My ex is a recovering alcoholic, two and a half years sober. While his alcoholism contributed greatly to the demise of our marriage, it wasn’t the only reason why our marriage of nearly a decade ended. Being married to an alcoholic did, however, greatly change me. I’ll be forever healing from that experience.
I was reminded of all that I went through — and all the ways I’m still recovering from that time in my life — recently when a friend confided in me that her husband has a drinking problem. She tearfully asked for my advice. I could hear the familiar emotions in her voice. I could hear the loneliness. It broke my heart.
For me, one of the most difficult parts about being married to an alcoholic was the isolation that I often felt. I also felt ashamed that my loved one who was so wonderful in so many ways couldn’t seem to control his drinking. I felt protective of him; I didn’t want others to see him as “the drunk.” I wanted them to see the amazing person he could be when he was sober. I didn’t let on how bad the situation had gotten until it reached a point where it affected other aspects of my life.
Like when my spouse was arrested for a drunk driving. And lost his job. And the verbal abuse started.
I’d think if only I’d checked his normal stashes, I’d have somehow prevented this from happening. If only I’d called him earlier, he might not have had those drinks. If only I’d been better/skinnier/happier/more fun he might not have been driven to drink.
There’s a reason it’s called co-dependency. And there’s a reason it’s called enabling. The feelings of anguish war with the feelings of anger. It’s an emotional roller coaster, being with an addict. But it doesn’t have to be isolating and it is not shameful. There’s a funny disconnect in our society. We all readily agree with the diagnosis that alcoholism is a disease, that addiction is a disease, yet…
Society blames the one who is sick, punishing and pushing him. Society blames the families. After all, why didn’t they do something to prevent it?
Maybe it’s because the vast majority of us can have a few drinks, can even get drunk, but are not ruled by alcohol. Does that somehow make us feel superior? After all, if we can do it, why can’t they just… stop?
Something needs to change because until it does, we’ll only find out about the struggles of our loved ones after an arrest, after a job loss, after abuse.
I don’t often talk about what it was like being married to an alcoholic. I do, however, talk about how proud I am of my ex and how far he’s gone to repair our friendship so we can co-parent our children.
After talking to my friend though, I wanted to let anyone who might be struggling right now know… you are not alone.
More Relationship Advice:
- 11 Things Happy Couples Never Do
- Amazing Relationship Advice from 10 NYC Cab Drivers
- The Painful Side of Co-Parenting Peacefully with My Ex