I well remember the first time it happened, about a year into our marriage. The evening meal was ready to be served up and I was listening out for the usual key in the door. Why on earth was he so late? First I was angry because the food was burning, but as the minutes ticked by. anger was replaced by anxiety and by the time he eventually arrived a couple of hours later, swaying unsteadily on his feet I was absolutely frantic. He calmed me down and talked himself adroitly out of his tight corner ……… a very old friend ………. had just a couple of drinks……… lost sight of the time …………..knew I wouldn’t mind! By the time he‘d finished I was even feeling slightly guilty about reacting at all.
Anyway, I wasn’t really worried. I knew my husband loved me so all I needed to do was explain. Explain that I was completely thrown by this unusual sort of behaviour and so would he please not do it quite the same way again, unpack with him how I had felt and rest in the knowledge that he hated upsetting me so he was sure to hear me. And hear me he did, but only for a couple of months; and then it happened again, and again. Same scenario, same lack of thoughtfulness and consideration, same slightly inane grin and enough alcohol on the breath to strip paint! My kind loving helpful partner was turning into something I hated AND it was happening more and more frequently.
My panic at this point was not just because the situation was spiralling out of my control but because nothing was happening according to the rules of love any more. Surely if he loved me he would stop hurting me. If he valued our relationship he would stop tearing it apart.
I was going through my painful initiation into the world of addiction, a world where normal rules no longer applied. A crazy world with hugs one minute and twisted arguments the next. A world where the person who loves you the most is busy pulling your world down around your feet.
And through the craziness certain things begin to emerge. That the other person is definitely in there somewhere (sadly not necessarily when you need him!) and at that point shows you the same loving care that he always did. That his drinking haunts him more than he dare admit but he needs this anaesthetic more than he needs to be a husband or a dad, because it’s what gets him through life. That he hasn’t stopped loving you it’s just himself that he doesn’t love. He doesn’t want to hurt you; he just doesn’t want to hurt!!
I stayed far longer than many people thought I should. I stayed for the person who I married because I knew he still loved me and I stayed for the drunk who needed my love more than ever. I stayed and gradually learned what it was to love myself into healthy detachment and love him unflinchingly without caretaking.
And though it was never easy, looking back I am glad I did (although please hear me here. I would never ever blame anyone who needed to leave their situation. Living with a drinker would exhaust the patience of a saint.)
My husband died of cancer in 2007 finding in facing death the courage that had earlier eluded him and I was thankful to be by his side. The family stayed together through all the years of his drinking with mixed outcome. My daughter adored her father and grieves him still. My son, who was the eldest, struggles with as many bad memories as good ones. I won’t sugar coat the pill here, this is too serious a situation to be anything other than realistic!
At Bottled Up we understand that many people who live with a problem drinker experience albeit spasmodically the loving relationship that first drew them together and are reluctant to leave until all avenues for change have been fully explored. People who see the chaos and advise leaving sometimes under estimate the depth of feeling that still exists. We try to present strategies for change that can be uniquely tailored to your situation. We encourage you to stop doing things that are counter - productive and start doing things that will help you to take good care of yourself whilst you encourage and influence your drinker down the road to recovery. We don’t have a magical solution for complex issues but we can provide care support and encouragement along the way and a community of people who truly understand your struggle for the simple reason that they have been there too. There is no need to be alone any more.