Love Means Never Having To Say I’m Not The One Who’s The Alcoholic

I don't drink - alcohol, that is. I stopped drinking it December 2009. Before that, I liked to drink, and did so whenever I wanted. No too much, you understand -  just a glass of red or two, probably five nights a week, and sometimes the whole bottle except for the last half a glass I'd stumble over and tip down the sink swearing not to do it again the next night. I don't quite know how I ended up with that nasty habit. I think my drinking was largely medicinal, and probably started around the same time my husbands medicinal drinking did. If I am really honest, I drank a lot to cope with the issues which arose from the fact my husband drank a lot. And he was drinking a lot. In the end, he had to leave the family home, because his alcoholism was driving me to something closely resembling it and more besides. Like an anxiety disorder, like depression, like homocide. After I kicked his ass out, my husband actually went away to rehab, and to his credit, he sorted the drinking problem out, with a heck of a lot of help. He's back home now by the way, and I'm pleased to report that things are comparitively grand.

I will now confess that while my husband was away at rehab as well as indulging in quite a bit of self-righteous girl-power air-punching I took advantage of the solace and privacy to do a bit of therapeutic drinking. I'm fairly sure this is how I carried on the whole time he was gone, although I can't be sure, because I was anaesthetised much of the time. I can now appreciate the unfairness and hypocrisy of it all, but my excuse was that I was not the alcoholic, he was, and technically perhaps it was true. But on sober (pun intended) reflection, if my husband had a problem with drink, and I too was abusing alcohol, then we had a problem with drink, and not just my drinking or his drinking but whatever reason we thought drinking could help whatever was really wrong with us.

You see, It wasn't my husband, it wasn't even the drinking. There were, as is usually the case in dysfunctional, codependent, enabling relationships, deeper problems we had no capacity to face up to which were the problem. Drinking was just a panacea. My husband has no memory of vast sections of the two years when he was drinking heavily; things and events he simply doesn't recall. We moved house, went on holidays, made life-changing decisions and had conversations that were pivotal in our marriage and in our lives. I'd say they were gone from his memory, but I doubt they really ever went in. They came at him and rebounded clean off his conciousness like a poorly aimed beer bottle thrown at a bin. We have sections of our married life where he was physically present, but which he conducted in some kind of mental, emotional and spiritual automatic-pilot. His real self was trapped in a world of pain inside his head. I see I was right when I perceived back then he was not there with me somehow. He was a personality perfectly preserved, pickled for posterity in a brown glass bottle.

The month he came home from rehab, we were invited along to his prospective boss' Christmas Party. It was a flash sioree on a charter boat with an open bar. We discussed it beforehand, and understood it would be his first real test where temptation was concerned. I decided I wouldn't drink to show my support, although at that stage we hadn't had a big discussion about the issue of whether I would drink in the future, and if I did, how that was going to work for us. While we were at the party, my husband bumped into a guy he knew who'd been in rehab as well. He too was finding it hard with alcohol flowing freely all around us and no way to get off the boat, but he was holding up manfully. His partner, however, had a beer bottle in one hand, and a glass of wine in the other. The look on his face revealed the pressure he was under to keep up his bargain with God and himself. Clearly, it was his alone to bear. His partner snarled to me "Well, why shouldn't I have a drink? I'm not the one who's the alcoholic, am I?"

It was then I decided I didn't need to drink any more.

The fact is, if you don't drink, it can be just as socially unacceptable as when you do. When Ben was drinking, we used to avoid social gatherings. He preferred to do most of his drinking alone, and once he'd been drinking he didn't like to socialise. His disappearances at social events made me anxious, and I found the best remedy for that was about four glasses of wine and then half an hour on the bathroom floor. Once we'd stopped drinking, we stopped getting invited out. People seemed to feel very self-concious with us standing around drinking orange juice, and Ben quickly learned that men don't like to go out for a coffee the way women do.

Over the past year, friends have invited me to get out and live a little, touting it as my chance to imbibe independent of my 'dry' husband. It's a chance to really enjoy yourself, they say, as if going out and not drinking alcohol were the equivalent of bathing in public in a vat of cold porridge. I sincerely thank them; I'm not as much offended by the fact they want to sneak me out to drink behind my husbands back as I am disheartened. I guess the fact that we had such a long road to reconcile our marriage just brings this whole element of loyalty to issue. As hard as it was for me to allow a sneaky, lying drunk back into the house, it must have been just as hard for him to come back to a distrustful, anxiety ridden female. I think my teetotalling is the least I can do to show him 1) I'm not frightened of him anymore and 2) I am so glad we're actually doing this whole thing together.

It's been almost two years, and not drinking hasn't been that hard for me, in fact, it's been the least of our problems. Once the alcohol was eliminated from the equation, we've had to deal with the underlying issues behind the drinking, and deal with them sober. God's grace is all we have ever had going for us, and we see it every day extended toward us in ways we could never have imagined, both big and small. It's been said that he who has been forgiven much loves much, and both my husband and I appreciate how much the other had to forgive for this present happiness to exist. Mutual reinstated trust is a gift to be treated with respect and deference. He is a drunk redeemed by mercy....I am a shrew redeemed by giving it.

Now Ben is home, our marriage reconciled and his alcoholism under control, he does not drink any more. "One's too many, mate, and a hundreds not enough." he tells people. Once his personality was resurrected and his warm body was back in my bed, I found I didn't need the fermented solace I'd been seeking comfort in quite so much any more. Where alcohol was concerned, he'd been both my excuse and my scapegoat, but when faced with a second chance at my marriage, giving up drinking seemed a small price for me to pay in light of what my husband had been prepared to face to do the same.

My husbands alcoholism, and how easy it would have been for me to follow him, is not as big a deal for us now, but it certainly was when it was with us. I won't easily forget finding spirit bottles refilled with cold tea and water, seeing him drive up with our son in the car and a beer bottle between his thighs, or stumbling across secret caches of empty bottles. And nor will I forget finding a wine bottle with one glass left in it, hidden at the back of the cupboard, months after he'd gone away to rehab, and realising I must have been the one who hid it.

There but for the grace of God.

If you are struggling with the use and abuse of alcohol and the impact it is having on your life, please contact Alcoholics Anonymous.
If someone you love or your parent is an alcoholic and you feel you need help, please contact AlAnon/AlAteen.  


Jo Hilder


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