Life With Charlie, Episode 2

in mental-health •  6 months ago

Good afternoon (or morning, or evening, depending on where in the world you are reading this).

I'm back with another edition of "Life With Charlie." Charlie is a man in his 40s, who my now ex-husband and I were live-in caretakers for. It was quite a job! Charlie has a mild form of schizophrenia. With that comes other side effects, known as "dual-diagnosis." For many with this condition, that means addiction. Charlie is no exception. His drugs of choice are caffeine, cigarettes, and alcohol. Of the three vices, alcohol is the mildest of his addictions.

When I say he was addicted to caffeine, I'm not talking about your every day, run of the mill Starbucks fiend. No, Charlie drank about 4 POTS of coffee a day. Most of that was made with "recycled" coffee grounds because Jeremy tried to ration his coffee by giving him a sandwich baggie full every morning. Otherwise, he'd blow through at least a can of coffee a day.

Cigarettes were just as extreme. Jeremy doled out 2 packs/day, but that wasn't enough for Charlie. He would "harvest" leftover tobacco from cigarette butts he picked up on his many walks (another compulsion) all over town. He tore out pieces of the yellow pages to use as rolling paper and make his own cigarettes.

We kept our own coffee and alcohol supply locked up in our bedroom. Oh the stories I have to come about THAT...

For the most part, he overcame his alcohol addiction...but before we get to that, let me tell you a story of when his alcoholism wasn't quite under control.

During our first year of marriage, Jeremy and I were apart more than we were together. We both traveled for work. On top of caring for a mental disabled person, we had the added challenge of hardly ever being together during that crucial first year. I was used to living by myself or with roomies who came and went pretty much as we pleased. Every time Jeremy left for his work, I kind of got used to being on my own again. Then he'd come back and I'd be kind of frustrated that now I had to include another person in my routine.

Anyway, one particular weekend we happened to be home together. The condo where we lived at the time had a swimming pool at the complex. We decided to enjoy the summer evening and take a swim. Charlie had been in a drinking phase and had went out. We knew we didn't want him just coming home drunk, so we locked the doors, including the door to the small patio that led into the house from the car port.

When we came back, Charlie was passed out in the ivy next to the fence to the patio. He'd tried to jump the fence and failed. He was so drunk that Jeremy had to take him to the hospital, where he stayed for a few days. The doctor called and told us that Charlie's sodium level was dangerously low. That's what happens when people take in too much liquid. You may have heard of frat boys hazing new recruits by having them drink gallons of water at a time. Seems harmless, right? Nope, it turns out it can kill a person.

The doctor advised us to limit Charlie's fluid intake to EIGHT OUNCES until his sodium came up to a safe level. EIGHT OUNCES! Are you kidding me!!!?? This dude takes in FOUR POTS of coffee alone. This doesn't include the water, juice, and GALLON of milk he puts down either. I freaked out on the doctor. I feel kindda bad, but they did agree to keep Charlie another day or two.

Meanwhile, Jeremy spoke to Charlie's social worker, who had found a facility in Bakersfield that specializes in Charlie's condition(s), including addiction.

I'll share more about that facility and the experience of taking him there, etc. in a future post.


That's all for today, folks. I hope that if you are ever in the position to help someone like Charlie that you get the help and support that you need. It takes it's toll, believe me.

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