Wednesday, August 8, 2012
My very first post on this blog, back in 2008, is probably the most visited post on this blog and one of the most commented on. A few recent commenters made me want to post my response as a post instead of as a comment because a LOT of thought, pain, suffering, love, learning, struggle, joy, and passion have gone into learning these lessons (which I am still learning).
Also, it appears my comment was too long to be a comment... I acknowledge, am a tad verbose ;)
My heart breaks for every one of us who have to suffer with the kind of loss and pain you experience when you live with and love and/or alcoholic.
I have a few (new) thoughts:
* You can still drink.
Perhaps not AROUND your alcoholic... or maybe so. It's up to you. If I have learned one thing, it is that all of my "modeling" appropriate behavior to "show" him what good behavior looks like DOES NOT WORK. He can't drink because he is an alcoholic. I can, because I am not. If I am NOT drinking to control him or teach him or show him, my motives aren't healthy for him or for me. On the other hand, if I choose not to drink because I have seen the destructive power of booze and I do not view it as a friend - or any other reason... that is fine too.
*Here is the reality (see point 4 below) - your alcoholic is PROBABLY not going to change or get sober or stay sober. As the saying goes "dogs bark and drunks drink". (This is not to say it is impossible, just unlikely.)
So if we decide to stay, we need to be honest about what we are choosing and WHY we stay; Because I am afraid no one else will ever love me? Because I get self-esteem from saving and fixing him or being the "good one"? Because I am used to chaos - I was raised in it and I wouldn't know how to live without it? Because I am afraid I can't take care of myself and I need his money?
What is your "WIIFM" (What's-In-It-For-Me) that keeps you there?? Having "selfish" motives for staying doesn't make us bad... it is just being honest with yourself.
* I soooooo hate to say this, but someone said it to me once and it was painful and HURT like hell to hear, but it was true.
When I said that Mr. M was a "great dad" etc., a therapist answered "Does a great dad _________??" (Fill in the blank with what your spouse does: Get fired and not provide a paycheck? Get a DUI? Pee all over the house? Smack his wife around? Disappear for days at a time? Get drunk while he/she was supposed to be watching the kids? Spend the family money on booze/drugs?).
I used to lie to myself about Mr. M being a great dad. And I lied to the kids "Your dad loves you... he is just very sick." - I was just BREEDING good, codependent, enabling kids :(((
While an alcoholic usually has some wonderful qualities, we need to be honest about their serious flaws and the destruction that brings upon our family AND our children.
* A therapist friend of mine says "reality is our friend".
The truth can hurt sometimes.
If we go to al-anon and are more depressed because it makes us see the truth.
Or if I have to acknowledge that even when sober, Mr. M tends to lie (not just when he is drinking)
Or that he really ISN'T the best dad... he is selfish and drunk and abandoning.
The truth hurts.
BUT IT IS TRUE.
The truth is true.
So I can either live in a fantasy and "magical thinking" and PRETEND (which I have done for most of my life) - or I can face reality and try to live in it.
The saying is not saying that reality is fun or feels good. It is just saying that we do not need to avoid the truth or lie to ourselves... living in reality is GOOD for us, even if it hurts. I can say HONESTLY that living in reality has been HARD but is very freeing.
* Of COURSE we are control freaks!!!!! We are frightened of being abandoned - and we will be abandoned (are currently BEING abandoned), it's almost a guarantee... so we try to prevent that from happening by attempting to control our environment. It SEEMS to work well enough in the short-run that we get at least SOME emotional rewards that validate us enough to keep doing it. But in the long-run, it is unhealthy for us, for our alcoholic (keeps them immature, keeps them drunk, emasculates them), and for our kids.
Here is something to keep in mind; it is likely we were abandoned by our parents as small children (emotionally or physically or both - this is not blame or accusation, it is just honestly SEEING where our wounds come from) and have needed to be in control and to take care of ourselves (and maybe everyone else) for a long, long time. Our spouse is not necessarily the "bad guy". In fact, we probably picked them because it was FAMILIAR (painful but familiar)... "I know how this works". Who knows, maybe we even NEED them to stay bad so we can be the good one? Or maybe it is just all we know?
Ignore the labels the author uses - just read about the "wounded core" and "core trauma". Get to know what broken attachments look like. Look past the things you DON'T agree with in her writing and learn from the things that resonate. Look at what patterns from childhood we might be repeating in our very broken marriages. (Articles are LONG and her writing style can be a bit chaotic and repetitive - she says she repeats things in case we can HEAR it if she says it many times in different ways - but there is some GREAT and lovingly presented information there.)
* We are not alone. We don't have to DO this alone and neither do our children.
Don't keep it a secret. Don't keep the alcoholic's secret any more. Talk about it. Let your kids talk about it.
Don't protect THEM (the alcoholic) and don't keep the alcoholism a secret out of shame of what people will think of US and our families.
There is a saying in AA "You are only as sick as your secrets". Staying hidden keeps us sick, it keeps our alcoholics sick and it keeps our children sick.
I have gotten more love, support, and acceptance since I stopped protecting Mr. M. When he relapsed 2 times ago, people brought my family meals for 2 week. This helped SO much because I was grieving as if someone had died. People still let their children come over and play and spend the night. People prayed for us. People checked in on us. People still invited us over. And and unexpected thing; TONS of people started coming out of the woodwork; "My husband is an alcoholic too"... "My wife has an affair"... "I grew up in an alcoholic home"... "I found my husband dressing in my clothes and looking at porn"... when we let people in, we find we are not alone and others start to see our realness and gravitate to us.
* Get help for YOU.
Blogs are great but we need to not isolate and to be in relationship. Our dysfunction THRIVES in dark, enclosed environments :)
Go to al-anon.
Get a sponsor.
Confess your struggles.
Be open and available to be safe for others to share with
Keep on keeping on.