Sober

“Expectation is the root of all disappointment.” Uhhh, yes. Yes it is. When I stumbled upon that timely sentence (thank you, Fargo Forum!), I realized I needed to stop all expectations regarding Trinity. If he said he’d be home for supper, I didn’t believe him. If he said he’d help me with a project, I didn’t believe him. If he said he’d pick up our daughter, I didn’t believe him. No expectations, no disappointments.

One night, after working late, he brought our daughter home. He was horribly drunk and thought making himself something to eat was a good idea. He burned everything. It took some time for his glassy eyes to focus. His words were slurred even though he was trying to appear somewhat sober. In my head, I thanked God for getting them home safely.

The next day, when he was less drunk, I calmly told him he had crossed the line by driving drunk with Ceta. I said, “Look. I don’t give a damn if you kill yourself in a car accident, but you may NOT kill our daughter. She is a miracle and you may not hurt her.” In my head I said, “If you drink and drive with her again, I’ll call 911 myself.”

I asked him if he could tell me how much longer he planned to drink. One year? Five years? “No. Not that long” was his dejected response. I said again, “Can you please tell me so I can plan accordingly?” He replied in a soft dispirited whisper, “Someday I won’t drink.”

I looked into having him committed. I researched what I needed to do and ultimately I decided I couldn’t control this. I wanted to call his doctor and tell him the truth about how much Trinity was drinking. I was the only one who would have been at an Intervention so that wouldn’t work and besides, I had been steadily doing that throughout the years.

One day, after leaving work, I sat at a red light and looked at a lady in a white, four-door car. In my head I said to her, “Do you think about your marriage ending every second of the day, every day? Do you? Do you wonder if your marriage is going to make it? Does it consume you like it does me? No? I didn’t think so.”  I swiveled my head and looked at a sparkly blue Chevy pickup. I mentally asked the driver if he constantly worried about the success or failure of his marriage. No? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

“So,” I thought, “what the fuck am I doing? ENOUGH!” I made up my mind then and there, sitting at that stop light, that I was done worrying about it, too. I was going to put all my energy into focusing on trusting and believing this marriage was going to be successful. I told God and my Guides, that I was leaving it up to them. The light turned green, I pressed my foot on the gas pedal and I felt lighter than I had in years.

Not long after my stop light revelation, I heard my husband mumbling to himself as he was making coffee. He said, “I’ve GOT to get a life.” I didn’t say a word but my eyes rose from the newspaper I was reading. I felt something changing. I stared at his back with squinted eyes trying to figure out what it was. Could it be, with that simple mumbled comment, he was acknowledging he had a drinking problem? I lowered my eyes back to the newspaper, lifted my left eyebrow, pursed my lips and thought, “Huh. How you liking life, honey?”

Soon after that he came home and said he had contacted the VA about alcohol in/out patient treatment. Uh huh. Sure you did. Riiiiight. He said he’d left a message for them and they were to return his call.  Yup. Sure. I bet they’ll “drop the ball” and you’ll never reach out to them again and then it’ll be their fault that you’re still drunk. Without any of the hope and excitement I was feeling, I said, “Good for you, honey. Let me know what they say.” Disengage and have no expectations. If you’re the spouse of an addict/alcoholic, this could be your motto.

But he DID contact the VA and they DID get back to him. Whaaa? Apparently, he was ready to ask for and accept help. I remained optimistically guarded. This wasn’t my first rodeo with an alcoholic cowboy. But true to his word, he did report for an alcohol evaluation and he did enter treatment.

He elected to detox at home. The VA allowed him to do this as he still had a good support system. Most alcoholics have lost their entire family by this time and just have a few enabling “friends” in their life. I watched as the DT’s took hold of him as he slept on our couch. I watched his body shake violently. I watched him reach for the garbage can to empty his stomach. I watched him walk to the bathroom on unsteady legs, like a newborn colt. I heard him moaning in pain while he fitfully slept.

I watched as this man desperately struggled against the siren song of the internal alcoholic who whispers, “Awww, come on. You can have ONE drink. It’s just one drink and then you can stop. I promise.” While remaining emotionally cautious, I watched him fight this invisible demon and found a growing respect for him and for all recovering addicts/alcoholics.

There was already something different about him; he was gentle again. He was embarrassed at how much he drank and how far he had fallen. He was thankful I was still at his side. He told me that I got through to him when I told him he could not drive drunk with our daughter ever again. He tells me that made a powerful impact on him.

Early on in his recovery, I was standing at the kitchen sink (this, apparently, is where I’ve been struck with a lot of intuitive information throughout the years!) and I saw/heard/knew that by Trinity choosing to become sober, he changed our daughter’s life for the better. She was no longer going to be a slave to alcohol. He had broken the cycle. THAT is some big spiritual whoop-ass, my friends.

I said to God and my Guides, “Holy shit! That’s HUGE! Oh my gosh! Thank you for showing me that glimpse!” My respect and admiration for him tripled. By facing his demons, by no longer choosing avoidance, by trying to heal, he was not only making his life better, but mine and our daughters, too. Talk about a new perspective, huh?

We recently watched the movie, “My Name Is Bill W.” It’s about the gentlemen who started AA. It was powerfully moving for me. I found myself wracked with tears at one point, not bothering to stifle or hold them in. I was crying not because of something the alcoholic was dealing with, but something his wife was dealing with. It hit way too close to home. It also helped me understand I’m not alone and that this disease doesn’t discriminate. It helped me understand how much the personality changes when a person becomes an alcoholic.

It wasn’t long after that movie I started recognizing my anger towards him. For so long I shoved that emotion (as well as others) under the table as I wasn’t able to effectively deal with them. But now it was coming out in full force. I was angry for so many reasons and that anger was working towards resentment. Once resentment takes hold, your marriage is in a death spiral.

I took our 5 year old to skating lessons one evening. My favorite deceased person “randomly” showed up and sat down next to me. I tried to be all casual and off handedly said, “Oh! Hi, Kyle. What’s up?”  His smile was infectious and his blue eyes danced. He said, “Not much. How about with you?”  I knew he was there for me as he certainly wasn’t there to watch my little miss skate backwards. For about a nano second I thought about lying to him and then I realized it was demeaning to both of us. I said, “Well, I’ve been better.” He said, “What’s up?” and I internally replied, “I’m having a bunch of anger issues towards my husband.”

Without losing a hint of his smile, he telepathically told me to let it go. I immediately got defensive and flustered. I hurriedly gushed, “But anger is a stage of grief! I’m supposed to go through this!! It’s normal!” His smile was softly fading and his laughing blue eyes became tinged with seriousness. He repeated, “Let. It. Go.” I blinked, took in a deep inhalation and mentally smiled at him. I, with humbleness and genuineness, softly said, “I love you, Kyle.” His mega-watt smile reemerged and he vanished instantly.

At a recent open AA meeting, my husband spoke loudly and clearly, “My name is Trinity and I’m an Alcoholic.” It jolted me, kind of as if I was being roused from a trance. I immediately knew he was going to wipe alcohol’s bastard ass all over the dance floor. I hadn’t yet heard him call himself an Alcoholic. I hadn’t yet heard him own it.  But when he did, I knew it was real. A sort of peace came over me and all the nagging “what if’s?” and fears disappeared.

Trinity is early into this living sober thing (day 90!) and he tells me he will never have another drink. I believe him; he’s just stubborn enough to pull this off. He is also facing the cause of his drinking, head on (play on words there, people! Did you get it? HAHA!). Boooyah, soldier! Boooyah! His humor, playfulness, respect and kindness have all returned.  I see him watching our daughter sometimes and I know he’s thinking about how much time he’s lost with us, how much he’s missed out on.

His brain and his body will continue healing from alcohol’s destruction for up to two years. I’m so proud of this Army Ranger who will now fight for his sobriety every day in a culture where alcohol is a staple.

 

(He has given me permission to publish this story in hopes that it helps others.)


 

This is the third of a trilogy of blogs: Alcoholic, Alcoholism and Sober

For background reading pertaining to these blogs:
Kyle
The Guys (Guides)
Priestess
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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

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"