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.