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When it's not just his problem

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Some of you may already know that I am married to an alcoholic. I've been attending Al Anon meetings, and he's been irregularly going to AA.

The journey to recovery has been SO difficult for us; far harder than I ever dreamed it would be. If you'd spoken to me just a month about my husband alcoholism, I would have waved you off and said "Yeah, he's an alcoholic, but he's not that bad."

Oh my, how deluded I was.

In just a few short weeks, things spiralled out of control into a mess of lying, stealing, and stress, and I found myself reeling from some realizations I didn't want anything to do with.

There has been a great deal of progress in our lives, though. He's really fighting hard to beat this, and I'm fighting alongside him. We're trying to really learn from our respective 12 step programs, and apply them to more than just his alcoholism. I told myself for a long time that his alcoholism was his problem, not mine. But anyone who is married knows, there's no such thing as a problem for just one spouse. You're a linked unit, two souls made one, and what hurts one hurts the other.

There are days I am very, very unhappy in my marriage. I contemplate the unthinkable often (divorce, since I'm not one to mince words.) But I realize that this isn't something you just throw out and start over. As long as he is willing to keep trying, I refuse to abandon him because of my selfish desires to not have to deal with it anymore.

I don't know where we'll be in 10 years, or even just 5. I'm trying to improve my life, and he is too, though I will admit that i'm an impatient woman and wish he'd try harder. Not just with the alcoholism (honestly, he's made an amazing amount of progress there) but his overall health. I'm desperately afraid he's killing himself slowly through sloth, gluttony, and neglect, and I'm honestly not entirely sure it's not on purpose. He's gained a lot of weight (he's hit 250 now, he's always been a tall, super-slender guy... a more normal weight for him would be 180-190), his activity level has plummeted (he's stopped helping around the house almost entirely) and overall, there's a lot of warning signs with regards to his health that terrify me.

But I can't make him take this journey. He has to be ready to change, and he knows that I know how to help him, when he's ready. Me nagging isn't going to improve matters.

What I have to do is what I've learned in Al Anon. I have to take care of myself, first. I can't help him if I'm in no condition to take care of myself, you know? So I focus on getting fitter, healthier, smarter, happier, and maybe he'll come along. He is making changes; he doesn't insist on white bread anymore, and he doesn't even complain when I buy him 2% milk instead of his usual whole milk. ;)

I want him to progress faster, but this isn't just my problem. It's his, too. He has to do this on his own.

And I'll keep fighting for him. With him. Because if I give up, I am going to be miserable, and so will he.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I saw a good video the other night where the wife of an addict said "one day I finally realized it wasn't about me vs. him. It was about the addiction vs. us." Or something like that. Some folks do get divorced. Some don't. Some don't and later do, as they make their journey. Some separate and get back together.

    At the hazard of being preachy, I could share a story in the Book of Mormon about a group of people who make some bad choices and wind up in captivity. They escape, but in the process of their captors chasing them, an innocent party is captured and enslaved. I thought this was an interesting analogy to coaddiction, and why we need the 12 steps to liberate us as much as the addicts do. I don't know that there's really a lot more to the story than that. I guess they pray for relief, and while they are waiting on deliverance, their burdens are lightened. Oh, and because of the escape of the original slaves, the captors are more harsh and vigilant with the innocent ones.
    2121 days ago
    I came across your page just today, and your journey and your strength amaze me! I can't help but SparkFriend you so I can both watch you as you carry onward and use you as motivation to propel me onward on my own journey.
    As a side note to this particular blog, dealing with the troubling (and dangerous) habits of those we love is a tricky and dangerous slope. For some of my own "self help" purposes with loved ones, I've found help (albeit not cures, mind you, just help) in a couple of good books: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage by Amy Sutherland. Again, you can't fix them, just offer them your strength and love and the opportunity to better themselves.
    emoticon emoticon
    2130 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/19/2013 11:31:54 AM
  • AMBERT27
    All you can do is take it one day at a time but you seem to be in a really good mind set about it. Thoughts to you. emoticon
    2131 days ago
    Al-Anon is great. You are learning coping skills that will help you not only with your marriage but eventually in many other parts of your life.

    If you'd like some blogs to read send me a message. I can recommend a few that are quite good.

    You really can't focus on his progress. That is something you will learn in Al-Anon too. You need to focus on yourself and learn to mind your own business. Not an easy thing to do, especially when you are married.

    I am not going to meetings at the moment, but I went to my first Al-Anon meeting 24 years ago.

    Best of luck to you both.
    2131 days ago
    Keep strong on your road! My husband is 2.5 months sober so I can relate. My advise would be to truly know your limits with his condition and behaviour. It wasn't u til I was clear to myself and him about my limits and expectations that he truly woke up and made serious lasting changes. My suggestion is only based on my experience and no one knows your situation but you. Good luck! emoticon
    2132 days ago
    Eesh. You're traveling a mighty tough road but you are spot on in your assessment by taking good care of yourself. Keep strong!

    2132 days ago
    My prayers are with you guys. Stay strong and keep the faith.
    2132 days ago
    emoticon Keep taking care of yourself emoticon
    2132 days ago
  • AUNTB63
    My heart goes out to you and your family. Will say extra prayers for strength to get through this. emoticon
    2132 days ago
    So sorry you are going through this. I had a relationship with an alcoholic a long time ago, and it was one of the most painful and difficult times in my life. But I wasn't married to him, so I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be for you. It sounds very much like he has dug a hole of depression for himself, and doesn't yet have the motivation or desire to climb back out. The hardest part of being involved with someone like this is they drag you down with them, and any attempt you make to keep them from falling only keeps them the same. Best wishes for you both and hope for the best in navigating this tricky path.
    2132 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/17/2013 4:03:08 PM
    Use every support mechanism and person available. Take care of you and hopefully the rest will follow. Including your loved one.
    2132 days ago
    I think you may have been saying "he's not that bad" as a coping mechanism. You have so much you're dealing with that you might not have really wanted to face this issue also. When things happened to bring the issue to the top of the pile it was time to face it head on, as you are now doing. Nothing anyone can do can force him to change (short of putting him into a care facility that will dictate his actions), but you can put yourself and your kids first and hope he will take the example and run with it. He has a lot he needs to face up to and deal with (not only the drinking but potentially what has lead to his alcohol abuse) and if he's not ready, he's going to fight it. In the meantime, there's a line between not forcing him to change and enabling his bad behavior. That's a line that you and your closest support systems can figure out, but I think you're starting to find it.

    Keep reaching out for support to help you through this. I admire your strength to stick with him and not 'give up' with a divorce. After all, a divorce can be expensive and take significant time, and you can make that choice at any point down the road if you feel it becomes the best option. But once it's over it's even harder to get back together if you decided to get back together. I think it shows what a great heart you have that you are not only putting the effort out for yourself but for your husband and kids to try to do best for all. That's admirable.
    2132 days ago
  • 123ELAINE456
    Keep going to Al Alon and take care of Yourself first. I had a Alcolhlic Boy Friend so I understand what you are going through. Do you have any children? If so they shold be going to the meetings for children or teens. You can do it. Keep pushing forward. We are here for You. God Blessings to Everyone. Have a Great Day. hugs!!!!!!!!!!!!
    2132 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    oh, BTDT & had to sell the t-shirt to pay for the divorce. My situation was a bit different: no children, AND he was still denying that he had a drinking problem. HE wanted the divorce, I was willing to keep trying to fix things.

    Have you ever seen the movie "When A Man Loves A Woman"? I highly recommend it to anyone dealing with an alcoholic. Everything Meg Ryan says in that movie, XH said. That movie really made it crystal clear that alcoholics pretty much all make the same promises & excuses, lay the same blames, and are really good at making you feel like YOU are the problem - not them!

    sorry you and your family are dealing with this.
    emoticon for all of you
    2132 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/17/2013 12:29:29 PM
    Thank you for sharing something very intimate and personal. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your husband. I can't completely imagine what you are going through. If you need something, I'd love to help. Don't know if I can, but I will try!
    2132 days ago
    You're dealing with a heavy load.... I'll be praying for you and hoping that your strength and improved health enable you to do the hard work ahead! Courage, fellow Sparker!
    2132 days ago
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