Mornings Married to the Alcoholic
I woke from my slumber feeling refreshed, renewed this Sunday to enjoy my coffee before starting my day. On the opposite side of my bedroom door the tension is rising. Preparing myself I breathe deeply. Once again I start my day being married to the alcoholic.
Stepping foot over the threshold I enter into hostile territory. Barely a good morning, my husband asks, “Do you know what ESG is?” “It’s something they put in our food,” I reply. He dismisses my answer and starts talking about the environment. At that point I decide for my sanity to act as if I care and start to tune him out. His excitement is a reflection of his TV program. He is reacting to the news.
Over two years ago we did away with the network news. It was polluting our minds. My husband continues to mumble, “IRA.” Currently, my husband is down to watching one streamed news show a week. He is watching Kibbe on Liberty. A program hosted by a thought-provoking Libertarian who speaks my husband’s language.
I start to recite the Serenity Prayer in my head…
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference;Reinhold Niebuhr
I know that I alone am not capable of changing my husband. Each morning I need to surrender to God, to seek peace in a tension filled world.
As I sit quietly allowing my peace to settle, my husband slowly calms himself. A half hour into our morning the truth comes out. My husband had not one, but two cups of coffee. And he has become unhinged. A combination of negative news and extra caffeine are the main contributors to his behavior.
Defining the Alcoholic in a Marriage
Over the course of the last two years I have been unsuccessful at explaining to my husband what my definition of the alcoholic is. He claims I am using too broad of a brush stroke to label the alcoholic. My view of the alcoholic is when we remove the alcohol from the man what remains is the alcoholic. Perhaps, I just lost you too! What does that even mean?
For me an alcoholic has little to do with the alcohol which is consumed, but the unresolved issues which lead someone to take that drink.
Either he doesn’t understand or is in denial of how it might apply to him. Please see the following blog posts… https://grow-together.blog/2023/01/09/drunk-on-words-the-problem-isnt-the-alcohol/ and https://grow-together.blog/2023/01/19/sobriety-challenged-or-sober-minded/ for further clarification.
The Birth of an Alcoholic: we weren’t born this way.
Both my husband and I were born into two parent households. We were both raised attending church. My husband’s parents were more active in the church. His parents and my mother did not engage in alcohol abuse. We each had the quintessential childhood in the eyes of others.
As the years progressed and into our late teens we both were involved with experimenting with alcohol. My husband was outgoing, always the life of the party and known to be a welcoming host to his fellow alcohol experimenting friends. I on the other hand, was a quiet and insecure youth who dabbled in recreational alcohol abuse.
By the time we had met in my mid-twenties, we both were skilled at the art of recreational alcohol abuse. We surrounded ourselves with like-minded individuals and continued the party lifestyle into our marriage. Each day was, still is a blessing and we were, still are truly high on life.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;Reinhold Niebuhr
Our alcoholic behavior developed over the next twenty years through each hardship. We started to misuse alcohol, not just to be enjoyed, but to cope with everyday struggles. The liquid spirit of alcohol is what was used to fuel the flames, not extinguish them.
Having a thriving marriage while being married to the alcoholic.
By the time we were in our forties our marriage revolved around the liquid spirit. We both plowed through our thirties being self-employed, not having to answer to anyone and given 100% control. My business, I was an independent casework designer, which was very satisfying. My husband’s insurance business was more demanding and thrived in a hateful environment. He was under immense daily pressure to produce for his clients and make their home-ownership dreams come true.
Truthfully, I am fortunate my husband survived these years. The stress of his job took a toll on his health. The business and others he interacted with created an environment which fed into our alcoholic lifestyle. Over the years he had an excellent assistant but not enough staff to relieve him of the workload. He felt the need to have full control, not relinquish to more support staff. When really what he needed was to surrender his will to something much greater.
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will;Reinhold Niebuhr
My husband’s path to success wasn’t easy and along the way a sick culture had let him down. He felt as if he had to solely rely on himself. By the time he retired he developed years of compounding resentments, with anger building over a broken system. To even trust in something greater than himself is difficult.
Testing the Marriage of the Alcoholics
We made it through our forties and my husband survived a hostile work environment. But discovered that the alcoholic lifestyle which involves pure unadulterated pleasure could get him in the end, if he did not resolve to change. My husband shared with me that his alcohol intake was killing him.
Prior to my fall from grace we knew we had a problem with alcohol. We discussed making the necessary changes for a healthier lifestyle, but did not have the courage to execute it. On March 17, 2021, God stepped in and I know longer had a choice.
While spending thirty-plus-days separated from my husband I was given the opportunity for a new path. At an holistic rehabilitation for addicts it became apparent alcohol was not my main problem, but I had a Christ-shaped hole in my heart. My time away not only relieved me of my problem with alcohol abuse, but strengthened my marriage. When we remove the alcohol we are left exposed and vulnerable which can lead to other temptations.
Following the thirty-days I was warned by the group leader that I may not be welcomed back into my family. He claims that many families want nothing to do with the alcoholic. What he did not realize is that during my stay under his leadership, God had other plans for me. My time away provided me with the strength needed to be the wife my husband needs and the compassion to be a nurturing mother.
Married to the Recovered Alcoholic
When I returned to our marriage I was a changed woman. Allowing Christ in created the foundation needed for a new sober marriage. Over the last two years I have reluctantly allowed alcohol back into our marriage but with clear boundaries. The struggle I currently have is we both have different approaches to sober-living.
The tools I received while away helped me deal with the bitterness born out of my resentments. My savior set me free of the bitterness. I am no longer a slave to wine or the years of compounding anger and resentment from a broken society. Breaking free from the bondage of myself has brought me peace and happiness.
My husband might choose to be stuck in this unhealthy environment of self-will. It isn’t for me to try to change him. His past experiences have shaped him. For him to relinquish control and surrender to God isn’t easy. My job as his wife is to be a peaceful presence and demonstrate compassion, not only for others who have different views, but my husband and his life experiences.
And maybe, just maybe I will eventually rub off on him.
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Being married to a alcoholic is difficult and there is help available. https://al-anon.org/