I have finally finished the book that I have been developing for 3 years! It is a practical guide to living your life to the full while still living with an alcoholic loved one. By following the action plan, written exercises and advice which I followed, you too will find a better more fulfilling life, and as a result your loved one may find sobriety. It is thanks to the feedback I have got from all you who have visited this blog over the years that I have stuck at this project. So thank you and I hope you find it useful. A print version will soon be available.
(I have kept the price low, but if you can’t afford it, please let me know and I will send you a copy free of charge. )
Remember, you’re not alone – there’s lots of us in this ‘secret club’!
Sometimes we can become obsessed by other people’s problems and drama. By talking about it to others our own life problems seem trivial, ‘at least my life is not that bad.’ It also can give us comfort that other people’s lives are not perfect. We do this because we have a low opinion of ourselves. If you find yourself doing this stop and ask yourself and ask ‘what is going on with my life?’
When someone insults you, criticizes you or points out faults they believe you have, it can make you feel low and you can believe them. If someone tells you that you have two heads for long enough you could actually begin to believe it. If everyone you meet points out that you have two heads you should have a look in the mirror! What one person tells you may not be fact or correct, that is why it is important to reach out to others and explore the limiting beliefs one person has made you feel about yourself. By doing this we can shed these negative views we have of ourselves and start exploring the real us. When we have been treated with cruel words for years, it is easy for us to do the same to others. For a short period it can make us feel better about ourselves.
Other peoples limiting behavior does not mean we have to drop our standards. Learning to take responsibility does not only mean take responsibility for your actions but also your words. By changing this behavior you are forming another part of yourself that you can be proud of. This has a knock on effect because you start to feel good about yourself and people who feel genuinely good about themselves no longer feel the need to assault other people’s character, that includes our alcoholic partner.
This week my husband and I heard a radio interview with an Irish Comedian (Tommy Tiernan) He has been sober for 3 years and started having the odd pint now and then and is finding it ‘fine’ . He’s comfortable with it and so are his family. It sent shivers up our spines. That was us. That was our story.
When my husband got sober the first time he attended a few AA meetings and one of the stories he told me always stuck in my head. There was a man who had been sober for 25 years. He went on holiday with his family and had a drink and he was fine. His wife was delighted cause they could enjoy family events again together. He started to have the odd drink and realised he was different to others, he was cured. Two years later and he had to go through the whole painful act of getting sober again. He said he suddenly got worse han he ever had been.
My husband stayed sober for 3 years – he didn’t find it difficult. He was perfectly comfortable with people drinking around him and had no cravings. We went to family functions, parties, the pub together and he would just have a non alcoholic beer. Three years on and we went on a business trip where there was the best of drink available and free. He decided one wouldn’t do any harm – it didn’t. I was delighted he could drink normally. The comedian on the radio said it was his wife too that encouraged him to have a drink because he was boring without it.
My husband drank ‘normally’ again for two years. We came to the conclusion that he wasn’t really an alcoholic, he just had an excessive personality but he could control his drinking. His normal drinking became hot ports every night and then just straight port and wine. Still, it was fine – it was how he was ‘normally’.
Then I began to become more aware of his drinking it was getting earlier each evening, every evening. I said it to him that he should maybe just leave it to the weekends or when we were out. But he was fine, sure he wasn’t causing any harm. It went on. And then after nearly three years of ‘drinking normally’ our world seemed to suddenly collapse. It was like over night he became worse than he ever was – all the horrible memories came back to me of how he used to be and why he ahd to give up the first time, because we ewre suddenly reliving them – Except this time it was worse. I wondered how I had forgotten how bad it was (like childbirth we block out the pain and pretend it was really not that bad!). He stopped breathing twice during this time, he was suicidal and insane. Luckily we managed to get back on track and he got sober again, but not after alot of pain and hurt.
They say alcoholism is a progressive mental illness. So if the alcoholic starts drinking again it is only a matter of time that it picks up where it left off and progresses rapidly. To Tommy and his wife I truly hope your story does not the same, but my advise to you would be to turn back now, why risk it?
You want your alcoholic to take responsibility for their actions and stop their current behaviour that is wasting away their life, don’t you? However for you to be of assistance to them in this endeavour you need to apply the same formula to your own life.
You want them to stop behaving the way they do? Well to achieve this, you need to stop behaving the way you do and blaming them for your resulting unhappy life. If you don’t want to be a doormat then get up off the floor!
Your life path or your quality of life is not their fault or a result in their actions. It is a result of your reactions. This is the same in reverse; their drinking, quality of life or life choices are not a result of your actions. Their drinking is not your fault, their actions are not your fault, their quality of life is not your fault. They are an adult and they are responsible for their day to day life choices. The same as you are responsible for your day to day life choices.
Look at your partner’s life… think about how they are wasting precious days of their life. Now think about your own life, how many days recently have you spent looking after your own dreams and happiness? If the answer is none, then those days that you just existed or existed to deal with the results of their addiction were also wasted.
You don’t have to do anything drastic – just small steps. For instance this week why not take time out to meet a friend for a few hours or to go to an al anon meeting without letting your mind race about what your partner might be doing while you are out, without worrying if they will be drunk or sober when you get back. Without feeling you have to get back home to ‘control’ their behavior. Turn off your phone so they can’t harass you with calls and don’t call them to check on them. They are an adult, you are an adult! The first few times you do this, you probably won’t be able to focus on relaxing and being you, but with practice you will learn that they coped without you.
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.