Coming To Terms With The Specifics…

Of my alcoholic marriage.

I like to say all alcoholic marriages are alike in different ways and as I meet more and more women married to alcoholics, I am discovering that my marriage to an alcoholic does indeed, have it’s own unique “twist.”

My husband’s compulsive drinking has manifested itself in the form of his near utterly complete withdrawal from family life and me in particular.

I mean he does nearly NOTHING around the house and interacts with me to the point that “roommate” would be a generous title. There are days he comes home from work and I would say we literally exchange no more than ten words. He doesn’t greet me hello; he doesn’t kiss me good night. Forget family dinner. We are a family of individuals living together separately. Anything I do with the kids, I do solo. He does attend sporting events or other such events that are “mandatory” appearances for a parent. He supplies any necessary back-up taxing I may need but other than that, he lives like a boarder who comes and goes according to his own (and his only) needs and wants.

I can’t even say we are “just” raising children together.

It’s more like we are each raising our children seperately.

I’ve spent a long time (LONG! TIME!) being justifiably hurt and saddened by this.

But no more.

Everyday I am making a conscious effort to let that pain, anger and expectation go.

I didn’t get the marriage I thought I was getting.

The one I wanted.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, as my mother would say.

But each day I recite things to myself like,

“That is his choice for living.”

“That is how he chooses to be in the Universe.”

“I do not choose to live in that manner.”

“His anger does not enter my life.”

“I choose for my life to vibrate in a higher frequency.”

Yes, it’s that sort of “hippie,” “Zen,” metaphysical stuff but turns out the hippie, Zen, metaphysical stuff is incredibly powerful against the erosion of your soul because each day, I believe it more and more. I heal more and more.

And, I dare say, I get back to living more and more.

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The Irony (And A Little Keith Urban)

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You know how you hear a song and most of the lyrics apply to you or a situation you’re in. Or the lyrics apply but only in a way you understand, not necessarily in the way the song writer intended? Rarely does a song represent your feelings 100% or in exactly the same way as it was written.

But sometimes a song does.

Sometimes it’s 100% spot on.

Like Keith Urban’s “The Fighter.”

I think of myself, my life years down the road and the words, the emotions, the meaning in this song fits so completely.

Which, ironically, is one of the thing that holds me back.

The knowledge (knoweledge!) that I could leave my husband and have a whole new life, complete with a healthy, happy and fulfilling relationship.

I think the outside world would be surprised, shocked, (angered even?) by the idea that a woman could regret her own happiness at the expense of her “no good drunk-ass husband’s” pain. But it’s true.

And I think as the wives of alcoholics, we have to really understand this and how it can play out in the efforts we make – or don’t make – to reclaim our lives. No one wants to leave someone behind to die – be it physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. Even if the “leaving behind” is simply moving forward with our own lives but not necessarily divorcing our husbands.

Of course the fallacy and real tragedy is that even if we are to deny our own happiness, our own potential, our own chance at living a fascinating, creative and interesting life in the name of protecting our husbands from their own pain, we aren’t protecting them at all. We aren’t taking away their pain or insulating them from it. We’re just perpetuating and creating more pain for ourselves.

I can’t be a life preserver for his life.

He’s still going to drown.

And I’ll drown with him.

Courting Happiness

I read a theory once that happiness is actually a genetic trait.

Yes, a happiness gene!!

And when I read that, I remember thinking,

“Wow, I’m glad I got that gene!”

I always (used to?) consider myself a happy person.

And I recognized that being a happy person and being happy at a given moment in time are two very different things.

No one is happy when they are stranded on the side of the road with car trouble or when they lose a loved one or when they don’t get the job they’re sure they aced the interview for. Conversely, (nearly) everyone is happy when they buy a new car or get a pay raise or meet the love of their lives. But whether it’s a negative event or a positive one, that type of happiness is cicumstantial happiness. It’s dependent on, yes, the present moment’s circumstances. But what happens when the pain or the delight of that moment passes? You can be a happy person who is not happy in the moment and you can be a miserable person who is temporarily happy.

I am not a happy person these days.

Truth is, I haven’t been happy for a long time.

My house overwhelmes me.

My marriage depletes me.

My husband hurts me.

And I myself disappoint me.

But am I a happy person who is only temporarily unhappy?

Or have I become a truly unhappy person, destined to know only fleeting moments of happiness?

If there really is a “happiness gene” and if I once recognized myself as a person with that very gene, I still must have it, right?

We don’t change our genes like we change our jeans.

I think when you live in any sort of “chronic” state – be it chronic illness, sustained financial difficulities or the addiction of a family member – happiness isn’t necessarily elusive but it does require effort.

One of (One! Of!) the tragedies of living with an alcoholic is that things that once brought you joy can become a source of irritation. Not because those things have changed but because the alcoholic changes you.

We have two big, loud, exbeurant black labs! (Because who can pick “just one” black lab puppy when there are only TWO left and you have several pairs of great big eyes looking up at you and saying, “We can’t leave one all alone!) Now, I love dogs! I used to walk my dogs and play with my dogs and take delight in their unconditional love (even if it was delivered with unbridled enthusiam) when I walked in the house. And I still love dogs and I love my dogs but I don’t enjoy my dogs anymore. I yell at them to “get away” when they come bounding at me with endless energy; I feed them with all the affection of a guard shoving food at a prisoner and instead of morning and evening walks, they are simply “shown the (back) door” for the necessary potty and poop outings.

So today I am going to walk my dogs.

Today I am going to hug them when they come bounding at me, loving me for simply coming home.

Today I will add a treat to their dinner, pat them on the head and be grateful I have the means to give these two lovely creatures a safe and warm home.

What will you do today to court joy?

What did you once love, take delight in, before the beast of alcoholism took up (uninvited!) residency in your soul?

Monday Morning – It’s Not About Them

I think in life we can know things but not know we know them.

One of the reasons (the reason?) I have been reluctant to blog, I think, is because on some level I knew my life – my energy, my thoughts, my days – could no longer revolve around or be centered on my husband’s drinking and accompanying behavior.

It sucks being married to an alcoholic.

It SO sucks.

But there are a lot of things in life that suck.

A lot of things that can kill our spirits.

Life is hard on the human soul.

And so there comes the day when no matter what the particular trauma or challenge – death of a loved one, chronic illness, financial ruin…your husband’s alcoholism – the “formula” for living a life that is fulfilling, rewarding and joyful is the same.

I am reading the book, “Miracel Morning” by Hal Elrod. He was in a horrific car accident – ironically or not – caused by a drunk driver – where virtually his entire body was crushed and he had to put his life back together again. Physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. In that effort, he came to recognize the profound power behind getting up every morning with purpose and direction.

Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I was thinking about how I “planned” to start my miracle morning routine today. I was going to get up at 6 am and commit myself to the routine Elrod recommends in his book. Except as I was telling myself this, I was also telling myself,

“UGG! I can’t do this! 6 am is SO early.”

Etc., etc., etc.

But then as I was telling my son good night, he snapped at the dog for some minor dog infraction and in that instand, I knew I HAD to get up.

I HAD to get up because my entire household is angry and short with one another and even the dog.

I HAD to get up because there is no one else in the house that is going to work on changing the energy in the house except me.

I HAD to get up because I can’t spend one more day planning for “tomorrow” to be different.

But most of all, I HAD to get up because…

I want to.

I want my life back.

I want me back.

The Trajectory Of The Alcoholic’s Wife

I think about this blog more than anyone might think.

Seeing how I don’t actually post on it with any kind of regularity.

I read this fable once. (I can’t remember where but it was probably in reference to alcoholism.)

The tale is about two frogs that fall into an churn of buttermilk.

No matter how hard they try, they can’t climb out as the sides are too slippery.

One frog says,

“It’s no use. We are going to die.”

And he sinks to the bottom and drowns.

The other frog says,

“I dont know how I am going to get out but I’m not going to quit.”

And so she swims. She swims and she swims and she swims. All through the day and into the dark of night, she swims. Round and round she goes with no idea as to how she is going to escape but with a detemination to escape. By morning’s light, her little swimming frog legs have churned the buttermilk into butter and she hopes out!

Being married to an alcoholic is a lot like this!

We’re stuck. We’re trapped. There’s no way out. We sink to the bottom to drown.

I’ve sunk to the bottom.

I’m drowning.

But not a violent drowning. Not a drowning where I am flailing about, gasping for air, trying to grab hold of the nothingness of water. (Buttermilk.) No, my drowning is more lethargic. Just laying here.

I think as wives of alcoholics, this is our trajectory:

We yell, we scream, we rage against the beast – eventually more internally than outwardly.

We talk, we cry, we try to fix. We hope.

We hope and we hope and we hope some more. We hope when no reasonably human being would expect us to hope. We hope when we know there is no point in hoping. We hope after we declare we are done hoping. Every morning we get up and we hope.

First, we hope he will be different. He will change or seek help. He will see his drinking for the issue it is.

Then we hope for ourselves. That we will change. That we will stop expecting him to be different.

We hope we will stop hoping.

Until finally, all the rage, all that anger, all the grief, all that hope weighs us down and we sink to the bottom.

Some of us will indeed drown.

But something has caught my eye.

Is it the little kicking legs of a frog-sister?

I don’t know what I’ll do.

Or how I’ll do it.

But I can’t let myself drown.

The New Year

I think I have posted this video already but it’s just too darn appropriate for how I am feeling and what I want to say for me to not post it again now.

I knew I hadn’t been keeping up with my blogging but I didn’t realize it had been many months since I posted.

Where have I been?

Just the usual places one goes when married to an alcoholic.

Despair.

Despondancy.

Defeat.

I’ve sat down many times to write a post (I can show you all the attempts in my “draft” folder) but I never seemed to strike that vein of writing gold. Everything I tried to write seemed too redundant or tired or pointless. What was there for me to say anymore?

I am married to an alcoholic and my marriage, my days, my life has become about nothing more than surviving from one day to the next.

How many times, how many different ways, could I write that I am dying – spiritually, mentally and emotionally if not physically.

When would you have read enough about how draining and debilitating it is to live with an alcoholic? After all, that’s nothing new I am informing you about.

So the drafts kept piling up in the “draft” folder and the “I need to write a blog post” was pushed further and further to the back of my mind.

And then a man wanted to sleep with me

Ha!

How’s that for inspiration for a blog post?

The semi-short version is this man, let’s call him “Pete” is someone I knew many, many years ago. He was that guy in your life where there was definitely chemistry, a spark, interest on both parties’ part and yet the timing of your two lives just never seemed to be in sync. Or, to put it another way:

I was really gaga for him and he always seemed “interested” but never quite “interested enough” to ask me out.

Well, apparently he finally got interested 15 years later and got in touch with me. Did I mention he has a wife?

He does, as I have a husband, but for several months we enjoyed fun, flirtateous banter via text and a rare phone call here and there. Nothing blatant or obvious but certainly suggestive and hinting at something more. I will tell you honestly, I enjoyed it. I felt giddy and school girlish and alive. I felt like the video!

Over the last few years, I have thought a lot about whether I could have an affair. Not with anyone in particular – just in theory – but now here was a real chance. Risk. Believe me, I never thought this was a question I would EVER be pondering! And I was afraid if I saw him, I might not be able to resist.

The day came when he was in town (he lives out of town but travels for work) and we arranged to meet for lunch. I wasn’t worried about seeing him: I knew I wasn’t going to run off in the middle of the afternoon to find someplace to…

We had lunch, catching up on each other’s lives and then just as we were about to leave, he says to me,

“So next time I am in town, should we get a hotel room?”

WHAT?!! My head screamed but my mouth just stammered something like,

“Uh, I don’t know. How would that work?”

He kind of chuckled and said,

“Just like lunch. Except a lot more fun.”

I was dumbfounded and of all the things I could have said, should have said, I just mumbled something about I’d think about it. Later that night I texted him and said I could never do that. He said that was “ok” and he wasn’t sure he could either. (BULLSHIT!)

If you think I was mad, I wasn’t. I was more incredulous.

And then I just found the whole thing ridiculously funny.

What if he had come into town, taken me out to dinner, made me feel beautiful and wanted? In my mind, that was the scenario I was expecting. And one I feared would leave me unable to resist him. I never dreamed of the two of us leaving our spouses and running off together but I did dream of a good old heart pounding, adreline-rush, secret meetings affair. An affair that made ignited something in me. An affair that made me feel alive once again.

But instead, he says,

“Hey, you want to get a hotel room.”

Charming. (NOT!)

I’m glad. I really am. Had it not been for his awkward, pathetic pass, I may have made a grave error in judgement. The truth is I don’t want to have an affair, though not so much because of my husband. (If he was the only consideration, I’d probably do it sadly.) I don’t want to have an affair because of my children and myself and honestly, his children and his wife. Can you imagine if we were found out? What do you say to your children? I would be horrified to think of them finding out something like that about me, their mother. And what about his wife? There would be a woman out there who hated me. Not that I would blame her but the idea of someone who never met me, someone who is probably a nice person, hating me, really bothered me.

It’s probably good it happened the way it did. It reminded me that everything I seek lies within me, not outside me. The passion, the zest, the quest to live again – I have to get that from me. (With maybe a little help from a music video.)

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.