Journey to a Stronger Me

I have been reading Married to an Alcoholic’s journey and it transports me back in time.  The clarity that I have gained about my own journey with an alcoholic has mostly come post-divorce.

It took me a long time to fully comprehend that my husband was an alcoholic.  His father was an alcoholic, so I understood that he could potentially become one, but realizing and admitting that he was already there was difficult.  I compared him to his father and since he didn’t drink to the point of passing out every day, surely he wasn’t an alcoholic.  Surely, he just “liked to have a few beers” like he always claimed.

After I learned about his gambling addiction, I sought counseling.  I was angry.  I was frightened.  I had so many uncomfortable emotions.  At one point, the counselor suggested that I attend Al-Anon.  I wasn’t ready to admit that he was an alcoholic, so I was confused by her suggestion.  I ignored it for quite some time, but it raised my curiosity, so I decided to do some research.

I was looking for something to tell me in black and white terms if he was an alcoholic or not.  I needed evidence to support the theory.  There is so much more information out there now with the power of the internet.  In fact, I did a quick search this morning and found the following explanation at Learn-About-Alcoholism.com:

What is Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse?

With an alcohol abuse definition of alcoholism, the drinker refuses to stop consuming alcohol even when work, family, friends and other responsibilities are put at significant risk. Alcohol abusers can have legal problems such as drinking and driving. They also may have problems with binge drinking (consuming six or more drinks during one sitting). They often become angry when questioned about their alcohol consumption and drink in secret.

An alcohol abuse condition is not the same as an addiction. However, it can easily lead to dependence or addiction without timely treatment. Catching it early can prevent many long-term health risks and other complications.

What is Alcoholism and Alcohol Dependence?

Alcohol dependence is a physically and emotionally addictive condition that can turn fatal if the drinker does not seek help before the progressive illness takes its toll. Alcohol dependents spend a great deal of time drinking alcohol, and obtaining it. The illness is characterized by four main symptoms: alcohol cravings, increasing tolerance, loss of control, and physical dependence.

During my marriage, my husband abused alcohol.  He was a binge drinker, which he considered “social” drinking.  I don’t know if his abuse has turned into alcohol dependence.  I just know that his drinking was a problem.  And a statement that I heard at Al-Anon and read in books is clearly defined by HelpGuide.org:

“If your drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem.”

It’s a very simple statement, but it is profound.  Drinking caused the demise of our marriage, although I didn’t realize it.  Drinking caused my ex-husband to lose his job after our divorce.  And drinking has caused a terrible strain between my ex-husband and my children, my ex-husband and his mother, and my ex-husband and anyone that gets close to his inner sanctum.

Like I said before, all of this clarity is based on hindsight.  When I was married, I was confused.  I was filled with self-doubt.  I thought that I was losing my mind.

When I look back at so many of the things that I endured, I wonder, just as anyone else might, why I stayed for so long.  All I can say is that it’s just not as simple as it seems.

I didn’t marry an alcoholic.  I married my best friend.  We laughed all of the time.  We could have fun doing mundane things.  We talked all of the time.  We talked about anything and everything.  I showed him my true inner self.  He was proud of me and I was proud of him.

Herein lays the problem.  The alcohol abuser that I lived with looked EXACTLY like the guy that I loved and married.  And sometimes he even acted like him.  And I was confused about who the “real him” really was.  I held out hope that he would see the light and get back to being that wonderful guy that I loved so much.

I have no idea if my ex-husband is still “just” an alcohol abuser or if he is now dependent on alcohol.  Only he can answer that question.  But it would require an honesty that he can’t yet muster.  He’s not ready to face even just the fact that he abuses alcohol.

It has been such a long process of denial and discovery for me.  I am still in “recovery.”  I lost myself in that marriage.  I no longer existed, except for the desire to make him happy.  I didn’t even know my decorating style or my favorite foods or favorite movies because none of those things mattered if they contradicted what he wanted.  My world revolved around being everything that he wanted me to be so that he would come home instead of heading to a bar to drink.  He had so many excuses – the house isn’t clean enough, I didn’t cook often enough, I never wanted to have fun, so on and etc.

I was the breadwinner of the family.  I handled our bills.  I handled our kids – homework, doctors’ appointments, play dates.  I cleaned the house and fed the animals and grocery shopped and EVERYTHING.  And yet every day, I felt like I wasn’t enough to make him happy.

And I wasn’t.  Alcoholics aren’t happy.  They are filling a void.  A void that cannot be filled by another person.  No matter how hard that other person tries.

I might not be married to an alcoholic anymore, but I am still on this journey.  I am still processing all of the things that happened during my marriage and I am still struggling with feeling broken from it all.  But I am committed to my recovery.  I am committed to learning how to make decisions that are all about me.  I am committed to feeling good enough.  I am committed to becoming a Stronger Me.

 

Comments

  1. Thank you for this. Some of what you said hit home. I also was too busy trying to make my ex happy that I lost my sense of self. I’m just now gaining that back – 8 1/2 years later. (I’m a late bloomer!)

  2. This is amazing!!! Thanks for linking up this week and I can’t wait to read more! You must be one amazingly strong woman 🙂

  3. Thank you for this. Thank you for being so unflinchingly honest. In one way, I feel bad that my posts are dredging up these awful memories for you. On the other, it helps so much to know what I’m in for – to know this isn’t something that just ends when/if I finally walk away. But also, to know there is life after living with an alcoholic – that there is an after.
    My husband is a sad alcoholic. He doesn’t shout at me (well, only when I start going off on one – and I do go off on one). He is a broken man. His self-esteem and self-confidence are shot to pieces. He doesn’t even stand straight any more (he used to have the perfect posture – like a ballet dancer – now he’s stooped over and unsure of everything, even walking up the stairs). In our case, that aspect of control – of trying to please – isn’t really there. If it is, it’s more him who is trying to please than me. God, I hate saying that.
    You see, he is actually a good person. He was an incredibly gentle, kind, assiduous person. And he was beautiful. But he lost his way. His career took a terrible dive (he was – and could still be – a very talented musician). Eventually, however, the work just dried up and he wasn’t doing what he believed he was destined to do – what he had worked so hard to be. And once that realisation dawned, everything fell apart for him. We always had problems. He was dedicated to his music and has always found it difficult to find time to nurture a relationship. So my bitterness, despair and disenchantment with ‘us’ started way before his drinking became a problem.
    Writing this makes me sad. It is true that the person I was in love with isn’t there any more. We do live in hope that a switch will flip, and that person we once knew will re-appear in a puff of smoke and sequins. The reality is, we are no longer what we were either. And wanting them to come back is just a desire to return to some idyllic past that, perhaps if we look hard enough, wasn’t ever really there.

    • So well said. I think that reading your posts this month have helped me tremendously. I am still healing but growth comes in the hard times. There is life and peace out there. It’s just hard to find when you love someone that is broken. At one point, I thought that my ex could hang the moon. He is smart and charismatic, and not at all the monster that he sometimes morphs into. And he always pulls at my heartstrings when he tells me that I am the one that “knows where his heart is.” I do. BUT I know that he can no longer follow through with all of his good intentions. I had to move out of the way of his destructive path. I have to painfully watch him approach a bottom that is surely the only way he will learn to climb back up to the top, but could also potentially destroy him.
      You are doing great. You are strong beyond measure. I’m here for you, though very far away.

  4. inspiring! stay strong & share your strength with others…

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