Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Staying or going?

Every time I read a blog post about how bad a living situation is and how much they hate their alcoholic spouse,  I feel this rush of anger and want to write: "Get help or get out".  It takes a few moments before I remember that I was one of those who felt trapped, lost and hopeless.  I stayed for years in the unmanageability of the disease.

There are as many scenarios for staying as there are for leaving.  We stay in so much pain because we don't feel that we deserve anything better.  And the pain we know is better than the pain that we aren't familiar with in the world away from alcoholism.  Staying is sometimes about hope--hoping for the one we love to get sober and be the person that we thought they once were.  Staying can be about fear--fear that things won't really be any different when we leave, knowing that the grass isn't always greener.  Fear of financial insecurity is another reason to stay--not having a place to go or any means to afford a separate life.  Staying can also be about commitment--not wanting to give up on a marriage or relationship even in the face of emotional and sometimes physical pain.

Leaving goes against the psyche of a co-dependent.  But at some point, people reach a limit to what they can stand.  If there are children involved, then a whole other dimension of complexity is added.  Remembering that alcoholism affects the entire family means that there will be repercussions for the children who are raised in an alcoholic home.  Those repercussions will echo throughout the lives of those affected by alcoholism.  Whether there is physical or emotional abuse, it is especially hard on children who stay in an alcoholic home.

Sticking with the pain is something that is foreign to me today.  I have seen the other side where there is joy and peace.  But I do understand the reasons for staying.  I am glad that we didn't give up on each other before the miracle of recovery happened.

What were your choices when it came to staying or going?

Choices are the hinges of destiny. ~ Pythagoras 


  1. Something that has crossed my mind is the ego based fear of leaving that says, "He/she won't stop drinking for me; I'll be damned if I leave and find out that he/she quit drinking for someone else." It's the niggling undercurrent of a thought that says maybe we weren't worth quitting for.

    We ultimately have to get to the point to where we wish to save our own lives regardless of what the alcoholic chooses to do.

  2. i am glad you did not give up as well...it is def at times easier to walk out than stick in and get the help

  3. The fact that you have each been in your own recovery must be a blessing. A huge one. Same here; hubby in his own recovery and me in my recovery. Of course, saying it makes it sound like it just automatically happens but it takes a lot of work to work on yourself and become a healthy individual who is healthy enough to be in a relationship.

  4. Once upon a time in an occupational setting I concluded that old-timers and long-timers of any kind are easily smug - dismissing, and forgetting, and being way beyond what they used to not know. I'm guilty, too. Remembering, as you did while reading, is essential to serving others well. When I read, I want and I look for gems of truth and I look for solutions to problems I relate to. Blog posts with unsettling or trying or unresolved issues don't give me that. Sometimes they give me what I need though: to be agitated, or to evolve to my own solutions rather than mere affirmation.

    "What were your choices when it came to staying or going?" Hm.

    The impossibility of staying in marriage or leaving it, either one, and crisis after crisis and finally 'breaking', eventually brought me to Alanon. As time unfolded I saw that my higher power had been doing his part which wasn't enough. He seemed to insist I could do my part better - it turns out - through Alanon. Alanon had what he wanted me to know. I recall telling my partner early on, in the spirit of fun and new confidence and challenge, that the dynamics between us are about to change. And they slowly are, incident by incident.

    I haven't decided to stay or leave yet. Nor has my partner. Even after so many years, it's too soon. I'm too young in Alanon recovery, and my partner is too far from AA recovery. But I'm not existing the way I was anymore either. I am gradually becoming more of a force on my own behalf. And kinder on others' behalf.

    A question raised at a recent meeting struck me. 'How do you want to live your life?' That clicked for me because I have fewer years left to live than I've lived already. A year or two ago I became afraid enough of regrets when the end of my life comes, that it motivates me.

  5. I stayed. It got better.

    But only after I took the kids and left. When he had to choose between alcohol and his family, he chose his family.

    I do wish I'd given the ultimatum years earlier.

    I empathize with everyone who stays, whatever their reasons.

  6. I stayed, and stayed, and stayed and went to Al-Anon and prayed and wrote and kept my butt in the seat. I was committed until I one day I looked into my daughter's eyes and saw fear as she watched her alcoholic father verbally abuse me. In that moment the decision to leave was made for me. Leaving was hard, I was fearful and there was a tremendous legal battle that ensued but in the end leaving was the best thing that I could have done for Kate and for me.

    He's still out there drowning in alcohol....

  7. This is such a tough topic. To stay or to go. Where is your crystal ball when you need it. I'm living with sobriety and life is good. The slips hurt, but I see light instead of darkness on the other side of them. This is one cunning and baffling disease. You always have a choice. If you go, you can always return if situations change. If you stay, you can always leave if situations change. Life isn't carved in stone, that's what a tombstone is for.

  8. I've let go of deciding that I know what choices other people should make.

  9. This is a difficult question for me since my daughter died from her alcoholism.

    If my boyfriend started drinking again (he's been sober 21+ years) he would be gone. No second chances because I can't do this again.

  10. Sometimes it is not up to us whether we stay or leave. Sometimes the other person just leaves and we have no choice in the matter.

  11. "What were your choices when it came to staying or going?"

    No choice, my qualifier committed suicide. So there is that.

    He did try recovery and when he was working a program, life was good. That is why I stuck it out, there was always hope. Until one day there wasn't.

    I just keep working my program of recovery.

  12. My fear? How will we eat, where will we live, how will I pay for doctors for my sick child, who will ever want a woman with 3 kids, what if he hunts me down and kills me, I do I sneak out, what if he kills himself....etc.

  13. Jeckyll is not an alcoholic, but I've stayed through the mental instability because I just loved him enough to stay. certainly a measure of co-dependence in there...but I'm so grateful I stayed because we are truly coming into our own lives right now and I haven't had to walk on eggshells in several years now. It's been worth the pain of the past.

  14. Good post Syd.

    There are some decisions that are sometimes harder than life itself.

    Maybe one day some computer genius can figure out the right way and right a program for all of us to answer that question. But how many "if/then" statements would it take?

  15. I'm grateful everyday that I do have choices. Today I chose to stay. This question use to be like poison to me. But with practice, majority of the time I hand it over to my HP and focus on appreciating the positive things in my life today. Not an easy feat. But if I dwell on this question, I drive myself insane and delve deeper into my own sickness. Grateful I have the program to work through each of these choices and find the courage to make a decision, no matter how small or big. Thank you for sharing, I needed to read this today.

  16. To Pammie: I posted on my blog. I started my comment on here then it kept getting longer and longer... http://muse-whoami.blogspot.com/2011/10/new-place.html

    Good luck!

  17. For me I didn't know better. I was emeshed in the co-dependant relationship. He breathed out an I breathed in. I was just as sick.

    Finding the program I was able to decide what was best for me in every situation.

    My alcoholic left me so I didn't have to make that choice. Since then I have made some better choices for myself. Good post.

  18. I've learned through Al-Anon that I have choices but I don't have to make them today. I can make decisions when my mind is "clear" instead of when it is "cluttered." I've stayed so long with my active drinking wife because I meant "for better or worse." Now, I can work on my own recovery and be confident in my decision to stay or go. I'll have serenity. The best advice given at my group meetings is "we're glad you are here. Keep coming back."

  19. Sadly, the "choice" that I made was no choice at all. It started with gambling, morphed into drinking, and ended in infidelity. And yet, I stayed. I filed for divorce as a bluff. I wanted him to realize that he was losing everything to these things. I wanted him to snap out of it and get help. It backfired. And yet, it didn't. I got out. I'm working to heal. I see things with more clarity. (And yet, I fight the co-dependent demon all of the time.)


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