By far, this is the largest challenge I have encountered, as well as the hardest to deal with, the most recent and certainly the most painful. The aspects involved are countless, the lessons are as plentiful, the understanding and acceptance difficult, but crucial to mental survival. Healing can take a long, long time.
Alcoholism is a world unto itself. If you are not an alcoholic, you have to learn, dig, observe, and be open to what you find in order to come close to understanding this existence.
As usual, acceptance is the first step, not only for an alcoholic, but for those directly affected. I am learning the rest as I go along, day by day, hour by hour, if need be.
What I have learned is the famous Alanon three c's: I did not Cause this, I cannot Cure this and I cannot Control this. That leaves me with only one alternative, to take control of what I can, my own life.
If I am wavering between remaining in the relationship or not, that choice feels like it might be my next step. I may not be able to make a firm decision today, and while there is no set time frame for any choices, it seems to be a turning point. Once the commitment to stay has been made, it makes understanding, patience and love so much easier to muster. From previous experience, I also know that if I am contemplating leaving, I will leave when events are simply become too much to handle, and not a moment before. Months spent agonizing over this move will vanish when the instigating event occurs, and there is absolutely no doubt that it is over. It's rather like a light switch being turned off. Meanwhile, I have decided to stay and try and work it out. I don't know how long I will feel this way, but for now, this day, this moment, that is what I have decided.
That's when the real work begins.
Life now becomes divided down into three planes, dealing with him and dealing with me, and dealing with the alcohol. A new factor in my life is the belief that as a partnership or marriage, we deal with any problem together, not against each other.
Dealing with him means understanding that he is out of control. It means understanding that his actions and behaviours are a direct result of the alcohol. It means understanding that there is an underlying problem that resulted in his drinking I may know nothing about. Any substance abuse "excuse" may not be credible, but there can still be logical reasons for it. The man I met and fell in love with is still there, somewhere, he is just overwhelmed by other factors in his life or mind, and trying to survive the only way he can at this time. Meanwhile, my love is gone, and left this stranger in his stead. I will be polite, caring, nice and proper, as I would to any guest in our home, but I will not let him rule my heart, my life, or my home.
Dealing with him does not mean I have to let his actions or attitudes affect me. That's easy to say! You might be facing bankruptcy, repossession, any or all the other famous repercussions of alcohol abuse. On a physical level, it can rock our lives to the bone. If we are unable to repair, fix or change this aspect, the only choice we have is to adjust our mental attitudes towards whatever we are facing. I may have to pack my belongings and move. The only other alternative is to let it destroy me mentally. It is my choice.
Dealing with him also means that he has to be responsible for the repercussions of his actions, not you. Most likely, your lines of acceptability had slid back a tad. What you would not tolerate in your life before is now a standard, every day occurrence. Time to take inventory and reset your rules. Toughlove is a good book to read and use.
There are so many other aspects to dealing with him, but for now I am moving on to something equally important: dealing with me.
Dealing with me means I get to take a real serious look at what destructive behaviour I am responsible for. I might not have been this way before alcohol became a problem, but I know in my heart that he is right, I have changed, too. It just took me a while to realize this. For so long it was, "I am NOT the problem, dear!" How wrong I was. He might have been a reason or direct influence on my changes, but I cannot use him for an excuse. I allowed his behaviour to alter mine. Detaching with love. Alanon says it well, "Detachment is simply a means that allows us to separate ourselves from the adverse effects that another person's alcoholism can have upon our lives."
Building a bit of wall between us makes the difference between survival and my demise. A shield, a suit of armour. This can be another tricky area. If you have chosen to stay within the relationship, you don't want your wall to be too high, nor do you want it to be too thick. Just enough to prevent damage from flowing over into your space. Selecting the best building materials, choosing the right design, very detailed and lengthy procedure, again, day by day. Moment by moment, incident by incident. Remember the three little pigs? What worked against the big bad wolf and what didn't? And you know, if the wolf weren't such a greedy, hungry jerk, and honestly wanted to be friends, the little pigs could easily open a window or two, and happily accept him back into their space.
Both of you know exactly how to push each other's buttons. Put yours away, out of reach. Do not push his. Put him on ignore.
A bad day might mean that I am for some reason, extremely fragile, border line teary, shut up inside myself, not able or wanting to discuss it. The day might be spent in a mental battle, "I know I did not cause this" versus "I know I caused part of it by being this way or that way, and now all this damage has been done and right now it can't be repaired." These are also known as feeling sorry for me days. Pity parties. Tough days. You do what you can to simply get through them without damaging anything else. Hopefully, it will have worn off by morning, some true logic slams around a corner and whacks you back to sensibility, or you simply tire of being so shut away. What's really funny and ironic, is that those are classic days and moods you watch your spouse go through, half angry at them for being so silly and childish, and yet here you are yourself.
So off I go back to all my own writings, books, lessons I had already learned about emotional and logical maturity, off to Alanon where I am surrounded by others like me. I no longer feel so completely alone, I am refreshed with new insights, ideas, understandings and most importantly, hope. Then, I can go back and take on the world, logically, calmly, confidently.
I remember we are all totally responsible for ourselves.
I remember that I am where I am because of my choices.
I remember that I allowed myself to feel like a victim and can stop it any time I want to.
I remember that even though he loves me tremendously, I might not be reason enough for him to quit drinking.
I remember to act, not re-act.
I remember that I am the only person who can hurt my feelings.
I remember that patience, logic and love will aide communication, not emotion.
I remember that he will drink when he is HALT; hungry, angry, lonely or tired, and I will keep an eye out for these signs, alter the atmosphere if I can, but I will not be his babysitter.
I remember that a marriage, a partnership means that we fight together against an obstacle, instead of fighting each other.
My Checklist for Sanity
Things I have to remember about my alcoholic
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