“The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage” – This was the title of an Al-Anon book that I received on my first visit to the group – around 14 years ago. At the time, I had no idea how big of a dilemma it actually was. I also did not realize that once alcoholism enters your life, it is almost impossible to get out completely.
You see, we all keep repeating the behavioral patterns that we learn as children. Some of these patterns are good, but some of them are very, very bad. It is not until we really see the patterns that we have any hope of breaking them. And even when we do see them, it is easier said then done.
When I first went to Al-Anon, I was married to my first husband – an alcoholic. He was not the first alcoholic in my life. No, that distinction belongs to my father. My mother was the co-dependent and I unknowingly followed dutifully in her footsteps.
Bad Marriage # 1
My first marriage lasted the longest – 12 years. In that time, I grew up quite a bit. Unfortunately, as it is with so many alcoholics, he never aged a bit. Emotionally, that is. Physically, he aged at a much faster pace than I did and even though we are about the same age, today he looks at least 10 years older than me. But emotionally, he remained at the same maturity level he was when I met him at the tender age of seventeen.
By the time our third child was born, I was tired of having four children – my husband being the fourth. After MANY unsuccessful attempts to get him sober (yeah, like I actually had any chance of doing that), I resolved to give up on him and move on.
Great! The problem was that even though I thought I was so strong for having finally left him, I was actually the weakest and most vulnerable I had ever been. I was in no way ready for another relationship, and yet, I began an online romance with a man from England almost immediately.
Bad Marriage # 2
I decided that I wanted a partner who was the complete opposite of my first husband. For the most part, I got that. The man from England moved to the United States and we soon married. He was certainly different from my husband and was NOT an alcoholic, but he was far from good for me. He turned out to be a sober version of my father. He was wicked smart and highly manipulative and he had no problem being a total control freak.
As the strong independent woman I thought I was, I had a problem with all this dominant control. A part of me wanted it, because it was typical of the relationship that had evolved between my parents. But there was this other part of me that had grown up watching Oprah and realizing that there was something dreadfully wrong with this picture.
I soon began arguing back with my second husband and before we even celebrated the first year of marriage, he was gone (never to be heard from again – luckily for me).
There I was. Broken. I had tried to free myself from one type of abuse and ended up getting caught up in another kind. But, I was determined not to let this ruin anything. I decided to reinvent myself and turn myself into a self-published author of motivational books. I figured that even though I had not had a huge amount of success as a published technical author, there was no reason I could not be successful writing another kind of book. A book that I was certainly more passionate about. That book, which I wrote and published in less than 5 months was titled, “No Limits: How I escaped the clutches of Corporate America to live the self-employed life of my dreams”.
Life of my dreams? But was it really?
In many ways, it was and still is. Looking back, I can see that I have made astounding progress in terms of my emotional maturity. I truly have come a long way from where I was in my early twenties.
But tragically, my tryst with alcohol was far from over. For all the progress I had made, my struggle was actually just beginning.
About a year after my second husband left, a new man emerged. New and Old. He was someone from my past. Someone I had dated just briefly as a young and impressionable teenager.
At first it was hard to believe that “the cutest boy I had ever met”, was desperately trying to locate me and even harder to believe that as a man in his forties, he was still single and had no children. How perfect, right?
No, not perfect. You see the old adage, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is”, is ABSOLUTELY TRUE!!!
Bad Marriage # 3
The man that would eventually become my third husband turned out to be a bigger alcoholic than my first. Worse than that, I myself had begun to develop a drinking problem (which I now see is a late-stage symptom of my co-dependency).
Within a year of our marriage (about 9 months ago), I had enough. I could not live with the hypocrisy any more and I ceremoniously threw him out (you can read all about that pre-Christmas day in this post).
Of course, being the seriously inflicted co-dependent (with a drinking problem) that I am, my resolve was short-lived. My new husband is an expert manipulator (probably one of the best) and he has studied me thoroughly. He knows just what buttons to push to get a certain response. In short, “he plays me like a fiddle”.
Living with my failed ability to rehabilitate him (notice how it is somehow my failure and not his?) was really starting to wear on me and by June of this year, I finally cracked. I went out one Sunday evening for a jog/pity party in the woods. Great! The only problem was that I brought 3 24-ounce beers with me. I did not want to go home drunk (the kids definitely did not deserve that and as bad as my problems got, I never drank around them). So, I stayed in the woods, but then, it got really, really dark, really, really quick and I was stuck. Screwed really.
Self-preservation kicked in and I found a tree that had fallen over a creek and crawled up into it for safety. I figured I could stay there until I sobered up and then I would crawl my way out. Good idea, except for the fact that I had left a note telling my kids I went to the sports park to go jogging. When I did not return at dark, my 16 year old son wisely called the police, who immediately dispatched a search unit.
It did not take the search party long to find me (hiding in the tree as they called it). By the time they found me, I was pissed, embarrassed, humiliated, exhausted, everything. They, of course, thought I was crazy and so this resulted in me having to spend slightly less than 72 hours in a mandatory lockup at a behavioral unit.
Having been at one of these institutions and seen the kind of people that are there, I can safely say that I AM NOT CRAZY. I am stressed out, over manipulated and stuck in yet another bad alcoholic marriage, but I am not crazy. At least not in the way the people I saw locked up were.
Upon coming home, I knew I was in a bad place, but I was not going to go down without a big fight. I resolved to stop all of my own drinking (even the occasional weekend drinking I was doing at that time) and work hard to put things back together.
Unfortunately, my raging alcoholic husband was just getting started. In the past 3 months while my drinking has stopped, his drinking has steadily progressed and become highly secretive. He has become an expert at hiding his consumption and also at controlling me.
His favorite tactic was to remind me on each of his binges that I was the crazy one who got locked up. Yeah, he loved to throw that in my face at precisely the exact moment when he knew it would be the most effective. If that failed to elicit the intended response, he would shoot out a quick threat about taking away all the cars that we had to finance in his name (because my credit sank when the Englishman left me). And when that did not work, he would start to threaten my children.
ENOUGH!! THIS INSANITY CANNOT CONTINUE!!!!!
I have told my husband to leave and that we must separate for a period of no less than 6 months. A period for him to either a.) prove he can stay sober or b.) prove he cannot stay sober and I progress to the next step – divorce.
So, where do I go from here? Back to Al-Anon I suppose. I did try the local group I have in my area, but they are very small and filled with older couples trying to manage their drug addicted adult children (not people I would relate to much).
I will look into other resources and of course any suggestions are welcome.
The only thing I know for sure is, I CAN AND WILL BE HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!