29 April 2014

Old Age Pensioner

Greg would have been 65 today. He would have been officially retired today (although he took early retirement ten years ago on health grounds). It was a retirement we both looked forward to, although he always had a premonition he would not make it to sixty. Well, his dad died aged 57 of a massive heart attack whilst in a swimming pool so Greg always assumed all his life that he'd go in a similar way. It's true, Greg did have heart trouble for the last five years of his life with all the factors against him (heredity, smoking, diet and stressful job), but ironically enough his heart was the strongest part of him in the end. It was the alcoholism that killed him. Every other major organ failed, but that heart just kept on ticking to the very last of his sixtieth year.

At the height of that crazy roller-coaster of alcoholism (detox and short periods of sobriety followed by even longer ones of alcoholism), I could not wait for a time to come when I would be free from him and the alcohol and have peace back in my life. Yet, four years on, I miss him. I know now, it was not HIM I wanted gone but the alcoholism. But I also understand now that he had no control over it. It controlled him. He was depressed and I was too wrapped up in dealing with the alcoholism on a daily basis (throwing out pails of water from a sinking boat) to talk to him kindly and get him to see what he was doing to himself. I would either snap at him or ignore him as I tried to keep up with the practicalities of our life - running the household, dealing with financial matters and the care of our daughter, while he just drank and drank into oblivion. In the end stage of his alcoholism, he either shouted or passed out. I hoovered round him, talked over him and went out without him. Physically and mentally, he was a broken shell of the man I had married. Time is a great leveller. It has put things in perspective and made me see things now from a different angle. Sadly he's not here to see his official retirement or to enjoy the years ahead with me. His choice in a way, but I also know he tried to change, but simply didn't have the willpower to do it.

I often wonder what he would have done in his retirement, if he had not chosen to drink himself to death. Maybe a little freelance work, visits abroad to widen his horizons or catch up with colleagues. Long walks. Lazy pub lunches in the countryside. Visiting friends and relatives. Writing one of the many ideas he had for a book. The thing is, I don't actually know. I'll never know now. Nor will he. That's what I find sad.


Anonymous said...

As a drink, alcohol may be not a best choice. If you consume it more and more, nothing to say than you are having a serious disease. Going to a rehab center as early as possible will save your life. Most importantly, you have to know that this life is so beautiful.

K Ville said...

Being a carer is so hard, it's hard to care sometimes as well as be a carer. It's amazing how time changes our perception of the way things were, is it because we retain the visual memories but lose the raw emotion and replace it with the emotion we feel now as we have those memories. I don't know. But I know you have to tell yourself always you did the best you could do at the time, under those circumstances. When I say 'you' I mean 'me' it's not for me to tell you how to feel, I know that. So Happy Birthday Greg. It's also sad that the natural reaction is to say 'let's raise a glass' and that is sadly indicative of our culture and how so many people end up in difficulties with alocohol.

Flowerpot said...

That's so hard, Addy, isn't it? Thinking of you x

Nota Bene said...

That is a sad post...naturally you still miss him and wonder 'what if'.

Gattina said...

Alcoholism is a terrible disease for the person itself and for the family. It is a hard drug just like heroin, only it is legal. Without a strong will from the person itself we just can't do anything, we are helpless.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Time is a great leveler Addy and you show a brave insight into what was. It is very difficult, almost impossible to see past the point of 'what is' while you are experiencing it.
I know this if for different reasons on how my handsome ones predicament impacts on my life now.
It is not my intention to diminish your experience, for in reality my experience is not filled with the doubt, of the dread of tomorrow which I am certain sharing your life in those final years with Greg brought.
It is obvious you loved and still love Greg and miss him so for that is what we do with a soul-mate.
How sad it is that alcohol robbed him and your good self of the pleasures of retirement and all I can offer Dear Addy is hugs, loads and loads of them.
The kindest of regards.
Anna :o]

Trisha E. said...

Your blog has been such a great help to me over the past month and a half. My husband died March 10, 2014 after 13+ years of hard drinking and binge-drinking. He was greatly loved by my daughter and myself and we tried with all our might to save him, but finally lost the battle. Finding your blog helped me resolve the mixture of grief and anger I felt at his death. I want my daughter to read all of your blogs too, as soon as she finishes her final exams, as I think it will help her greatly in processing her grief.
It was startling to me how closely our lives paralleled yours. I had my daughter at almost the same age as you did, my husband was 4 years older, the worst of the drinking started when our daughter was about 12 years old. My husband survived longer and only occasionally became as unkempt in appearance, and he had many times when he was still fun and good company, as well as being able to do his work. However, the beer he drank in the earlier years made him aggressive at times to the point we had to leave the house to avoid him. In the last years he added vodka to the beer, which slowed him down and stopped the aggressive incidents but caused him to sleep all day and neglect his work entirely. I am told that the hard liquor is more apt to lead to pancreatic cancer which is what he died from.
My husband had a very difficult childhood, with his Dad leaving home when he was 2 and his Mom more interested in partying than spending time with her sons. Two stepfathers who beat her and the boys only made things worse. I don't believe my husband felt loved and valued by either his mother or father. The love we felt for him did not seem to be able to heal those wounded feelings from his childhood, and I'm quite sure this contributed to the drinking problem, but he would never say for sure what was driving him to it.
It is clear that you had a wonderful relationship with your parents, with nothing dysfunctional coming from your side of your marriage. Did you ever see any problems in Greg's childhood that contributed to his alcoholism, or did it appear to stem from depression over his other health problems, or are you entirely unsure what brought it on?
We had the some experience as you did with there being no effective help for us anywhere. I hope to be able to discuss this more with you later.
Thank you again for the wonderful support your blog gives us all.

the veg artist said...

The troube is, there is no reasoning with the contents of a bottle.

ADDY said...

Trisha - I was so sorry to learn that you have been through the same as me. It always truly amazes me just how many of us there are out there. My best advce is to take one day at a time in coming to terms with what has happened and planning your future together with your daughter. If you need to contact me privately, my blog email is alcdaz@hotmail.co.uk or you can, if you wish, continue to contact me more openly by commenting on the blog. Best wishes and hugs. Addy

Dan the Mountain Man said...

It is sad seeing alcohol steal the life from someone we love. I do not know if my father still drinks but I know he was health problems caused from his alcoholism. I have not contact with my father but I do here how he is doing through family.

My uncle stopped drinking many years ago. My aunt his said she was glad see stayed with him and even with the health problems they enjoy their life together now.

Many turn to alcohol to deal with problems but it only makes the problems bigger and add more problems. It is hard for the person and family is deal with the issues that come with alcoholism.

Ellen said...

You did the very best you could for everyone during those exhausting and frustrating years. You only need to look at Kay to see what a wonderful job you did and I have no doubt that Greg appreciated all you did to hold everything together, even if he was unable or unwilling to express it at the time. As you say, time is a great leveller and you have great wisdom. The hand we are dealt if rarely the one we would choose, and none of us know what lies ahead. I wish you laughter, love and happiness with your dear family and friends, and friends you have yet to make. Take care.

Isabelle said...

So sad. Beautifully expressed post. Sympathy.

R Johnson said...

You've honestly expressed the great distress that loving someone who is battling alcoholism takes on their family members. It is very sad all of the things you've lost as well as a result of his addiction.