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Husband's Recovery 2.5 years after stroke
We have only been married 3 years. He had a stroke right before our first anniversary. Now with the depression and anxiety, he has turned into an alcoholic. We have been to counseling, she has told me that I keep enabling by saying "I can't do this anymore" and keep doing it. She wants me to change it to "I won't do this anymore." I am so exhausted and broken. If I care about my life at all, I am going to have to make a tough decision. I am miserable. Sorry to dump on here, but I have no where to turn.
AHAASAKatie, September 29, 2020 8:57am EST
Good morning, thank you so much for trusting us enough to share what is happening in your world. I have a few resources for you to read.
1. My absolute favorite blog on caregiving from Huffington Post When Caregivers are Honest it Makes Folks Very Uncomfortable.
3. Stroke Family Warmline:1-888-4-STROKE or 1-888-478-7653 Monday-Friday: 8AM-5PM CST
Please know that you are not alone in this and that you can share anything and we will be here to listen.
AmbassadorMR, September 29, 2020 11:28am EST
You are facing a very tough decision indeed and there are serious ramifications no matter what choice you make. I have no background in professional counseling but we are all human beings and we can relate to another person's pain and suffering. My experience with a family member who is addicted to alcohol and drugs taught me that the addicted person is the only one who can ultimately decide to change the behavior and improve the path forward. "Enabling" is often the result of misdirected love and it is not uncommon to fall into this pattern when we desparately want to help the other person and lessen their burden. We as caregivers can suffer greatly too in the process as we struggle to find a way to help without making matters worse.
My heart goes out to you as you search for your best way forward. Listen to your own heart while considering the input from your counselor. There are no easy solutions for the physical, mental and substance challenges that your husband is facing. We are here to listen and support you as caring third parties so don't hesitiate to reach out as you fight this battle. I wish you great strength and resolve as you make your decision.
JKViggiano, September 29, 2020 12:17pm EST
Hi Julie. I am no expert either. As an outsider, it looks to me like he is the one making the choice, not you. You have told him and the counselor has told him that you cannot do this anymore and he is choosing alcohol. The question seems to be can you live like this? Changing nothing means nothing changes.
It is hard. This is not what you want or deserve. What happens going forward is in your hands. I am sorry for your situation.
JeffB, September 29, 2020 1:50pm EST
I am writing this to support you. I may be uncommonly blunt, however, so please forgive me.
I am a heart attack, not a stroke, survivor. I was in the alcohol industry for years. Part of a workday for me was going into the office at8 am for a full-blown wine tasting. That was my later 20's and early 30's. Partly because of genetic, choice of career, and situation I kind of got into some very unhealthy ways of living. I went to therapy and got help though. While I still imbibe, I always have to monitor my motivation and mood. My point in sharing this is that the only one who could help me was, well, me. No one else.
I also became one member of a 3 person caretaker team for my very best friend who suffered a massive stroke. I lost my father figure and was left with someone else. It crushed me for the four years that I managed various aspects of his life. In the end, however, I hose to leave the team. It pulled me down into the pits of depression way too deeply.
While neither of these situations mirrors what you are dealing with, I mean to paint a picture. The only way you are going to get back to living the life that you were building is to start to rebuild that. I'm not a counselor, just a guy with some life scars and a healthy appreciation for finding joy in a world with too much sadness.
I would start by asking yourself to monitor how you feel when, as you say, you enable him. Start a journal and write these things down daily. What is it that brings you down. What makes you angry I know you are. I was when I was taking care of my friend. Anger is a natural part of grief. Take note of the feelings and events that defeat you. What makes you sad?
OK now. Why? Because of this. For me, it helps me get in tune with what is actually happening versus the storyline I play in my head that makes me feel like "everything is fine." When in fact, to be honest, there were months and years in my life when things were the furthest thing away from fine as they could get. It's an awareness exercise.
The next thing I would do would be to seek out a counselor or support network of some sort. Well, I guess you already have so many kudos to you for that! Sharing these emotions can help simply in the sense that you have an opportunity to speak in your own voice. And while you may not find the answer in others, oftentimes we find the answer we are looking for in ourselves.
I know more people than myself who have chosen to leave caretaker roles and for good reason. Other people find new ways to redefine the relationship that they find themselves in after a loss such as a stroke or destructive a slide into addiction. That is what you have to discover on your own by listening, observing, and (this part is super important) caring for yourself. Don't become your worst enemy. You are not the cause of his stroke. You are also not a cause for his addiction. Just because we both have said "'till death do us part" does not mean that we are to value ourselves as lesser than the marriage itself. If something is broken, we fix it. If something is trying to hurt us though, we fight back, mainly through other life choices.
All of us, even stroke survivors and addicts, have the power to redefine our lives. All it takes is a little love, humility, and courage. I wish you the best of luck in your trying situation. Keep sharing, I know it's hard, but it helps. Don't bottle this up or internalize it. Stay strong and safe in the meantime. More immediately, do something nice, just for you, every day.