My husband is older than me. When we met I was 21 – a mature 21, I had done a lot of traveling, I had a good job and I loved my life. Meeting the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with was not on my ‘To Do’ list until I was about 28. But there he was.
He was handsome, funny, manly, gentle, kind, intelligent, interesting. All that was missing was wealth and good dress sense … and he smoked. But hey he excelled in all the other boxes that needed ticking. We were friends for 6 months before I asked him out (that’s a story for another day). Over time I saw he was amazing with children, my nieces and nephews loved him, that’s when my previous non-existent maternal instinct was triggered. I wanted his babies. He was the one.
Roll on 3 years and My Work Your Way Around the World Guide was put on the top shelf to gather dust and Your Guide To Parenthood had taken its place. We were married and had our first baby. I also had come to realize my dream man had a drink problem – he was a functioning alcoholic. He was an introvert but people loved being around him – he’d tell amazing stories which I would cringe at because they were so exaggerated. People were laughing at him not with him, he didn’t notice but I did. My husband was clearly a drunk so I bore the embarrassment for both of us.
When in company he would of course drink to access and 9 times out of 10 he would say something way out of line that would provoke heated discussions, usually about topics etiquette warns you not to discuss – politics and religion. Or he would forget an unmentionable and put both feet in his mouth without thinking – you know what I mean – discussing how wonderful being a parent is to a friend who can’t have kids. Or repeatedly tell someone that she had a great color for the time of year and keep asking had she been away, while it was obvious to the rest of us that her self-tanning efforts had gone disastrously wrong. She hadn’t intended to be that shade of burnt tangerine.
He was always oblivious, while I would be on tender hooks before we even arrived at a social event, sitting on edge, monitoring what he’d be saying so I could clumsily interrupt and divert the full flowing conversation, or alternatively wait for the ‘ground please open up now and swallow me’ moments to pass.
We lived in an old house that needed a lot of work, we could afford a second hand DIY book not tradesmen. I realized my husband had no patience or logic - when something needed to be done he’d immediately do it without thinking it through or having the patience to read the DIY book. I ranked top of my class in Mensa logic tasks – his efforts irritated the crap out of me. For instance when he’d put up a shelf I knew it required plugging the wall and screwing the supports to the wall. I also knew a shelf had to be straight so you would use a tool to ensure it was level. Instead he would use a hammer and nails and his own judgement about how level it was – a drunk’s version of level is not very level. Family and friends would snigger at his work he proudly showed off. I would detest everything he did, wishing for the day that I could afford to employ a professional to redo everything.
So roll on another 5 years of rapid decent into living hell. The affects of his drinking worsened. We rarely went out together – he was obnoxious, insulting, suicide threats and attempts, arguments, vomiting, collapses, accidents, hospitals, no work, no money, etc, etc. And then another 8-9 of post rehab years, a few slips but now nearly 2 years fully sober.
Yes, my husband is sober. He is no longer abusive, suicidal or all that stuff I mentioned in the last paragraph that were a result of drink – we have an amazing happy home which I had years of doubt could ever be possible.
However, he still often puts his two feet in his mouth when in company, he still starts heated discussions about his views on religion and politics and he still tells exaggerated stories. Our daughter is now 16 and looks at her father in disbelief sometimes in these situations and I say to her ‘Wow I thought he was only like that because of drink’. We laugh. I’m relaxed in company with him now because he’s an adult he can say what he likes, I am not his keeper. These quirks in his personality are part of him they were not caused by drink they were always there. I’ve grown to love them and family and friends love them too, they always have done, they were laughing with him not at him as I had believed. Thinking back to the times I clumsily jumped in to save him from a conversation hole I thought he was digging, I must have looked like the person who needed medication for my mental health not him.
We look back on what we have been through and we know what’s important in life – we don’t sweat the small stuff so we rarely argue. DIY is the only thing we have heated discussions about – we warn the kids what to expect before we open a flat pack. He still refuses to read an instruction manual and I haven’t grown a love for wonky shelves. However his skills are improving I have to say. Now that his life is not a drunken haze, he remembers what he did wrong during the last DIY effort and learns from his mistakes, so our house is improving. I know longer have a longing for a DIY TV show to come in and level my house and rebuild it while I spend a weekend at a spa. It has turned into a home built with love.
What’s my point? My point is for you to think back to why you loved the person in the first place. What were they like before alcohol took over?
Sobriety will remove the ugliness and emptiness caused by alcohol, but becoming sober is not going to change the person’s basic personality. If they were an asshole before alcohol became a problem they will still be an asshole when they get sober. If this is the case, you may need to rethink your own long term plans. If you have kids and commitments which you feel are better in the current home structure, read my book How to Live With an Alcoholic but Still Enjoy Your LIfe. Follow it’s instructions and it will help you make the most of the years you feel you have to wait out.
Until next time (sign up in the top right hand box for alerts of new blog posts), take care of YOURSELF.