I dedicate this book to my wife Diane. She has been part of my paradigm shift. This book tells about me. Like so many caretakers hers is the untold story.
The love that goes into being there, doing for me day in day out as I leave inch by inch, defies description.
The beauty of the love of Diane that has been mine these past 25 years has been first, my joy in giving to her. The giving has been in no way conditioned on getting back.
Secondly, it’s the wonderful twist that is mine. I receive that same love back from her bountifully.
That love demonstrated by the burden of caring for me, taking on the entire responsibility of our life as it yet remains, difficult as it is, is small compared to the bounty of her love so evidently visited on me all of that time we have spent together.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Chapter I A Brief Foundation
Chapter II Rebirth In Recovery
Chapter III A Diagnosis Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Chapter IV In Light Of A Paradigm Shift
Chapter V Alzheimer’s Disease Can Be A Spiritual Undertaking.
Chapter VI Perspective
This book is about what AA namely Alcoholic’s Anonymous where I learned the tools for recovery from Alcoholism. It is about using these tool to successfully recover and then to live a sober satisfied life.
It is also about using the tools of AA once again as I was faced with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) 31 years later.
Joining AA and using its tool has been the most significant undertaking of my life. I suffered the bitter fruit of addictive alcoholism from which I could find no remedy. I joined AA used the tools they taught me and quit easily.
I used the same tools to live the rest of my life. There is little doubt of the assistance the tools of AA gave me in vastly improving my life.
When I was diagnosed with AD I again used the same tools with that. Three and a half years later I can affirm the same result. Although the intrusion of a terminal disease into your life which has the audacity of taking your mind before it takes the rest of you using AA for AD has made the having of this disease far more tolerable and meaningful.
The key in the practice of overcoming Alcoholism is found in turning your problem over to your higher power for delivery from it. I did this and it worked for me admirably. When faced with a diagnosis of AD I did it again. Again it worked.
This story talks of the parallel and similarity of the process to overcome the devastating sentence both of which were imposed on my life.
The story talks more about the spiritual consequence and the spiritual discovery both provide in the acceptance of their consequence. In my case it speaks of how I journeyed from Christianity to Judaism then to Buddhism. It discusses the solace I found from each, the peace and serenity provided through acceptance. It tells finally how Buddhism provides a framework to follow and to understand why the suffering and the acceptance produce the result I have experienced.
I am writing for those of us affected by Alzheimer's. The person afflicted, their caregivers, and loved ones so devastated by the onset and progress of this disease. It is for all of them
AD is an affliction randomly imposed in which all those around this calamity watch the person afflicted inching his/her way to ultimate death with the mind leaving ahead of time.
Having this disease causes the anguish of asking why me? Haven't I suffered enough? My answer is found in my acceptance of the inevitability of its progression.
Doing so I learned to share my experience with others and help others understand how to cope with it. I can also speak and write to advocate on issues regarding Alzheimer's Disease with the hope of bettering the lot of all of us suffering from it.
My life has lived its own course in spite of every good intention I had to live it my way. My choices never got on its agenda. There was always other direction to it.
This is my story about its direction. It relentlessly and often painfully followed a course laid out in spite of me. Whatever I hoped for, whatever I set out to do this active agenda paid me little or no attention.
As I lived it my life seemed chaotic, always changing, divided into many different segments, going through many varying phases. I went places and did things I would never have considered, some of which countered what I believed to be ingrained in my core of values.
In the senior years of my life I began writing a memoir. Not even this followed the plan for which I started it. It was intended as an account of the events of my life written for any descendants that might have the same interest as me in family history. Its purpose was to give a greater account of my time than that left by any other ancestor before me.
It turned out very differently. It first included my view and opinion about many of the events of my life as they happened. It then began an introspection of the events as to how they related one with the other. Of the events it asked why; it then asked whether or not these events fit in; it then analyzed how these events fit into explaining my life in terms of what is it all about? “What’s It All About” became title of my memoir.
Looked at from the overall view of fit, the memoir focused not on my life’s apparent randomness, but rather on the order and purposefulness shown by its overall view. Every effect had its cause; all the causes and affects were linked; they all followed in a definite order. Their pattern was mind boggling; their results astounding; the quality of it all was both meaningful and personally pleasing.
The unique nature of what appeared as my plan presented its common theme in what I came to understand to be the major events of my life. From these events I started to understand all of the events of my life, where they were taking me and what they were about. The way they came together provided a sense and purpose for my having been part of this life. It further gave me the security and the serenity that these events were purposeful, planned and completely orchestrated.
Above all I garnered why my life did not follow my plan but rather one laid out by some manager neither known nor apparent in this life, namely the one lived by me from my birth to my death. My choices and plans were all predicated on my concept of what I was in a life that started with my birth, terminated in death and moved to a hoped for afterlife.
In the process of writing the memoir I developed a greater comprehension of my place in the Cosmos. I realized the purpose of my having lived. I found I was doing an accounting of the quality of my existence; dealing with the plus’s and minus’s of my current performance and past performance.
It is my hope that the order I am now able to perceive will lead to a greater enlightenment on the path I am following and give greater purpose to the way it has taken me.
Less this sound too esoteric let me encapsulate it this way:
I was born to purpose carried by me into this life. My life worked on its intention from start to its current state. The events of it have manifested the point of it and defined the path followed and to be followed by me. This path is introduced to me each step of the way and urges me on in its proper pathway.
In the process of it:
I was born to a family with its own troubles that were reflected in the environment in which I grew up. I had four brothers, two older, two younger, who, along with my parents, grand parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and associates all impacted me in my development
Mine was an insular view of life, based on a small town view that looked to fulfill the requirements of its self enforced Cult of Mediocrity that dictated you know your place as defined by it and do nothing to show yourself above the crowd.
I was baptized into and educated 16 years in Catholic Schools. This provided a skewed view of my place and purpose in life. I lived according to the views in which I was trained most often to my damage.
I became embroiled in a difficult marriage, became a lawyer at the behest of my father and practiced with him just short of ten years. During that time it was very hurtful for both of us. It was a relationship that refused to work try as we did to make it work. My marriage was the same. We tried to make it work and found it in retrospect to be doomed from its very start.
The Solace of Alcohol
In the course of the events of growing up, marrying, becoming a lawyer, I discovered the deceitful solace of alcohol. Unbeknownst to me it commandeered my life and I spent twenty years abusing it and prescription drugs all to my damage and the damage of everyone around me.
This carried me to a life altering climax in 1974 when I was defeated by alcoholism and turned for help in order to survive. I found survival and renewal in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). When I capitulated to alcohol I was utterly defeated, could do nothing for my self. I turned to the higher power they told me to seek to defeat the alcohol and drugs that had appropriated my life.
Doing so I found a delivery I never knew it possible to discover. Following the direction of the AA program I turned my life and my will over to the care of my higher power and found through that higher power I was caused to quit, continued to abstain and started to live a life never before available to me.
It was truly an epiphany, a watershed, everything in my life having occurred to that time leading to my defeat was purposeful in getting me there, defeating me. It took me to defeat in order for me to find recovery from outside of myself. Everything I gained from being there carried me forward and served me in such a better way as to bring about a result in my life far better than I could have ever hoped for doing it on my own.
This is the story of how I found my epiphany and what I did with it. It is the story of the formula provided at AA, the Twelve Step Practice, how with that I found recovery. It is the story of how my life continued to follow its way, producing episodes wholly unanticipated, causing reverses not wanted, painful in their experience, yet meaningful in their result. It is the story of how I used the tools acquired by my recovery to continue facing the events of life as they occurred using them to get me through each difficult time to a better result than I could have obtained working by myself.
This is the story of how my life’s path culminated in my diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). It is the story of how through AA I was able to accept this unexpected and unwanted calamity; How I was able to see where it fit into the process my life was following; How it fit so well leading to my decision to simply accept it and make the best of it.
My Spiritual Regeneration
It is in this entire progression that I discovered my spiritual purpose the subject of which I had been in continuous search throughout my life.
I had during my life made varying applications of what I hoped was correct. I started a Catholic, followed a Charismatic, and studied the occult and spiritism conducting séances. After much search and more study I found a sensibility and peace in Reform Judaism.
There I discovered the existential philosophy of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Buber. With their insight, particularly that of Buber I gained a clue to what was transpiring in my life. Buber described transcendence discovered in the “I Thou” as a means of rising above our material and finite consequence.
From Buber’s concept of transcendence available in the mundane he gave explanation to the miracle of AA. In the act of turning it over to the higher power within the confines of the AA group, the AA Hall, we can evoke what in his book “I and Thou” he describes as Thou. In this evocation an opening presents through which we are able to acquire a power not our own to do what we can’t! That is it evokes the power that can cause us to quit!
Doing so and continuing to practice turning outside of your self to find help continues this channel of contact with something more than self, something we can acquire and make part of our self. I learned that by turning the problems and difficulties of my life over to a higher power I could reliably get results not otherwise attainable by me.
I found it in the act of evoking the Thou. That is where I found this power accessible. I recognized it to be communing with the transcendent, the cosmos, tapping into it to improve and add something to my life.
Using this formula I found it improved my place and position in any event I encountered. It gave purpose to the encounter, to the events and to the way that lead to and through these events. I soon realized it was the glue that bound these events together.
In this process of seeing, understanding, living from event to event I continued my search of the spiritual significance of it. It is in this continued search I discovered the way of Buddhism. For me Buddhism gave codification to the process I had been taught from the experience of my life.
This was particularly manifested to me in the peace and serenity I found in accepting my diagnosis of AD and applying it purposefully in how I was living it. I was intent on making my having AD amount to something. I chose to speak and write about what it was like to have AD. I chose to become involved in AD matters in order to share my experience of having this disease, encourage early diagnosis, overcome the general fear of it, to do everything I could to ease the suffering of those who have it. I realized a fulfillment emanating from the act of trying to do this for others with what has happened to me.
This so fit the Buddhist aphorism:
Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy.
And whatever suffering there is in this world
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.
What I hope will be my final adventure is a life full of love and compassion. A life lived acting on behalf of the desire of others to be happy. My AD is the vehicle given me with which to do that. Although I could get along quite nicely without this awful disease, I welcome the irrevocable opportunity of having it for the ultimate good I can do with it.