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Long distance support

Posted by Sam80 on 14 December 2016.

My partner of three years was diagnosed with probable alcoholic liver disease (I don't yet know the details) on December 1st and was told he needed to stop drinking immediately. He's been a moderate to heavy drinker for 22 years. The most positive aspect of the situation was that he went to the doctor on his own initiative, readily admitted the extent of his consumption and told me he wanted to change his behaviour - a huge turn around from his previous attitude. The major difficulty is that he's an Indian citizen and I live in the UK, and I had to fly back home the day after he got the bad news. I won't be back for another 4/5 months at the earliest, and will probably never be able to live with him full-time - he's been separated from his wife for many years but is from a traditional rural area where divorce is simply not condoned and would have a serious impact on his family, his wife's family and their four children. Our relationship is known about and tolerated in its current state, but we cannot marry or start a family, so I have no option but to visit him on annually renewed tourist visas. In spite of the huge logistical issues, thanks to my working as a freelancer I've been able to spend 18 of the past 36 months with him (albeit frequently on the verge of bankruptcy). I am fully committed to him.

Now I'm trying to work out how best to support him in his attempts to quit drinking at a distance of over 4,000 miles. His access to professional support is practically non-existent - my efforts have turned up no helpful groups in his entire district. He can't make use of online support groups as he is illiterate. Even his diagnosis was made a hospital a ten-hour drive from the town where he lives, local doctors having shown little awareness of alcohol issues. His friends and family are largely aware of his situation and much less tolerant of his drinking than they used to be, but understanding of alcoholism and its health impacts is low in that area and he is, in my opinion, too close to several people who might prove less than supportive. I hope those who do care will at least show the door to anyone who tries to persuade him to drink - a genuine danger.

My only contact with him at the moment is by telephone, and that only intermittently (his phone's been off for the past four days, for example - his nephew tells me he's basically gone to ground). Obviously there's next to nothing I can do for him while I can't even speak to him, but I'm trying to work out the best strategy for when he does feel able to reconnect. I'm determined not to add to his stress levels, and I need to reduce mine as well - my anxiety levels were through the roof this year even before the diagnosis. I've decided that it's probably best not to pry overmuch into how he's doing with his drinking, though there's little else on my mind. I know relapses are likely but I've no intention, ever, of asking 'Have you been drinking?' or anything along those lines ... just 'How are you?' or 'How are you coping?' or variations thereof, and letting him offer up the information himself. The last time I spoke to him I was concerned he might've had a drink after a week of sobriety, but I wasn't sure. I didn't say 'I'm a little worried that you might have been drinking', but I did say 'Be careful' ... I told him I knew he was under a lot of stress and that made things even harder for him and I hoped he was fine. He understood my concerns and said he wasn't drinking, but he has lied about drinking in the past, several times ... it's always going to be hard for me to entirely trust his word at this distance. But I need to figure out how best to express concerns in a useful way that doesn't just make the situation worse. The last thing I want to do is increase the pressure on him. I suspect, when I'm concerned he may have been drinking, that it's better to let it go and focus on today and tomorrow. I'm basically letting him take the lead. We have talked a lot in the past about why he drinks, and monitored when and the underlying emotions etc, which has been quite helpful in terms of fleshing out the picture. I'm basically trying to emphasise that I'm there, that I'm determined to be stronger for him than I have been in the past, that the way forward is primarily his choice but that I'll do anything I can to help.

It's hard to come to terms with the severe limits of my own ability to help. I suppose every carer is limited, as the change has to come from the sufferer ... but I wish I could at least be right alongside him. 

Any advice or support much appreciated.

Comments

Icarus Trust
20 Dec 2016

Hi Sam,
What a horrible situation you are in. It must be so frustrating and worrying  to be so far away, and hard to come to terms with. 
If you would like to talk with someone please contact The Icarus Trust. We are a charity that supports people who are dealing with the impact of a loved one's addiction. Talking to someone who understands how you are feeling may help you to find a way forward.
You can contact us on help@icarustrust.org or visit the website www.icarustrust.org
Good luck.

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