I don’t drink. Alcohol, that is. Well, much. I stopped drinking so much December 2009. Before that, I liked to drink, a lot, and did so whenever I liked. No too much, you understand, just a glass of red or two probably five nights a week, and sometimes the whole bottle except for the last half a glass I’d toddle over and tip down the sink swearing not to do it again the next night. Did you know some red wine comes in magnums? Now you do.
I don’t quite know how I ended up with that habit. I think it was for medicinal purposes, and probably started around the same time my husbands excessive drinking did. I think I started drinking a lot to cope with the issues which arose from the fact my husband was drinking a lot. And he was drinking a lot. In the end, he had to leave, because his alcoholism was driving me to something resembling it and more besides. He went away to rehab, actually, and to his credit, he sorted it out, with a lot of help. He’s back home now and things are grand.
While he was away at rehab, I used the solace and privacy as an excuse to do a bit of therapeutic drinking. I’m fairly sure this is how I carried on the whole time he was gone. I see now the unfairness and hypocrisy of it, but my excuse was that I was not the alcoholic, he was, and technically, it was true. But if he had a problem with drink, then we had a problem with drink, and not just my drinking or his drinking, but the reasons we thought drinking could help whatever was wrong with us.
There were, as is usually the case in dysfunctional, codependent, enabling relationships, deeper problems we had no capacity to face up to which were our main problem. Drinking was just anaesthetic, avoidance, suspension of animation. My husband has no memory of vast sections of the two years when he was drinking heavily; things and events he simply doesn’t recall. Significant events – moving house, holidays, big decisions that were made and conversations that were pivotal. I’d say they were gone from his memory, but I doubt they really ever went in. They came at him and merely rebounded clean off his consciousness like a poorly aimed beer bottle thrown at a bin. We have sections of our married life where he was physically present, but which he conducted in some kind of mental, emotional and spiritual automatic state; his real self was trapped in a world of pain inside his head. He was a perfectly emotional and mental pickle, pickled in a brown glass bottle.
Shortly after he came home from rehab, we went to his prospective boss’ Christmas Party. It was a flash do on a charter boat. The bar was open and gratis to all. We talked about it beforehand, and we knew it would be his first real test. I’d decided before we went I wouldn’t drink at the party, to show my support, although we hadn’t had a big discussion about the issue of whether I would drink in the future, and if I did, how that was going to work. While we were at the party, my husband bumped into a guy who’d been in the rehab a few months before he had. He was working for the company my husband would be working for, and doing well. He too was finding it hard with the alcohol flowing freely all around us, and no way to get off the boat, but he was holding up manfully. He had his partner with him. She had a beer bottle in one hand, and a glass of wine in the other – both for herself. The pressure on her man to keep up his bargain with God and with himself was his alone to bear. She told me “Well, why not? I’m not the alcoholic, am I?”
It was then I decided I didn’t need to drink any more, not at least for a while.
It’s been a few years now, and it hasn’t been hard for me to tone down my drinking. For my husband, it’s been harder, and it’s an ongoing journey. We are happy and love each other so much; more than we ever. It’s been said that he who has been forgiven much loves much, and both my husband and I appreciate how much the other had to forgive for this present happiness to exist. A great gift, precious, and to be treated with respect and deference. He is a drunk redeemed by mercy….I am a shrew redeemed by extending it. And it certainly works both ways.
My husband being an alcoholic, and my potential to follow him down that road, is not as much of a challenge now. Drinking is not something we think will solve anything anymore. But I won’t easily forget finding spirit bottles refilled with cold tea and water, seeing him drive up with our son in the car and a beer bottle between his thighs, or stumbling across secret caches of empty beer bottles…..or finding a wine bottle with one glass left in it at the back of the cupboard, months after he’d gone away to rehab, and realising I must have been the one who hid it there.
For Ben, one drink is too many, and one drink is never enough, and I’m not foolish enough to think that could just as easily be me.
Do you or someone you love have a problem with alcohol? Click here for Alcoholics Anonymous Australia.