Thursday, December 4, 2008

Active alcoholism isn't pretty

Alcoholism can present itself in so many ways.  The alcoholic can be a happy drunk, not really bothering anyone.  Then there are those who have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality change. Violent rages can flare to the point that one feels in danger.  I will never forget seeing a woman who had been beaten by her alcoholic husband.  She was terrified, embarrassed, and confused. 

In the worse part of those years when my wife was drinking, we had our share of horror shows. I would start to nag about the drinking and she would reciprocate with a lot of anger. From there the whole thing would escalate. We never struck each other--thankfully. But the emotional strikes from the things that we would say were terrible. She would threaten suicide, I would threaten to leave. She would throw plates, I would say that I wanted to die. It was a dance of two sick people going round and round with our hurting words and deeds.

As I look back on that drama, it seems surreal that I ever tried to bargain or reason with an alcoholic. And I would do it when she was drinking. I would purposely go at her when she was drunk with the idea of venting all my pent up anger, driving things to escalate, hoping to confirm just how miserable I was, as if I didn't already know that. I had so much anger that I wanted to lash out at her and took a form of perverse satisfaction in the following morning's apologies when she would be remorseful.

What a sick person I was. I'm just thankful that I'm no longer dealing with active alcoholism and that as a consequence of alcoholism in my life, I've learned a better way to live. I think that the peace of mind that comes from understanding how powerless I am over another has been a turning point for me. And having a God of my understanding who is with me during the good and bad times has kept me from feeling alone and lost.

I know that I won't live with active alcoholism again. It's a choice that I've made. I also know that there is nothing that can be said or done to "fix" the alcoholic. It's been a painful but valuable lesson in life. I hope that those who live with active alcoholism will find their way to a better way of thinking and living. And that it won't take them as long to do so as it did me.


  1. last night at the coda meeting we spoke about the need to let go. as i said then, i understand the 'i cannot control another' part. so too the need to let go of those things and to accept them. once i've done that of course, it'll release it's hold on me. but oh boy, i have trouble putting that into action. my feelings and my logic just do not reconcile on that yet. why did your post make me think of that.... the futility, the feeling of helplessness, the inability of make another see sense???

  2. When I read what you wrote about Merc3069 it made my stomach knot. I need those reminders. Not that I hit or was hit, but of how insane my behavior was. Thanks, Syd.

    Hope you are feeling better today.

  3. I can't live with active alcoholism either. My ex was never physically abusive but the feelings of fear and dread were there. That is one of the reasons I am grateful that my 18 y.o. is 1000 miles away. It might sound bad but for me..right is far easier to practice detachment when I don't have to see the disease progression daily. After going through it with his dad, I just don't have it in me right now. God doing for me what I can't do for myself....


  4. Sadly I have had similar expierence as Merc3069. Court orders of protection - court orders to send my husband to anger management classes - police at the home on a month basis. It makes me sad and brings me so down just remembering, because of everything that I had allowed to happen - that is the one thing I never imagined I could put up with, yet somehow in my sickness could not walk away from.

  5. i agree with scott w...

    my situation was never physical, but boy oh boy, I could have hurt (and have verbally)...there is so much anger...and at times I still feel that anger.

    I hope she gets through her situation...and finds some strength in what you write...and others.

  6. Oh truly the horror of this as I read this I remember the hell I put my friends and husband through, my selfish and self centered behavior in all it's egorific glory. What I know today is I work hard to not go back to that life, to not drink, and am quick to amend when needed, I thank you for this reminder and post.


  7. You are a shining example of the program of alanon. Thank you.

  8. I recently heard a AA member share about their drinking partner and what it was doing to their lives. I've never heard the other side of the story before. I was stunned. This was the devastation I caused. It made me think about the amends I made all those years ago. And how far they truly went to silencing the echo of my behaviour inside the non alcoholic. Thanks for the post Syd and your example.

  9. I think for today I am back to Step One. It is easy to say I am powerless over alcohol.. another person etc. But to believe at the core is a whole other story.

    Thank you for that reminder today. I totally relate to Shadow. For me, everything makes sense on paper. Action is often where I fall short.

    Thanks Syd. Peace and Serenity,

  10. A painful and truthful post.

    I'm with you...setting those boundaries to never allow someone to use me or abuse me again.

    Thank you.

  11. I learned how to detach in alanon its a very useful tool
    My heart goes out to that lady and her son and I sure hope she can find a better way. I also hope her husband gets help what a powerful post, the reality of active alcoholism is horrid. I am so grateful to be clean and sober and have a program

  12. By your putting out the information, maybe one person will be able to make the decisions needed to better their life.

  13. You brought back the memories of what it was like when I lived with an active alcoholic for almost 20 years. Then I became one too - what a total mess that was - the poor children!

    Today, I choose not to be around active alcoholics unless I absolutely have to and then only for very short periods of time.

    I pray for them. I wish them well, but I spent too much of my life in that world of total chaos and don't have to ever do that again thanks to the programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.

  14. Oh I could never live thruough those days again. Odd, I lived in hell for 9 years with a physically abusive alcoholic, finally got away and then drank my way into alcoholism.

  15. Define codependent? Syd's old behavior. Wow. You have walked a road well traveled.

  16. I grew up with alcoholic verbal, physical abuse between my mother and stepdad. When I was 14 my mother blew my stepfathers brains out after an afternoon and evening of fighting and drinking. I swore I would never be violent or drink. Well, I drank. At 50 I hit my ex's new boyfriend and that was my moment of clarity. That was 1-19-1992 and I have not had a drink since. My sobriety date is 1-20-1992.

  17. Hi syd I was just thinking about my last few yrs drinking, to me it was just a blur filled with partial memories but Im still finding things out today that I did in blackout.
    I truly reckon we are possessed by earthbound spirits while drunk and these entities can be very evil.
    anyway gotta take my dad out today, got a day off and i think ill kill 2 birds and get lukes pressie from toys r us

  18. Reading your post today, and all of the replies you rec'd, I was struck with a deep feeling of gratitude. Last night in Al-Anon I shared how I am filled with a sense that something wonderful is going to happen, I get a chance to recover. I deserve it. Don't we all? Thank you Syd, and everyone who participates in stopping the madness.

  19. As always you have written very accurately about dysfunctional relationships that arise from alcoholism.
    In my case I was the alcoholic trying to cope with a partner who came from an alcoholic family (as did I so it's really complicated). His anger and rage were terrifying to me so I drank. Now that I am sober I am learning to let go of his problems as his problems and to see my part in all of it. Not easy but so much better than it was before.

  20. I have suffered from alcoholism and prescription drug addiction for 15 years. Now that I am clean I have published my story is a book called Constant Cravings: One Man’s True Story of His Struggle With Prescription Drug Addiction. My hope for this book is that it will help addicts and alcoholics and their families as much as writing it helped me.

    It is avaliable at

  21. The familiarity makes my stomach flop. Thank you for sharing.

  22. I am Merc3069, Mercedes from BookBitten. wow--reading all these comments on your post references my post.
    My husband came home yesterday. I have no idea how everything will turn out (he still faces a Jan. court date for the assault/battery charge), but I have to hope that this experience will the wake up call that it needs to be for hm to get the help he needs for the sake of my daughter.

  23. Ugh....that was my life as a child. Thus all of the effort to not live with that as an adult. Thanks for sharing Syd. Great post.

  24. Merc3069 has not posted on her blog since December 8th. I do hope she is safe.

    I chair a phone meeting and we talk about in the beginning statement that NO ONE HAS to ACCEPT VIOLENCE.

    I do hope she is alright.
    e. A Special Word to Anyone Confronted with Violence

    Al-Anon’s gentle process unfolds gradually, over time. But those of us facing violent, potentially life-threatening situations may have to make immediate choices to ensure safety for ourselves and our children. This may mean arranging for a safe house with a neighbor or friend, calling for police protection, or leaving money and an extra set of car keys where they can be collected at any time in case of emergency. It is not necessary to decide how to resolve the situation once and for all—only how to get out of harm’s way until this process of awareness, acceptance, and action can free us to make choices for ourselves that we can live with.

    Anyone who had been physically or sexually abused or even threatened may be terrified of taking any action at all. It can require every ounce of courage and faith to act decisively. But no one has to accept violence. No matter what seems to trigger the attack, we all deserve to be safe.


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