Crossroads: Not Always Easy and Always, Always Important

My mother drank steadily from the age of 17 until a medical detox was forced by the state at the age of 69. The medical detox took close to 24 days to complete and was precipitated by her being found wandering in our neighborhood at night 3 years ago.

I had the power to stop the detox but in the years leading up to the night she was found, working with social workers, her doctor and her eldercare attorney I knew that the NEXT TIME she went missing I would let the state take over.

A medical detox is of utmost importance for a life long drinker. Quitting cold turkey can kill you after a life of drinking. I knew which hospitals would force a detox and which ones would not.

I received a call from the police around 9:30 pm on a school night. My mother was in the system for a variety of reasons and they knew to call me; we may live in a large city but it is a small neighborhood.

The owner of one of our local taquerias noticed Mommy in the street looking confused. He is an elegant man and helped my mother inside.

All she was saying was, “Beer, beer, beer..” over and over again. The kind man tried to serve my mother a beer but she would not take one. Pride. She did not have any money.

I arrived within minutes of the call with my son in tow. I had the call into my husband, “Leave work. Mommy has done it again.” My husband would be home soon to watch our son.

My mother and I were at a crossroads. I sat with her at the table while she kept asking for “Beer, beer, beer…” and I was pondering my next move. We were awaiting an ambulance.

I knew from working with Angel social workers that I had a choice; St Joes hospital which would not force a detox or Denver General where they would. I knew that the forced detox meant I had 20 some days to find a nursing home for my mother.

Easier said than done. Dementia wings are hesitant to take Wernicke – Karsokoff patients. They are smart and wily unlike Alzheimer’s patients. My mother was going to be hard to place.

I wasn’t’ ready to have her ‘placed’. There was that too.

I held my mothers hands and my son patted her back while we watched a soccer game on TV with the family that ran the restaurant. They were closed when they noticed Mommy but were eager to feed us, for free.

I grew up in a Latino neighborhood and my Spanish is passable still. The father of the family was very concerned for Mommy and was doting on her. She was still beautiful in her dementia and was calmed by the sweet spanish words flowing from the mans lips.

He told me in Spanish, “Tenga Cuidado de su madre de la manera que ella cuidaba, Si?

I replied, “Por supuesto. Lo prometo.”

“Take care of your mother the way she took care of you, yes?”

I replied, “Of course. I promise.”

I grew up understanding that in Latino families La Abuelita is the head of the household in most everything. She is respected and adored. I do not know of one family that ever put a family member in a nursing home.

This was not due to financial concerns but moral and spiritual concerns. My father when we were growing up took me aside after a fiesta and said, “Honey, when it comes my time, put me in a home. Do not take care of me. There is no shame in that.” I was 13 when he told me this.

I sat watching Mexico score on the television and wondered if Daddy saw this coming; if he knew that growing up in a culture not my own but so welcoming would impact a decision I needed to make later in life.

My husband arrived to take my son home moments before the ambulance arrived.

I helped my mother as they strapped her in. I found a stuffed animal for her to cuddle.

“Which hospital would you like us to take her to?” asked the driver.

I thought of my mother and I thought of the years spent drinking. I knew she had beer in every cabinet of her home. I had been there the day before. She had forgotten to just open the cabinet.

“Beer, beer, beer…”

“Please take her to Denver General.” I said.

The Crossroads are not always easy and they are not always kind; but they are always, always important.

The ambulance drove away and I sat in my car sobbing. I knew that triage at Denver General wold take many hours to process Mommy. She did not have a stab wound and had not been involved in a felony. I knew she would wait strapped to a gurney for a very long time before she even made it to an open bed in the emergency room.

Forget a room on a floor; a room on a floor for over 20 days while her drinking days would come to an end.

Finally. My mother would quit drinking.


I am in a weird place right now. I began this blog to tell my mothers story of Alcoholics Dementia. She is now dying. It will take time, a little bit of time, and I am caught. Do I tell the story of her decline into dementia hell or do I tell the story of her death? I think I tell them both. I think I tell what I can, when I can. This was topsy turvey before.

Well hold on; I am going sidesways.

Peace and thank you for reading this.   Jen

~ by Step On a Crack on October 30, 2011.

30 Responses to “Crossroads: Not Always Easy and Always, Always Important”

  1. Oh Jen. You told this part of the story with such gentleness and it is not a gentle story. I know how difficult it was to make the decision for detox and I admire your courage for doing so. I know it was the right thing but not the easy thing.

    Its so important you share your story. Not just for your readers but for you. I believe with every word you pen more healing there is for you.

    Thank you Jen. Keep sharing!


    • Debby. Thank you. I didn’t feel gentle. Maybe its the knowing of what the next 24 hours brought. It is an important decision and I have wrestled with ‘why didn’t we sooner’ but you and I both know that until a drunk wants to quit a forced detox means nothing. If Mommy had not been placed in a nursing home, she would have gone right back to drinking. I feel guilt and sadness and anger and compassion all mixed up. You are right; writing is helping. You and Debbie and Heidi and Mel and Al. Support. Key. For all of us. God in everyone. Thank you so very much. I feel deep heart pain. And maybe that is some old wound healing. xxx. Jen


  2. There are no words, here. But wanted you to know I have read and can hardly assimilate this. I can hear your sobs, see the long wait. I agree with those who are calling for a book. Keep going.
    Maaybe you are saving someone’s life. I think you are.


    • Katharine, I think maybe I am saving my own life. You are so kind. I started this because when I began this journey with Mommy I found NOTHING out there for me to read about THIS dementia which is very different than others. I WANTED to help others and am finding I am helping myself. I hope it can help people get sober and/or stay sober and help caregivers know they are not alone. Thank you SO much. Do you have a nick name by the way? I want to call you Sweetheart….


      • Nicknames. Usually I get snarky with those who call me sweetheart, but with you, I get tears and a smile. My daddy called me Katrina. My friends call me Kathy. I don’t care. Just call me. Sweetheart is fine. Whatever. 🙂


    • Katharine What are your blogs? Where? How does a Luddite ask this? I am SO not down with the blog lingo…. xx J


      • I have one currently operational:
        I think we ask for the url, which is what the above is. I think.
        Um, what’s a Luddite? 😉


      • hey Missed this so sorry: Luddites were a social movement in 19th century england protesting the industrial revolution and all the changes it would bring: like technology. Now it is a term used for people who are not computer saavy or who are suspicious of technology. Me on both counts! odd I am blogging I know but…

        I am going to your blog now! Are you in Australia?


      • Oh, my, then I am most definitely a Luddite. A PROUD Luddite. Where do we go for the T shirt and matching mug?
        I do SO protest how much space a computer swallows up in my charming kitchen/office area, and how much it looks like a TV and how much it really can BE a TV, which I also protest (TVs). I also protest the way it loses files. I, myself, never filed much of anything, but I always knew where every doc was, when it was paper. Now half my stuff is innaccessible. Before these time-saving devices came along, I had lots of time. Now, none.
        But I have Jen, in exchage. Hmm. Not a bad trade at all.


  3. “Do I tell the story of her decline into dementia hell or do I tell the story of her death?”
    Having been part of the story for nearly 42 years the lines dividing life/dementia/death are so very fine it’s hard to say when one started. In a life where you have had to use reason and practicality to lead you (and me). Please use you heart, passion and spirit to lead you.
    The trouble is now you have recovering addicts, like me, addicted. Eagerly waiting the next post. Let your heart lead. It’s working perfectly. And we need it.


  4. I love Debby Hudson’s comment up there. It’s exactly what I want to say to you, too.

    And what Katherine writes about saving someone’s life, well, yes, I can totally see that and understand that is possible.

    All of the comments so far (I don’t want to leave Andrea out!) say what I want to — keep writing. There is solace in putting words to the page, I believe, and with the added bonus of helping others as you help yourself.

    One thing I really appreciate about this story is growing up in Denver (I moved there when I was 6, in 1974, so it is the place I know best, even though I don’t live there anymore), I know the places about which you are writing, I know the Hispanic areas, I know just the areas you’re writing about. I love this. I love how the Internet brings people together — that your finding Al’s blog led to your commenting there, and then I came to read, discovered pieces of myself and my life reflected here, and it makes the world feel much smaller and a lot less random.

    Keep up the good work, Jen.
    Mrs K D


    • Mrs. Demeanor ,

      I am talking about Latino neighborhoods in Denver. I am still here. (back again) in the barrio which is quickly sadly gentrifying

      I will write more later but needed to reach out from the hood. Small world? I would say so! My goodness.


  5. Late … i’m late! I am SO glad you are writing Jen. I know you. You are kind and gentle and caring with your mom … and i just KNOW you’d like to give her a smack. No disrespect, honestly. I KNOW YOU! You still feel compelled to visit her and care for her even though you and your sweet family had to follow her around during her sort of ‘public” decline. YOU STUCK WITH HER. My heavens, what else could a mother ask for. Again, it is sad … she is in a different world now. You MUST write. I’m so happy you are being honest, now — getting the word out about the disease that has taken your mom from you. It is a cruel fate for all of you. You are always in my heart and prayers. I need to hear more of your honesty. People care deeply, my friend!! xoxoxox mel


  6. Jen – Telling the story of your mother’s Alcoholics Dementia is itself a story of one death, now joined by a second dying. Death upon death, grief upon grief. However eloquently told (and you do tell it so eloquently)it is still an unspeakable tragedy, in need of telling. Thank you for bravely sharing your heart, dear Jen.


    • Debbie. I thought of what you said last night while my son was trick or treating. You are right: my mothers death IS a HUGE part of the story of her dementia AND her alcoholism. That is the NUT of the thing. It is a sad sad mess, any way you want to cut it. Thank you for your wisdom and support. This is hard BUT I feel not alone. This blog thing is a wonderful weird wonderful place. I am glad you are here! Jen


  7. Jen– Thank you for this segment. I wondered how you finally came to the decision. This is just painful but poignant to read. I can’t imagine the heartache… but you do a good job of wording it so that we have a little bit of the struggle. I continue to pray for you every day. Know that what you’re doing is important for all the reasons given by your commenters and more. It’s your story…your pace. We’ve so privileged to be able to come along.


    • Heidi, Hello there! I am in hindsight, so glad the detox came down the way it did. It was hard hard hard BUT it is done and we moved on from there. The stuff before the detox is actually the hardest stuff to write about so I am circling around the really tough stuff. But as you say so kindly, my pace. Thank you for being here and for being part of my Good Life….


  8. Telling stories can be so powerful – painful but freeing – so write what you need to write and the words will often take you places you didn’t know you needed to go.


    • You are so right. It is sometimes amazing to me how healing it is; painful, but healing. Writing for others to read is particularly healing I am finding. It is a marvel when I sit down to write one thing and another comes out. A journey in a journey. I love your blog, you really get this stuff and that is SO helpful to me. thank you very much….


  9. Crossroads are like truth – brutal and not about our feelings, but are what they are

    a tough decision, a critical choice and diminishing likelihood of having future do overs.

    Even without knowing all the details, you made the right call that night.

    Detox provided you with space to breath and for your mother, it opened up options that were not available without detox


    • You really got what I was trying to get to! Thank you! No future do overs Yep. Detox, in hindsight, was the right thing. hard hard hard BUT the right thing. The Right Thing is not always the Easy Thing Yes? thank you very much You really get it.


      • the right thing is never easy, it’s part of how we know it’s the right thing – we’d rather do anything than deal with the situation head on.

        Leaving things slide is just a decision to put off for another day, the decision you have to make now.

        And, at some point, you will probably have to decide to not be involved, and that’s the hardest thing – and partly why we delay dealing with situations – if we can put off the hard decisions, we can put off the terrible decisions.

        But sometimes, you have to realize that you can’t help a person and that the one who needs you most, is you. Choosing to choose you over other people is the decision we most dread.


      • Man, you nail it! The care givers therapist said “take care of you first.” so true. I am in the process of trying to figure out “what the heck am I doing anyway?” and I trying STILL to get my mother to love me or am I just being a decent person and showing compassion for the woman who bore me? when I am in the Compassion place the stress decreases which is very telling I think. You are right: the right thing is not always easy and figuring our what that is is even harder. When I read your comment it is clear in my head and heart: I can’t help her now; what is done is done. AND I can be a compassionate woman helping another person make it to the other side with some semblance of grace. Just that.

        Thank you you are a very insightful person and I am grateful for your being here. Peace, jen


  10. Oh, I am almost in Australia–Arkansas! Ha.


    • Both begin with A Close or no cigar?? No cee-gar!!!


      • Around here, folks say “s’gawr”. 🙂
        My husband says, “Close only counts in hand grenades and horse shoes.”
        What a whacky thread to such a serious subject!
        You know, on airplanes, they say that in an emergency (when those oxygen masks fall down) the mom is supposed to put hers on first, so she can be ABLE to put on the children’s.
        Also, as the mom goes, so goes the house.
        Are you the mom? I think.
        And that hurts, but accepting hurts less than pretending.
        I think.


      • ‘when mama aint happy, aint nobody happy” so true. I guess I am focused on my moms happiness and not my own which messes with my family. I am a Mom and that is the most important thing.

        Kathy: I LOVE the whacky thread! Humor is going to save me, I swear. Keep it comin scripture and laughter. Both. Bless you Kathy. Jen


  11. […] and a forced medical detox. […]


  12. […] Crossroads * Not Always Easy But Always Always Important […]


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