DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert. I am not a doctor, recovery counselor, therapist, official representative of the Al Anon (friends and family of alcoholics) program or an alcoholic myself. I am simply a wife who loves her husband but who despises the disease from which he suffers. This blog is an online journal of sorts, cathartic in nature but also seeks to inform others by exposing my own personal daily ups and downs of living with active alcoholism.
I am married to an alcoholic. A functioning alcoholic is still an alcoholic - I know this. And I know that some people resent this label, as if adding the word "functioning" somehow makes these alcoholics better than other alcoholics. All it means, for me anyway, is that my husband can continue to keep drinking without "seeming" that he has a problem to himself or those around him, especially as he is successful for his age, pays our bills (maybe not on time, but they get paid), and we are not wanting for anything material.
Here is the list of how things are a little different than what people may expect:
He has not been arrested for a DUI (oh the times he's been pulled over and I hoped he would).
He has not lost a job because of his drinking (on the contrary, he is getting ahead with each new job).
I have never had to call in sick for him at his job or answer calls from his employer wondering where he is.
I have not had to call bars asking around trying to find him.
He is not constantly falling-down drunk, or even obviously drunk, to anyone (other than my now-trained eye) who would look at him.
He is not the "typical drunk" that some of us think of who ends up penniless, homeless, or in jail. His consequences are less visible, but I know them all too well.
How do I know he is an alcoholic? When I first published this blog, I wanted the title to include "(?)" after the word "Alcoholic." It felt wrong of me to diagnose him as something that he himself denies being. It has taken me a lot of pain, many Al Anon meetings, and a few figurative knocks to the head to realize that my husband is very likely an alcoholic. After all, reading the literature on alcoholism did not draw a lot of similarities to my situation, and I found it difficult to relate.
If someone were to ask me "How is your husband's drinking a problem?" I would struggle with an answer that made sense to most people, though sadly it is coming into focus.
My husband is a professional; we are both college graduates. He is very intelligent, though he may not admit this himself, and provides well for us. I love him very much. I feel he is fading away faster than I can grasp at him; truly I miss who he used to be. We do not have children, and have been married for a few years, though together for much longer. The last few years have been an absolutely "Why are you still here?" kind of insane at times. We have moved twice in the last two years, and may be moving again soon, all times due to him changing jobs.
Though my husband is an ACA (adult child of an alcoholic), and though the disease is in his other family members and extended family, and though he would occasionally tell me "I think I'm done drinking for a while", and though he has always drank as far as I can remember, I didn't truly know he had a problem until just last year. I was used to buying a bottle of wine a night for some time, and later it became two. His moods were erratic and frighteningly changeable - "Jekyll & Hyde" I would explain, frustrated and frantic, to loved ones who had heard about it too many times already.
Going through various Wikipedia articles on mental illness, I tried desperately to understand where he was coming from and explain how he was so easily enraged, where his "communication style" originated, but nothing seemed to fit - Bipolar didn't work because he was never "manic" or anywhere approaching ecstatic; indeed his moods are usually "Okay" or "Watch out." The closest it came was to Borderline Personality Disorder, but he wasn't clingy and didn't beg me not to leave him - typically he was the one telling me to get out, that he wanted a divorce, that he hated me, etc. (I should note here that I have learned that mental illness can occur with addiction, but I also eventually learned that it was a waste of time to try to "figure it out.")
So here we are. Two things lead me to start this blog:
One, it is therapeutic for me to say to strangers anonymously what I often times do not discuss in meetings, as Al Anon meetings are about ourselves. But, though I do intend to show my experience and feelings, I do not mean to abuse this forum as a place to merely complain, be stuck in the problem or focus solely on my husband without offering any strength or hope - I have done enough of that in my early recovery and it is a struggle each day to fight that impulse. It's not fair to me, my husband or anyone reading this looking for a glimmer of hope for their own recovery.
Two, because I could not find many resources such as this online, I wanted to have something out there that illustrates to others from a personal perspective that yes, alcoholism can be a problem in your relationship even without a financial or legal consequence.
It creates a distance, puts up a wall. It ruins things, hurts people, and can consume you. In short it just plain sucks.
This blog will be completely anonymous on my part, which I feel makes my story more relatable as surely it is the story of many spouses of alcoholics, but I intend to also honor and protect the anonymity of my husband. I am in my early 30's, and am currently unemployed. I attend Al Anon meetings regularly, meet with my sponsor and work on the 12 steps. Currently I am working through Step 4, "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."
I will say this - Al Anon has saved my life. What the program teaches may be common sense to people who don't have experience with addiction or didn't grow up in dysfunction or addiction. But for me, it just saved my life and showed me what I could do to help my situation. It helps me focus on ME instead of the alcoholic, to stay in the solution instead of the problem, and gain strength in my own boundaries (which have now graduated from "non-existent" to "weak").
To those out there in my situation, I send you wishes of hope, strength, and love. And I hope myself to be enlightened by the wisdom of your experiences. I look forward to your comments and look forward to having comrades on this strange, weird, amazing journey.