Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Still On The Run

This isn't really about my recovery -- and it may qualify as self-pity, grandiosity, denial, delusion, resentment, or any number of my other character defects -- but it was a long drive home Sunday night and I just got to thinking...

I love my son so much, we had such a wonderful time together Sunday. At age 2½, he's very sensitive and expressive emotionally, he doesn't filter it. When my wife and I started getting into an argument, he started to cry. When she was in another room, he was happy playing with me. At one point my wife hugged me -- and our son was delighted, he came up and grabbed both our hands and said, "come on!" He wanted to go for a walk with both mommy and daddy, together. He is always happiest when he is with both of us, one hand in mommy's hand and one hand in daddy's hand.

I don't think he has a well-developed sense of past and future -- so when mommy and daddy are together with him, life is good. When mommy and daddy fight, or he’s separated from one or the other, life is bad. He is very clear about his "family values." He doesn't understand, or much care, why mommy and daddy aren't together and getting along. He simply wants us to be together and get along.


I pretty much agree with him. There really aren't any excuses for the parents of a toddler to split up without making every effort at reconciliation. At this moment, I can barely stand being in the same room as my wife -- but I would move back with her and work hard to renew the relationship, with confidence that we could restore our love if we honestly commit to it and honestly work at it. I owe that to my son.

My wife always says her reason for leaving, and for staying apart, is my drinking: she didn't want to live with it, and she wanted to protect our son from it. That's a good reason, I can't deny it.

But it doesn’t add up.

I started at AA the day after she left the first time, and I took to it like a duck to water. This isn't how we calculate time in AA, but with the exception of two relapses totaling 38 days, I've been in recovery and sober for the 6½ months since she left.

So if my drinking really is the reason, I think a lot of spouses would take my effort seriously, stick around, and try to be supportive.

There's also this: when she left, she first went (and took our son) to her brother's -- who is an active alcoholic without any desire to recover.

And this: after she left the first time, she came back a month later. She stayed for six weeks, then left again -- and I was sober the whole time.

So, um, what precisely is the issue around drinking that is the problem...?


My hypothesis is that my wife only knows how to function around active alcoholism, even though she genuinely hates alcoholism. She grew up in a typical wildly-dysfunctional alcoholic family: drunk dad, drunk sister, drunk brother, sexual abuse and rape, gunfire in the house, fistfights, smashed furniture. She had it all. No one, not a single person in her family, ever even tried to stop drinking.

She has never in her life lived in a household without active alcoholism.

My wife is stark raving codependent, IMHO. All the shame, fear, need to control, withdrawal into a fantasy world of grandiose dreams that will show everyone how great she is, always sure that "once this and that happen, then I'll finally be happy," and incapable of taking even the first step to make anything positive happen.

She has never acknowledged her codependence (and I sure as hell never saw it while I was drinking!). She's had endless hours of therapy, all kinds of medications -- all attempting to solve her misery by fixing something outside of herself.

While I was drinking, of course, I had all the same crazy fears, dreams, paranoia and incapacities she did, and medicated my misery with beer. We were two peas in a pod, comfortably reinforcing each other's insanity and misery, giving each other someone to blame.


Then I came to the end of my run. I couldn't go on. A couple months before I stopped drinking, before I recognized "it's the alcohol, stupid," I knew my life was wrecked, the grandiose dreams were a sham, and I was going down the tubes. I realized my life was insanity.

My wife and I had a big fight -- I blamed her for everything, of course, for not doing her part to make our crazy dreams real, for the wreck our lives had become, for the chaos in our household.

We started seeing a counselor. My wife never budged from her position that there was one problem, and one problem only: my drinking. I was still drinking, still in denial of my alcoholism. I was, however, on the verge of "getting it."

One Tuesday, I had a separate session with the counselor about my drinking. I confidently agreed that I wouldn't drink until the following Tuesday, and if I couldn't make it, then I would acknowledge I have a problem and would get help for my drinking.

I told this to my wife, and she disappeared on Wednesday, leaving our son with me. She turned up briefly Thurday morning, picked up our son and disappeared again.

I got drunk on Thursday and Friday. I reluctantly started suspecting that I had a drinking problem and would have to talk seriously to the counselor about it the following week.

Friday night, my wife returned, with the cops and her alcoholic brother, grabbed some stuff, and she was gone.

Saturday I went to my first AA meeting and immediately knew I belonged there.


So, what does this long story mean?

I think she decided to leave when we had the big fight, when she saw I had quit buying into the alcoholic/codependent insanity, that I knew I had to face reality, a month or so before I accepted that the core reality I had to face was my alcoholism. It's almost as though she could sense that I was about to begin recovery, and she had to get out before I stopped drinking. Without alcohol, what would there be to blame for her misery? And her misery was now at a whole new level, without a husband sharing, reinforcing and validating the insane thinking and living that are all she's ever known.

It means, I think, that I was finished with my run, but my wife is still on her run. I came in, and she's not ready to come in.


My wife WANTS me to drink.

If I'm drunk, she can continue blaming me and my drinking for all her misery and everything that goes wrong in her life.

If I'm drunk, she can justify ignoring my input into raising our son.

If I'm drunk, she can convince herself that she's the "innocent victim" of her life.

If I'm drunk, she can avoid looking inside herself for solutions to her problems.

If I'm drunk, she can avoid the responsibility of doing her part to create a healthy, intact family for our son.


She has grabbed on to my relapses like a drowning person grabbing a life preserver. Because I relapsed, she can convince herself that my recovery is not real, that any day I will go back to drinking, and stay drunk. My sobriety is her enemy, even though she hates alcoholism.

I hope my wife will start dealing with her codependence. Until she starts working a program she will be miserable and never find a solution, IMHO. Our son is a huge motivation to me to stay sober, and I hope he will finally motivate her to change her life.


At 2/16/2005 04:10:00 PM, Blogger recoveryroad said...

Hi Phil

some people don't want to see us get well, regardless of what they may say. It isn't just alkies who are frightened of change. 'Normal' folk are, too.

On the other hand, some people just won't believe that we can and will change, and change for the right reasons.

I think, and it's only my tuppence worth here, the only thing we can do is remember we're getting and staying sober for ourselves and keep our side of the road clean.

I know after years of drinking it's gonna take a lot more sober time for my family to believe me.....

Good luck, matey!


At 2/17/2005 02:26:00 AM, Blogger Phil said...

Thanks, Kenny!

Your comment is a good reminder for me, and I needed to hear it.

First, the reminder that I'm doing this for myself, not because of or in spite of anyone around me who wants me to or doesn't want me to. It helps me, I think, to be prepared for those who may do or say things to "sabotage" my sobriety, whether inadvertantly or purposefully, but the point remains -- no one ever put a gun to my head and forced me to drink, and no one but I can make the decision NOT to drink.

Second, I can't expect those around me to instantly trust that I really am finished with alcohol. It will take time for me to win their trust, by building a record of sober behavior and trustworthiness, a day at a time, over weeks, months and years.

Third, probably most important, is your point about keeping my side of the road clean -- one of the fundamental tenets of AA. I can only be responsible for myself and how I treat other people, and I have to be absolutely scrupulous in accepting that responsibility. I can't control how other people treat me (or others, or themselves) -- I can only have faith that they will respond positively if I treat them right.

God bless you, buddy!

At 2/17/2005 01:29:00 PM, Blogger Grace said...

I dont think it is self pity or the other stuff you mention. I think its you working stuff out and that is part of your recovery and you seem to be working out a balanced view of what went wrong and your part in it. I only hope I can do the same!

At 2/18/2005 12:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent insights. Seems you're beginning to get a clearer picture of what was going on in the past. Hang in there!

Namenlosen Trinker

At 2/22/2005 09:56:00 AM, Blogger Phil said...

Grace, thanks for your encouragement! I've become a fan of your blog, and I relate strongly with so many of the feelings and struggles you express about your battle with our "cunning, baffling, powerful" slavemaster.

God bless you, Grace, and NEVER give up!!

Trinker, I hope you are right that this is an instance of clarity. One of my difficulties in early recovery is distinguishing between a "moment of clarity" and "alcoholic insanity." I'm glad to have the guidance of an oldtimer! God bless you, Trinker.

At 2/22/2005 10:51:00 AM, Blogger Grace said...

Thanks I have added you to my blogroll too . We need to stick together!

At 2/25/2005 09:38:00 PM, Blogger Logan Wick said...

We all need to stick together!!! I can't get to the meetings like I should, so I took up blogging as a vent. It's working so far.

Pay me a visit sometime...I am going to link to this one, this one is a keeper.


At 2/27/2005 09:33:00 AM, Blogger doughgirl said...


Excellent post!! Coming to the realization that we are powerless over everything but us is not an easy one to do.

In reading this post it reminded me a lot of my relationship with my mother who has not been a part of my life since I joined AA; though she told me so many times that I was pouring a depressant down my throat all while taking anti depressants, the day I admitted I had the disease of alcholism was the day she walked away.

I dont blame her, I tourtured that woman. Now the funny thing is this. My mothers parents were alcholics and becasue she grew up in that she had all the isms...acted just like and alcoholic and wouldnt you know when my father left her 6 yrs ago, she picked up a drink and has been off and running since then.

She loves to point the finger and her life is a direct result of what we have done to her...has nothing to do with anything shes done...

Dont you see Phil that alcoholism affects us from the day we are born into disfunctonal families, we carry the isms arround with us through life and so we may not be active at the time, but what I know today is we have it and until the day we feed it it's just not apparant. Like; I always said my mother is not an alcoholic...and she wasnt....today I know she had all the isms, fed them and became the real thing.

Before feeding the disease she was an alcoholic without the alcohol...like being a dry drunk !


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