I received a comment from a reader about difficulties and trust issues with his wife who is alcoholic. He wrote:
"My spouse is an alcoholic ... she blames her drinking on me. She calls me controlling because I ask her where she's going or what she's doing ... or that I don't like to give her cash.
She calls me insecure because I don't always trust her ...
It seems our lives are great 99% of the time and 1% destroys all the good.
I feel like she'd rather drink then be in this relationship ... help."
I can remember for many years how I stayed silent in misery, convinced that no one else could possibly have the misery in their life like I did.
It didn't matter that most of the days were good ones. I could really only see the times when things didn't turn out the way that I wanted them to be. Or the times that I was let down. I had built up a lot of resentment that tended to overshadow all that was good.
The help that I needed didn't come for many years, until the resentment had nearly consumed me. I didn't have any trust when it came to our relationship. I had been lied to so many times. I wanted to put an end to my misery but had no idea how to do that.
Finally, a friend who knew what was going on told me that I needed to go to Al- Anon. He said that it would make a big difference in my life. He also said that I would have a better understanding of the disease of alcoholism and what it had done to me.
So I am saying to any one out there who feels as if their relationship with another is being ruined by alcoholism, go to an Al- Anon meeting. Give it a try for at least six meetings. See if you don't hear your story told in those meetings.
And you will likely hear about something called the Three C's. This little slogan means that with alcoholism "I didn't cause it, I can't control it, and I can't cure it". This tells me that I'm not responsible for someone else's drinking. And I cannot stop them from drinking.
What I had to learn to do was address my own issues of trying to "fix" another person and make her well. Some of these issues that I had as a result of my being around alcoholism were very self-destructive. The controlling behavior, the anger, sadness and fear made life miserable.
What I've come to learn through Al-Anon, is that the alcoholics in my life don't drink because of me. They drink because they are alcoholics. Nothing that I can say or do will change that. Instead I have learned to work on myself and to take care of myself. When I do that, then I can begin to recover from the effect that the disease has had on me.
The first part of the Three C's is that I didn't cause my loved one's alcoholism. Nothing I did caused the alcoholic to drink. The drinking started many years before I even knew the alcoholics in my life. What I heard from my wife was a lot of blame thrown at me for just being me. It's not unusual for alcoholics to cast blame on the people who are closest to them. This is simply an attempt to justify the drinking. By accepting that I didn't cause alcoholism, I am relieved of guilt that I could have done things differently in my marriage. I learned that no matter what I would have done, nothing would have been different for the alcoholic. It's an illness/disease that caused the problem, not me.
Learning that you can't control your loved one's behavior is another crucial part of recovery. You can share your thoughts and feelings with an alcoholic. You can even impose certain consequences if your loved one drinks. But the decision to seek recovery is one that only your loved one can make. For some, this means watching a descent into the abyss. I had to learn to detach and no longer manipulate situations so that the alcoholic would't drink.
The final part of the Three C's is understanding that I can't cure my loved one's alcoholism. There is no cure for alcoholism. Alcoholics may fully recover from alcoholism, but there is no treatment that allows alcoholics to return to moderate drinking. Although it's best for an alcoholic to completely abstain from alcohol, the decision to abstain rests with the alcoholic, not me. By not being able to cure alcoholism, I don't need to repeat all the same old things over and over hoping to find a solution. There is no magic cure I can provide. I've learned that I don't need to exhaust myself hoping that the "last ditch" effort will make the drinking stop. I know now that the best help an alcoholic can get is from another recovered alcoholic.
Remembering these three points has allowed me to respond to an alcoholic's behavior by taking care of myself rather than reacting based on anxiety or resentment. If I start feeling anger, fear and resentment, then I will take the steps necessary to stop my destructive thoughts and get back into myself. This may involve leaving for a while, calling my sponsor, going to do something that I want to do or a host of other things that will get the focus off the alcoholic and onto me. And this is the essence of detaching with love.
I hope that you find the help that you need so that the 1% doesn't destroy all the good that life offers.