When you have an alcoholic spouse, Christmas or any other occasion can fill you with dread rather than joy. You dread being invited to work parties that you ‘must’ attend as you fear your partner will get drunk and then behave badly – co workers laugh it off as once off behaviour but little do they know that you are cringing inside as this is the behaviour you put up with on a regular basis. Or else you turn down invitations when you’d prefer to be socializing and celebrating the season and all because of that risk of the embarrassment or behaviour you expect your alcoholic partner to cause. My alcoholic husband wasn’t much into socializing, he was a home drinker. He liked to drink alone and not have his drinking interrupted by visitors. Even so Christmas gave him licence to fill shopping trollies full of booze because ‘it’s Christmas and people will be calling in’. My husband didn’t like to go to parties, friend’s houses or anywhere away from the home in the evening – he would much rather ‘relax’ at home. Why? Because he couldn’t drink the same amount elsewhere, the measures were too small or he would say he couldn’t enjoy a drink because he had to drive. This excuse wouldn’t stop him drinking at home and driving afterwards but it was a good excuse not to go socializing with me. The few times he did go out with me, he would have a soft drink and then would start hinting that we needed to go – it was getting late and who ever was minding our children would be tired, or he forgot to feed the dog or whatever – it wasn’t because he had a bottle of vodka or whiskey waiting to be drunk on the kitchen counter.
How did I cope? I usually went to parties, weddings, etc. alone. Though it wouldn’t have been my first choice to attend alone and I often longed to have my husband with me when other couples would be laughing or dancing together. When I had first envisioned what my life with this man would be like, I hadn’t suspected I’d be dreading Christmas and attending parties on my own. But then, I had never suspected my life would one day be so changed and sculpted by my husband’s alcoholism.
Now that he is sober we are starting to socialize more together – friends come over and we go with the kids to friends houses. For the first time in 11 years we are hiring in a babysitter tonight so we can go out together! We are going to my work Christmas dinner and for the first time I feel relaxed in his company while out with friends – but I will still keep my own independent social life that I have built over the years. Why? because I enjoy it now and it is important to me to keep the independence I have spent so long building.
To all of you still living with an active drinker my heart goes out to you, but keep in mind there can be light at the end of the tunnel and things can work out.
If the alcoholic you are living with is phsyically abusive, get out. Put the kids and your essential belongings in the car, and go. Violence always gets worse and you should not tolerate any adult being violent towards you or your children. Violence never subsides. Once you’re on the roller coaster of physical abuse, it is very tough to get off. Fortunately my husband was never physically violent towards me. My sister was towards me and my mother and that is when I drew the line with her – I would no longer visit her when she was drunk. However deciding not to visit is a lot easier than deciding to leave your home but you must. Saying that you are staying for your children’s sake is a load of rubbish. Watching a parent being beaten or living in fear of being beaten is a lot more damaging to a child than living in temporary accommodation with one loving parent.
You may have come to believe there is nothing out there for you; that you are undesirable and unworthy, and deserving of the abuse. you may feel to blame for the person’s drinking – you are not. They are the adult and it is them who decides to put the bottle to their lips.
If the alcoholic raises his or her hand to you, they will do it again, and harder the next time. Don’t kid yourself. Forget your pride or forget believing in empty promises made when sober that it won’t happen again. GET OUT NOW. It will be hard at first but better in the long run.
The constant disappointments are hard when living with an alcoholic. You can never make plans because you don’t know if he will decide to drink. Sometimes they invent a row so that they have an excuse to opt out of the plans and drink instead. One thing I did while I was dealing with active addiction was to always have a Plan B, plan C and sometimes even a plan D! That way if his drinking interfered with our plans, I always had a back up plan. His drinking made me very independent as I had my own circle of friends who I went out with. For years I lived with him but very rarely socialised with him. Why did I stay? We had great times together in the past and I knew that under the alcoholic mask lay the beautiful man I fell in love with. I tried to control him and his drinking but it didn’t work, as the saying goes – you can not control other people, places or things, you can only control your own life. I’ve applied this to every situation in life I come up against and it takes alot of burden from your shoulders when you stop trying to control things outside your control!
One thing that helped me was to get involved with Al-Anon meetings. You get to meet people who understand what you’re struggling with to call on. They can recommend books to read that can guide you through tough situations and help you grow as a person. You get to learn to take care of you, and not suffer the results of the alcoholics choices. To locate a meeting http://www.al-anon-alateen.org click on “Find a Meeting.”
It will take you to local sites that list meeting schedules.
Decide to take steps to feel good again. Remember feeling good? Relaxed? Not on edge? What you’ll find fascinating, is your reactions to verbal abuse and disapointment change. It’s as if, the more you learn and concentrate on becoming the person YOU want to be, the less upset you’ll be about impending bad behaviour, and it gets easier and easier to blow off. I came to the conclusion that I could have a satisfactory life without my alcoholic partner meeting any of my expectations and I stopped feeling the need to treat him badly or like a child anymore. By developing yourself and growing stronger on the inside you will be more ready to decide to stay with him/her and you will no longer feel miserable as you will be in charge of your own life. Sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of all the things you want to achieve in life (EVERYTHING no matter how strange or unlikely!) Read it aloud once in the morning and once before you go to sleep at night. Concentrate on it. Without any other effort you will find subtle changes happening in your life which lead you to fulfil your goals. It works – try it!