2022 has sucked dirty donkey balls! Some sort of disaster every month, and I am so done.
I won’t waste your time talking about each calamity because this post is likely to be too long as it is.
TL:DR = My son, a long-time alcoholic, no longer lives in my house. I may have written about my constant battle to help him off the sauce, but maybe not. Now he’s living with the consequences of his bad decisions.
Back in March, he crashed his bicycle* on the way to work and broke his collarbone. He had no insurance** and was afraid to go to the ER because he would not be able to pay. He refused to even let me see what the damage might be. After a week of trying to drink his pain away (he figured he’d heal eventually, like he always has) he finally consented to let me take him to seek medical help. My pleas until then were rebuffed because (in spite of my best efforts) he is A Man and men don’t give in to injuries. Sigh.
Yup, the ER confirmed he’d really messed himself up and would need surgery. We’d been going round and round for *years* about his alcohol use and I knew he would not be able to have surgery if he showed up drunk. I did some research, but based on his confessed alcohol consumption, I thought we would be okay if he quit cold turkey. NEVER ASSUME QUITTING COLD TURKEY IS A GOOD IDEA! The internet is wrong on this, as will become apparent, and always remember that alcoholics lie, most importantly to themselves.
The surgery went well, but he was discharged very late in the day so it was a scramble to get to a pharmacy for pain meds, which he refused to take.
We had several good conversations over a few days leading up to and after the surgery and he said he drank “3 beers” each night because he has insomnia, which started when he was 13, much to my surprise. He never said anything to me about it – I would have taken him to the doctor because I understand that sleep deprivation can make a person insane and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
The thing is, the “3 beers” he was drinking were 32-ounce, high-test versions, not what you or I might call “3 beers.” That’s about 6 shots of liqueur. Each day. But he was convinced he didn’t have a problem, in spite of 7.5 years of me telling him he was out of control (he’s a very quiet drunk and had learned to hide it very well) and him promising over and over that he would quit if I would only let him stay. Sigh. I know, right? But Mama can’t give up on her only son without a fight, right? I did my best, but the simple fact is he doesn’t want to quit, no matter the consequences.
Back to the story – he continued to refuse pain meds (afraid he would quickly become addicted and then his “life would be over”) and was eating and drinking lots of water (I figured that was the best way to flush his system and get him over the hump) but on day 4 he began to hear things. At first he was jubilant, but something was definitely very wrong.
It’s nearly impossible to see a doctor on short notice, but I managed to get a “consult” which was no help at all, but at least got him into the system.
On day 6 after the surgery he was hallucinating, paranoid and refusing to even consider going to the doctor to see what was going on, so I called our local mental health outreach and two very lovely people came to the house and convinced him to go to the ER just to be “checked out.” I can’t say enough kind things about them – he would not even consider any of my suggestions and I knew something very bad was happening.
I finally got a call from the ER doc, who said she was admitting him for acute alcohol withdrawal. If he had stayed home he would have been dead by morning. That was a wake-up call for me, if not for him.
He spent a week in the hospital, delirious most of it, heavily medicated, but in the end, sober. What a nightmare!
I spent the week cleaning his hell-hole bedroom (I was too keyed-up to work or just sit around) painting, replacing damaged furniture*** buying a new mattress cover, desk, etc. I washed all of his clothes and set up a dresser and hangers so he could live like an actual adult if he made it out of the hospital.
He came home and all was almost okay for a few weeks – he was too weak to do much more than eat what I constantly shoved at him and drink water all day long. He got a prescription for a sleep aid and finally it seemed he was maybe getting better. He refused to wear the sling, but his shoulder healed up okay and he went back to work on a shorter schedule. He refused to open his mail and deal with the medical bills (almost all of which was paid for by the Oregon Health Plan, thanks to an advocate who signed him up when he was in the hospital) and he refused to seek any sort of treatment for his alcoholism.
About 5 weeks after the surgery I caught him drinking. “It was only one!” he protested. “It just sounded like a good idea…” and I lost my shit! I yelled and threatened and promised that if I ever caught another drop of alcohol passing his lips in my house he was out on his ass and I don’t care anymore because I refuse to watch while he slowly kills himself.
Things were better, but I suspected he was drinking. Sure enough, a couple of months ago I smelled *something* in his room, not really beer (he drank some really awful, smelly stuff that would seep out through his pores before the surgery) but something. His hygiene started to slip back into his old ways, and his bedroom slowly became a mess again, but I didn’t find any hard evidence. Until I did.
The day before Thanksgiving he woke late and did not clear the evidence out of his room – he was taking the empties out in his backpack when he left for work, leaving nothing behind that I could find. I hit the roof when he came home from work, poured out the beer he’d brought home**** and told him he was out of my house at the end of the month and I don’t care if it’s cold and wet.
I made him recall the promise he made when he left the hospital to make sure he understood he will have to live with the consequences of his bad decisions. He was very meek and accepting, but I could see his mind racing.
He wanted to go see The Fam for Turkey Day, and I promised I would not lecture or embarrass him in front of anyone. He was showered and acted like he wanted to be there – last year my Sis commented on his “demeanor” which was not good, but this year he was clear-eyed and engaged.
I did tell Mom what was going on before we left, in case he called her once he was out. On Sunday I told him that if he completed a 30-day in-patient rehab he could stay, but not otherwise. He was not able to find a bed (his OHP insurance was cancelled at the beginning of November, but he didn’t know why – maybe should have opened his mail, right?) and of course he can’t be arsed to doing anything else productive.
Reality has slowly been creeping in, though.
Last night was his last night in my house. He’d been avoiding me all week, which was fine. Probably worried I would start yelling at him again, if I’m honest, but I held my tongue for the most part. I did ask a few pointed questions, like did he have a plan, a place to stay, etc. When I asked for his house key he finally realized I am not kidding about any of it.
We had a good conversation – I told him I love him and this is not me cutting him out of my life, but it’s time I stopped enabling him to hurt himself by giving him a soft place to land when he made bad decisions and this is his chance to fly free and live life the way he wants, without Mom making rules.
He has no prospects for a place to stay, but plans to get a gym membership so he can shower. He still has his phone, his job, and his bank account, but no tent or sleeping bag, and it snowed for the first time here last night. He left a bit after 9:00 this morning and I know I’m a horrible person for thinking, “I’m Finally Free!!”
He had to leave most of his things behind, and I said he could stop by and pick things up, but to text first to be sure I was home. If he completes a 30-day in-patient rehab we can talk about him coming back, but maybe he’ll find a situation he likes better than living with Mom. I can hope…
A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I feel like I can breathe again. I wonder if it makes me a bad person that I feel zero remorse or sympathy. I can’t help him and if he refuses to help himself, how long do I keep trying?
*He has always hated cars and their impact on the environment and their expense, so he’s never learned to drive and commutes to work on a bicycle.
**Why let his employer take extra money out of his paycheck for something he’ll never use, right?
***Rather than use the toilet located 6 feet away, he would piss in his beer cans or a gatorade bottle. Did you know that if you leave urine in a beer can, it begins to corrode the can? The can then leaks all over whatever surface it’s on, and, well, it destroys everything in it’s path. I vowed I would never again clean up after a person in this way. Gaaaahhhh!
****I mean, kudos to him for finding a lager that didn’t smell much, but still high-test, two 42-ounce bottles a night, back up to what he’d admitted to before almost dying – 7 shots of alcohol.