Hi. It’s me Stefanie. Here is a post from a member of the Booze Free Brigade. If you would like to be a member of the Brigade, an online support group, please click here. And now, meet Jo.
“We were alcoholics. It had to get worse before it could get better.”
This post also could have been titled: “Today Would Have Been My 10 Year Wedding Anniversary: My Marriage and Other
Things Alcoholism Destroyed”
Or: “We Loved, We Fought, We Lied, and it Killed Us.”
Or: “How Alcoholism Helps You Build a Cocoon and then Destroy it from the
Or, my current favorite: “It’s Not My Fault, but I Am Responsible for It.”
I think you get the drift.
Yep. Ten years ago today I was atop a beautiful Northern California cliff, on a crystal clear day, with soaring views of the Pacific, vowing to love, hold, honor, respect… and pull through when the going got tough. Hand in hand with my lover and friend, both injured in various ways, but with youthful bravado coloring our thinking, we thought could conquer the world with our love.
But we were alcoholics. And things had to get worse before they could get better.
Even before August 25, 2001 there had been signs: his depression and suicidal fantasy. Always needing space and time to be alone, which he spent checked out on pot, wine, porn and movies. My controlling tactics and manipulation, obsession about him cheating or leaving or dying unexpectedly. The livid anger and helplessness I felt when he was a few minutes late getting home or calling. My reckless party girl behavior on the weekends, which was usually a reprieve from my stressed out, control freak behavior during the week. Our terrible fighting, that would be followed by equally passionate “making up” only to have the whole cycle repeat itself. Over and over.
By the time we were married the patterns were already set, but they would have to play themselves out to the bitter end. After all, we were alcoholics. And things had to get worse before they could get better.
Maybe you know this story? It goes something like this:
1. It feels good to get a little drunk and loose.
2. It feels good to get a little drunk and loose again.
3. The periods between getting a little drunk and a little loose get shorter.
4. You start to get a little drunker and a little looser once in awhile, more so than your other “grown-up” friends, and vow every time that you’re going to keep it under control going forward.
5. You begin to break your promises, to yourself and to others.
6. Bad things happen.
7. Even though it doesn’t even feel that good to get drunk and loose anymore, you do it anyway.
8. You start to act drunk and loose even when you haven’t been drinking.
9. Everything kind of blurs together, and one bad decision or outcome leads to another.
10. Things really suck.
And that brings me back to the marriage. It started to really suck. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly happened to make it fall apart. Maybe it was slowly spiraling down from the beginning (speeding up a little toward the end). Or maybe that handful of really terrible episodes just soured any hope of resurrecting it. Whatever the case, we were alcoholics. And things had to get worse before they could get better.
It is said that an alcoholic is uniquely unqualified to make healthy decisions, that he/she frequently lives in a state of denial, and that the disease is progressive. (In other words, it gets worse.) Ten years ago today, when I was gazing into the eyes of my beloved, I couldn’t imagine a day that I’d be trembling on a street corner explaining my marriage and its abuses to a female cop who didn’t give a shit. I remember even in that moment wanting to prove to her that we were somehow different or special, and this wasn’t your garden-variety Jerry Springer domestic violence.
It was, however, your garden variety alcoholism. This time he was the one who’d hit me. But had been many episodes before that (going both ways)—all of which we would later deny or excuse, or get down on our knees and hold one another, and promise never to do again. That night my husband was handcuffed and put into the back of a police car, and was carted off to jail in front of our children and neighbors. He was the Vice President of the PTA, a stay-at-home dad, a brilliant writer and musician, and generally regarded as a nice, sensitive guy. We were a well-known and well-liked family. And, as you might guess, we threw the best parties! And in one moment – a moment that was years in the making — our lives and reputations came crashing
down on us. And the sobering truth was there for everyone to see.
Here’s the deal: we were alcoholics. And things had to get worse before they could get better.
I could titillate you with the details of what exactly we were fighting about all those years. It would make for a good movie or book or soap opera. Yes, there were mundane issues, like conflict about division of labor in the household or with the kids. There were also heart-wrenching things, like money troubles, dying parents, and affairs. You might even get carried away in our drama; you might even, based on what you heard and who you heard it from, choose to take his side or mine. But that wouldn’t matter, because the real truth is that we were alcoholics, and we were doing what alcoholics do, which is destroy things that we care about, most specifically ourselves.
Alcohol is an ice-breaker, a means to maintain friendships, an event for every weekend, a symbol of personal freedom and ability to make choices (there are so many varieties!), and a little something to rely upon when things just don’t feel right. It’s there for the celebrations, for the milestones, and for when the shit hits the fan. It was there on my beautiful wedding night ten years ago today, and it was there for me that wretched night I was alone with my children while my husband went to jail for both of us.
Our alcoholism isn’t our fault. But we are responsible for it. It builds a prison for us to live in, and it’s next to impossible to get ourselves out.
It is completely outside of my comfort zone to seek help, but I have to remind myself of something that my ex-husband (who made it to recovery before I did) said to me: “If a person can lead themselves to a place like this, they would be a fool to try and lead themselves out.”
God bless that man. May he achieve the happiness and freedom he deserves.
And me too. May I, with the help of [god, goddess, higher power, higher truth] achieve the happiness and freedom I deserve. And may this anniversary of our marriage be a reminder to me to love and forgive myself and him, to raise our children as best we can, to listen to other people, and to seek help when I need it.
For all alcoholics whose marriages were casualties of this disease… with gratitude and sobriety,
Yes….so beatifully written and so powerful. I just have to say, though, because of my own personal circumstances, that I desperately hope there is no truth to “things had to get worse before they could get better.” This has always been my fear. I want to believe that we, as alcoholics/problem drinkers, etc. can make a change BEFORE it “gets worse”.