When I first started going to recovery meetings my husband, my alcoholic, had no intention of becoming sober. He was insulted that I thought that he had a drinking problem. He gave me a lot of resistance about me going to meetings. Later when I learned about detachment he thought that recovery meetings, for me, were awesome and I should keep going. Then when I began to understand and learn how I enabled him, and began to allow him be responsible for his own actions, he got angry all over again.
It finally dawned on me that he did not want my help to stop drinking. He only wanted my help if it allowed him to dink in peace and not be responsible for his consequences. Imagine that. Separating our lives and responsibilities was not easy. My marriage vows made me question if I was doing the right thing.
But with just a tiny winy little bit of recovery, those marriage vows took on a whole new meaning. The first promise is about better or worse. I get that. Sometimes life is hard and life can throw you a curve ball even when you are really trying to do all the right things. But with a little recovery under my belt I got the wisdom to know the difference between the vows we made when we got married and the way that alcohol distorted those vows into something unrealistic. For better or worse did not mean that I was supposed to sit back with a smile on my face while he irresponsibly ran our marriage and our life into the ground at warp speed.
The second vow was richer or poorer. I totally understand that one too. After all, I did not marry him for money. He could get laid off from a job. Our investments could take a nose dive. There are any number of legitimate reasons why our finances could take a hit. It wasn’t about money. In hard times we have to stick together. But that vow did not apply if his career was in jeopardy because he was hung over and could not make it to work. It did not apply when the financial resources we needed for day to day living was siphoned off to support his drinking.
The third vow talks about in sickness and in health. My alcoholic would be so hung over he could not keep anything in his stomach. Of course somehow he seemed to never make it to the bathroom in time. Did I tell you we had carpet? Did I tell you about the time that he cut his leg with a hatchet? Yea, he went camping in the deer woods. He could drink all he wanted in the deer woods and no one would know. Well, while under the influence of alcohol he decided to use a hatchet to hammer something and it glanced off what he was hammering straight into his knee. Of course his leg had many stitches then it got infected and he could not walk or work for weeks and weeks……he couldn’t walk because of his injury and he couldn’t walk because he drank himself into a stupor while he was recovering. No! No! No! I don’t believe in sickness and in health meant that I was supposed to wait on him hand and foot while he recovered….but I did.
But do you know the really sad part about the vow of sickness and in health and alcoholism? Alcohol abuse can cause some pretty horrific illnesses. I had this one come home to roost in a way I never dreamed. Alcohol damaged my husband’s heart. He died at 43. He never saw his kids grow up, he didn’t walk them down the aisle, and he never got to hold his grandchildren.
Of course there is the promise to love and to cherish and the promise of faithfulness. How could that have an opportunity to mature and grow when alcohol was his mistress? It couldn’t. No where in our vows did I promise to be miserable if he was miserable. I made no promise to be bitter, angry, resentful and conniving if he was bitter, angry, resentful and conniving, I did not promise to be irresponsible if he was irresponsible. No. I did not promise to throw my life down the toilet if he decided to throw his. We were married but we were separate people. We each had a choice to be happy or miserable.
They say in our recovery program that we can be happy whether the alcoholic is drinking or not. Of course divorce is an option in any marriage whether alcohol is involved or not. Call me crazy but I did not want a divorce. Through recovery I learned that I was not forsaking my marriage vows if I learned how to be happy when he chose to stay miserable. We each had a choice.
The thing that saved me, the thing that kept me from hating him, the thing that helped me to see him as a child of God as much as I was a child of God, the thing that helped me to have compassion for the man and hate the disease, the thing that helped me to be happy whether he was drinking or not were my recovery programs. I thank God every day that I found them and I thank God every day that I gave them a chance to transform my life.