I tried every thing I could think of to make my alcoholic “understand” what he was doing to himself and to our family. I tried reason and logic, I threatened, begged and pleaded, I defended and argued my case over and over again expecting the light to come on, and for him to finally understand, and do whatever he had to do to change. I said the same thing over and over again a thousand different ways. But not one thing I said made a difference, because he was in complete denial that he had a problem with alcohol. The sad thing is that he really tried to control his drinking, but he could not, and even then he could not accept that he was powerless.
You know what else is sad? I could see how obsessed he was with alcohol, but I could not see how obsessed I was over trying to control his drinking. We were the perfect storm, the yin yang of an alcoholic relationship. We were on opposite sides that absolutely encouraged our sickness. He could not look me in the face and not feel guilty, but he could not stop his destructive behavior either. I struggled trying to out-wit him and keep him out of trouble.
Every time in the past, before I got into recovery, that I had tried to change, or pull away, I failed, and I failed because of my motive. I was trying to control and manipulate my husband to try and force him to change. It was pretty scary standing up for my life. It was hard to wrap my mind around, and accept, that he did not have to change for me to change. What if I changed and things did not work out the way that I wanted them to? Many times it was painful to do the right thing. That is when the doubts came. Sometimes I was fearful and second guessed my decision.
My alcoholic had no reason to believe that things were different this time and he did everything in his power to keep the status quo. He wasn’t going to let me tell him what he could and could not do and his drinking got worse. As he began to see changes in me, he became even more determine to get me back in line. He tried to manipulated and guilt tripped me to try and make me believe that everything was my fault. I gave him an ultimatum and he threatened to leave. He left. The first time he left I was not strong enough, or well enough, to hold my ground, so after a few weeks, I folded and he came back home on his terms. The second time he left, he had about a years sobriety under his belt. He told me that he needed his own space and he moved to a different city. I was better and stronger, but he wasn’t and after about four months he made grand promises and “took me back.” The third time he left, he left for good.
You know what is so interesting about the third time? It was a mutual agreement. He knew, and I knew, that I had changed enough where I would no longer accept unacceptable in my life. His disease changed me, it changed him, and it changed the love we shared. It was only through recovery that I learned how to have compassion for his struggle; it was through recovery that I learned how to separate the disease from the man – which helped me to hate the disease but not the man.
It was in recovery that I learned how to love myself enough to not to allow his disease to destroy me. Which in my case meant that I had to walk away. Believe it or not, thanks to both of our recovery programs (he was in and out of the program) our breakup was rather tame. There was no war. We just knew that we could not make it work any more.
I am sharing my journey this morning, because recovery will create change in your life. Sometimes that change is not the way you envision it to be. Most couples stay together, but a few don’t. We didn’t, but the program was our saving grace. Without the program we wold have hated each other when the break came. Don’t get me wrong the break was not easy. It did not come without tears. Both of us were sad with the result, but we knew that in order for us to walk away without hating each that was what we had to do.