Pinpointing the Disease

I’m no longer a newcomer to the Al-Anon rooms, but in relation to the old-timers, I still feel like one. I am the wife of a recovering alcoholic. I will use the group names of Al-Anon and AA sparingly to respect the 12 traditions and to protect the foundation of anonymity. To be very clear, I do not speak for either organization.

Some months ago, my marriage met its lowest point. It seemed like we fought in different languages, as I no longer understood my husband’s absolute lack of reason, his lying, and his explosive anger that blamed so much on me when I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. I was going crazy: nothing in my logical brain could connect with anything happening between us. I felt I had to be missing something but I had no idea what it was and my brain was a convoluted mess, both frantic and exhausted. I was beginning to question if this was emotional abuse—I had never experienced any abuse before, but this downward spiral into being made to feel like our growing issues were my fault, my shortcomings—this felt so wrong.

Then one night, after I had uncovered another large lie, my husband abruptly and unexpectedly said that he thought he might need to go to AA meetings. The “aha” moment was brief, as neither he nor I had the tools we do now, and I was still angry and combative, focused on the lies. That night ended with us sleeping in different rooms. I didn’t sleep much, and over the course of many days afterwards, I began to revisit our past issues and saw how many of them were linked to alcohol. I googled “alcoholism” for the first time and read as much as I could. Things began to make sense. All of the lying and the fights that ensued were linked to him hiding alcohol, drinking too much, lying about drinking, etc. I felt blind to have not made the connection earlier.

I had been so focused on my anger at the lies that I failed to notice the common theme. I’d only been aware of one alcoholic in my life as I was growing up, and that man was always visibly intoxicated: he reeked of alcohol, slurred rather than spoke, and was always, always drinking. I had no idea alcoholism could be much quieter, much more subtle, that an alcoholic could also be someone holding down a 9-5 job, being an active parent, and an otherwise loving partner. I knew my husband had a drinking problem, but my life experiences did not prepare me to understand this as alcoholism.

We began visiting the rooms of Al-Anon and AA, where we continue learning the tools to stay on top of this disease, and it is a disease. If one cannot believe this and chooses to believe the alcoholic should have the will-power to stop drinking on his or her own, that person will never be the support the alcoholic needs to recover. While there is no cure and the alcoholism will never “go away”, there are countless alcoholics who have learned the tools to maintain sobriety. I am now learning how to support, not enable, my husband and how to take care of myself through this fight. Finally, we are fighting on the same side. If he had not pinpointed the issue, I am not sure we would still be married. Our marriage has been through hell, and we are committed to returning to those rooms where we have found so much support and so many courageous people.

My hope in starting this blog is that it will reach someone who is starting to unravel and that it will provide hope. You are not alone. There are so many of us who have been affected by alcohol, and there are rooms you can step into and find people who share their strength and hope with you. They will tell you, as will I if you follow me here, “Keep coming back.”

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