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The Black Cloud of Alcoholic Chaos

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:55am

REWRITTEN at 4PM ET Wednesday.
The black cloud of alcoholic chaos is when the household is embattled with alcoholism. Here is what happens, at least in my observations in meetings, in our home and my research. It may not fit your experience, but I will bet it comes close.

When the drinking reaches a certain stage for the alcoholic, it is the spouse of the family that is the first one to detect that alcohol may be an issue. It is seen in crazy behavior; missed appointments, calling in sick to work, hidden bottles, abusive language, a lack of responsibility, laziness, insecurity, etc.

We try to help by; keeping the appointments for the alcoholic, accepting the abusive behavior, making excuses, and so on. Soon the situation is unmanageable. But because it's a little bit over time, we barely notice we have accepted behavior we never would have accepted before, and because it's a little over time, we pick up the responsibilities of the alcoholic. The scenario is like the boiling frog in the pan story (I posted this frog story in another post in this blog somewhere).

Help for the alcoholic is almost everywhere. Unfortunately, help for the family is scarce. What we find is that the research, books and articles mostly focus on the behaviors of the alcoholic - (which we ALL read in hopes for us to fix the alcoholic - don't we?).

As the alcoholic's drinking increases, it becomes the primary focus of the alcoholics world. Perhaps even worse, it becomes a major, if not the major focus, of everyone else in the family.

We, as members of the family and other loved ones, are forced by the indirect controlling behaviors of the alcoholic to ignore our own needs. Often, we ignore the needs of our children, in order to keep the household functioning. We don't ignore the needs of our children purposely, but the attention in on the alcoholic. All eyes on his body language. We ask ourselves; "Is he in a good mood?" And, "How much has he had to drink?" And we all hide our feelings or adjust our own feelings and moods to suit his.

Further, we try to put on this facade to the outside world looking in. That is, we hide what is going on in our homes and present to the world that the household is functioning normally. We do this with child who may have to "overachieve" to compensate. This overachievement comes in good grades, star athelete or some other form. Another child might be humorous - the funny little guy, who vys for attention or throws the attention somewhere away from the home. Or the rebel, the child who starts cutting class, or drinks with his or her friends, or smokes pot.

But make no mistake about this. This black cloud places a huge burden on all of us in the family. The more we try to "keep up" the facade, the harder it becomes and bigger the burden we carry. As indiviuals, we put on a mask to hide our problem and our fears in public. In some cases, we avoid going out - we isolate ourslves to escape and cope.

We do not ask for help because we don't want to be found out, we are embarrassed in some cases, we don't think anyone can help us, we are not sure how they could help or could possibly understand. And we are too busy to ask for help, except in the form of help financially when the chips are down, or the bills stack up. May be we ask a neighbor to watch the children if we are lucky. But in the way of help - we are left to fend for ourselves. We are fighting a multi-headed dragon with cooked spagetti. (a bad analogy - but you get the drift)

What we may do is try to talk the alcoholic out of drinking. We try to "fix" the alcoholic. We appear to make progress. But then we are stymied. The world unravels when he or she doesn't show up when the promised, doesn't do what they agreed to, won't go to work, does what they want to when they want etc. They begin to develop this "screw you" attitude.

And whenever we think we are managing "it" all, (barely - we are barely hanging in there), we are thwarted by the unforeseen chaos of the alcoholic. It may come in the form of an unpaid bill, or a traffic ticket or accident, or falling down in the front yard.

And then we have the normal pressures of life. A child gets sick. A child fights in school. A child fails a couple of tests. A child is angry - going through puberty. And we begin to think - "Is this normal?" Or is the child's reactions (sickness, fighting, failing, anger) part of the reaction to what is going on in the house.

So, with the alcoholic focused on the drink, and focused on himself or herself - the pressure is building. And now, after a while - perhaps they hit their 40's or 50's, they slowly or quickly, start to disintegrate. They look old. Their face looks really bad.Their mental processes are not functioning. Their eyesight gets worse. They get RA. They get artheritus. Their body fat breaks down. They are angry most of the time. They are falling apart.

And we literally feel a sense of dread every time we walk back in the house. Especially when the alcoholic is there.

It's like a black cloud hangs over our house. It is in many ways - the house itself feels very heavy. You can feel the dread of everyone involved. It becomes very distressing.

It is - what I call "the chaos of alcoholism" and the ensuing "black cloud" on the home. And no one, but no one, can understand this pain and sickness. There is no judge, no court, no jury, no lawyer, social worker that could ever imagine the sickness going on in the house. You have to be there to feel it. And that's what has to happen. Spend a day or two here and you too know what is going on. It in entirely unmanageable. And incomprehensible.

Next post to this blog - what happens to our children and what roles do they tend to take?

Please provide your feedback. I would be grateful if you think I am accurate in my depiction or not.

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