I'm deeply ashamed about these things I did.
Just a couple of short weeks ago, I celebrated being clean and sober for 31 years. Yes, it's been a long time, which can make it very easy to dissociate with the addiction-riddled man I was all those years ago.
Don't get me wrong, that's not entirely a bad thing. I don't want to live in the constant memory of who I was then and the things I did in my addicted years. I got sober to save my life, and I stay sober to have a life. My present is very good, so I don't live in the past.
However, in the last couple of weeks I have been talking with partners of alcoholics and I'm reminded of where I came from. Part of getting sober involves coming to terms with the problem and making amends for the hurt that we've caused.
At the time, I tried my best to do just that, but times change and so do we. So now I feel that I need to go beyond what I did back then, and do something more public than I've previously done.
Today there are many, many people who live with an alcoholic. Most of them are hurt and confused.
Or, of course, you might be reading this because you're in that position yourself. So although I want to reach out to all the people I hurt by my alcoholism, I truly want to speak to anyone who's ever been hurt by an alcoholic—now or in the past.
1. I'm sorry to those I've hurt the most ...
... for the things I did, for the hurt I caused, for the love I killed and for the hope I crushed.
It would be easy to say that I didn't mean to hurt anyone—I didn't. It would be easy to say that I wasn't a bad man, or a violent man or an unfaithful man or so many other things. The problem is that I did all of these things when I was drunk or when I needed a drink.
Maybe I wasn't a violent man but that didn't stop me from pinning my wife against the wall, shouting, threatening and terrifying her. For that I am deeply ashamed and I make no excuses.
Maybe I wasn't an unfaithful man but that didn't stop me from making passes at other females when I was drunk (I have to report that most of them had the good sense to not respond). Again I have to say that I am deeply ashamed.
2. I'm sorry to those I've betrayed, every day.
There are the big betrayals that definitely damage a relationship to its core, but the things that crush the life out of the relationship are the smaller things, the everyday betrayals; the continual lies that destroy any sense of trust — that essential commodity for a successful relationship.
Looking back now I lied, often, very often. I considered myself an honest man but I lied to protect my drinking, I lied to avoid arguments, I lied to get out the house to go for a drink, I lied about whether I had been drinking, about how much I had been drinking.
And I lied to protect my lies. I didn't lie about everything but I did lie about drinking, and I'm ashamed.
I would promise to be home at a certain time but I wouldn't arrive till much later, sometimes days later. I promised to clean up the house, that I had messed up in my drunkenness, but I found some money in my pocket and went off drinking.
I promised to go to the shop and get milk and come straight back but didn't return till the following day. I promised to come home without drinking and staggered in drunk.
And during all these betrayals I would ask my wife, "Don't you trust me?" Looking back on these incidents now, I find it hard to believe that I was the one who did all these things — but I was, and I did.
3. I'm sorry to those I burdened financially.
I stole money from our household budget. In my need for alcohol I used the checkbook as a license to print money. I bounced checks all over town and in many bars to get booze.
In the middle of a bender I had no regard for anyone but myself and how I felt at that moment. The inevitable result was that we were always short of money and ultimately deeply in debt.
I wish that I could return to that time and change it all but obviously I can't. However, I do offer my unreserved apologies to everyone who was hurt by my drinking and for all that I did during that time.
4. I'm sorry on behalf of all alcoholics ...
... to all the people out there who are being and/or have been hurt by the behavior of an alcoholic. I am so sorry that we hurt you — no buts, no excuses!
I hope that some part of this helps to heal some of the hurts that we have caused, or helps to repair some of the trust and love that we have destroyed.
It would be easy for you to dismiss this article as "just words." After all, who could blame you, you have probably heard all the promises and apologies that I certainly made, plenty of times.
However, it doesn't just end with words. With my current wife Lou, I have created Bottled Up to help people in your position. We have both poured our personal and professional experience into this website to help and support the partners' of alcoholics.
This is part of me trying to make amends. Another part of my amends is helping alcoholics to change, and they can and do. There is hope.