Our life was a roller coaster and neither one of us seemed to be able to get off

I laid awake wondering where he was then pretended I was asleep when he finally came home. I searched form him and even though I did not care much for alcohol I would join him in bars to try and control his drinking. I threatened him and gave ultimatums that I could not keep, I pleaded with him and begged him to stop. I ranted and raved and carried on like a crazy person trying to make him understand what his drinking was doing to our marriage and to our family. I with drew and gave him the silent treatment and nothing worked.

Looking back I realize now that there were many times he tried. He would try to control his drinking and in the beginning he could maintain that control for a few weeks but then he would get totally wasted and pop my bubble. He would try to stop drinking altogether and he could it for short periods for a few of time and then when he started drinking again he would be worse than ever.

Our life was a roller coaster and neither one of seemed to be able to get off. In the beginning of my recovery program I had a difficult time accepting that I was powerless over his drinking. I had it in my mind that if he just loved me enough he could do it. But in reality love had nothing to do with it at all. I really struggled with accepting that he had an illness. It was black and white simple to me. He could not handle alcohol and therefore he should not drink.

You see I was so focused on his problem I could not even see mine. If I had just looked in the mirror I would have seen how addicted I was to his problem too. I polished my halo and griped and complained about all my responsibility. I was afraid if I gave him boundaries he would leave me and I was mad at myself because I could not leave him. Confusing isn’t it. Both of us were drowning in our sicknesses. I would promise myself I was never going to do things for him anymore and I did them over and over again. I told him and myself that I deserved better and that I was going to leave and I stayed. So I tried harder to make it work. It didn’t work. Nothing I tried made it work and yet I refused to accept that I was powerless over his drinking.

My sponsor helped me to understand that when I looked at the big picture I was overwhelmed. But, if I broke things down into little pieces it was manageable. Besides, I was too desperate and to much of a control freak to let go of everything at once. So I tackled the small things first. My sponsor told me to tackled one thing at a time, until I was comfortable doing it on a regular basis. I started with the little stupid things that he did and allowed him to experience the result of his decisions. Next I concentrated on taking care of the kids and myself and letting go of the things that he needed to do and I allowed him to be responsible for himself and his behavior.

All of our choices and our behavior have consequences. Some consequences are good and some aren’t. This process helped me build my boundary muscle. I had one small victory at a time. Over time I got out of the way and allowed him to make his own decisions and experience his own consequences. It totally revolutionized my life and how I lived it. I actually learned how to be more grateful and less hateful and angry. I learned to laugh more and the knot in my chest dissolved.  My life has gone through an amazing transformation and I will always be grateful for the 12 Steps and the people in my recovery programs that helped me find my way.  That is why, after all these years, I still go to meetings and still have program people as some of my best friends.  I write this blog to share my experience, strength and hope because when I started there were people there that shared their’s with me.

I was so caught up into what he was doing I was not paying attention to what I should be doing

I was so caught up in what he was doing that I was not paying attention to what I should be doing. I was obsessed with trying to make him understand how he was hurting me and our family. For some crazy reason I thought that if he really understood how he was hurting us he would stop his obsession with alcohol. But I was the one that did not understand. His drinking was not about loving me or not loving me, it was not about the kids, it was not about his parents, it was not about his job, it was not etc……..

He was an alcoholic and he was did what alcoholics did – he drank. Once that fact finally sank into my head I was able to not take the hurtful things personal anymore. It is not that I liked the things he did or approved of them. It was just that acceptance that he drinking was not about me. He was fighting demons that I could not even began to understand.

Was alcoholism a disease or was it a moral choice. I honestly didn’t know. Up until I began to question the “disease or a conscious deliberate act” issue in my own mind, I had assumed that his behavior was somehow because of me. It all boiled down to whether or not I believed in the 3 “C’s” – I didn’t cause it, I could not control it and I could not cure it. If all of that was all true then it could not be my fault. It was the life line I needed to start my recovery journey.

Just accepting that it was not about loving me or not loving me helped me to buckle down and prioritize my life differently. My first responsibility was to myself. At one time in my life my self worth, my self-esteem and my value was predicated on being loved or accepted my someone else. The sad part is that I gave that power to define my value to broken people who weren’t capable of responding to me in a healthy loving way. It took a while for me to understand that I was worth more than that.

I was not strong enough to make these changes on my own. One small baby step at a time I began to realize that I was not an extension of someone else. I was a separate person. It was not necessary for me to sacrifice my hopes and my dreams to be accepted by someone who had no hopes or dreams or who wanted to tell me what my hopes and dreams should me. No, I was my own separate person.

For me to change, I had to have an open mind and I had to be willing to change. I love these 12 steps. They literately walk me through my problems and help me to stay focused on me. When I hold my problems up to the light of these steps and the Serenity Prayer I am able to see them objectively. Sometimes I’m stubborn. Sometimes I am not so willing. But I have learned that when the pain gets bad enough it was time to surrender. It’s up to me to choose; More misery or peace. I am happy to report that I don’t choose misery hardly ever any more.

There is a difference between someone being supportive and someone feeling sorry for me

My first husband was an alcoholic. For a long time both of us were able to disguise or hide the fact that he had a drinking problem and all was not well in our home. As his disease progressed he became more careless about hiding the truth and then our little secret was exposed. The problems in our home was exposed to family and friends and sometimes strangers as well.

At first, most of the time, people felt sorry for me and offered all kinds of advice on how I could help him control his drinking. That put a pressure on me and it made me feel guilty because nothing I did worked. They did not mean to make me feel that way they simply did not understand that I was powerless over his drinking. The people that I confided in helped to feed my victim martyr complex. They commiserated with me and felt sorry for me. I became important because I for staying with him and quote trying to help him. Poor Poor Sharon. She is doing everything she can and he is trying to destroy their lives with alcohol.

Then there were the people who were disgusted with me for staying. They told me that I did not deserve any better. They said it was obvious I loved being miserable or I would leave him. Around these people I became more guarded. To this group of people I lied and tried to cover what was really happening in our home.

It was only when I was stressed beyond my limits to endure that I finally reached out for help. Well, that is not exactly how it happened. To be honest with you I had given up on him. I had given up on me and I was simply in survival mode. One of my dear friends took me to my first meeting and I even resented being there. But, for some reason I went back again and again. I knew that I needed help. In my heart I did not want it to be from a 12 Step recovery group but I had exhausted all of my other options and I had nowhere else to go. I was truly stressed beyond my limits to endure anymore hurt and disappointment.

It was in my 12 Step recovery program where I found a place where they really understood the hurt, shame, anger and guilt that I felt. They understood alcoholism in a way I had never heard of. They listened but did not pity me. They did not give me advice and tell me what to do. They did not shame me when I got sucked into his chaos over and over again. They let me air out my frustrations without judging my husband and without judging me. They helped me to focus on the solution and not the problem.

I have learned that there is a difference between someone being supportive and someone feeling sorry for me. One left me with my dignity the other branded me a victim. I could not afford to remain a victim if I wanted to recover. Through this process I learned that I could choose to heal or stay on the misery treadmill. The choice was mine.

Live it or waste it

For a long time I desperately held onto the idea of what I wanted our life to be and ignored the reality of what was really happening in my marriage and in my life. I was always going to be happy someday when …… only “when” never came. I was always waiting for other people in my life to get their act together so that I could be happy. I was always waiting for someone else to make me happy. Days went by, months went by and years went by and I was still hanging onto the idea that I was going to be happy “someday.”

Nothing got better as long as I lived in denial about my problems because my denial kept my problems alive inside of me. I thought that if I acted like everything was just fine and dandy that everyone would believe that things were just fine and dandy. It never occurred to me that I was sacrificing my life and happiness for appearances sake. False Pride would not allow me to admit that I needed help. The sad thing is that, at this stage, my false pride was only fooling me. Everyone else knew what was going on. It is very hard to hide a 6 foot tall drunk and social events and family gatherings. Even though I was holding my head up high and walking around acting like nothing was wrong, everyone else was talking about what was wrong behind our backs.

Through this program I have learned that someday is today. People and circumstances may never be what I want them to be or what I think they should be – but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be happy anyway. I am the only person that can live my life. Regardless of what other people are doing or not doing the gift of life is personally mine. Live it or waste it. The choice is always mine to make.

Learn from it or repeat it

My alcoholic was addicted to alcohol and I was addicted to my alcoholic. Both of us stroked the fires of chaos in our lives.  He pushed and I pulled and we were locked into a battle of wills. In my mind he was the bad guy. I only acted out because he drove me to it. I did not take responsibility for my behavior or my decisions. I was just the victim or martyr.

I spent way too much time, thinking and obsessing and sometimes even planning how one day I was going to make him pay for “what he did.” Or how one day he was going to feel really bad for all of the hurt he had caused beg for my forgiveness.  My emotions were all over the place.  I took my resentments and my hurts with us on vacation, to church, the pool, the gym and to bed. I took them wherever I went. I also took them out on others by being angry or withdrawn or emotionally unaccessible.   Denial and justification had buffered me from the reality of my life. I had always had someone else to blame.

Going to recovery meetings I learned that I was powerless over him but I was not powerless over me. The problem was that I did not know who the real me was. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  It was time for me to get serious about these steps. I struggled with the 4th step until my sponsor helped me realize that this was an opportunity for my hurtful past to actually do something good for me. This was not about reliving the pain, shame and guilt-it was an exercise to teach me how to live differently. I could learn from it or repeat it-it was up to me.

I could not stay a victim and recover. Recovery meant I became responsible for me.

One of the reasons I struggled with accepting my powerlessness was that it seemed like a death sentence to all of my hopes and dreams. It seemed pretty obvious to me that he was bent and determine to drink himself to death and destroy our family in the process. Somebody had to do something to stop him and since he didn’t seem to care I thought it was up to me. How could I possibly give up trying?

Besides, I was afraid of what would happen if I did. I saw myself as a failure and as damaged goods. I was afraid that if I left my alcoholic that no one else would ever want me. With my lack of judgement, even if I did find someone else, they would probably be someone else that was broken. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. I was afraid I could not make it on my own. I really really really wanted someone to take care of me. But that wasn’t happening. My alcoholic took care of his drinking – not our kids and not me. He took care of his drinking. He did what ever he darn well pleased to insure that nothing interfered with his drinking.

In my mind I had this image of happy ever after. The problem was it did not match my reality. I wanted, and for some reason believed that the people in my life were responsible for making my dreams come true. My alcoholic could not control his drinking much less make my dreams come true. In my heart of hearts I knew that, but I wanted him to make it happen anyway. I wanted him to change so that he could fix the problems in our life and I wanted him to change so that I could be happy.

All of my life I had been at the mercy of what other people dictated for my life. I was at a cross roads and for the first time I began to see that if happiness was going to be for me that it was going to be up to me to make it happen. I could not afford another day waiting for someone else to change so that I could be happy.

My sponsor helped me to understand that when I looked at the big picture I was overwhelmed. But, if I broke things down into small pieces it was manageable. The same concept as One Day At A Time. I was too desperate and to much of a control freak to let go of everything at once. So I tackled the small things first. My sponsor told me to tackled one thing at a time, until I was comfortable doing it on a regular basis. I started with the little stupid things that he did and allowed him to experience the result of his decisions. Next I concentrated on taking care of the kids and myself.

All of our choices and our behavior have consequences. Some consequences are good and some aren’t. This process helped me build my boundary muscle. I had one small victory at a time. Over time I got out of the way and allowed him to make his own decisions and experience his own consequences. I could not stay a victim and recover. Recovery meant I became responsible for me.

Insanity – doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result

I hated my unhappiness. I hated being fearful, angry and feeling inferior. There were even times I felt guilty fore having moments of happiness. I questioned why I existed at all. I felt defeated. Once I faced my reality it was obvious I was powerless. It was obvious that my life was unmanageable. And even then I was terrified of letting go and accepting that there was not one darn thing I could do about his drinking.

I ask my sponsor, what if I gave up the struggle and things never got better? What if I gave up the struggle and things changed all right, but not the way I wanted them to change? I was hung up on the what ifs. My sponsor’s response was to ask me what choice did I really have? I was already miserable, afraid and angry. If I did not accept my powerlessness then I just got to stay miserable, afraid and angry. I would just keep feeling unworthy and inferior and alone. I would continue to allow other people, broken people I might add, to define my self-worth and I would continue to be jealous of happy people because I wasn’t.

What was the risk? I could either live miserable the rest of my life or take control of my future by allowing myself and opportunity to change, grow and heal. Even then I was afraid to try. Was it even possible to reverse my distorted thinking about life and my self? Just telling myself that I was as good as everybody else; just telling myself that I was a good person and I did not have to do things I did not want to do so that other people would like me; just telling myself that I did not have to accept unacceptable in my life did not change how I felt on the inside.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. That described me to a T. I just kept waiting for the world to right itself so that I could be happy. I wanted someone to fix me and make me feel equal to everyone else. I had fantasies of being loved and cherished, of being pretty and special, and of not being on the outside looking in.

I waited and waited and I was still miserable. I knew without a doubt that I could not change anything in my own power. I had tried and tried and tried and got the same result. Yep! Insanity in it’s highest form looked me right in the mirror. That was when I knew that the only chance I had, would have to be through a power greater than me because I had failed miserably…. over and over again.

Interestingly enough the definition of sanity is wholeness of mind, the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; reasonable and rational behavior; making decisions based on truth. Well now… There was no way I could pull that off. First of all I wasn’t sure if I even knew what normal was. I knew that my kind of normal made me miserable.

I did not trust my own judgement and I did not trust the judgement of the people in my life either. But even though I did not trust them I gave them power over me. Yep! 
That’s insanity all right! It was definitely going to take a much greater power than myself and a power greater than any of the other people in my life for me to change.

I had finally reached the 2nd Step. The 2nd Step says – “We came to believe that power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” I knew then, without a doubt, that that was my ticket out of my misery. Believing in a power greater than myself and surrendering my will and my life to that power in the 3rd Step empowered me to have hope.

It is not important how many times I fall down – It is important how many times I get back up

I am embarrassed to think of how long I went to meetings and resisted what this program had to offer. I was stuck up on “What was fair.” It just wasn’t fair, to me, that I had to change anything about me – I wasn’t the one with the drinking problem. It wasn’t fair, to me, that I had no influence over his drinking. I was his wife for heaven sakes. If he loved me enough he wouldn’t do this. But nope! They told me that I was powerless over his drinking and that love had nothing to do with it.

I held onto my rigid beliefs of “what was fair” because somewhere, at sometime, with at least one person in my life I wanted to feel loved and important and feel special to somebody, and that was something I had never felt before. I just wanted to be important enough to somebody. You see I desperately needed that affirmation that I was worthy, that I was good enough, that I was okay.

Looking back I can see that broken people seek out other broken people. Healthy people run the other way. Jon and I were both broken and wounded people that found each other. We fed each others brokenness and we gave each other an excuse to stay broken.

Our recovery programs gave each of us an opportunity to grow and change and become whole. Interestingly enough neither one of our success depended on the other. One of us could make it and both of us could make it, but neither one of our recoveries depended on the other. It was very hard for me to choose recovery when he chose to remind the way he was.

A part of me wanted to save him but I knew that I could not. So when I choose to help myself, even though he was refusing help, there were times I was conflicted and riddled with guilt. He was my husband, the father of my children, I wanted him to make it. Initially there was a lot of guilt when I finally decided to save myself whether he did or not. As I learned about detaching with love it became easier and easier for me to let go of trying to control his destiny.

There is no quick fix. I learned to live one day at a time. It was the little decisions, day in and day out, that prepared me to make bigger decisions when I needed to make them. Sometimes I took two steps forward and one step back. Sometimes I just slid back for a while. I guess what I am trying to say is that my strength and hope evolved over time. As I grew and changed it helped me to have the courage to change the things I should and could change. I am not perfect and will never be perfect. I don’t expect myself to be perfect anymore. I will make mistakes and life will definitely throw curve balls when lease expected sometimes. I have found, that for me, It is not important how many times I fall down – it is important how many times I get back up.

Fear had built walls around my heart

It was in my 4th and 5th steps that I realized what a desperate grip fear had on my life.   Fear of the unknown and of what could happen in the future made me guarded and unapproachable. Being afraid of making the wrong decision I became a procrastinator.

Fear had built walls around my heart.  I had learned not to trust anyone to do what they said they were going to do. When someone did something nice for me I was suspicious of what they really wanted because I did not know how to trust.  I desperately wanted to be liked and accepted, but because of my walls no one could get in and I could not get out.

In these steps I began to see how life had hurt me, but the real eye opener was realizing how through fear I hurt myself. It was through these steps that I learned that I could not change the past but I could stop the pain from my past from sabotaging my future.