Alcoholism

After the debacle of my starter marriage, I made sure my eyes were open when I started dating my forever husband. He, like me, was a mild social drinker. He would have a glass of wine at night, maybe a beer, maybe two.  We would have more on weekends or when we were out with friends. Somewhere along the line though, something changed for him. During our first couple years of marriage, I noticed he was drinking 5 to 6 beers a night (Miller Lite, if you can even call that watery beer a beer. I’ve become such a beer snob!).

If you’ve been a reader of my blogs, you’ll understand how Trinity has helped me heal my own pain throughout the years. You’ll also understand how I have empowered him to do the same. He has been instrumental in me becoming the woman you know today. He has successfully done what others could not; he has helped me find and use my voice effectively. I, through gritted teeth, often tell God and my angels that they can knock off the “using my voice” lessons anytime.

I would tell him how frightened I was by his usage of alcohol. He would, in the earlier years, agree he was drinking too much and he would back off.  About 3 years ago, though, that all changed. A six pack of Miller Lite or two glasses of wine was no longer satisfying. He had moved on to Heineken, Guinness and then the high-alcohol content craft beers, not to mention bottles and then boxes of wine. As days moved into months, his consumption increased in direct proportion to my fears.

As Trinity’s drinking exceeded even his maximum, I became frantic. The way I was approaching him wasn’t working so I took several steps back. My husband has helped me overcome so much…and here was another way he did so. Instead of feeling as if my (and our daughter’s) safety was threatened by his alcohol usage, I backed off. I decided I could no longer count how many beers he had, I could no longer call it out to him and that took tremendous pressure off of me. I stepped back from sort of a parental role and decided I had made my fears known. I had been clear about his alcohol consumption and I needed to give him space to figure it out on his own.

One night he came home late and had been drinking. Our daughter was 3. He stood in our entry way with tears in his eyes and said, “I can’t stop with just one. I’ve tried. I can’t stop with just one drink.”  I thought that was it; I thought that was his rock bottom but it wasn’t even close. I would wait two more years before that happened.

After the discovery of his emotional affair in late 2015, he vowed to stop, or at least slow down his drinking. He did well for about a week and then I noticed a beer on his desk at 4:30, then at 3:00, then at noon. It would get earlier and earlier each day.  Towards the end he was drinking at 9:00 in the morning. He tells me now I didn’t know the half of how much he was drinking. For that I am thankful as what I knew terrified me.

I watched our bank accounts dwindle and I refused to say anything to him. My thought was, “He makes money, he can spend it as he sees fit.” As is the way with alcoholics, secrets and hiding things from others are a way of life. What was being charged to our credit card was only about half of what he was really spending.

In September 2016, on my birthday, he was arrested for DUI. When he told me about it, I thought two things: “This is going to financially fuck us without lube.” and “Thank you, GOD! Thank you! Maybe this is what he needs to finally get some help.” But it wasn’t. In fact, he repeatedly stated that he was only at .09 and “that’s barely over the legal limit.” He missed the point entirely. For him, .09 was barely breaking a sweat; it was his normal Blood Alcohol Content. He hired an attorney and pled down to reckless driving.

My reaction to his drinking was subconscious but I was experiencing real PTSD because of it. I didn’t put these pieces together until an amazing counselor at the VA pointed out that I felt like everything I wanted or had obtained, my entire way of life, my existence, was once again being threatened by alcohol.  This was the counselor my husband and I went to after I had my anxiety breakdown. He also witnessed my physical distress as my body shook like that of a scared dog. It was him who suggested I might be in fear for (and fighting for) my life.

(Jim, if you are reading this, I thank GOD for you every day. I didn’t have the knowledge to work through this one and you helped put some of the puzzle pieces together. There was no coincidence that I found you. Thank you for helping me heal.)

Jim pointed out that I have lost (almost) everyone I’ve loved due to the highly addictive bitch called Alcohol. They have either physically or emotionally abandoned me or I have had to leave them. This explains why I have Abandonment issues in this lifetime, doesn’t it?!! Alcohol(ism) is in both my maternal and paternal sides of the family. On a scale of 1 to 10 of how terrified I felt due to Trinity’s drinking, I was at a 12. This was a mouth-goes-dry-eyes-go-wide-body-tremors-flight-fight-or-freeze kind of 12.

I hated who he became when he was drinking. Couldn’t he see how this terrified me? Didn’t he care? Where was the man I married? He’d be horrified at the thought of hurting me. It turns out, the man I married was still in there, but his brain chemistry had changed so much that he no longer cared about anything except alcohol. He didn’t care about his health, his work, his marriage or his children; he just wanted to escape. He became mean, impatient and angry with the world. He would use vulgar, lewd and harassing language in front of our daughter. He constantly reeked of booze and when he would touch me in ways I viewed as volatile, he would belligerently laugh as I rebuked him.

He was really bringing out the big guns to get me to leave our marriage. He was fighting against growing spiritually and dealing with his emotional pain. He still viewed himself as unworthy and unloveable and he was trying to avoid the spiritual Mack truck that was bearing down upon him.

I had made a vow before him and God that I was never going to leave him and I meant it.  As with his affair, he expected me to leave him because that was what people in his life did. He wanted me to leave him so he didn’t have to face reality. At one point, towards the very end when he was drunk and having a pity party for one, he insinuated he was going to ask me for a divorce.

I nonchalantly thought, “Go ahead buddy. I’m not afraid of being alone anymore. You’ve made me stronger. I no longer fear abandonment. I know Ceta and I will be just fine without you but know this; We’ve been through too much and I’m NOT leaving you. You do it, you call it quits, after all it’s what you do, Mr. Avoidance but I believe we made a commitment to help each other overcome our past life issues. I’ve been there for you and I’ve given you a safe place to do just that. I trust you’d do the same for me. I am NOT leaving.”

The truth of the matter was I wasn’t sure how much longer I could physically do this.

 

 


This is the second of a trilogy of blogs: 
Part 1: Alcoholic
Part 2: Alcoholism
Part 3: Sober

~ For background reading pertaining to this blog:
Anxiety
Unloveable
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Alcoholic

I remember a time when I was 14 or 15; a tough age for a girl. I would find full bottles of alcohol hidden in linen closets, under furniture and in the basement. I remember being so disgusted with my mom that I would loathingly pour the alcohol down the bathroom sink drain and refill the bottles with tap water. I would replace them where I found them.

When I returned from school, I remember feeling hatred towards my mom because the bottles were either half empty or gone. I would become incensed and repulsed thinking that she was either too drunk or too stupid to know that I had replaced the alcohol with water and she drank it anyway.

“You stupid bitch”, I would think and I would turn my venom on my mom. Sometimes I used the passive-aggressive techniques I had been taught. I would go for days without looking at her or talking to her. Other times I would let loose on her by screaming and pummeling her with my abusive words. God, I HATED her at times. I hated that she wasn’t there for me emotionally. I hated that she loved alcohol more than me and I hated that I needed her and she had emotionally and physically abandoned me. Hell hath no fury like a hormonal teen-aged girl.

A neighbor once told me years after my mom had died that she had found my mom passed out by our mailbox. She thought my mom had fallen and went to help. My mom was perfectly fine except she was blotto’d. I remember feeling embarrassment at hearing this, even though I was in my early thirties.

My dad was aware, but we didn’t talk about it. Good Lord, no. That’s not what us conservative Norwegian/German Lutheran/Catholic Midwesterners do. We don’t talk about alcoholism, abortion, mental illness, abuse, adultery, or rape. Oh no, that’s not neighborly or polite. It’s icky and ugly and we don’t want to talk about that stuff.  Let’s sweep it under the rug; let’s not tell the children the real story because they’ll never need to know or they’re not “strong enough” to handle it.  Has it occurred to anyone that it’s this type of mentality, this type of secrecy, that encourages these actions to continue?

I used to watch my stoic dad search the house looking for errant bottles of hidden alcohol. I watched as he loaded them into the trunk of our cream colored Ford Thunderbird and left for work. I watched as he would take a bottle out after work and have a few drinks (or several, I don’t remember). And then I would watch as he replaced the bottle in the trunk, shut the lid and hid the keys. I clearly saw the strain on my dad’s face but I did not understand the toll it was taking on him. Although I’ve never walked a mile in my dad’s shoes, I think I may have walked a few blocks.

Each school day, I would leave my mom lying on her favorite pink velvet love seat. Each day, when I returned, she would still be lying there. I didn’t know that each day she would order alcohol and have it delivered but my dad knew. Night after night, morning after morning this process would repeat itself. My anger and resentment towards her, and her illness, grew. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize alcoholism WAS an illness. I just thought she was weak.

One night my mom was trashed and sleeping in the living room. My dad was sleeping in their bedroom and I in mine. I could hear mom weakly calling to my dad, “Merle. Merle! Merle? I have to go to the bathroom.” My dad was maybe 54 or 55 at the time, not much different in age than I am now. Dad got up but not as quickly as mom needed. She tried to make it to the bathroom on her own but fell. She thinly said, “Merle! I fell! Help me!” and that might have been when my dad emotionally snapped.

He grabbed her right arm by the shoulder and drug her across the carpeted floor towards the bathroom. At the time and for years to come, I hated my dad for this treatment. But now, as a parent, as an older, wiser adult and as someone who has loved/lived with alcoholics, I understand his reaction. You can only take so much shit, so much stress, so many sleepless nights, so many worries, so much pent up anger, so much disappointment and so much emotional strain before your mind unravels.

I heard my mom fall and I instantly sat up in my bed on high alert. My eyes were wide in the darkness. Ever mom’s protector, I threw my legs over the bed and raced down the unlit hallway. I flipped the bathroom light on and as my eyes adjusted my mouth fell to the floor. Her right arm was grasped in his left hand and she looked so tiny, so frail. She wasn’t a big woman anyway and had become very emaciated from the alcohol. My dad always appeared larger to me than he really was.

I remember seeing her eyes flutter open and then close. There were tears on her cheeks and she slurringly said, “Merle! You’re hurting me!”  I screamed at my dad to stop it. I remember vainly trying to push him away from her. Everything was moving in slow motion. As I stood in the bathroom’s harsh light wearing my baby-doll shorty pajamas, I felt utterly helpless and powerless. I also felt extreme anger, repulsion and sympathy all at once. A part of me wanted to repeatedly hit my dad and a part of me wanted to pull my own mother down the hallway, too. I ended up doing what I normally did; bursting into tears, racing for the sanctuary of my bedroom and slamming the door.

My mom did get help. It wasn’t professional help, as least I don’t think so, but she did cut out or cut down her drinking. She told me once she’d “got a handle on it.” And I never, EVER saw her drunk again, buzzed yes, but drunk no.

As with most children of addictions/abuse, you either become so repulsed by the action that you would NEVER do it…..or you become that action; after all, it’s what you know. There’s not often a middle of the road for us…it’s usually all or nothing.

In Midwestern American, if it’s a nice day out, we drink. If it’s too cold, we drink. If it’s juuuuuust right, we drink. Having a good day? Drink. Having a bad day? Drink. Having a perfect day? Drink. Started the job? Drink. Finished the job? Drink. Somewhere in the middle? Drink. Weddings? Drink. Funeral? Drink. Breathing? Drink.

I took my first drink at 17. My husband took his at 14. In Midwestern America, it’s what we do. It’s what we know.

 


This is the first in a trilogy of blogs: 
Part 1: "Alcoholic", Part 2: "Alcoholism" Part 3: "Sober"