Years ago, early in our marriage, he was simply a sleepy drunk—falling asleep on the couch each night, as the children and I lived our lives around him. Over the years, he became demanding, progressively less easily pleased, and his anger moved from one member of the family to another.
The children used to scuttle to their rooms when they heard “Daddy’s home.” I would stand between my children and their father. I knew he loved them, but they grew up without ever seeing him display that love.
As the years went by, his relationship with his children grew more strained and my patience grew thin. Because of my upbringing, my self-esteem was not strong enough for me to feel comfortable leaving our main provider. I always wondered if half a father was better than none. My goal was to stay long enough to get my youngest out of high school; then I would be able to leave and make my way on my own.
I was unable to meet my goal. His drinking began to start earlier and earlier in the day. He became more obnoxious after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated and put on probation. The children and I began to talk about divorce. My husband would come to me over and over, sometimes every 10 to 20 minutes, telling me I needed to decide what I wanted to do about separating so we could go on with our lives. This was terribly distressing to my children and me.
My husband’s health was suffering under the weight of his drinking. His doctor was concerned. My husband began talking about his death. I was just trying to hold on until he passed away, which I felt was not far away.
I found a new Al‑Anon group and went, loaded with tissues and tears. I came in crying and found, literally, open arms to comfort me. I spent my first meeting bawling my head off while the meeting went on around me. I received my list of phone numbers, thank goodness, for things came to a head at my daughter’s twentieth birthday celebration that very week.
My husband decided to invite his friends to her party, and of course, these friends were his drinking buddies. My daughter spent her birthday in tears, as my husband proclaimed to all who could hear him that he was staying and I, his wife, could move out if I didn’t like it. I spent hours on the phone that night with those phone numbers in my hand, clutching at those lifelines, as if I were drowning. My next meeting was not much better, but by the third meeting, I was finding some equilibrium. Both
of my children began their own programs.
The members of my Al‑Anon group suggested that I not make any major decisions for at least a year. I laughed inside, knowing that I could never make it that long, that my despair would not lessen since my husband would never improve. However, I found the first Three Steps incredibly liberating and began to read my literature.
My husband resisted at first; his anger increasing with my changes. Then suddenly, as I began to focus on me, he realized that I was no longer trying to control him and began to change. It took him about six months before he decided to try A.A. He was sober for two wonderful months and then began drinking again. After two weeks of continuous drinking, he decided to stay sober for one day because he was feeling so poorly. That night he told me he would try again.
Whether or not my husband stays sober is no longer as much a concern as it was. I am still trying to work my program. I pray he is successful at taming the monster that has controlled him for so long.
When sober, he was able to begin rebuilding his relationships. I would love nothing more than for my children to not only love their father, but to respect him and be able to talk to him. We are learning how to live with alcoholism and taking our future “One Day at a Time.”
The Forum, May 2014