My son wanted to drive so we took his fathers car. No 16 year old wants to be driving in his mothers mini van. I kept thinking, “Why the hell were we the ones going to a meeting when he was the one with the problem.” Neither of us wanted to go; him to Alateen, and me to Alanon
But when your life has been turned upside down by the disease of alcoholism, you grasp at anything; like reaching for a secure limb to grab hold of that will give you enough leverage to pull you up and out of the dark place you have fallen into.
So we went. I felt ok about leaving the younger two with their dad as we had his car and keys and, seriously, how would he possibly get alcohol without any transportation?
It’s a humbling experience sitting in a meeting like that. You want to scream “I’m not like them” ” I have a masters degree, and did you know I have 3 gifted children?” “We live in a nice house” (well, the bathrooms were stuck in the eighties, but still) “My kids don’t have tattoos and piercing, and I’ll have you know this one here is in the Math and Science academy” I wanted to believe that all of our outward appearances of success made us different from those in the meeting that didn’t “look” like us.
But we were all the same. Broken, scared, confused, angry; our lives careening out of control like a train that had jumped the track.
We said our steps, held back tears, and the second the meeting was done we raced out of there as fast as we could. We went through a drive thru cuz everyone knows that a milk shake will solve everything. Our life had become unmanageable. So unbelievably unmanageable. I had been desperately trying to hold it all together for years. I enabled, I prayed, I cried and pleaded. I read books, went to therapy, gave ultimatums; and toward the end actually followed through on them. But nothing was bringing the alcoholic any closer to sobriety.
Life with an alcoholic is a little like trying to balance on a high wire.
Picture holding the balancing pole with the children on one side and the alcoholic on the other. Everyday the drinking would cause that pole to dip, causing me to desperately find a way to get us back in balance; all the while trying to show mercy and care for the one whose disease was threatening to cause us all to plummet to the ground. It was a balancing act I was weary of. My arms could no longer hold that pole. So when we arrived back home from our meeting to find him drunk, it was the moment that I finally laid it down .
It wasn’t till the next morning that I realized I had the courage to do it. I had gone to work early in the morning and when I was done with work, I called the house. “Let me speak to your dad” “He isn’t here. He went to play ping pong at church” And that was it. That was the moment I knew I was done. I knew that I knew that I knew that I couldn’t hold that pole a minute longer. I knew the disease would eventually cause us all to fall, and my fear was that there would be irreparable damage–it’s what I have always feared; and frankly still do
And that was the end. And the beginning. New Years Eve will always be a reminder of the moment I had the courage to get my kids and myself out of the destructive environment of a life with an alcoholic.
A dear friend took my kids for the day and night so I could have a proper breakdown and so the kids could have a fun memory; as they spent it with their best friends unaware of the loss that was ahead of them in the new year.
I spent the day cleaning, not just a dusting here or a vacuum there. I scrubbed baseboards, and wiped down every inch of every venetian blind in my house. I organized closets, and took a magic easer to every fingerprint and smudge on every surface in my house. ( and remember I was raising three young boys at the time; this alone could have taken the whole day) To this day I don’t know why that was my reaction — to clean. I think it was less of a metaphor for getting rid of all the yuck that had been my marriage for all those years and more about control. For so many years and moments the alcoholism had stolen my sense of security and control. But on that day, for the first time in a long time, I at least had control of my environment.
Later that night, he came back to get some things. He was contrite, as he usually was after a drunken tirade, but this time I knew in my heart that the disease had progressed far past the I’m sorrys, and it won’t happen agains, and the I’ll get helps and the just give me one more chances. I don’t know why I asked, but in hindsight I’m thankful I did. “Not that it matters, but how did you get alcohol last night?” For the sake of privacy I won’t tell you the details, but hearing how was confirmation that I was making the right decision. It was the assurance I needed to know that his disease was not anything I could fix and now I needed to concentrate on providing a safe and secure space for my kids.
I always wake up on New Years Eve remembering those events that led to my decision to end my marriage; but this year has a little different feel to it. There is always sadness, like remembering the anniversary of the death of a loved one. But this New Years Eve, instead of seeing those events as the end, I am starting to see it was the beginning. Though it didn’t feel like it for so long, it was the beginning of healing for the kids and me. This past year I have been doing some hard work as I assess those years of living with an alcoholic and how they impacted my self esteem, my confidence, and even my personality. It’s not fun, but it’s so healing. This New Years Eve, as I am emerging out of years of survival mode, I am waking up with a grateful heart. I don’t know what 2017 will bring, but I can look back on all the past New Years Eves and see how far we have come. Time really is the ultimate healer.
Statistics tell us that approximately 16.3 million adults have an Alcohol use Disorder. Chances are you have been effected by the disease, just as my family was/is. This New Years Eve I want to tell you there is hope of getting some control and peace and balance back into your life. I don’t know what that looks like for you and your family, but I hope 2017 is the year for your beginning. If I can be a source of help and encouragement, please feel free to reach out to me. I know how living with the disease can be a lonely, isolated place.
Happy New Year and here’s to beginnings; no matter how long they take to realize