I had a really good weekend and even decided to stay on the boat last night as well. It was very relaxing. We laughed, talked about a lot of things, and slept soundly both on the boat and at home. I really like these weekend getaways that we have. It really provides some much needed time for intimacy and communication.
It was meant to be that tonight's meeting topic was on communication. Communication can really deteriorate in relationships with an alcoholic. I can remember when I thought that she was funny and sexy during the drinking days of our courtship. But eventually, the blush on that rose wore off, and I saw that her drunken conversations were a source of embarrassment for me, especially at social gatherings. There was a lot of sarcasm and thinly disguised anger from me.
Over the last few years in Al-Anon, I have come to understand how destructive our old way of communicating was: I used to badger and manipulate to get my point across and get my way. I tried arguing which was a failure especially when the alcoholic is drunk. I think that I wanted to pick a fight. Not a single thing was accomplished by my getting angry, hostile or being a martyr.
Now, I realize that she is an individual in her own right with her own ideas. I don't need to tell her what to do or how to run her life. She has a program and her own Higher Power. I cannot be either to her. So I treat her and most people I encounter with the courtesy they deserve. Reading about how we communicate from the Al-Anon book, The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage, has helped me to understand a lot better just how destructive alcoholism is with communicating.
I can speak my truth without condemning the other person. By tiptoeing around a situation and keeping silent, I am making it seem that I agree. I have learned that it is important for me to talk about what I want and what my needs are. I have a right to an opinion today and can express myself without fearing some kind of reprisal. We may not agree but I am not afraid to speak up. If we disagree, then that is okay because I have learned to be courteous and not take things personally.
Strange and very typical that I had no trouble speaking up when she had been drinking. I had lots to say then. And the next morning, I could play the hostile martyr role well. Thankfully, I know not to harbor resentments or dump my feelings on another. This is especially hard for the alcoholic because my feelings can often overwhelm her. No one can handle my emotions and feelings. That was an unrealistic expectation that I had of my partner being able to take care of my emotions.
Our life today is much less closed than before recovery. We are patient with each other, we tell each other how much we love each other every day, I know that she is the same person that I fell in love with years ago. We both are evolving to explore new ways to communicate. And as I find out more definitively who I am, I am also finding that love and closeness we had at the start. I do not have to allow this disease to take that from me. I can choose to control how I think and act and talk, I can choose to be the loving person I was. And I find in doing so, I am getting better and we are getting better together.
"You know that no improvement can be accomplished unless we're consistent. If we haven't the courage to speak up when the drinker is in a sober phase, he'll just go on believing that there's no limit to what we can tolerate. But we have to know what we think before we can say it convincingly. We can't just bury it and hide our heads under a blanket of hope. Our husbands have a right to know what we expect from them. It's up to them to decide whether or not they want to live up to our expectations. Not letting them know how we feel is dishonest. It's just another way of pretending we accept the situation when we don't. It's a cop-out. If we want the alcoholic to face reality, we must face it first, and not be afraid to share our feelings. "
from The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage