Happy New Year – And Why I Don’t Believe A Woman Should Stay (Married to an Alcoholic)

As a writer and (poorly consistent) blogger, I feel it’s kinda like my job to read other writers’ books and blogs on the subject of alcoholic husbands and marriages. And while of course I respect everyone’s journey and each marriage is different (but not really), blah blah blah, there is one thing that always gets my fingers twitching on the keyboard and that is the stories of women who choose to stay in their marriages. It’s not they choose to stay that gets me all banging-out-an-opinion on my laptop. It’s what seems an almost universal sense of superiority and self-righteousness.

Hey, if a woman wants to stay married to her alcoholic husband, seriously, I will not debate or argue or judge that. 100% that’s for her to decide.


I will argue and debate (and probably judge a bit) the idea that somehow it is more noble to stay than to leave and/or that those of us who choose to get the hell out of drunken Dodge somehow give up on our marriages or betray our vows or abandon our husbands. There are only two kinds of marriages when it comes to being married to an alcoholic:

The marriage to a recovering alcoholic and the marriage to an active alcoholic.

That’s it.

If he’s an alcoholic, he’s either in recovery or he’s drinking.

No in-betweens.

And so, when a woman decides to stay, it makes a big difference which marriage she is deciding to stay in.

If she is staying in a marriage with an active alcoholic, 100% I will go to the mats on this, her life is greatly, greatly compromised. You just can’t live fully when you live with an alcoholic.




Even if she attends Al-Anon, and sees a therapist and spends each day working to manage her emotions, her feelings, her reactions to his behavior and drinking, think (THINK!) where all that energy, all that passion COULD be going. It could be going to Her! Life! To her dreams, her goals, her desires and hopes and wishes and wants. Even supposed “detachment with love” is an everyday energy drain.

If a woman chooses to stay married to a man who is pursuing recovery, well, I can’t really comment on that since that’s not who my alcoholic husband is. But I will say this:

I am moving out this year.

I spent over 20 years married to him.

In that time, nothing has ever indicated he’s interested in “recovery.” (Why would he be? He doesn’t think he has a problem.)

I’m not giving up on my marriage or betraying my vows or abandoning him because I won’t wait another 20 years to see if he comes around.

I’m reclaiming my life.

Tis The Season


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Happy Thanksgiving.

How was your turkey day?

Did you stay home?


Have family in or just your immediate family?

Did you do the cooking?

The cleaning up? (Yes. to probably both I will guess.)

What was on your Thanksgiving menu?

Just the tradtional like turkey, sweet potatoes (marshmallowed or not-marshmallowed?), cranberry sauce, stuffing, green been casserole?

Or is your family a little more daring, adventurous with the meal? Maybe ham? Tacos? Forgo the sweet potatoes all together? (Hark!)

What about that side dish we seem to all share though no one “prepared” it?

The alcoholic outrage/outburst/tirade.

I don’t know why the holidays are ripe for the worse of an alcoholic’s behavior to erupt but they are. (I’m sure if I googled it, I’d find some definitive reason why the alcoholic’s abominable behavior is intensified during the holidays.) I guess I’m past caring about the why anyway. I just know it’s happening. It starts with Thanksgiving (or maybe even Halloween depending on the year) and goes right through to the new year. Like over-eating, over-spending and new year’s resolutions – it’s pretty much the same every year.

Yesterday my to-be-ex didn’t disappoint though he came up with a new line, a very telling line, a line where I thought he had no more mean, harsh, ugly, vile lines to offer. I told him to stop yelling and he said, (drum roll please),

I’m only yelling at you.”

Yeah, I know.

I said,

“I count. I! Count!”

In case no one has said it to you, really said it to you,

Happy Thanksgiving – as in “thank you.”

Happy Thanksgiving – as in “I love you.”

Happy Thanksgiving – “you are amazing.”

Happy Thanksgiving – thank you for reading and supporting me in this little blog-venture of mine.

Happy Thanksgiving – I love you in that I mean I don’t know you but I send love to you as a fellow human being and survivor of another person’s compulsive drinking.

And Happy Thanksgiving – you are amazing. We didn’t choose the best travel partners for this ultimate travel adventure called Life and yet, we all are keeping our heads up and looking forward.

Enjoy your holiday week-end.

And if you’re shopping, buy yourself a little something.

It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Maybe just a candle or an inexpensive little piece of jewelry but something to remind you that you count.

You do indeed…


The One Thing I’ll Always Regret I Couldn’t Give My Children

We want the most for our children.

Of course we do.

The minute they are placed in our arms, we want to pave the way for them. Make everything ok for them. Protect and shield them from the harshness we know awaits every human being on the adventure called their Life.

But we can’t.

Of course we can’t.

I suppose it starts with the first immunization shot at the doctor’s office when they are so, so tiny and new to the world.

I cried as my son cried when the needle poked into his fleshy little thigh.

There was nothing I could do but hold him, love him and wait for both our tears to dry.

We can’t protect our children and we can’t give them all we wish we could.

I suppose that’s a good thing.

Children who are given everything and insulated from the consequences of their own actions and/or the world usually don’t make for the most pleasant, productive or even happiest of adults.

But of all the things I can’t give my children, there will forever be one thing I regret. One thing I am quite sure will pain me til the day I die.

I was reading an interview with Patti Scialfa, the wife of rock star Bruce Springsteen. She said no matter how old their three children get, they still don’t like to see her and Bruce engage in “PDA.” She said, I just tell them,

“Hey, one day you are going to be happy to know your parents really loved one another.”


I don’t know what my children feel or think in regards to me and their dad. We talk about their father’s behavior very little. The drunk, angry elephant in the living room. There have been snippets of conversations. Or should I say “monologues” because it was mostly me trying to at least acknowledge what was going un-acknowledged. I have never put my husband down, called him names or drug my children into the ugliness and complexities of their parent’s marriage but in the 20+ years we’ve been “doing this,” I couldn’t allow his behavior to go unchecked. I had to at least say, at some point,

“Hey. This is not how you treat your family or spouse.”

I can’t give them two parents who love each other.

The best I can do it seems is to give them a mother who doesn’t hate their father.

No Apologies

There is a lot (A! LOT!) written on the topic of alcoholic marriages of course.

And through my very much un-scientific, I have come to the conclusion that much of what is written comes from the stand point of staying in the marriage.  How to survive being married to an alcoholic.  How to be happy even though married to an alcoholic.  How to navigate your relationship with your alcoholic husband.  How to help, not be an enabler, enable, avoid being “co-dependent,” what you are doing wrong, how to help your husband in his search for sobriety.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

If I sound cynical, I suppose I am.

To me, life is the ocean.

And your life is your journey swimming across that ocean.

And marriage to an alcoholic is doing it with a 150 pound anchor tied to your ankle.

Can you do it?

Yes, I suppose you can.

But can you do it easily?  With joy?  And can you go as far as you could if you were swimming freely and unencombered?

No, no you can’t.

No matter how strong you get, no matter how “used” to the weight you get, no matter how good you get at ignoring the anchor that threatens to drown you at any moment, you cannot swim and dive and play in the ocean of life as freely as one who is anchor-free.

People have challenged me on this stance.  Taken exception to the absolute in my stance.  Offered how they, indeed, are swimming free though still married to an alcoholic.

I’m not here to tell anyone their view is wrong, their reality is wrong, their way of living this thing called Life is wrong.  If someone says she feels happy and free and is frolicking through the sea of life like a playful dolphin –  despite being married to an alcoholic – ok. I may not fully believe her but I’m not going to challenge her. Make her “prove it.” That’s not my place or purpose in life.

But personally, I have come to the realization that living life to its fullest potential AND staying married to an alcoholic are mutually exclusive.  Most alcoholics do not seek sobriety and if they do, most don’t sustain it.  Sorry, but it’s true.  So you can’t hang your hat on that flimsy peg of hope.  And, alcoholism is a progressive disease.  There is no “not that bad” alcoholic.  There is no “status quo” in an alcoholic’s behavior.

It’s going to get worse.

He’s going to get worse.

The issue is how do you keep yourself from getting worse?

How do you keep your life from getting worse?

How do you swim as far as possible in this big, blue, beautiful ocean of life?

With as much joy and happiness as possible?

To the fullest extent of your potential?

For me?

In my opinion and from my experience?

You have to lose the anchor.

Feeling The Feelings


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You can’t swing a metaphysical cat without hitting a writer, speaker, sage or motivational guru who will tell you that before anything – before the great job offer or the new dream house or the sports car in the driveway – comes into your life, you have to first feel the emotions of that thing. Everyone on the forefront of this whole metaphysical movement knows that the emotions are the horse and the manifestation the cart. Of course, the majority of us put the cart before the horse, declaring once that new job is here, the house is ours and/or the kazillion horse power of Italian engineering is puring under our buns, then we will be happy and satisfied.

But it’s the other way around the sages/gurus/random bloggers say.

Feel the feelings first.

Feel the joy.

The satisfaction.

The happiness of leaving your dream house to drive your dream car to the office of your dream job.

But recently, I realized something rather powerful.

Feeling the feelings ALSO allows you to bring forward the doubts, hesitaitons and limiting beliefs you may be having about achieving that trifecta of life’s success.

I started thinking about the day I move into my own house.

I was mentally watching the movers pack up my share of stuff and load it onto a truck.

I was bringing all the excitment and happiness and relief I will no doubt feel.

And then I got to the backyard.

We have one of those nice, big wooden playsets that my kids “grew up” on. That would move with me because there are young nieces and nephews in the family who will be visiting at my new house. As my mind saw it being dis-assembled and loaded onto the moving truck, I was suddenly struck by such sadness and grief. This house, that I hate so much, that I curse on a nearly daily basis, that I dream of leaving one day is the house where my children grew up. The house where all their holiday and summer and daily memories were created. Sure, they aren’t truly grown up and out of the house but they are teenagers. The new house, my house, will not be the house of their childhood.

It’s not reason to stay.

I know that.

But it was powerful (and important. Maybe even vital!) for me to feel that un-realized grief and loss. Is that was has been inadvertently holding me back?

It seems it would be (should be?) easy to end a marriage to someone who has a drinking problem, screams obscenities at you and spends his days checked out.

But it’s not.

Far from it.

So while I know that I need to dwell in the good feelings, the happy feelings, the feelings of success and contentment, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to occasionally let myself feel the feelings of loss. Pain. Grief.

So I can move past them.

The Stuff No One Tells You (About Being Married To An Alcoholic)


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It’s Monday morning.

The Monday morning when I planned to start taking this blog – and my life – in a new direction.

The direction I have pined for for a very long time now.

But then this morning played out in such a stark, sad irony that I feel compelled to write about it.

My (to-be-ex) husband leaves very early for work. 5 am. I am not normally up when he leaves but this morning I had to finish up some things one of my kids needed for school. (Yes, they may have told me around 10 o’clock Sunday night, ha.) As he was getting his coat and things to leave for work, I stood not ten feet from him. He put on his coat, picked up his bag and…

Walked out the door.

Not so much as a “why are you up” or “have a good day” or even the most basic “good bye.” Literally nothing. No matter how many times he does this (and he’s done it before to be sure) I still can’t get my head around this kind of behavior. I mean, you have to TRY to not say good-bye to someone who is standing just feet away, right? I contemplated for a moment calling him on his behavior but then I realized, why? Obviously this is the way he WANTS to go through life so what impact will any words from me have on him?

Shortly after my (to-be-ex) husband’s behavior, I left for Starbucks. (I don’t think it takes much to see how or why it is I came to carve out my morning Starbuck’s routine and family.) There was one of the people I see regularly but hadn’t seen in awhile there. We said our pleasantries, how have you been, what are the kids up to, etc. and then as I got my coffee and went to sit down…

“It’s good to see you.”

I felt like the Gringe, in that my heart “grew three sizes.”

Has he really beaten me down so far that a simple (though sincere I’m sure) salutation from a virtual stranger can warm me?

This is the stuff no one tells you about living with an alcoholic.

People think they know.

People think it’s just the drinking. Just the drunk week-ends, trashed holidays and/or ruined family events.

But being married to an alcoholic is so much bigger than that…

Because it affects even the smallest things in your life.

I Promised

For so long now – for SO! LONG! “All” I have wanted is my own house!

My own house that is filled with color and over-stuffed furniture and whimsical art and…

Laughter and emotional safety and joy.

I just want my own house!

It’s a lament that has been echoing through my brain, heart and soul for years now.

And now something has happened…

Something that means I can no longer hide in my procrastination.

Something that if this doesn’t push me, I fear that nothing ever will.

My kids had friends over last night.

They got loud, as kids will do.

My husband told them to quiet down and they did.


As kids will do.

My husband told them again to be quiet.

And then as he was walking away, past my daughter, he hissed in her ear,

“You guys are fucking pissing me off.”

She told me she wasn’t going to tell me “at first” because she fears me confronting him because he then yells at her for “tattling.” She was crying as she told me.

“Mom,” she sobbed, “he thought he was whispering but everyone heard.”

She was mortified.

I don’t know who this man is anymore.

He is not the man I married by a long shot.

How am I suppose to wrap my head around this kind of treatment?!

I promised her last night.

Promised, promised, promised…PROMISED her this was our last holiday season in the same house with him.

Now to make that happen.

“Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.” (George Bernard Shaw)

It’s 2 am…

Sometimes I think about it.

Being with someone else.

Not now while I’m married.

When I am no longer married.

I think,

Could I?

Could I even be with another man?

I can’t imagine.

Wanting to even kiss someone.

I can’t imagine wishing someone was here when he’s away.

I can’t imagine going to Starbucks or Home Depot or the grocery store with someone.

I can’t imagine someone wanting to do those things with me.

It’s not I have “low self-esteem” or that I am bitter.

I’m just so dead inside.

Who Really Threw Away The 40 Years?


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There is a regular group of us who gather at Starbucks.

We weren’t friends first who decided to meet at Starbucks.

We were five or six individuals who found ourselves regularly in the same place.

Friendships like this are kind of odd because we are as sincere and honest with one another as with any friend and yet, who we are outside our morning get-togethers is relatively unknown. Oh, we know about each other’s kids or grandkids, pets or new car, each other’s political views and yet, at the same time, we know very little about each other. Our personal lives – the nitty gritty stuff – doesn’t really enter into our morning gatherings.

Except when it has to.

When something so large, so all-encompassing occurs in one of our lives that it can’t help but sneak in.

Amongst the group is a man, in his late 60’s. “Jim.”

By all accounts, Jim is a devoted father, husband and recently new grandpa.

He and his wife are financially comfortable and have good relationships with their children. They are active in the community. All and all, they seem to have carved out a nice life for themselves and their family.

Jim is also a recovered alcoholic who suffers from depression. (But then what alcoholic doesn’t have a comorbidity of depression?)

He mentioned this once to me, a rare moment when it was just him and I having coffee, though I’m sure everyone else knows as well.

That was a long time ago, he told me.

He got the appropriate help, pursued the necessary sobriety.

He seemed neither asahmed nor “proud” (in that annoying way some recoverying alcoholics can be) of his past. In fact, it seemed like he had exatly the “right” attitude about his drinking and recovery. He owned it without wearing it.

A success story in the alcoholic recovery areana.

Recently he told us that his wife of 40 years had left him!

I literally did not think I heard him correctly.

I told him somethig along the lines of,

“I thought you said your wife moved out.”

He said,

“I did. She did.”

I couldn’t believe it.

He said that was the reaction of all his friends.

He didn’t go into details but he did say that they were in counseling and he “just needed” to “keep the drinking under control.”

I know alcoholic double-speak when I hear it.

He started drinking again.

This man is so gentle, so kind, so nice that it’s hard to reconcile the limited snapshot I have of him with what I know the big picture of alcoholism is.

But I can do it.

I understand.

I dobut those who interact with my husband outside of our home would ever guess who he is behind closed doors.

I told Jim I noticed he still wears his wedding ring.

He said he is hopeful and optimistic he and his wife will get through this. He said,

“I don’t think she is going to throw away 40 years.”


I smiled politely but inside I raged.

There was SO MUCH I wanted to say.

It’s the rare – if any! – alcoholic who REALLY! GETS! What it’s like to be married to them!

I wanted to say to him,

“You know, when you’re an alcoholic who got sober but then falls off the wagon, it’s not ‘starting over’ in your wife’s eyes.”

I wanted to say,

“All that pain of the years ago, it wasn’t erased by your sobriety. It may have been tempered but it wasn’t erased. She may have chosen to not feel it but it’s still there.”

I wanted to say,

“This is not a new chapter to her. This is another chapter of the same, old tired book that she thought she was done with.”

I wanted to say,

“She’s not throwing away 40 years. You did.”

“One drink at a time.”

I Find You Sit In Your Car Alot…

when you’re married to an alcoholic.

At least I do.

I used to sit in there and cry.

Sometimes I would leave the house, get in my car and drive around the corner before I let myself cry.

Other times it would be when I was coming home from somewhere and I’d sit in my car and cry before going into my house.

I seem to not do that anymore.

The crying in my car.

Have my tears all dried up?

I don’t know but I still sit in my car.


Last night it was after I had gone to the grocery store.

I just sat there in the dark parking lot.

Eating chips and onion dip.

Yep, I am a car eater.  (As in I eat alone in my car, not I eat cars.)

It is 100% emotional eating.

I don’t need a shrink to tell me there is nothing healthy – emotionally or physically –  about sitting alone in your car, in a dark parking lot, eating copious amounts of potato chips and dip.  I suppose a well-lite parking lot wouldn’t be any better.

My car is both my sanctuary and my hell.

It insulates me from the realities of my life, temporarily anyway, when I just can’t seem to face them.

But it also invites out my demons.

Chips, soda, cheese danish from 7-11 that probably sat in a warehouse for months before making its way to the convienence store shelf.  Why don’t we ever self-medicate with fruit or vegetables?  Maybe a little “binge” eating of cucumbers and humus.

There is a fine line between seeking solace and hiding.

I cross it regularly in my car.