracefully with me. I do appreciate better now that he had an illness he could not fight, a sort of depression that can physically kill. He would not have wanted to cause suffering to his family. He did not want to die. The illness dictated it. His broken promises did not just let me and Kay down, they hurt him too, because he believed he could fight this disease. His last words to me in that A&E bed were "the drinking stops now, I promise".

I am no longer angry with him (although I am angry with a society that could allow it to happen and turn a blind eye to our repeated pleas for help.). I am no longer sad. Instead I ponder; I question; I yearn. But I still cannot cry. Maybe that phase is still to come.

20 comments:

Furtheron said...

Thank you so much for this post. Unbelievable openness and honesty - I take my hat off to you this is amazing writing.

I've read your blog before and since Greg's death. Can I be selfish - I read it to remind me what awaits me if I ever decide in a moment of stupidity that a drink would be a good idea again. I've witnessed first hand recently someone in a very bad state with alcohol, they are at the jumping off point, will they stop or not? Who knows? Why did I stop? I really don't know just that day I had had enough of the fight.

You have shown immense strength to get through this to where you are today. Who knows when the tears will come - alcohol does a lot to stop them I found - 20 years after my Dad's death I finally cried when I had stopped with the booze, seems it has the same effect on those close to it not just those that drink it.

Sobering messages - thanks

Nota Bene said...

I guess time gives you perspective...I wouldn't say time heals. Anniversaries are challenging, but often give the opportunity to reminisce and remember the good rather than the dark and bad. Best wishes to you and K

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Beautifully written and extremely emotive blog post. It doesn't seem like 2 years since Greg's passing, I remember clearly the posts you wrote leading up to his death.

The roller coaster of emotions we feel is pretty powerful isn't it.

Take care, CJ x

Flowerpot said...

Two years - and how much you have achieved in that time. I hope you are able to grieve and cry soon but you have had to deal wiht so much. Take care xx

DogLover said...

I wonder, dear Addy, whether the tears you say cannot come were in fact shed by you during the long process of misery you went through.

Love And Enterprise said...

Hi Addy, I used to read your blog a few years ago (under a different i.d.) and I remember when Greg died. I can't believe 2 years have past. It sounds like you're making progress but there's still some way to go. Thanks for still being there, still writing. x

yuth said...

Thanks you.Really unbelievable oneness.Thanks for this blog post.I think remember god always.My best wishes to you.Enjoy life.

Elizabeth said...

Two years is not so long after all, but the really hard part is behind you. It took me five years to feel recovered.

Ellen said...

You have been through so much during the last eight year. I will be thinking of you as Greg's 2nd anniversary approaches.

Nechtan said...

It is a beautifully honest post Addy which must have been a real rollercoaster just to write. I can imagine how that anger would have taken so long to subside and how that will have eased as you have come to terms with the fact that Greg's detremental choices to your family were in fact not his own. From a reader's perspective I feel its a real waste of a man I percieve in your posts to be intelligent and informed with a loving family.

And for that reason I agree also about the stupid alcohol laws in this country and the the freedom not only to sell 24 hours but sell cheaply in supermarkets, the convenience of it. Its too easy which should not be the case with an addictive substance.

Wishing you and Kay well at this time,

Nechtan.

QldDeb said...

I think you've been amazingly strong and are grieving for lost hopes and future dreams gone, my heart goes out to you.

But please don't blame society or alcohol laws. You didn't buy the whiskey at a late opener and Greg had an illness, his decision to drink or not to was his alone. You provided him with the alcohol to drink as you recognised he had a condition. If society and politicians are to blame, then enabling a person to abuse themselves also wears a responsibility too.

Greg's decisions were his own responsibility, not the government or society's

syrinx32123 said...

Addy,

I very insightful and sad post. My father died when I was in highschool of colon cancer, I share a lot of your grievances, especially regarding the last few days of Greg's life. I would like to add Alcoholic Daze to FindTheBest's blog comparison, can you contact me at Ethomas(at)findthebest.com so we can discuss further.

Best,
-Evan

hyperCRYPTICal said...

A very emotive and beautiful post Addy and I thank you for it.

I think perhaps that 'Dog Lover' is correct in that you shed all your tears in the roller coaster of life before Gregs death.

I do do agree that 24hr drinking was a backward step - we do not have a 'European' attitude to drinking and never will.

Kind regards

Anna :o]

Looking for Blue Sky said...

It took me a while to dare to read this as your love for Greg makes me feel ashamed of the complete lack of feeling that I have for my ex-husband and the rollercoaster he is on, sometimes doing well, and sometimes seemingly hell-bent on destroying his life and that of his ex-wife and children. I wish I had your compassion and I hope that it helps you to carry on with your life xx

Kelloggsville said...

Thinking about you and K today, lots of love xxx

heartbroken said...

Hi, I lost my husband to multi organ failure caused due to alcohol in January 2012, each day is more difficult that yesterday. How do you cope? My children are both grown up and get on with their lives. I feel my life is stopped since my husband died, i think of him 24/7 and don't see any light any the end of this tunnel. I am so lost. I have been reading your post and which just makes it clear to me that alochol is disease, which I didn't appreciate. My husband drank since he was 12 and died at the age of 52. I tried making him go to the hospital four weeks prior to his death but he totally refused as he hated needles. I always thought drink would take his life and it did, his affair with the bottle was stronger than my love for him. God Bless you and everyone who is suffering from this pain.

Gill - That British Woman said...

I can't believe it's already been two years.

Thanks for the post...

Gill in Canada

ADDY said...

Hi heartbroken.
I am sorry to hear that you have also gone rough a similar experience. You sound very lonely and unable to progress. Have you tried Al-anon meetings? They may or may not help but I have found that just regularly meeting other people who understand what you have gone through is in itself useful, even if the Al-anon stuff does not help. It is not about helping the alcoholic, as so many think, but helping YOU to get better. Give it a try. Just google al-anon and look up a meeting near you.

SH -ic said...

2 years .. time fys ..
best to you and your daughter

kreid said...

I found your blog today I too lost my husband 2 alcohol disease. He died 3-7-12. He was only 42. He went to the hospital on 3-6 when he got there he had no blood pressure or so low he only had a mean. He was in complete liver and kidney failure and was bleeding internally. He was intabated prob within an hour of getting there. It was the most aweful 24 hrs of my life. I am coping and functioning but it's very hard. We had 4 children together ranging in ages 9-18. I look forward to it being 2 yrs from now when the pain Isn't as bad.