31 December 2008

Happy New Year

I have managed to find time to escape to the computer to write this. I am not doing anything clandestine; it is just that with my mother staying here for two weeks, as well as Kay on school holidays, I am distinctly out of routine and have for the most part been rushing around like a headless chicken preparing and serving meals, washing up or just simply talking to my mother, who does not get much company when at home, so naturally wants to talk when she is with me. I have had a bit of time to dip in and out of my favourite bloggers' posts and even comment on them at times, but this is the first opportunity I have had to think and write.

Christmas went well. I always enjoy all the build-up and even the day itself, even if I am very busy prodding turkeys or slicing vegetables or making cups of tea. Greg was sober the entire time, I am relieved to say. I was nervous, I'll be honest, that this big excuse for a drink would scoop him up and spit him out an alcoholic again. But thank goodness, he is still on the straight and narrow. On Christmas morning, as we opened our presents, he disappeared to the kitchen and smells of cinnamon and cloves wafted up the stairs. He suddenly appeared with four glasses of mulled wine, at which point my jaw must have visibly dropped, because he immediately stressed that it was made with the Sutters Alcohol-Free Wine I had mentioned before. I think the mulled ingredients actually improved the taste!!

We were all happy with our presents - even Snoopy who was delighted with his
Pedigree stocking and immediately demanded a biscuit and the opportunity to play with the squeaky Santa ball. The lunch was a success - I managed to cook the turkey and six vegetables (no two people like the same vegetables, so I had to cook a selection of sprouts, peas, carrots, red cabbage, broccoli and parsnips) all in time for a 1.30 sitting. What with starter and pudding, we were finished well in time for our monarch's speech on the TV at 3pm. After that the choice of TV viewing was a bit dire, so we watched one of Kay's presents - a DVD of Mamma Mia which made excellent Christmas afternoon viewing. No sex or violence for my 85-year-old mum and a sing-along for the rest of us. The rest of the day was spent slouching around watching soaps, Doctor Who, Wallace and Gromit and Strictly Come Dancing, interspersed with five-minute naps to help digest the copious amounts of food, nuts and chocolates.

On Boxing Day we went to a few shops to look for a few sale bargains that we needed to replace decrepit electrical items at home - the shops were heaving with people all doing the same, so we came home empty-handed, as the queues for the tills or assistants were horrendous. The next day Kay and her friends went to the West End to see Hamlet for the sole reason of seeing the lovely David Tennant, alias Doctor Who, but unfortunately because of his recent back injury he was still unable to appear in it. However, the understudy has had brilliant reviews and the girls thought he was good, but he was still not David Tennant (sigh). Kay bought home a poster of David Tennant posing as Hamlet as a consolation prize!

After five days of 101 Things to do with a Turkey (don't tempt me...) we today moved on to BEEF meatballs with pasta and there was a collective sigh of relief in the Alcoholic Daze household. Unfortunately for me, I am now going down with man-flu (aka a cold)... the right sort of incubation period since I last mixed with the human race on Boxing Day. I am coughing and wheezing, but so far it has not developed into anything else. I imagine I shall spend New Year cuddled up to a hot-water bottle and sipping hot tea and downing paracetamol. Rats! Some New Year that'll be.

As for Greg he is talking for England. He has opinions on every subject under the sun and whatever subject is raised, he can go one better. If anyone tries to get a word in edgeways he shrieks out "LET ME FINISH!!" which is very irritating and driving us all mad, seeing as we cannot even get to start let alone finish! But I guess it is still better than having him drunk. It is still early days, so he is allowed his foibles - under sufferance, I hasten to add. On the other hand, by this time next week, I may have murdered him !

I am taking Mum back home at the end of the week and staying with her for a day or two to buy in food and do a few odd jobs for her. Then back to London to start a fresh new year and hopefully a new year afresh. Wishing you all a Happy New Year and again, many thanks for your support. Have a drink on me... I doubt I shall be able to snatch one on the quiet for myself.

16 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Kay and I managed to find a small window in our timetable this weekend to decorate the Christmas tree and put up all the other festive decor. We are much later than usual. When she was little she always wanted the tree to be up by the end of November - probably in the hopes of Santa being fooled into coming a bit earlier than the 25th December. Gradually, as she grew older, we used to decorate the tree around the beginning of December. But this year, despite our hopes of being organised, we only managed to rush it through this weekend, and even that was looking dubious at one point. Kay has been extremely busy lately with mock A-level exams (she has four real ones to take in January) and I have been preoccupied with Al-Anon meetings (two a week) as well as a mountain of the usual household things. So adult life got in the way of our childish pursuits.

Despite promising ourselves a real tree every year, we (again) put up the artificial tree. We have been advised in the past that real ones are not good for animals, when the shed needles come into contact with cat/dog paws. So we chickened out again and hauled the artificial one out of the cellar. We have had this tree for some years and it is beginning to look a little past its peak, but Kay was keen to use it, as, she said, she had grown up with it and it was almost like a bosom pal! For a tree it's triangular - narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, as fir trees tend to be!! For a bosom pal, I suppose you would say it is pear-shaped!

I love decorating the house for Christmas, unwrapping all the ornaments that I have collected over the years. They all have their own stories to tell.

Some have come from local shops;

some were brought from abroad - like the San Francisco tram picked up on our last USA trip

or the ones from Germany, where we lived when we were first married;

some were hand-made by Kay at primary school when she struggled with her first pair of scissors and dusted the shapes with glue and glitter.

They all have their own value and place and are always carefully put away in January to be rediscovered with surprise again the following December.

Kay decorated the tree this year, largely copying the same format I use - star at the top, crib and angels below that, then everything else (baubles, snowmen, father Christmases, gnomes, bows etc) below that. I meanwhile occupied myself with decorating the stair bannisters up and down three of our five flights, plus the hall and kitchen/diner. Greg busied himself upstairs with such things as computer maintenance and tidying the study (that means he will mislay things and forget where he put them) but, complimented us as he passed through and was generally far more appreciative than he had been for the past three Christmases. Kay and I paused from time to time to watch the Strictly Come Dancing semi-final and The X-factor final on TV. The results of these two shows went much the way we predicted, but here are the results of our own labours that evening.....

The next week or so is going to be a trifle hectic for me, as I expect it will in most households in the lead-up to Christmas. I still have
  • heaps of presents to get and wrap
  • food to buy in and prepare/cook
  • to dust and hoover the house from top to bottom
  • to travel 60 miles to collect my mother and bring her here for her two-week stay
  • all the usual ferrying around for Kay and Snoopy.
So I shall probably make this my last post before Christmas. Unless of course I fall into a swoon Jane-Austen-style and escape to the computer when no one is looking! So a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone and many thanks for all your support and help getting me through these last seven traumatic months. I have truly appreciated all your comments and taken on board much of your advice. Greg continues to be sober, as I write, and I hope he will make it through the most difficult time of the year in a recovering alcoholic's calendar. I shall be back hopefully soon to update you but in the meantime I leave you with a picture of Snoopy who has really got into the spirit of Christmas too.

12 December 2008


There are times like today, when I feel very angry.

It is true that Greg is still trying very hard, is not drinking any alcohol and managing to ignore the daily temptations thrust down his throat by TV adverts, soaps, dramas and newspaper inserts screaming at you to buy a case of wine and get one free. Not only that, but he has reduced his cigarette consumption from 40-a-day to 8-a-day and is smoking outside in the garden instead of the house. I repeat he is trying very hard. I KNOW that. He feels Kay and I are not acknowledging that or being off-hand with his feelings. I want to be charitable. But Kay and I are finding it hard to forget and forgive. So much has gone before. Too much has been said (or shouted). Too much has been done (or not) . Too many missed opportunities and broken promises. I am consumed with anger that he put us through the past nightmares at all. That he has dashed our marriage into little pieces and stamped on them. That he may have trampled on Kay's chances to get into university, study the course she wants, pursue the career she has always dreamed of. I know of course that my anger could exacerbate the situation and drive him back to drink, but there are times when I just can't let it go and move on. Only time will tell, only time will heal.

Al-anon tells you to regard the drinking as an illness. You wouldn't get cross with someone who has cancer or a broken leg. So, you should turn the other cheek with alcoholism. But I find this a difficult concept. Someone with cancer or a broken leg will usually welcome your care and concern. They will work with you and accept your help. With an alcoholic, you receive nothing but verbal abuse and anger, rather like having a giant toddler with a terrible twos tantrum. Even when they are better, they regard it as given, that you should be grateful it has stopped. It's in the past, stop fretting.

I feel angry too about the money we have wasted. Recently we had a meeting with the bank to consolidate our loans. Over the last two years, without consulting me, Greg had taken out three hefty loans just nudging £12,000 and run up a large credit card bill - all of it to fund his bad habits. The bank had approached us (more for their own benefit to drum up a bit of business in these hard times) and had conceded that they could not do much for us but to merge the loans into one amount with a lower interest rate to reduce our monthly outgoings. It makes me so cross that we shall be paying this money back until 2016. What have we to show for this millstone around our necks? An elegant car? A new kitchen? An exotic holiday? Absolutely nothing. All gone - either literally up in smoke or down into the sewers.

Yesterday I went into our local supermarket to do my weekly shop and was confronted yet again by all the Christmas joy and cheer. Jolly Santas and reindeer, puddings and cranberries, turkeys and sprouts, nuts and biscuits, stollen and panettone, cake and mince pies, silent night and ho-ho-ho. But I could feel my anger rising again. There they were.... the pyramids of beer, wine and spirits, all giving me the come-hither to buy them. Seduced by their curvaceous forms, I thought "wouldn't it be nice to get a few bottles in for Christmas? A nice white to drink with the turkey, a nice red to drink with the pudding? A Baileys or G&T to toast in the New Year?" And then, I put my brain
into gear and realised I cannot buy a single bottle. Alcohol is now a no-no in our house. Not only is HE banned from drinking alcohol, but now so am I. How can I sit there with a drink and not him? And, of course if HE has a drink, it will start everything up again for sure, which I naturally want to avoid at all costs. So that means no more alcohol for me - ever.... unless of course I shut myself in the bathroom and have a quick slurp from a bottle hidden amongst the toilet rolls. Not quite the same, though, is it? My freedom of choice is now limited. And now I am angry again. Bloody angry.

And then I look out at him in the garden, sheltering from the rain, smoking a quick half-inch of cigarette and I feel sorry for him again. Grrrr.

08 December 2008

So far, so good

Well, I am pleased to say, I am fairly confident he is not drinking any more. It has been about ten weeks now since he came out of hospital and so far, so good. I say "fairly confident", because I can only speak from what I see at home and when I am in the same room. I cannot follow him around 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Obviously there are times when he goes out alone - to get cigarettes or go to the doctor - or times, when Kay and I have gone to bed and he is still up watching TV, but I have to trust him. He says he is not drinking and I think I would smell it on him or see a difference in his behaviour, if he were. He tells me that in the past he just got into an awful habit and he will never do that again. I don't know whether to believe him, because he has detoxed twice before and still gone back to it again. But now he has liver damage (and possibly brain damage), that may have put the frighteners on him and may be the incentive for him to stop altogether now. I think he genuinely wants to stop this time.

However, I did get a shock a few days ago. The light bulbs in the entrance hall had "died" and Greg couldn't find any replacements in the cupboard in the garage where we keep them. So late one evening last week, he went out to the nearest supermarket to get some more. Yesterday I stumbled upon the receipt for the bulbs lying underneath a chair and found one more item listed on the receipt apart from the light bulbs. It said:


I felt the colour draining from my face and my heart beating faster. Knowing that his favourite wine (before his whisky-drinking days) was always a Merlot, I immediately assumed the "Merl" on the bill was shortened supermarket code for Merlot. He had sworn blind over the last ten weeks that he had not drunk a single drop of alcohol nor did he miss it at all. Yet here was a receipt for a cheap bottle of Merlot. I just knew I couldn't trust him.

He was out at the time when I found the bill, so I lay in wait for his return, determined I would kill him at best, and ask questions later. Alternatively I visualised manhandling him into the car and dumping him on social services' doorstep for having broken his promise. As soon as he was back home again, I jumped on him from a great height with the question "when did you last buy a bottle of wine?" I searched his face for any tell-tale signs of lying. He did not know what I was talking about and said he had not had any alcohol. Why then, I said, had I found a receipt for Merlot? He looked a bit sheepish at first but confidently replied that he had been looking for the light bulbs and had passed a display of alcohol-free wine which he had thought might be a suitable substitute for him to drink with our meal at Christmas. He had bought it to try out. As proof, he nipped into the garage and produced the empty bottle of Sutter's Home Alcohol-Free Merlot as proof. He said he had tried it, but it tasted dreadful, so he would certainly not be buying any more of that. Why, then, had he kept this a secret? His reply was that he knew I would be mad at him. It was only after he had left the room that the thought came into my head that a suitable alcohol-free wine is by any other name grape juice, which you can buy in cartons in any supermarket. You don't need it in a fancy bottle with a fancy name. The fact that he was attracted to the bottle was a wee bit disconcerting, as was the fact that he was already thinking of what he might drink with his Christmas dinner, but he assures me (in capital letters and underlined) that he will not go back to drinking alcohol. Hmmm. I've been here before, remember.

Another example that he is trying hard is that two weeks ago his sister, Jill, and her son came down to stay for a day or two, as they needed to do something in London, and it just happened to be my birthday. We all went out for a meal and I confess to having been worried enough not to want to go at all, as I was worried about what would happen vis a vis the drinking situation. However, Jill and I were explicitly told by Greg to order wine (he said it would not bother him in the slightest) and he ordered a lemonade for himself. I was so pleased that he showed no desire to grab a sip from my glass and stuck firmly to the lemonade. So fingers crossed it will work.

On top of all this, he is trying hard to sort out some of the jobs that need doing round the home, either by doing them himself or calling in professionals. He is also having a go at doing some of the paperwork chores (such as tax forms and shopping around for alternative insurance etc.) So I have to give him full marks for trying and it frees up a bit of time for me too.

Finally he has started going to open counselling sessions for recovering alcoholics at the Alcohol Advisory Centre, where he has been in the past. It is a compromise between residential rehab (which he still hates the idea of, mainly for being away from home for six months) and nothing at all. I too am struggling to make something of Al-anon - I still find writing this blog does me more good than trying to speak out in a group. I'll give it till Christmas and then make up my mind whether to stop going. It may be that my blog has now come to its natural end and I will have no further need to bore you all rigid with my tales of woe. Only time will tell.

03 December 2008

Playing Detective

While Greg had been in hospital, I had not used his car at all, only mine, and so the battery in his car had gone flat. He seemed very keen to get the car up and running the very minute he came home. He obviously wanted to be independent and not have me ferry him around everywhere. Quite why he so urgently wanted that independence, I was not sure, but was naturally suspicious that it might entail a trip to the shops to get something in a bottle. Never mind all the mail that had piled up in his absence and needed his attention. Never mind concentrating on convalescing. He became almost obsessed with sorting out the blimmin car battery. He was too weak to lift the battery out of the car and had to charge it up in daylight hours from a lead running out of the garage into the open bonnet outside. Obviously, because the electric lead was out in the open, he could not charge it in rainy weather, so the charging took place over several days. As soon as the battery was topped up and he was mobile again, I began to get nervous each time he went out of the house. On his return, I would search his pockets with my gaze to see if they were bottle-shaped. I would hide behind the curtains to watch him get out of his car to see if he tried to hide a bag under the seats. I would follow him around like a hawk, my eyes always one step ahead to see what he might do. I felt like a private detective. I hated doing it but I needed to know. Was he drinking again?