A good friend reached out to ask if I would post a reflection she wrote anonymously. I’d understand why, she said, in the first line. “My husband is an alcoholic,” it read.
Ahhh, Alcoholism. You vicious beast.
Alcoholism is isolating. It’s buried under the weight of stigma. But when we talk about the terrible things, the burden gets lighter. My deepest gratitude goes to my friend for sharing something that will cut to the soul of any reader who has been touched by addiction.
Alcoholism Lives At Our House
My husband is an alcoholic.
My husband is an alcoholic, and I am conflicted. I am resentful. I am angry. I am hateful. I am distrustful. I am mean-spirited. I am short-tempered. I am exhausted. I am terrified. I am guilty. I am drained. I am depressed. I am neurotic. I am spent. I am alone. I am powerless. I hurt.
His disease has become my disease. It has made me into a person I would not recognize. I am a pill-counter. I am a cupboard-searcher. I search hiding spaces. I smell his breath. I am a liar. I yell often. I hide knives. I have considered cutting down my laundry line. I have a heart that is constantly racing. I cannot think straight. I am in constant flight or fight mode. I don’t know how he’ll be when I get home. I don’t know if he will still be when I get home.
He struggles now with becoming sober. I’ve struggled and am still struggling to keep him going, our family going, work going, the house going, and sometimes, to keep myself going.
This is my life.
I’ve been coming to terms with this “new normal.” This disease will always color my life, my choices, my thoughts, and my fears. Everyone’s experience with alcoholism is different. Here is my story in the hopes that it helps even one person not feel so alone.
“My husband is seeking treatment for alcoholism,” I told my friend through tears. “I’m so sorry,” she replied, embracing me, “I didn’t know.” “Neither did I.”
And that, though surprising, is true. I thought he might drink too much, but he assured me he didn’t, and I really believed that he was sick when he laid in bed every weekend and evening. I googled lots of symptoms when he was having stomach pains, and dutifully took him to have his stomach scoped. Finally I just thought he might have leisure sickness since he was sick on the weekends and vacations. But, one day after a particularly bad case of illness complete with nighttime moaning, explosive vomiting, and hallucinations, he told me, “It’s alcohol withdrawal syndrome.” And so, I googled again, and found that he was what is commonly called a “high-functioning alcoholic.” He went to work and was successful. He did what was required, and still drank enough to give him daily withdrawal symptoms.
How is it that I didn’t know? My husband is a lone drinker. He drinks at night when I’m asleep. He drinks vodka so it can’t be smelt on his breath. From dinner time to 2 am, he’d manage to drink more than 6 shots. Then he’d head off to work in the morning and do it again the next day. Weekends were hard because he didn’t have work to keep his mind off the withdrawals. I just thought it was stress or some other illness.
Now I know better.
Now I know that for years I stayed up with kids, woke up early with kids, got all their meals, and kept them quiet because “Daddy is sick” because alcoholism lives at our house. Now I know that I made my own birthday cake and led the kids in singing to me while he slept because alcoholism lives at our house. Now I know that I cooked my own Mother’s Day meals and shared a bed with a Thomas the Tank Engine tent because alcoholism lives at our house. Now I am able to say, “Hey, yesterday when we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the baby you were passed out, and with two boys jumping on you, you still wouldn’t wake up. Oh, and by the way, she started walking last night. You were drunk,” because now I know that alcoholism lives at our house.
Now that I know this, it all makes sense. Despite the understanding, it hurts. It hurts everywhere. I wonder if the last year or years were all a lie. When did I start buying the lie? When did it start?
As this all sinks in, I am learning that I need help. My recovery will take time, just as his will. He will get all the accolades for staying sober, and I will just continue on, stewing. I will stew because I hurt and I worked for years to keep it together without help, and am still trying to keep it together while he gets to take his time and get better. I am trapped in this silent cave, digging my way out, alone—alone because to take this trouble to my dearest friends can hurt the reputation of my husband in this small community, alone because alcoholism carries a horrible stigma, alone because it is easy to forget that alcoholism is a disease that wreaks havoc on a family, not just the alcoholic.
And so, I’m trying to hold it together—for the kids, for my husband who has decided that he’s going to get better at home, and for what is left of myself. I’ve gone to Al-Anon and committed myself to the recommended six meetings before I decide to stay. I’ve gotten a counselor, and I am working through the 12 Steps myself. Yes, those of us who love alcoholics need to go through them too.
My husband is an alcoholic. My husband is an alcoholic and I am conflicted. I am hopeful. I am praying. I am taking steps forward. I am exhausted, terrified, spent, resentful, distrustful, and hurt, so, so, so hurt. But, I will not let alcoholism rule my house anymore. I am taking it back, one small step at a time.