I thought that she was the problem. I blamed her for the fact that the world was falling apart around me, while she was drinking and seemingly having a good time. I eventually realized that she was also miserable. We both were.
Now, in sobriety and with me getting much further along in my Al-Anon recovery, we are able to work together and not at cross-purposes. The last few weeks (it seems much longer) have been a strain on us, yet we are not angry with each other or with anyone else. We both long for some carefree days without wondering what is happening with the parents. But we know that being carefree will happen again eventually, even if in snatched moments. Life is seldom carefree.
I can look back over our years together and see that not all of the problems between us are a result of her alcoholism. These are life long habits that we acquired long before drinking came along. I don't know if we ever really communicated well. I realize now that there was always tension, a wariness between us. I was up tight. She was up tight. There was an impasse and walls that were hard to break down. Thankfully, we have learned to have mutual respect for each others individuality and mutual concern for our well being.
There is a lot that I have learned about how to be a true partner and friend by sticking around the rooms of Al-Anon long enough for the miracle to happen. I got the message by listening and hearing the solutions of others, by applying the steps and traditions in my life, and by reading Al-Anon literature. The following are really simple matters of respect but are often forgotten when dealing with alcoholism that seems to poison relationships:
1. discuss things without attacking or blaming
2. speak in a reasonable tone and not in a demanding, angry way
3. stick to the subject
4. listen to what she has to say
5. don’t make demands or threats
Over the last few weeks, we have been tested by stress and anxiety. Yet, we have managed to listen to each other and to not keep our feelings bottled up. I'm not pretending to like something when I don't. That approval seeking behavior of always agreeing means that I have outsourced my peace and serenity. If I want to be a true partner, then I must face reality and not be afraid to share my feelings in a loving, respectful manner. We can say what we mean only if we have the courage to be honest with ourselves. We’ve got to know first why we are saying it. And this brings the focus back to me.
“Respect for each others uniqueness requires a willingness to accept in another what may not measure up to our own standards and expectations. This loving willingness requires a measure of self-esteem, an awareness of our own good qualities.” The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage