When Ted and I got married and stood before all our friends and family, vowing to love and honor each other in sickness and in health, I thought that meant I was supposed to just turn the other cheek when his drunken behavior turned on me and he raged at me for the littlest things, like ordering him the wrong take-out from the Chinese place or buying a new pair of shoes. His changeable manner, from the sweet, affectionate guy I fell in love with and married to the sullen bull with a nasty temper, gave me whiplash, on a monthly basis at first, then a weekly, then almost daily. It wasn’t until a few years of his heaviest drinking went by that I began to realize that my passive behavior wasn’t helping; it was hurting both of us and our marriage.
We were both heavy drinkers in college, where we met. My drinking leveled off eventually – maybe a glass of wine or a beer once in a while after a long day at work. Ted’s just seemed to intensify under corporate pressure and scrutiny. He’s ambitious, a go-getter and he made twice as much as me. Sometimes I’d come home late and he’d be on the couch, a bottle of wine half-finished, a joint resting on the ashtray and all his work papers spread out on the coffee table, impossibly messy.
He finally scared me one night when I got home from work late and he accused me of cheating on him. He was so paranoid and his self-regard was so broken that he was prepared to believe this. I denied it, because it wasn’t true, and he laughed, but without humor. Then he told me with slurred speech and eyes like flint that he would rather have a dead wife than a disloyal one.
It got worse than that – lots worse. I once had to call his office and tell them he was so sick he couldn’t call off or email himself. He was passed out in the bathroom, vomit crusted on his lips. We stopped being able to go out together, because he’d drink too much, make a scene, accuse me of checking out other men, pick fights…it was an absolute nightmare. I thank God every single day that his anger never turned physical, because if he had ever laid a hand on me, our marriage would have been over.
Both of our families saw he needed help. I had fended them off for months, limiting what I said about the situation. I thought I was doing the right thing protecting our privacy. I grit my teeth and accepted that this was the “in sickness” part. Picking up after his messes, cleaning up his puke, letting him vent at me, about me…I did it all, because I love him and I thought it was my job to just be there for him. But eight months ago, after he lost his position at the firm, I realized I had been wrong all along about the dynamic between me and the alcoholic my husband had become.
Getting Help for Him
His parents and I arranged an intervention. I understand how blessed I am that when he saw everyone who loves him in our living room, he crumpled and admitted he had a problem. I researched rehab facilities in our area on the internet and Ted checked into one the following week.
It has not been easy. Wow, that’s an understatement. The morose, depressed man my husband became as he weaned himself off his alcoholic behavior and marijuana habit scared me. Some days, he was like a stranger; others, a helpless child. He’s a lot better now than he was, but every day is still a difficult, trying struggle to get him back. I do everything I can to show him support: attending AA meetings, enrolling us in couples’ therapy sessions, meditating with him, listening to him when he needs to talk and just get things off his chest.
I got a Christmas bonus this past year and I bought him a fancy new treadmill so he could get back into running. But I also remember to take care of me; I spend a quiet hour before bed reading every night, while my mother, sister and best friend have become my support system that I know I can reach out to. Educating myself on alcoholism through web articles and books has brought me piece of mind as it helps me better understand the physiology of the disease. I’ve joined a few internet communities for spouses of alcoholics as well and the friends I’ve made there are incredible.
Lately Ted’s been calling me while I’m at work just to tell me that he was thinking of a happy moment we’ve had together. It puts a smile on my face, despite everything we’ve gone through now, and I can feel the bond of love and understanding between us strengthening.