Loving someone with alcoholism is difficult and painful. In this beautiful essay reprinted from the Bellingham Review in the Unte Reader, one man talks about his love for his wife and his struggle to help her.
When I think about her, I don't think: drunk. I think: runner. I think: artist. I see her dancing around our apartment, mouthing the words to Motown songs but miming disco moves. I consider how her voice deepens when she wants to talk about something serious, how she has no tolerance for indirect conversation or ambiguous language. I remember how my hands trembled when I met her. She wakes up in the morning in the middle of a conversation, asking, "What's the difference between a barnacle and a crustacean?" She has a long list of wacky endearments for me, including "my fresh coat of paint" and "my little prize-winning chicken," and she's in the very small group of people who think I'm fun--even when she's sober.
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The one who sleeps beside me has become less dangerous and more familiar, too. I didn't know, when I met her, that alcohol was an ongoing chapter in her history. If I'd known from the start, I would not have proceeded differently. I approached the problem from a position of naive compassion, but I've grown self-protective. At times I see her as self-involved, self-indulgent, and see myself as misguided and desperate. That's what alcohol does. It tempers hope, alters perception. It lets the heart roam a little less widely, as though possibilities have become fewer, the world itself somehow less. It forces you to assess, a day at a time, risks versus benefits.
The truth is it is never black and white in a relationship. It is never easy as stay or go. When someone you love is struggling with a chronic condition, you feel conflicted, torn between fear and love, between doing what's best for you and staying loving and loyal to your partner. This is a beautifully rendered piece about a couple trying to make their love work through the most difficult of circumstances. Read a story about another man who was forced to deal with how alcohol affected his relationships.