Friday, February 26, 2010

The Serenity Prayer - I better keep praying!

This week has been especially hard. I have been struggling with some health issues, and that usually doesn't go over very well with an alcoholic - the attention is not focused on him. To that end, he disappeared for several hours the other day - leaving the car in the driveway, but disappearing in the middle of the night. Sadly, this is not the first time it has happened, but in my weakened state, I reacted more like someone very caught up in the craziness instead of the sane person I'm working on becoming. I hated that feeling of overwhelming fear. It came back so easily. But I fought it - I fought it hard. I continued telling myself what is true, over and over, but that fear was there- putting it's claws into my very soul and trying to establish a hold on me. Luckily, I was able to reach out to my al-anon friend...and I knew what the truth was and where to hear it. That was such a blessing. As usual, in the end, he returned home, acted as though all was normal, and life went on. As it does. What brought me back when I was with my friend was the serenity prayer - God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Claiming that as my mantra, I go forward to make a life for the children and me. We love you, dear Jack, but we don't have to suffer in your disease with you.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Watching out for the Kids

I want to be clear - I love my husband very, very much. He is an alcoholic, but I love him. I love the person he was when we got married, before the alcoholism had reared its ugly head. At that time, I didn’t even know he drank. I believe he drank in front of me two times in the two years we dated. Once at a holiday party he had one bottle of beer at a restaurant. Once on a vacation, I believe he bought 12 cans that lasted a week. I don’t love the alcoholic, and I don’t love what he says when he is drinking, but I do love him. I am still in my marriage because I do. However, that being said, I don’t want to underestimate the impact his drinking has on our family.
When you have kids, it seems like alcoholism is even bigger. First the spouse of the alcoholic has to figure out how to cope for herself (I am using the feminine, as that is my experience). If there are kids involved, and they are old enough to talk, she will probably have lots of questions to answer for them as well.
My husband and I were married less than 5 years ago. We each had an older son, younger daughter from our previous marriages. At the time, our children were 22 (Jake), 15(Abby), 10 (LT), and 8 (Maggie). His older, mine younger. He hasn’t adopted my children, but he is the only father my children know/remember. They don’t know their biological father due to safety issues/court order. My husband offered to be and is their DAD. This is one of the things that I love about him…he loved my children too. When we were first married, our (my) daughter, Maggie was 8 years old. She never really saw daddy drinking because he would do it mostly after the kids went to bed. However, as his alcoholism progresses, he has begun to drink earlier and more. She has seen him after a few beers. Before, he may have started drinking at 9 or 9:30 in the evening, now he has begun at 8 or 7:30. He used to drink 6 beers a night, now he drinks 9-12 16 ounce cans OR MORE. She has seen him get drunk. She has asked me some hard questions. Some questions, I didn’t know the answers to either.
(I want to say right now that his increase in drinking more and earlier is not because the kids are now almost all teenagers or older. This is because he is an alcoholic and alcoholism wants all of him. He will continue to get worse unless he decides he wants to stop. Completely. I want this, but I can’t want it for him. He has to get there. Frankly, this is one of the things that sucks about the whole situation. I can realize I can’t change it, I can wish it were different. However, it is not in my control. I can’t even make him see what harm he is causing himself, his children, his marriage, his wife (ME!!). I want to scream. And sometimes I do. But usually only in my head, to God; thank goodness He hears me.)
Often the kids focus on why dad says things that aren’t really true. One such thing they have heard him say is that I don’t love him. LT and Maggie are now 14 and 12. They see how we treat each other on a daily basis. They know that I love him. They want to know why he can’t see this? Why does he always say it sucks to be him, nothing is ever good for him? Why does he say nobody loves him? The best example I could come up with that is on their level (even a year or two ago) is that Dad sees everything through “beer-colored” glasses. His view of the world is kind of like when we put on sunglasses that make everything look greenish or blue-ish. The tree trunks aren’t really green, they are brown. Our house isn’t blue, it is white. But when we see the world through those glasses, it makes things look different than they really are. I explain to them that Dad looks at our life with a beer soaked brain that makes everything colored by the beer. He doesn’t see that we love him, because he hates himself so much, he can’t believe it.
When I first used that example, it seemed to really help. It seemed like they could understand it. Sometimes they’ve asked why he hates himself. I try to explain what I think, what I have observed. In this case, his parents weren’t especially loving, and still aren’t. The stories he tells me about his childhood show me that he truly wants something better for his children – all of them – than he had. The three younger kids have become very good about verbalizing their fears, their worries, their frustrations.
The older is not in our lives. I have a feeling that has a lot to do with alcohol too. My husband doesn’t see the blessings we have, because he’s busy seeing the bad things. That is what alcohol does. It brainwashes, literally, the alcoholic into believing that the only way to survive is to be drunk. Alcoholism is very sneaky and powerful.
I feel very blessed that I have a God who forgives, and I pray that one day, my husband will find that forgiveness for himself. That he will see the God who can forgive his sins, not just everyone else’s. That’s my prayer every morning and evening.
As you face this now 2 month old New Year, if you are looking at the world through glasses that color your world the wrong color, take them off. See what you are missing. It’s a beautiful world out here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

You Are Not Alone

If you are reading this, it is a safe bet that someone you know is living with an alcoholic. Maybe you did as a child, or you do now, or your best friend’s spouse is one. The most surprising part is that you may not even know it. I have discovered on this journey that you feel so alone because alcoholism is so good at keeping itself hidden from those on the outside. And sometimes, it’s hiding from those inside the house, too. To my knowledge, none of my parents, grandparents, extended family was an alcoholic that I knew about until my aunt married one. Even then, I didn’t know it until he killed himself. I bet there were days when she wondered what she had done wrong, how she could fix him, what could she and the kids do to make it better. The thing is, she never talked to anyone about it. I never even thought about that until right now, as I write this.
Thank God that my friend could see what I was describing as the symptoms of someone living with an alcoholic. She walked me to my first Al-Anon meeting. She sat with me through the whole meeting. No one there looked at me with shame or pity as I sobbed through my first full meeting. I think I was crying at how lost I felt, how hopeless, how alone. But then as I listened to their stories, I was crying more for the fact that I wasn’t alone, others around that table knew how I felt, had even experienced some of the same things as me. I had hope. Even if my alcoholic never gets help, I can get help. Who knew???
I hope that as I begin this journey of blogging that you will find hope in knowing you are not alone, and that you can get help, even if your alcoholic NEVER stops drinking. I continue to find this site so wonderful – . For the first ten months of the year, I’d go there and read the bulletin board posts, read the book excerpts, and learn so much about living with an alcoholic. But sometimes I felt so angry because all I read was that we (the family of the alcoholic) can’t do anything to cause, control or cure the alcoholic to drink. I wondered why the website was named “Getting THEM Sober” when we can’t do anything about their drinking?” About 2 months ago, I had a real “A-ha” moment. I finally realized that the site is to help the families and loved ones of alcoholics get sober. I think that was the first time I really got it. In other words - The alcohol makes all of us in the family sick, even as we try to do our best to keep things “normal.” My understanding of that small detail – the name of the website – feels like my first real victory in finding the TRUTH within the lies that surround the alcoholism.
May you and your family find hope here. You are not alone.