Here is an email I received from a lady who is married to a recovering alcoholic. She gave me permission to share this:
I've recently found your blog while searching for any answer, message, etc to get me to a somewhat peaceful space. I'm grateful to read your good words....I suddenly felt a glimpse of hope & comfort I haven't felt in a very long time.
I've been married to an alcoholic over 20 years. He quit drinking soon after we were married. He works what seems to be a good program, has worked the steps and now has a few sponsees he takes through the steps. We have great kids, have had good success in business (as well as major setbacks), live in a nice suburb and are very involved in our community. The outside is a pretty peachy picture...one that I've always wanted. So why am I so unhappy?
I was instantly drawn to my husband when we met. He was handsome, charming, successful, strong, witty & confident. He was also very social & liked to drink. When we first started dating it seemed ok, even fun, since I also enjoyed one or two on a night out. As we spent more time together I began to notice his drinking was more like a first year frat boy. I confided this to my best friend "He's great! My only concern is that he drinks more than I'm used to" her response, "I don't think you have anything to worry about. He's mainly a social drinker, which is normal. He never gets out of hand". Ok, so it's normal. Nothing to worry about. I can accept that. After all, everything else about him seemed so amazing!
A few minor things would come up that made me feel uncomfortable. He was very controlling, almost paranoid, about wanting to keep our relationship secret. He yelled at me once for parking my car in front of his house and made me move it to the back - out of site. I didn't like that, so I left. He called and apologized so I saw him the next day. Another time his dog got out the front door. I dashed out to try & get the dog and was yelled at to get back in the house and shut the door. He was angry. "What if someone sees you?!!" Ok, so what if someone sees me? We worked together, so his reason is that he felt he would be fired if management knew we were seeing each other since he was my supervisor (they had no such policy). The underlying message: If he were fired, it would be all my fault. That's the first time "I" took on the responsibility of "his" wellbeing. I took it willingly.....I was in love with this man.
As our relationship progressed I became increasingly unhappy. I started looking for a magic answer to fix things. Not only "what could I do to make/keep him happy" but "what could I do to prevent his anger". Each life change during our relationship gave me hope. Moving out of state, getting engaged, moving back, getting married.....none of these seemed to "do it". I mercilessly blamed myself. If only I were stronger, more patient, more educated, outgoing, etc. etc. Only once a thought crossed my mind that alcohol might be the problem. This was dismissed by well meaning friends. After many nights lying in alone bed while he was passed out on the couch, I was paralyzed with the thought of having to walk away. We were newlyweds. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
One time he had to travel out of town for business. He planned to stay with nearby family members, who happen to be sober and in AA. He opened a bottle of wine the night before his flight and joked, "Guess I'll be dry for a week. They gave me one condition. No drinking during my stay". Three days into the trip, I get a phone call. His family & friends invited him to their home group meeting. He made a choice to get sober. Wow! I listened to his words. I think that was the first sincere conversation we've had. He was scared. I was happy and also scared (or scared to be happy?)
I immediately set out to learn as much as I could about alcoholism, AA, & the steps. If he was starting this journey I wanted to be right there with him to help - as his loving, supportive, nurturing wife. I started having hope again.
Once home, he tried a few meetings & I even went with him to some open meetings. He listened to the speakers. He quickly learned the lingo & slogans. A friend gave him a Big Book. His brother (who had always been cold & distant to us) was so proud and welcomed him back into his life. Being accepted by his brother was huge. He set out to be the perfect student of the program. Hope soon turned to confusion. Things weren't magical like I wished. Anger, frustration, & depression was magnified. I was advised to be patient (haha, patience is my middle name!) I can do that.
Fast forward to today. I'm coming up on a milestone birthday. Our children will be on their own soon. I've had joy in these years. But the pain, suffering and confusion hasn't gotten any better since the beginning. I don't know who I am or what I like anymore. I feel guilty for feeling this way. My husband has managed to stay sober all these years by being involved in AA, but I feel only his sponsees and program friends get to see the best of him. Maybe because as long as I take his blame, he will continue to give it to me. When I want to talk about these feelings he says I'm blaming him for my problems. Then he presents his list: He's stayed sober, works his program, completed anger management, gone to counseling, works hard & is successful at his job. He's done all of these things so I shouldn't complain. My head spins. I beat myself up for my messed up feelings. I feel he is right. They're my issues and I need to figure it out on my own. I cry alone often. I daydream of what life would be like on my own, then cry again for the loss of my marriage, damage to my kids, and the picture that I have of us happily growing old together. Now we walk around the same house and don't talk about feelings. I'm full of sadness & resentments.
Too many years of this. I think I'm finally tired. I don't know what my future will look like. For the first time I realize there is nothing I can do about him (or anyone else). I need to take care of me. I called a trusted friend who is working the steps in Al Anon and he suggested a women's meeting I might start with. I'm going tonight. I'm scared but sensing a glimpse of peace.
Didn't set out to be so long winded...this is the first time I've shared this in detail. Reading your blog has given me clarity. Thanks for listening.
I understand your story. I've lived it also. And you have hit upon the thing that will help--focusing on what brings you joy and taking care of yourself. Living with an alcoholic, no matter what stage of recovery, can be a challenge. That's why I know that Al-Anon is a life long program for me. I simply need it and can tell when I have been away from a meeting for too long.
I hope that you will continue to work on your recovery from the effects of alcoholism. It can be lonely living with an alcoholic. I realize that most of my life, I focused on the alcoholics and not on myself. Now I am no longer doing that. It takes a while for the message to get through to those we love that they are no longer going to be the center of the universe. In my marriage, this has helped us to become closer because I am not having the constant expectations that bred resentment. We talk and share things but can be content with just quietly being together. I am not looking for her to provide me happiness. That is too much to expect from anyone.
Best wishes to you on going to a meeting and working on your own life.