The flaw in my expectations

An expectation is a strong belief that something or someone will be a certain way or behave in a certain way. It is an assumption, and a presumption, a predictable outcome. In many situations we have already formed a conclusion in our minds. Many times, for me, it has been a state of mind that had nothing whatsoever to do with my reality. It was a want and a dream, it was a need and a hope, that I desperately held onto, because I believed that it was something I had to have to be happy, to validate me or because I thought I deserved it.

The big flaw in my expectation belief was that I had put that responsibility onto my alcoholic’s back. Therefore I set myself up over and over again to be disappointed, to be hurt and to develop a king size resentment. The only thing predictable about my alcoholic was that he was unpredictable.

The first step says that I am powerless over alcohol. I was powerless over my alcoholic and my life was unmanageable. But what I heard, was that I was going to have to let go of my hopes and dreams of happy ever after. When I heard powerless I heard hopeless, I heard unconquerable, I heard impossible, I heard unattainable. In reality all that was true if we were talking about my ability to control my alcoholic. It was NOT TRUE over me finding peace and happiness in my life.

I morned and grieved over letting go of my expectations. Darn it! He was my husband. He said he loved me. Doesn’t love mean that he will stop drinking and put our family first? Doesn’t it? To me it is supposed to be that way, but unfortunately, that is not how it worked in our life. Unfortunately my husband had a mistress. Her name was alcohol and no matter how much he loved me he loved her more.

Even if it were possible for me to be the perfect wife, lover and friend to this man I would never be able to compete against alcohol and win. His drinking wasn’t about me. The harder I tried the worse it became, because I was a reminder of all of the ways he was failing in his life. The control that alcohol had over him really hit me in the face the day I told him he had to choose between alcohol and our family. He did not even blink. He just walked into the bedroom and started packing.

I was angry, devastated and afraid of being alone with three kids and no job or job skills. In the end I swallowed my pride and he came back home on his terms. Believe it or not, I was in the program at that time, obviously I did not have much recovery under my belt, but I did have a sponsor. She taught me to never deliver an ultimatum that I was not ready to back up. She taught me to prepare myself to survive with or without him. No, she did not tell me to leave him. She told me to do what I had to do to financially take care of me and my girls if I had to.

BUT!!!! Let’s back up the train here. The first thing she did was tell me that since I was not in any physical danger, that I did not need to make any major life changing decisions in my life until I had at least a good year of recovery under my belt. She told me that she could not make me do anything, just like I could not make my alcoholic do anything. She reminded me that I could stay a victim or I could take control of my life. That meant going to meetings. Reading the literature and studying and working the steps; It meant a commitment to work on me.

Interestingly enough the more I put the focus on me and what I needed to do, the more empowered I became. The stronger I got, the less I looked to him for affirmation. The more capable I became the more I let go of trying to be responsible for his life. The more I understood about the disease of alcohol, the more compassion I had for him. The transformation in my heart and in my mind and in my life was mind blowing. My life did not get easier living with an active alcoholic, but it was easier for me to live with an alcoholic, because I knew his drinking had nothing to do with me. I learned how to set up healthy boundaries for myself and I learned how to live and let live.

2 thoughts on “The flaw in my expectations

  1. I have come to see your posts as some of the most helpful and recovery-producing words that I have ever read. I am in the middle of a divorce with my soon to be ex-husband. Our problem was not alcohol, but bipolar depression but truly no different really. Every time I read “alcoholic” I replaced it for “bipolar” and every time you used “alcohol” I changed it to his mood or disease or BP behavior. I have always said how the two very separate diseases have such similarities, but neither can be controlled or forced into a nice and neat box, as I was always demanding.

    A few posts ago, you said you and your alcoholic were the perfect storm – this has never rang more true in my life too. I was the kind of girl that worked with all my heart to make my BPH (bipolar husband) “get it’ or “change” or even “see the error in his ways.” So too, my expectations were very high. I realized after the first time I asked him to leave, I was not ready and took him back. I felt the sting of shame and his parents even called me to shame me into submission for all the obvious reasons.

    After years of more counseling, I empowered myself. I went back to school and readied myself to be financially supportive. I did so with my BPH’s support on the mechanical side that I coordinated and steered like the kids, the housework, the driving but never with the emotional support I craved and demanded. I wanted the orange juice from the prune. He sat depressed for years – and the more I moved around him and went to school and got the kids, the groceries, made dinner and studied, he resented me even more. His depression lasted for 4 years that included over 40 ECT treatments, doctor visits, medication changes and experiments and lots of turmoil and financially crippling medical bills. Years ago there were some manic behaviors and none too terrible but frightening nonetheless!

    Emotional support or emotional anything was at the heart of it all, the one area he never could get a handle on for himself, let alone me. He was emotionally flawed due to the very nature of his disease, and yet I demanded MY emotional needs be met since all of his were met by me. He was my husband, I reasoned. I supported him and gave him all the opportunities to “get better” and take his meds, etc. His BP/narcissistic ways made his moods and demands always about him – “everything was always about him” was the one area I did not see until we finally separated this spring.

    He chose to leave even when he always said he would never leave his kids. Then he blamed me for going through the divorce process that was likened to lying in front of God and all of our family and friends – since our religion is very much against it. The invisible “mistress” his moods and BP ways was the one thing I could never fight against. Five years ago, he even went off his meds for the second time in our relationship and the trust was gone forever!

    Now that I am processing over these last several months doing a “no contact” except through emails only about the kids, have I been able to see my part in all of this like Sharon W says so nicely a few posts ago. I set myself up for disappointment after disappointment. If I went to his Dr. appts or to his ECT treatments or if I went to support group meetings with him, he would be the “perfect” husband I wanted. I could not ever truly accept his disease as his imperfect and flawed.

    After one of the last major arguments, he told me he could not respect me and at that exact moment lightning struck so to speak: 1) my eyes finally opened 2) my marriage was truly over and 3) there was no changing anything about him. He will never change – and that’s NOT my problem anymore. We have four great kids and they need their mom he announced to me 2 days later he moved out.

    I was angry and devastated to say the least. First because he always said he would never leave. Second, he never saw anything he did as wrong – and now I see that is probably true. But like yin and yang, he was the victim but so was I which fed our dysfunction. But I was also angry with myself for allowing these things to build over the years. I never saw myself as codependent until now. I was the doting wife, mother and soon to be nurse. Yes I earned my degree and empowered myself. I now had the earning potential to live on my own in the event I ever had to. He still believes school “ruined” me, I told him how I learned to think for myself. For the first time in the 27 years I knew him, I was not doing anything wrong, I just stopped the codependent/bipolar rollercoaster ride.

    It wasn’t until I set healthy boundaries that I was mocked for anyway, that I truly started to heal. I was now the reason for all his angst in his life – it was never his moods, behaviors or his disease. The blame came and I was ready. It was OK to have him rant and scream at me and I did not have to fight back, scream and cry anymore. I simply did not have the energy to do so anymore! I stopped agonizing over every thing he did not understand. I put my boxing gloves down and I truly felt free!

    I do not go to meetings but I know of the program. As part of my recovery I bring these posts as well as other inspirational recovery stories of divorce to my counselor and we decipher them together. I am putting most of my effort back into my relationship with my Higher Power and fostering that relationship which steadied my recovery. It truly is a process. Painful and hard, but it is so very necessary.

    Sorry for the long post, but my story feels so understood here!!! Thank you!

    • Millie,
      I hear your pain. I have a family member that is bipolar and refuses to take medication. I did all I could do, and nothing I did improved his life and it created hurt and chaos in mine. He did not want my help to get better, he wanted my help to continue the way things were. I did everything in my power to help him. Recently I made the decision that enough was enough. His rights ended where mine begin and vice versa.

      I believe that I was codependent long before I met my alcoholic. My mother had bipolar behavior and my father was an adult child of an alcoholic that never had any healing and recovery. I believe that there are many circumstances in life, besides alcoholism, that manifest codependent behavior in others. I am so glad to hear that you are getting professional help. If you are interested there are other 12 Step meetings that you can go to that are not necessarily designed for family and friends of alcoholics. There is CODA and Celebrate Recovery just to mention a few.

      Thank you for sharing your story with me. Many Blessings.

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