My Experience With Alcoholism

We all need mantras to make it through life.

Today a very good friend of mine is celebrating being sober for six years. And like most posts I see when someone is celebrating a milestone in their sobriety, I am mixed with happiness and envy. More envy than happiness. And a little resentment.

I struggled with what I wanted to share about my divorce but I’m hoping maybe this post will help someone. I am not writing this out of spite, retaliation, or to be gossipy. Truly, the only opinions I care about are my sons – and even those have a limit. But if either ever read this, they know (or I’m hoping they know) it was not written with ill-will. Because I know they have unconditional love for their father and I work hard to make sure I don’t change that. I’m writing this because I was someone who would search (and still does) the internet for hours researching and reading other’s stories and how we all felt the same.

I would see the quotes “Don’t talk about your marriage to others because they will never forget what you said” or “Marriage woes are between two people, not the world.” And to an extent, yes, these are true statements; but what if the problems in your marriage are leaving you lost, helpless, and feeling like there’s no hope? What are you supposed to do?

Never in my life did I think I would ever have to deal with alcoholism. Before I go on I should clarify, I am not the alcoholic. My ex is. And it was a major reason for my divorce. Actually, it was THE major reason for my divorce. There were other factors (my depression, anger issues (on both sides, us not being a good match, etc.) but if I had to give it a percentage, alcohol was about 80%; and I’m being generous with that number because when I really look back on how things went down and add it up…well, I try not to look back.

In my early 20’s, when I was a bartender customers would say “You guys are legal drug dealers” and we’d both laugh as I made them another drink. Now, when I think back at that statement, I no longer laugh. Alcohol is a legal drug and it is ruining (and ending) lives.

Like most, I had fun in my early 20’s. Who doesn’t want to have the story of that night when you got so wasted and blah, blah, blah happened? It’s so fun to reminisce with that friend and laugh at it. Having those stories seemed like such a rite of passage. I was a fucking idiot. And if you think that way, you are a fucking idiot as well.

When my ex and I first started dating, we would do the typical things a new couple did and that included dinner. Dinner with drinks. He would mention things about his drinking and how he would get a beer from the grocery store from his lunch break and drink it before heading back into work. I thought nothing of this. I actually laughed. In college, I once drank Boone’s Farm before heading to my history class. But as things continued to progress and we got more serious, so did the drinking. And I’m not saying the drinking got worse because we were dating (even though I have been blamed for his alcoholism – by him- plenty of times; and sadly, part of me still takes blame for his alcoholism – it’s a process) but just like most relationships, when you start to get comfortable with the other person, the facade starts to fade away. You’re not putting in the same effort you once did because you’re in a serious relationship so now you’re gonna show the good, bad, and ugly. And it got ugly. So ugly.

I can’t remember when I really started to notice it but the first time I was truly affected by his drinking was after an argument. He had left my house and driven home. Me, being clueless about healthy relationships and so desperately wanting to hold onto this one (because it was so cute to say “My boyfriend!” and because I didn’t think I was worthy of anyone else.) I tracked him down to his house. I walked over to his truck, he rolled down the window, and right in front of me he opened up a 20 oz bottle of Bud Light and with a stone cold look in his eye, directed at me, started to chug the beer. Even as I write this, I have to stop and take a moment. That memory always stops me in my tracks. It haunts me. It hurts me. And I have to take a deep breath and focus to fight back the tears. Right now my body is tense. And as I proofread this, my body gets tense again.

That should have been the moment when I walked away and never looked back. Instead, I wanted to fix things. I wanted to fix him. I wanted the victory story.

Throughout dating and the marriage there were promises and compromise. “I won’t drink liquor, only beer,” “I’ll limit my drinks to only 4” “Once you get pregnant, I am not going to drink at the end and once the baby is born because you’ll need my help.” Liquor was consumed, the 4 drink limit was quickly ignored (With a smirk on his face, “It’s a barbecue, it’s ok to have more.), and my pregnancies (and one miscarriage)? Well, maybe another day. But let’s just say I’m jealous of the women who felt truly loved during and after their pregnancies and had partners who were there for them for everything. Kudos to the Mothers and Fathers who made true, permanent changes once their child was born. I salute you. And I am completely envious of you.

I feel at this point I should say I do believe there was a time when he believed these sentiments and his intentions were good. But addiction is strong and it takes over your life. But at the same time, you have to want to make the change and actually do it.

The years get jumbled but throughout the marriage I begged, cried, yell, screamed, threw things (including fists – yeah, not proud), threatened, ultimatums…I did them all. None of them worked (clearly – divorced!). What did work was blaming myself and what part I contributed.

As I have mentioned plenty of times before, I have Depression and one night during our pre-marriage relationship, my suicidal thoughts got bad. I attempted to kill myself. I was on the phone with my ex and I had taken pills and I was taking more. And more. I just didn’t want to live anymore. I had no reason to. That night I gave something to my ex that he would use every chance he could get: an ace up his sleeve (I think he’d like that statement – he plays poker and is pretty good at it). At first, it took some time and I had completely forgotten about that night. The first couple of years into our marriage it seemed like he know he needed to change and was at fault for a lot of our problems but then one day, he just hit me with it, “You tried to kill yourself and I was there for you and you didn’t appreciate it.” Every time there was an argument, he would bring it up. The first time he said it, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was the reason why this marriage and alcoholism was so bad. Now that I look back, I know I’m not. But he made me feel that way. Sometimes I picture him thinking of what he could use against me to justify his drinking and once he remembered that night, all bets were off. He believed he would win every argument. And for quite some time, he did.

Even after I apologized profusely for that night, there was no forgiveness and it was thrown in my face. Even when I begged for forgiveness, while pathetically, drowning in low self-esteem, on my knees (an action he would throw in my face to make me feel bad – he knew how to manipulate me. Kudos to you. Vicious, but kudos), it was used against me. I’m sure if we were to argue now he would still use it. It took me a long time to realize this but now I know him constantly throwing this in my face showed more about him than it does of me.

I’m fucked up but I have made major improvements. I know how to detect when my depression is creeping in and what I need to do to get better. For myself. For my sons.

Towards the end of the marriage (what I didn’t realize was the end), I started to open up a little more about how the alcoholism was affecting me. Actually, I did open up early into the marriage asking family members (on both sides) for help but, well, I don’t even want to go there. But if you are reading this post and wondered why my demeanor was a certain way when I interacted with you, after I cried (when you know I don’t cry in front of people) calling for help, now you know why.

And for those who tried to help, thank you. Re-reading this part makes me cry because I know a part of us will always have some guilt for how things ended up even though we are not to blame

As I was saying before, I started to talk to other people about it. If someone had mentioned their spouse or themselves were struggling with alcoholism, I would mention my struggles. It was nice. It made me feel not alone. But that doesn’t mean things got better. They got worse, continuously worse. The last few years were the “IDGAF Years.” My ex tried to hide his excessive drinking but it never worked. Before it was mainly beer but soon it quickly switched to liquor; $3 whiskey. I remember seeing the small bottle outlined in his pocket while he stared me straight in the eye with such conviction and told me hadn’t been drinking. After a while we were in a sick, twisted game. He tried hard to hide the bottles, and honestly, some of the spots were pretty fucking creative – those tube socks can hold a lot of things. The easy places were the cars but I would just wait til he passed out, got his car keys and would find the bottles. Sometimes I would line them up inside the house, or dump them in the seat of his car with a note hoping he would realize he had a problem but nothing worked. At this point in our marriage, we were hardly sleeping in the same bed together. First, he would walk into the house to see where me and the boys were. If we were out in the living room, he would wait until we were in our room and bring in bag full of beer ( I think this is why he switched to the smaller bottles of liquor, easier to disguise.). Then it progressed to using his lunch bag to bring in the alcohol. Then it was downing the alcohol before he got home and throwing the cans and bottles in the shrubs. I don’t know what pissed me off more: the litter or the lack of creativity in trying to hide it. During one of our times of “compromise” I asked him to not drink when the boys were awake. We’d put the boys to bed and before I wasn’t even out of their room he was beelining to the fridge to open a beer. Fuck spending time with the wife, there was beer to be had! He used to think he was sneaky and would try open the cans *whispers* very quietly. Guess what, I heard every pop from the room. EVERY POP. Even now, when I hear a can being opened, I slightly shudder. PTSD has many faces and I am one of them.

Speaking of PTSD, it affected my social life. Well, I don’t have much of a social life but I like to do things sometimes. Once my first son was old enough, he knew how to use his dad’s phone to call me. I got one too many voicemails saying “Hey, mommy! Daddy is sleeping (aka “passed out”) but we’re ok. We’re watching TV/playing the Playstation). I would tell him I’m worried leaving the boys with him and his suggestion was “Well, don’t go anywhere.” I’m talking about even going to spin class for an hour. I would be so stressed and full of fear that my youngest son would be eating something and choke and die right in front on his daddy who was too passed out to realize what had happened. I wrote down the number for the cops and our street address just in case my son had to call them. I say this half-jokingly but I think the perks of alcoholism is you don’t have to remember what happened. You can truthfully claim you don’t remember what happened. I remember. I remember it all.

I wish I had an answer for why I stayed so long. I don’t know. I really don’t know. Maybe because I wanted the victory story (He’s *enter amount of time* sober! I’m so glad we made it through and life is so much better!”), I felt guilty (my depression wasn’t pretty), low self-esteem, my oldest son loves when his whole family is together (he’s still a happy boy, both of them are. Even I’m happy now). But what I do know is that I stayed too long. Eventually, I got it. It hasn’t been easy at all but it has been better. People tell me I seem happier, as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. The holidays this past year were much more pleasant. I didn’t have to stress about watching what I said because he was drinking (I wasn’t scared of him but I know his anger issues mixed with alcohol wasn’t pretty). Also, he knew he could drink during the holidays with my family around because I would try hard to keep up the facade of a happy family and I didn’t want to cause any issues. This past Thanksgiving was the first time in a very long time were I was truly relaxed and enjoyed myself.

I’m still sad, angry, and get a little depressed. I play back situations and wonder what I could have done differently. I still question if the divorce was the right thing. Even while in court, and the Judge asked if we were sure this is what we wanted, I had to take a moment to think about it. I broke down in the lobby of the courthouse once it was over. Even when you know something needs to end you’re still sad when it does.

Now I talk openly about my experience with alcoholism. And I’ve realized once I started talking, everyone I knew had an experience with alcoholism in their life. Um, where the hell were y’all before?? HA! I get it, there’s still a stigma around mental health and alcoholism. It makes people feel shamed; even when they’ve done nothing wrong. So if you’re reading this and need to talk, I’m here. And I will listen (if that’s all you want), I will give advice (if you ask for it). And I will never judge. Ever.

I’m happier, less stressed, my boys are doing great and I’m starting to see how I’m in a new cycle in life and there are a shit ton of possibilities out there.

So, in the end, I guess I did get my victory story.

Shanika

Living in Columbia, South Carolina and using this blog as my space to share a little insight into my life in what I’m making on the sewing machine, knitting needles, crochet hooks, in the kitchen, and elsewhere.

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