Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thank You, Flight Angel

You all probably anticipated this, but guess what - I made it!  But it was no picnic, people.  The flight was bumpy as all get out (really bumpy - really) and the mid-turbulence announcement by the captain that there were no smooth rides from 24,000 - 40,000 ft was oh-so-helpful and really put me at ease.  I couldn't help but imagine our teeny little plane teetering on its path through the storm.  "We're still moving forward" I kept telling myself.  "Forward is good.  It is always better than the alternative."  These days I feel like the little plane.

A special shout-out to someone who in all realistic probability will never read this:  terrified as I was of my impending departure, my ability to small-talk strangers remained intact.  Soon I found myself chatting with a gentleman at the bar next to my gate, after he made a joke (long story short - the bartender carding me was apparently airport policy and not because I appear to be anywhere near 21 years old).  Turns out we were both headed to the same destination.

I had met my Flight Angel.

Flight Angels are those who I occasionally meet on planes and help me get through the fear - they talk to me, ask me questions, sometimes they rub my arm or pat my hand.  Anything to distract me and keep me calm, sane, and away from cardiac arrest.  I once kept in touch with a Flight Angel for years after our meeting, until she passed away.  No matter who they are, these lovely souls keep talking to me, humor my endless questions, chuckle at my nerves, and our brief connection makes me feel validated and safe.  

In this instance, my Flight Angel turned out to be my Temporary Flight Husband...I should mention that immediately upon sitting down at the bar, I ordered my usual double tanq & tonic and took an Ativan.  Then our flight was delayed, so back to the bar we went, and ordered another round.

This is probably what led to my mentioning that I was flying alone, and how this made me more afraid, and that I'll be sitting next to "some stranger", and knowing how nervous I was, Temporary Flight Husband suggested that I could sit next to him.  

"How?  I have to kick someone out of their seat?"  

"Just say - 'Excuse me, but would it be okay if my husband and I sit together?' "

And that's exactly what I did.  

Being a small plane, most everyone around us heard.  So the pressure was on, for some unspoken but understood reason, to keep up the charade.  

"Sorry, we booked separately, and I'm afraid to fly."

He rolled his eyes and sighed for affect.  "Thank you, we appreciate it."

"Oh!  You're going to have to take the window, Honey - you know I don't like the window seat."

Later, in response to something I said to the flight attendant, Flight Husband quipped "Ah, that's why I married you."

"Well we know it wasn't for the sex."

"That's right, because I'm impotent" (sits up to address the plane) "I'm...impotent."

It was all in good fun, and a nice distraction from the amazingly horrible turbulence that otherwise would have had me paralyzed and crying.  Didn't hurt that he was okay on the eyes.  

As I waited for my carry-on, Flight Husband walked past me and didn't stop.  I called out to him.  "I'm filing for divorce tomorrow!"  He laughed.  "Yeah - we're through!"

Thank you, Flight Angel.  In 2 hours we were engaged, married, honeymooned, and divorced.  Or fake legally separated anyway.  Pretty sure that's a non-Vegas record.  We laughed, I didn't cry, and I'm pretty sure you checked me out.   Ego boost for me, nice scenery for you.  


Monday, February 25, 2013

Step 1

Okay, I need to vent a little this morning. Just a little freaked out, a little puffy-faced from crying. A little secret about me, well-known to my family and friends...

I’m afraid to fly.

Scratch that, I’m terrified. A take-an-Ativan, have-a-couple-double-gin-and-tonics, actually-let’s-make-that-two-Ativan kind of terrified.

I mean flying on airplanes. Not me flying myself. Actually if I could personally fly, I think I’d be less afraid. Because it’s all about control. In that plane way too far above the earth and much too close to 40,000ft, I am completely powerless. It is the ultimate Step 1 in life, and I am a stereotypical Al Anon in this area. I am surrendering all decisions and my temporary safety and well-being to a complete stranger. I mean, who IS this guy anyway? Who wants to fly planes for a living? Do they do psych testing every so often to make sure he’s okay? How long has he been doing this? I hope he’s not joining me in being under the influence. Oh, and I am so glad I haven’t seen “Flight” yet.

Did I mention there are thunderstorms brewing here?

But alas, in a few hours I have to board a very small plane and fly back home from a short but sweet family-time trip. I will think about my pets, the laws of physics, and my husband, who did not do a great job of comforting me this morning when I texted him, crying, after finding out my flight was on this small jet. He did say he was sorry, he was the one who booked it. If it would have been me I would have noticed and booked another flight. Still would have been terrified but slightly less so in a larger plane, perhaps with wifi.

So I cried and cried thinking, I don’t want to leave here, I don’t want to get on that small jet. That I wish I could return home to a loving affectionate husband who missed me while I was gone and called me to see how I was doing, just once. Really, I just want to get home at all. But us Al Anon’s can’t resist a good pity party, not when we have the opportunity to get all frumped-up in our best hooded sweatshirt and ruin our mascara before we’ve even applied it.

Blogger stats tell me I have readers out there, and some of you are overseas, which is incredibly flattering. So if you could collectively hope and pray and send positive vibes, I would be forever grateful. And I promise to return to our regularly-scheduled posting as soon as I get back.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Priorities (Please).

In case I haven't mentioned it before, my husband doesn't ask me many questions about me or my day, even when I have something exciting going on - particularly when he is drinking more than usual.  As soon as he walks in the door from work, he goes straight upstairs, doesn't say hello until I do, doesn't speak to me until spoken to.

This weekend I was asked three questions:

1. Would I please rub the knots out of his shoulders and lower back? (I did - he's been kind enough to get my coffee in the morning, I feel we can still do nice things for each other).

2. Would I want to drive to our soon-to-be town to look at prospective neighborhoods?

3. When did I drink my bottle of champagne?

Now, the first question was asked after a lot of passive-aggressive grumbling about his back and how much it hurt. It was nice to be asked directly for a massage for once - Gotta reward good communication, even if self-interested.

The second question really only makes sense, but as most things with us aren't making any sense at all these days it was a welcome surprise.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) I wasn't able to go as I had plans to meet with someone regarding my venture.  Hurrah for me!

Lastly, the third question - for this to make sense, you need a little background info.

For my birthday last year, my good friend gave me a bottle of champagne.  This was just shy of my first month in Al Anon, but I knew well enough to not drink the bottle with my husband.  I didn't want to enable, and really it was that drinking around him just felt icky.  So I waited, then forgot it was there for the most part.

It's been almost a year later, and just this last Wednesday, after a friend and I both received some awesome news regarding our respective ventures, I brought my champagne to a meeting we had scheduled to celebrate.

There were a good three days this week of Big Exciting Stuff that my husband never asked me a thing about. So, no:

"How did Big Exciting Stuff go today?"

"Do you have everything together for your Big Exciting Stuff?"

Or even,

"Hey congrats on your Big Exciting Stuff!"

And of course, still no interest in how my mom is recuperating.

But four days after it went missing, after he came home from his neighborhood-shopping without a word to me about where we may soon be living, and after I told him I was going to bed, my husband walked up our stairs to find me to ask me when I had drank my champagne.

Let me repeat that -

He walked upstairs to find me to ask when I had drank my champagne.

So I told him.

Without response, he turned around and went back downstairs.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Guess I Gotta Show Some Self-Love

Apologies everyone - I'm going to do some swearing here.

So apparently being married to me means that you can tell me I'm a "mean, nasty bitch", say "fuck you, shut the fuck up" two days before Valentine's Day, and come the evening of the 14th, you will receive a thoughtful card as well as a (reheated) steak dinner, along with a freshly-purchased Canadian lobster tail.  (I mean, Canadian lobster, people).  Toppings for your steak will be caramelized onions, Marsala mushrooms and blue cheese crumbles.  Oh, and a note in your lunch with a cutesy poem, you'll get that too.  And a lunch I made for you.  And breakfast.  And my dignity.


This morning I debated over the two phrases we hear in Al Anon - "Let it begin with me" and "Don't be a doormat."  I think what I ended up with was "Let it begin with doormat."

I wasn't expecting anything from my husband this year for Valentine's considering his behavior, but damn it stung not to get a card, flowers, even a verbal "Happy Valentine's Day" for the first time in our relationship.  As in ever.  And it was totally on purpose.  Didn't matter that I've done what I've done for him, nope.  He purposely did not get me anything this year and it was to make a point.

He loved his dinner (of course - this Mean Nasty Bitch can cook) and mmm'd and ahh'd over almost every bite.  He came down to see what was smelling so good, smiled and made small talk about our pets.  And I smiled and joked back, all the while thinking, "What the hell am I still doing in this kitchen right now?  You are such a selfish, spiteful asshole."  Then I added another two tablespoons of butter to his onions.

If you don't love yourself, the saying goes, how can you expect anyone else to love you?  We can substitute "respect" in that phrase also.

I remember one of our first Valentine's Days, when I was in college and he lived nearby.  I had a final the next day in my most challenging class, so we wouldn't be able to see each other that night.  When I got home from school, there was a single red rose in my mailbox and a note - he had driven 30 miles and back in what had to have been disgustingly awful traffic, but he just wanted to do something for me.  Wanted to.  DO something.  Dammit.

Shopping for his card this year, I read through the sentiments and nothing seemed to fit.  It went something like this:

"To The Man I Love -
You are my solace and my shelter, my safe place from the world that -"  Nope.

"I love to think about all the ways you've brought happiness to my life..."  But it doesn't take very long, and then I end up bored and sad.  Maybe we need to put a "would" in front of "love".

"I love how much I like you."   Hmm.  That must be a nice feeling.

"You got the honey, I got the bees, You got the mac, I got the cheese."  I have no idea what the hell this means.  Unless it's for a beekeeper's wife.  I do like mac and cheese though.  Next.

"For My Wonderful Guy."  Yeah he's over there, behind you.  The neutered one with four legs and whiskers.  Just put it there next to him.  Thanks.

"Lifemate, Laughmate, Soulmate."  Ugh.  Mentally I'm already reaching for more potato chips.  Oooh...chips.  I should get some chips.

"Whooooo's The Sweetest?"  Only if it says "ME!" on the inside...Ah, no such luck.

"What we have is so good that I can't get enough of you."  Actually I'm full, but thanks.

"We laugh.  We Flirt.  We Love."   Oh no.  We totally.  Do not.

"Your kind and loving spirit"...appears to be on sabbatical.

I contemplated getting a card in Spanish before I finally settled for the one that read "Valentine's Day isn't a big deal to me" (open) "But you are!"  Okay.  That's as true as any of these are going to get.

When my husband was a bit late coming home from work I thought ah, he must have stopped to buy some flowers?  The minutes ticked by.  "Okay, so now he's probably sitting outside thinking of what to write in the card."  But no crinkle of florist cellophane greeted me upon his return.  And when I handed him his card, he took it without looking at me, opening it without expression or a word, as if I had handed him the utility bill.  He thanked me, returned my hug with a flaccid embrace, returned my "I love you", and said the card was cute.

Maybe the perfect card would have read: "Why don't you go fuck yourself and then you can see a movie by yourself?"  He said this to me while I was taking care of my mom post-surgery, a mid-"argument" response to my wish that we were more romantic with each other, went to see movies and had dates like we used to.  Maybe the card could come with fake movie tickets.  "Admit ONE. 'Cause I'm not fucking going, remember?"

At least the seafood guy flirted with me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

This City Girl Can't Dance No More

Howdy do y'all, do-si-do, take your pardner round we go...

"Where's your wedding ring?"

"In my truck"

"Why is it in your truck?"

"Because I don't feel like wearing it - I don't really feel married right now!"

"YOU'RE the one who moved into the spare bedroom for the last week."

"Yeah, because I don't even want to be in the same bed as you!"

Ace of Diamonds, Jack of Spades, take your partner & all promenade...

"You hate me - you just hate me!  Well I hate YOU!"

"That's not true - why do you say that?"

"I can tell you're just absolutely repulsed by me! You couldn't even think of having sex with me!"

"What?!  No, that's not -"

"It is!"

Allemande Left with your left hand, Back to the partner for a Right and Left Grand...

"Oh I should just quit drinking huh? (*'southern' accent*) Then everything'll be okay right?  My life'll be just great - just like Tim McGraw!  My life'll be so much happier because I'm not drinkin'!"

"Huh?  Tim McGraw?  What?"

"Please. Give me a fuckin' break."

"I wish you could talk to me about how you're feeling without being angry."

"Those meetings have you brainwashed - you think you're this victim.  Or is that just the liberal mindset?  You think you're this poor. victim. "

"Uh no, I don't.  Actually Al Anon encourages the exact opposite of that."

"You think I just have this huge problem, that I'm this freakshow - you just think I'm a huge FREAKSHOW!"

It's right by right by wrong you go, and you can't go to heaven while you carry on so...

"I wish I'd never met you, I wish I'd never asked you to marry me, I wish I'd never married you!"


"I just hate this marriage right now. I fucking hate it."

"I'm unhappy too - but I'm trying to help.  I can't do it alone."

"You want to just turn our marriage upside down!  Just upside down!  You can't go changing our dynamic like that!"

"Upside down?  What dynamic?  How?  So you just want to drink however much you want, say whatever you want to me, and I'm supposed to just be okay with it?"

"I'm just going to say it all - I don't care, I have nothing to lose!  Absolutely nothing!"

And it's home little gal, and do-sido,

And it may be the last time, I don't know, 

And oh by gosh and oh by Joe.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Geographical Cures (?)

Before I knew that my husband had a problem with alcohol, I knew he liked to "run away" from problems.  In the middle of arguments he would say something horrible and try to leave the house, sometimes with a bottle of Jack Daniels or whatever he was drinking at the time.  For quite a few years I tried to prevent him from leaving, desperate and confused, thinking "If I just talk to him, if I just get through to him it will be okay, he'll see what he's doing, he'll understand."

Did that ever work?  No.  

Did I keep doing it over and over and over again?  Yes.

Up until a couple years ago, usually he would apologize the next morning after he had inevitably slept it off.  He would tell me he was sorry for the way he acted, that it wouldn't happen again.  Then he stopped apologizing.  Then he wanted an apology from me.  Then he started picking fights so he could leave, or so he could ignore me and punish me for something I had no idea I had done, or something that I didn't do.  Sometimes, I think I am being punished for what a shitty father his dad was (shitty meaning "selfish, child-abandoning alcoholic").

Since we first got an apartment together back in our dating years, my husband and I have moved a total of six times together in a time-span of 8 years.  I have since learned that the "geographical cure" is the term AA uses to describe how alcoholics keep moving from place to place to get a fresh start.  My husband may be a "high functioning alcoholic" but in this regard, it feels dysfunctional for sure.

Two years ago, we owned our own home that was far from his job; at first when we moved there the distance wasn't an issue but slowly the traffic and drive became too much.  During a counseling session around that time, he told the therapist that he was stressed out from driving so much, and that this new job he was getting in a town three hours away would mean living much closer to work, maybe 10 minutes down the road.  That if he reduces his stress he'll be in a better place and not behave the way he does (alcoholism wasn't something we discussed then).

"A 'geographical cure' isn't going to change things, there will be the same problems waiting for you in that different town", the therapist said wisely.

"Yes but I'll be so much closer to work, I really think I won't be under the same daily stress", my husband replied.

But as they say in AA - "Wherever you go, there you are."

So we moved to that town.  A few months after he got an apartment there, I quit my job and moved there too.  A year later he was again applying to other jobs in other towns - this time because he was unhappy with the position, it was boring and his boss was not giving him more challenging work or acknowledging his accomplishments, passing him up for a promotion.  Within a few months an out-of-state company wanted to see him for an interview, and he was offered the job shortly thereafter.  We had a month to pack up our house, pack up the apartment and move.  I cried and cried, not wanting to leave my home state and all the people I knew and loved.  My father had passed 2 years prior (my mother was now by herself), we had lost our house - all these changes to get used to and all it once, it seemed.

More than this, though, was that 2011 had been so fraught with unacceptable behavior on his part that I feared we would have more of the same upon moving here.  And I have never been so pissed to be right - it got worse than I thought possible.  Before making the transition here my husband told me "It's just for a couple years - and if either one of us doesn't like it, we'll move back, okay?  Who knows - I may end up not liking it there!"  And he didn't.  He hates it.  

But it just didn't make sense to me - after all, he wanted to move here!  How could he hate it here?  And he doesn't even know anyone here, he hasn't made friends - why can't he give it a chance?  I mean sure, the weather isn't like what we're used to back home (no one loves the weather here) and it's not the landscape we grew up with.  Occasionally we get to go on a bike ride together - maybe once a month.  But he doesn't want to go out on date nights with me, see movies or do anything at all except sit upstairs in "his" room, work on his hobbies or play video games, and drink in secret.    

As early as last fall, and perhaps sooner than that, my husband started applying for jobs elsewhere - without telling me.  I knew he was looking, but I wasn't ever informed when he actually applied.  These jobs were out of state, some in-state.  He had made his mind up that this town was not for him and just couldn't wait to get the hell out because (his words) this place is the worst place ever and any place has to be better.  And yes, I've told him that I fear it doesn't matter where he lives, that he could be miserable no matter what.  He agreed that there is no guarantee he would be happy anywhere.

He has been offered a job as of this week, and after some negotiations he is primed to accept their final revised offer.  The good news (for me) is that the town is a couple hours away from here, and he will be traveling somewhat often, so I can drive to stay here and attend my meetings some weeks, visit with friends and stay connected to my amazing support network.  Their encouragement, love and collective experience has warmed my heart, strengthened my soul and stoked the fire within the Real Me.

I would say "it goes without saying", but it doesn't for most of us - so I will say that in the program I have learned that I have my choices.  I do not have to move with him.  I could stay here, find a job, and try to still build my business.  This would mean we would get a divorce, most likely, which is not something I would ever want.  Even knowing this, I cannot imagine we can continue this way.  Tonight we have talked more than we have in two weeks - the first conversation in at least one.  He told me the company said he was the most qualified candidate by far that they had talked to for this position (I said the same thing two weeks ago, which he then batted away).  He went over the job in more detail, the pay and benefits, what he would be doing, how often he would be traveling.

We watched TV and ate our separate dinners together.  He apologized almost too much that he had turned the lights off on me while I was in my workroom.  He made other small talk.  I showed him the things I am working on for my business and he seemed genuinely impressed and complimentary.  And yet despite this I am 99% sure that he will still sleep in the other bedroom with the door locked.

***UPDATE*** The door is ajar - I repeat, the door is ajar.

Stay tuned for more late-breaking developments.

The Goal to "Be Fully Self-Supporting."

"Every group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions." - Seventh Tradition of Al Anon.

This was the topic in a meeting I attended recently, and I have never been so happy to hear a "Traditions" topic. Some members spoke of never wanting or being able to ask for help, whether emotional, physical or financial. Though I too despise the vulnerability of expressing my needs for support, at times it could be for the best. "This is just what I'm dealing with," I thought to myself.

Here I am on the verge of trying to start something for myself, following both a passion and an entrepreneurial spirit that has beckoned me since childhood.  To be able to provide financial support to us would embolden me, increase my self-worth.  But the fact that the income is returned to us by me putting my passion into the world is something that makes it far more personal and intimate an employment.  To put it bluntly, I would be blessed.

Many program friends, non-program friends and family alike have encouraged me in this venture, and I feel that I am standing at the precipice of "My Life", a nebulous but exciting, terrifying, doubtful, hopeful time.  In truth, we each live our lives everyday - our lives are happening right now, as you read this and I type this - but after coming to Al Anon I realized I was not truly living my life.

For the past couple years, after two moves to different jobs and different towns, my husband has supported us financially.  Throughout our relationship I have quit four jobs to follow him, not gaining much on my resume and my hourly wage actually declined.  I do not have a job outside the home, but I do almost all of the housework, care for the pets, grocery shop, and cook.  When deciding to move for this current position, my husband's thought was it would mean more money for me to "follow my passion."  Something about which he has always been so generous, positive and encouraging.

Still, it is not difficult for me to feel guilty and just plain wrong for not having a job, especially as my husband has mentioned a few times that I don't work (only as a point of argument, usually to berate and insult me).  Even at the worst times when he was abusive (physically, verbally, psychologically) a small part of me thought maybe if I worked he would treat me better.  Maybe he would feel less burdened financially, maybe that would help his drinking.  Maybe he would respect me more and not tell me that I'm a loser even after all the nice things I do for him.  Maybe...

Never mind the fact that I have held a job the entire time we've known each other, and even then his behavior worsened.  How sad is it that I myself can come up with numerous reasons why I am not due the respect and courtesy any person should be given?

I remember when we went to counseling together a few years ago, and the counselor asked "What do you *do* for each other?"  My husband immediately mentioned that he earned most of the money, and the counselor stopped him. "That's great that you are able to provide so well for the both of you, but that is not what I'm asking.  What I am asking is what you do for her, specifically, to show your affection and love.  Paying the mortgage is not romantic."  No, it's not.

It is almost a week now that my husband has been ignoring me and living his separate life in our spare bedroom.  Tomorrow is payday, and my fear is that in an attempt to provoke a response from me, or out of pure spite, my husband will not deposit money in our joint account.  It is a Catch 22 for me - if he does it to provoke a response, I am left without money for food, pet food, gas, and will have to say something - he wins.  At that point I imagine he could become "insulted" that I would only talk to him for money.  If he does it out of spite or to further punish me, I am still in the position of having to go to him for help.

This is the position that I no longer want to be in.  I crave the opportunity to work for myself, to earn money and not feel the guilt and shame of having someone "take care of me."  Not to say that anyone in this position should be judged - I have several married friends who earn less than their spouses or earn nothing outside the home.  But we cannot live our lives expecting that our needs will always be met by someone else - if something ever happened to my husband, what would I be left with?  Surely it is for the betterment of my mind, body and soul to feel the satisfaction once again of earning money.  I have considered getting a part-time job, and hope that it would be enough to contribute but also not interfere with my venture (small-business start-ups are extremely time consuming, as we are our own bookkeepers, inventory managers, marketers, assistants, purchasers, web-designers, factory-workers etc.).  Things are tumultuous now and it may not be the best time to make such a decision, but I am keeping my options open.

As ever, we shall see.  For now, it's time to get back to work.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Day 5 Of Standoff

As I write this, my husband is once again locked in our other bedroom, presumably asleep.  The blue glow of the TV reaching out into the hall is my only sign that he is here, that I am not alone in this house.  His side of the bed is half-empty, save for our dog.  It makes me sad to look at it.

Today was the first day that I can recall in quite a while in which we purposely did not speak to each other.  He did not contact me, I did not contact him.  When he returned home from work and prepared his own dinner, there was no talking, no eye contact, nothing at all.  I have not even seen his face.  Early mornings come and go and I hear nothing of him getting ready, as he has everything he needs and thus does not need to come into our bedroom.  This is when being married to a functioning alcoholic doesn't feel so functional. 

The consensus among my wise program friends is that "responding in kind" to his behavior, i.e. not speaking to him unless I have to, is acceptable and potentially (probably) protective.  After all, when we engage in anything other than small talk we enter dangerous territory - dangerous for me, that is, as sooner or later there will be barbs thrown in my direction, and I then react instead of reply.  I cannot help to feel completely and utterly at a loss, and find myself afraid to even speak to him at all lest he snap, snark or, worst of all, not respond.  Not engaging with him (talking, texing, calling, pleading, begging him to talk to me) when he is avoiding me is a new behavior, and as such feels so unnatural as to make me ill.  

To my credit, I have this time abandoned my once insanely prodding and begging persona and asked him only once the now tiresome questions: "What's wrong?  What's going on?"  And his answer - that I ignored his calls.  That's right everyone - him living a separate life since this past Friday evening is due to me *not picking up his calls*.  To anyone else this would seem ridiculous, immature, crazy, rude, asinine, or just plain fucked up.  But to me this has been life as I know it for the past year.  My chronologically-adult husband is throwing a temper tantrum and punishing me because I had the audacity to enjoy my dinner with friends and not answer my phone when He called to berate me.  And instead of talking to me about it, he took his dolly and went home.

I keep telling myself - this is the disease, this is what it does, and there is nothing I can do about it except take care of myself.  This seems normal only due to its recurrence.  I didn't do anything wrong.  I am human.  I am worthwhile.  I repeat the 3 C's:

Didn't Cause it
Can't Control it
Can't Cure it

I repeat the Serenity Prayer.  I talk to my sponsor.  I try to focus on myself and my work.  I eat a bagel.  I regret the bagel.

Alcoholics are bullies, I heard once, and we're afraid of them because of the constant roller coaster of chaos and quiet.  Up and down, Jekyll and Hyde.  And the fear of what they will do if we say no, or what they will do to hurt us the next time is what keeps us under their control.  "Alcoholics don't have relationships", a recovering alcoholic once told me.  "They take prisoners."  

And yet here is my husband, locking himself away.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Feeling Crazy From "Master Manipulating" (The Cookie)

Well, here we are on Super Bowl Sunday, and my husband is once again stonewalling and avoiding me.  But this time there's a twist.

Friday night I had an absolutely FABULOUS time out with some program friends.  After a scrumptious dinner, a painfully-hilarious play at a local theater left us unable to breathe and wishing for an encore.  But before I left the house, my husband - upon seeing me dressed up and leaving - mentioned something about him not being invited.  Keep in mind these are program friends, but really it was a girl's night out.  He is always so content in staying in his room, drinking and working on his hobbies, that I was shocked he said anything.  Anything else he is invited to, he declines.  So after I scrambled to answer, I bid him goodbye and let him know when I'd be home.

The ominous feeling I had was validated when, on the drive to dinner, I saw I had missed his call.  He demanded to know where "all our money" had gone during the week I was away, that I had managed to spend however much was in there.  My friend who was driving could hear him barking at me after I calmly answered that I didn't know off the top of my head every transaction, but that he could check our account online and we'd figure it out.  I said goodbye, love you.  He hung up.

Later during dinner he called 5 more times.  6 times total, more times than we spoke while I was gone last week.  More times than he's called me in the last month or two.  I saw the missed calls, and also a text - "Why are you ignoring my calls?"  I let him know I'd just seen them, but we were taking our seats at the play.  "You're incredibly insulting", he replied.  I came home to a dark house, the side bedroom door locked, him presumably asleep with the tv on.

It had begun.

The twist is - though he was snappy the next morning, the rest of the weekend he would, with all the civility one would hope from their loving husband, let me know where he was going and ask if I needed anything.  (I need to add here, he is never so suddenly burdened with errands and weekend office trips as when he behaves this way).  And tonight, after I settled on the couch for the second half of the Super Bowl, my husband cooked his dinner, ate it and then went upstairs and away from me, but telling me along the way "There's a cookie in the kitchen for you from the market, if you want one."

So see everyone - he's not avoiding or ignoring me, because he bought me a cookie!  Thus there is absolutely no reason that there is anything wrong with his behavior - I mean, he's just hanging out, right?  Getting stuff done, buying his own groceries and cooking his own meals, and sleeping in the other bedroom with the door locked.  Like any normal, happy, well-adjusted non-alcoholic husband would.  And he even bought me a treat.

The disease is progressive, and behavior will change - this is what we learn in Al Anon.  In the past, my husband would pick fights and had different stages of behavior:  He would try to leave, taking his liquor with him.  Then he would break things, and then try to leave.  Then he would come at me, and then try to leave.  Then he would just leave - for the weekend, with no communication whatsoever.  So this is his new non-violent solution: why leave when you can ignore someone in the comfort of your own home?

I will not eat the cookie...I will not eat the cookie...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

ISMs - I, Self, Me (Selfishness)

Right now is a tough time to be the wife of an alcoholic.

My mother has undergone a pretty serious, personally difficult surgery, and I flew back home to offer her emotional support as well as to be her caretaker in her immediate recovery.  For the past week, I have been here to make sure she is comfortable and has all the emotional support she needs.  Surgical drains must be emptied and its measurements logged, drain site must be cleaned daily.  Hugs must be given and occasional shoulder rubs offered.

"It's going to be okay, Mom."
"Just give all your worry to me."
"I love you."
"Your only job is to heal and be a good patient...Now drink your tea."

There has been a comforting and at times surprising outpouring of support and compassion from friends and family, but also from people my mother has not even met - acquaintances of mine and outright strangers to the both of us.  Each day there are calls, texts, e-mails and Facebook posts, asking "How is she?  How are you?"  This pure love and hope given to us also painfully highlighted the lack of support, care, and attention from one person.  Just one, out of the mostly supportive group of family and friends and neighbors and complete strangers.

Throughout all this, even during the surgery and right after, my husband has asked nothing of my mom's condition.  No "So how did it go?" or "How is your mom?"  "What did the doctor say?"  "How are you?"  "Your mom must be so relieved to have you there."  Nothing.  Not to mention, he has only called me once on his own - every other point of contact has been initiated by me.  It stings though it shouldn't surprise me - after all, when I'm home he barely speaks to me.  So his comments (even upon my return home) revolved around the various difficulties and stress my absence caused him - having to leave work at lunch to let our dog out and then drive back, having to wake up early to let them outside, etc.

Thus, it was no surprise to me that when my husband called me while my mother was still in surgery, the entire 30 minute conversation revolved around his interview that day with a new company (in another town. new post forthcoming).  Later in my visit, I couldn't stand it any longer - it was if my mother was the elephant in the room, so to speak, that he just refused to acknowledge her and her condition.  "I don't hear from you much", I said.  "No texts or calls asking me how my mom is, how I am...?"  My husband replied that I tell him before he has the chance to ask me.

Along the way in Al Anon, people have shared about the "isms" of alcoholism.  Though there are other forms of the acronym, often I hear it stands for "I, Self, and Me."  It is meant to illustrate a core issue with alcoholics, which is that even without alcohol they are still left with traits that can cause problems in their relationships and, not to mention, could lead them straight back to active addiction.  The math goes like this:

Alcoholism - Alcohol = ism.

Isms that stem from I, Self & Me could be selfishness, egoism, hypervigilance, control, manipulation, impatience, a quick temper, the list could go on.  But I think the core of these isms, just as the acronym stands for, is the self - so we'll stick with selfishness for today.

Why are addicts selfish?  I suppose that a self-centered focus ensures the survival of their addiction.  It could be a "chicken and egg" scenario.  The less time they spend thinking about anyone else, or any of their domestic responsibilities, walking the dog, paying the cable bill, the more time they have to think about their drug of choice, or use their drug of choice.  On the other hand, because their focus is on themselves and their drinking, they just do not have any space left to think about anything else.

Though my husband can be incredibly thoughtful and kind, I have learned to be careful and not completely accept these displays at face value, as sometimes gifts or favors really are about him, and not me.  Thus a bouquet of flowers doesn't mean: "You are so great to me."  What it really means is: "See how great I am? To you?"

A program friend lent me the book "Addictive Thinking", which apparently was written after a secret psychological interview with my husband.  The book is pretty good, not as in-depth into the traits that the author discusses, but everything makes sense.  The topics include an alcoholic's concept of time, their guilt & shame, feelings of omnipotence, their confusing of cause and effect, their denial, rationalization & projection and their hypersensitivity.  In my first post I mentioned how much time I had spent trying to diagnose him - "This kind of behavior has to be the sign of a mental illness" I would tell myself, "But which one is it?"

There is a blindingly obvious missing issue in this book, in my opinion - the selfishness encountered on a daily basis.  Insidious and a chameleon-like, it can seem charming and thoughtful at times and completely transparent at others.

For example, in general my husband rarely asks me questions, and when he does they have to do with him and his needs, wants, interests.  Such as - "Are we out of (x)?"  "Did you buy (x)?"  "Did you hear about (insert professional athlete's name here) transfer to (insert professional sports team name here)".  There is no lingering conversation in which he asks me how my day was, what I did; if I'm working on something he doesn't inquire as to what it is or stop to watch.  If I was not the one desperately reaching out on a daily basis, trying to connect with him on some level no matter how trivial, there would be no communication in our house.

I just returned home yesterday from my trip, and my mom called me after I landed to give me the great news that her test results were negative for remaining cancer, which was a huge relief.  A friend had to pick me up from the airport - that morning, after my husband and I texted about my arrival time, where he would be waiting for me, etc., he texted me back 90 minutes later and said "On second thought, just take a cab from the airport."  I asked why.  "I'm tired of driving this week."

Does this sound familiar to anyone?   According to Blogger's statistics I have readers (so flattered!) and would love to hear what you have to offer.

Until then, I'm hanging in.  Hope you are, too.