The Myth of the “Functioning Alcoholic”

I don’t know who coined the phrase “functioning alcoholic” (probably the same who coined “co-dependent” and “enabler”) but frankly it’s, well bull shit.

“Functioning alcoholic” is suppose to distinguish the falling-down-drunk, smelly, dirty alcoholics who pass out in the back alley while drinking cheap gin out of a brown paper bag from, you know..

The nice alcoholics.

The ones with jobs and cars and a house on a cul-de-sac.

The ones who sip their alcohol from a glass while sitting in front of their kazillion-inch big screen tv.

The ones who pass out in the den or family room or living room.

The ones who shower and wear nice clothes and don’t have to dig for change in order to buy a “tall boy.”

Yes, we need to make sure to not mix up the “functioning” alcoholics with the “real” alcoholics.

The ones who destroy their lives.

And the lives of everyone around them.

The ones who choose booze over family.

The ones who’d rather drink then engage in intrapersonal relationships.

The ones who make up excuses for their drinking, deny the pain of their drinking and vow they could stop drinking “tomorrow” if they wanted to.

They just don’t want to.

Funny, when you describe the alcoholic that way, it’s hard to tell the “real” one from the “functioning” one.


I Just Can’t Do This Anymore

I have to figure something out.

I can’t live like this any more.

I know I’ve said it before.

We all say it.

All the time.

I feel like a fraud.

An imposter.

This blog was suppose to inspire.

Instead as I have languished, so has it.

Pain and misery and unhappiness are legendary muses for creative souls.

But not too much.

Too much and the creative soul is rendered helpless.

I need to find a way…

The way for me.

Why Can’t I Get My Head Around The Fact…

that I have an uhappy marriage?

I don’t know what I expect when I compare my marriage to happy marriages? It’s like someone gives me a big, beautifully wrapped gift but when I open it, the box is empty.

And they keep doing it…

Again and again and again they hand me a lovely, promising present…

And again and again and again I open it up and am shocked, disappointed and saddened that it is empty.

What the hell?

There’s really nothing more to say about it, is there?

He’s distant, detached, unavailable, check-up, not present, withdrawn.

How many adjectives can I use?

How many do I need?

I get frustrated over the things he doesn’t do (like NOTHING!) as if I am justified in expecting normal, happy, healthy husband/marriage behavior from him.

I relive the things he’s done in the past and feel hurt all over again by them.

What good does this serve me?

None of course.

You know those snack-vending machines that have the metal spirals that kind of “spiral” the item out? And the snack can get stuck on the spiral or between the spiral and the glass. So you stand there banging on the glass, trying to tip the machine, even trying to reach your hand up inside the machine (which is particularly futile!) because you are SO HUNGRY and that was your LAST .75 and you JUST CAN’T BELIEVE your peanut M & M’s are so close…and yet so far away.

It’s like there just HAS TO BE A WAY to get them out! This is the 21st century, for God’s sake.

But there’s not. (Which it’s kind of funny that for all our “technical advances” we are still vexed by a relatively “rudimentary” vending machine.)

Eventually you walk away, defeated and hungry.

I need to walk away.

Some Days…

I wake up with an overwhelming sense of love for my life. I feel positive and hopeful and full of potential. I have no idea where these days come from or how these feelings manage to peek out from behind the dark cloud of life with someone else’s alcoholism. It’s the ebb and flow of life, I guess.

A sign that I’m not totally dead inside yet.

The Last Time?

Have you ever (sadly) noticed that often there will be a “last time” for things but in retrospect you never realized it was the last time. I think this happens especially as our children grow up. One day you no longer hold their hand as they walk through a parking lot. Or help them in the bathroom. Or read books together at bedtime. One day it seems as if “suddenly” you don’t race them to the front door or zip up their coats. The last time just happens. With no fan fare or recognition. No celebration or even somber acknowledgement.

Saturday night we all went somewhere together as a family. All of us! This rarely happens these days due in part to kids’ schedules but also due in part to how miserable it is to go anywhere with my husband. There is an undercurrent of tension as we all get ready, all try to get out of the house, all pile into the car. This is before we even GET where we are going!

The drive, or more specifically my husband’s driving, is a whole other issue!

Saturday night as my husband barked at the kids for one thing or another and drove like a madman, I told myself,

“Remember this because this is the last time you ever go anywhere with him all together.”

I’m Just So Tired

I know there is much written about dream analysis and the way I see it is some dreams may have a meaning that is deep and hidden; some dreams may be nothing more than a random composite of the day’s thoughts and happenings and other dreams…

Other dreams are so obvious in their meaning that it hardly takes any “analysis” to decode the meaning.

Last night’s dream was just that sort.

I dreamed I was on a beach and it wasn’t storming but neither was it bright and sunny. There were dark clouds in the sky and the ocean had a great hue to it. I was running along the beach, trying to get to move forward though my dream did not make my “destination” known but I couldn’t get anywhere! I kept running and running and running but stayed in the same place!!

As I said, no deep, probing “analysis” needed.

I am just so tired and I can’t get anything accomplished in my life and everyday feels like a study in futality.

My house is a wreck.

The yard is a wreck.

The laundry is never done, the clothes are never put away and the kitchen is never clean.

There feels like there is a layer of dirt that blankets my entire home.

And, as I am sure I have stated before, my husband does nothing.

And when I say nothing, I mean N-O-T-H-I-N-G!!

And maybe I need to let the laundry go and the dishes go and even the ever-present layer of dirt go but most of all, I wish I could let the anger and the resentment and the constant sense of drudgery go.

Why Am I Even Married?

I don’t know how my marriage got this dead.

Even for an ALCOHOLIC marriage, it seems particularly pathalogical.

I think my husband and I probably exchanged ten words between us tonight.


At best.

The kids and I have gone on vacation this summer, to an outdoor concert, to friends’, to the pool, etc. etc. etc. and he has not come with us once.

Not once.

Sometimes there is an excuse – like for the vacation but other times he doesn’t even try to pretend there is a legtimate excuse.

“No,” comes the reply if the kids or I ask him if he wants to go.

The kids ask him? Ha! Who am I trying to kid? They don’t ask him. They accepted his absense long ago.

I don’t even know if I am mad any more.

Maybe mostly just dead (to it.)

The Bliss, The Pressure Of Nothing

Funny how the lyrics of a song can reflect one’s emotions so clearly while the video is miles off. I’m hardly at the young and fearless age – and we won’t even consider what I’d look like from behind skateboarding in a bikini – but the words in this song are spot on when it comes to what I want in life.

What I feel is missing.

My husband is away this weekend and so this morning I was left with the task of getting four kids up and out the door to four different places.

Starting at 6 am! (Who schedules these sporting events?!) As you can imagine, the children for whom rising out of their cozzy beds was due to their sibling’s needs, were none to happy about it. And more than willing to be vocal about it. But as I got whinny or sleepy or whinny and sleeping children up and directed out the door, something magical was happening.


As is no yelling, no tension, no snapping at one another.

It’s shocking – in the most painful way – how much him simply being present negatively affects everyone in the household. And I’m probably the most reactive.

My friend deals with the opposite in her alcoholic husband.

This past weekend he called his children vulgar names and threatend to “beat the shit out of everyone.” This is no small thing to be living with and so I know – I know, I know, I know – that the nothingness which I shoulder everyday may seem like a cake walk when compared to the other alcoholic husband options. But as I told my friend (or did I already write it here?):

It’s not that one of our situations is “better” than another. It’s just the difference between having nothing to eat and only having garbage to eat.

Either way you’re starving.

Why Do We Do It?

My husband is turning 50 in September and I am in the middle of planning a birthday party for him. Nothing huge, certainly not a surprise party but a nice party none-the-less.

A friend of mine friend spent nearly $500 for baseball tickets and his favorite player’s jersey for her husband’s birthday.

Another friend organized a big family trip to Ireland in celebration of their wedding anniversary.

These two friends are also married to alcoholics.

These two friends live with the same uncertainty, the same vitriol, the same anger and moodiness. The same hostility, erratic behavior, verbal assaults and compulsive drinking we all do as wives of alcoholics.

So why do we do it?

Why do we plan nice things and orchestrate nice outings and create nice memories for husbands that are, shall I just say it, not really deserving of such?

Is it for them?

Is it for our children?

Is it for ourselves?

Or is it we just can’t help ourselves?

I think we just can’t help ourselves.

I don’t think we’re door mats or enablers.

I don’t think we’re weak or co-dependent.

I certainly don’t think we are stupid nor do I think doing nice things for someone who isn’t very nice should be viewed in an unfavorable light.

Quite the opposite.

I think that fact that we still do nice things, that we try to stay true to OUR values and OUR beliefs is commendable.

Not condemn-able.

We do it, I suppose, because that’s how we want to live life.

Why I Finally Feel Ready To Leave


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People in the “outside” world seem to be befuddled by the fact that the wives of alcoholics don’t simply run for the door the first time they trip over a pile of “empties.” They think drinking problem = marriage dissolution. No questions asked. No doubt. No remorse or hesitation. If only it was that simple.

Or easy.

Or painless.

No, leaving our alcoholic husbands is never simply, easy and certainly not painless though that seems to befuddle the outside world as well. Why would we grieve leaving some “no-good drunk” of a husband?

Well, for lots of reasons I won’t go into right now. What I will go into is why I finally (finally?) feel ready to leave. Ironically, it has nothing to do with his drinking, per say.

I asked my husband if he wanted to take a vacation this summer.

“We can’t afford it.”

“Who is going to watch the dog?”

“I don’t know if I can get off work.”

No sooner did he finish his last objection thent I realized,

“Oh my God! I have been listening to these excuses for 20 years!”

Everything – EVERY! THING! I have ever – EVER! – presented to my husband in terms of our lives, direction we might take, dreams we might pursue, adventures we might create has always – ALWAYS – been met with the same – SAME – reasons why we CAN’T.

First and foremost is the steadfast,

“We can’t afford it.”

I don’t care if I was suggesting planting a willow tree in the backyard or taking an overnight trip to the lake.

“We can’t affort that.”

It’s his go-to, his safety, his stand-by.

Then, depending on the situation, he has his alternates.

The dog is a popular one for any sort of trip.

“What are we going to do with the dog?”

When I suggested we be foster parents (this was LONG ago, when I would even dare suggest such an idea), I guess since money is hardly an issue there, he had to pull out the,

“We don’t have room for that.”

There is also his all encompassing,

“That will never work.”

So when he said we “can’t afford” a vacation this summer, it hardly seemded the sort of thing that would cause a deep revelation within me. But that’s the thing with “revelations;” they may seem sudden, like a volcano erupting, but really they have been a long time coming. Like a volcano after all. The energy brewing and percolating beneath the surface, “undetected” until the day…

And so last night when my husband began with his litany of “can’ts,” it hit me,

“He will never want to do anything.”

His excuses are just that. Excuses. The real “excuse” is he doesn’t want to or can’t leave his comfort zone. He wants to work, come home, drink only to wake up and do it all again the next day. Now I by no means think he’s happy or fulfilled. No, I know he is quite unhappy but he’s not going to challenge that. He’s not going to work to Be happy. He’s just going to sit in our house, worrying and yelling about about money until the day he dies.

And THAT is why I finally feel ready to leave.

Because I want to LIVE…

Until the day I die.