What I want you to know: being married to an alcoholic

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by an anonymous reader.

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What I want you to know is that it's hard to be married to an alcoholic. It's very hard when you are no longer in denial, and you see what pain and hurt he's causing to himself and your children. It's difficult and it's frustrating, and it can suck you into a crippling cycle of dependency, but if you are willing to work on yourself, you can find even more to love in your marriage and your family.
I know all of these things because my husband is an alcoholic.

Now if you ask him, he will say he drinks beer, but it's not a problem. He would probably also say he only drinks socially. At least that's what he told me before we met, when we were just talking "online." And as we met, dated, spent more time together, he NEVER drank in front of me, or that I knew about. Not once in 18 months. After we were married, and after my friend got me to al-anon before I had a nervous breakdown after 8 months of marriage, I could see that what I thought were kindnesses on his part - always saying he wanted to leave early - by 10:00 pm so I could get my rest before getting the kids up and to school and to work the next day; always coming to my house, but never having me at his - for my convenience; so I wouldn't have to pay a babysitter on my single-mom salary - those were his way of still being able to get home in time to drink before bed and not having to worry about the bottles or cans in the trash.

I want you to know that I now know that not every alcoholic lives on the streets. My alcoholic is a well-respected member of his profession. He works daily and rarely misses a day of work. Sometimes he does sleep in, but his office is fairly flexible, and it doesn't show any signs of affecting his work life.

I want you to know that not every alcoholic gets arrested for DWI. My alcoholic prides himself on never drinking and driving and always staying home when he drinks. He'd never go to a bar and drink or get drunk.

I want you to know that if you look at my life from the outside, you'd have no idea what is going on in it. I feel more sane now after 4 years in al-anon, and daily reading and some blogging and trying to help our children understand what is going on, and not to live in denial. But it is hard.

I want you to know that not all alcoholics drink in the morning when they wake up. Sometimes the alcoholic makes deals with himself throughout the day, that he can drink at 7:00 pm, because he won't be drunk yet when the kids go to bed. Or he can drink at 5:00 tonight because the kids won't be home until late. Or that he can make a deal that if he goes to buy the beer that is $1 for a 24 oz can, he can buy more and drink fewer numbers of cans, so that is good in his world.

I want you to know that when a person drinks, and he keeps drinking, he is slowly but surely killing himself. It's hard to watch someone you love do that.

It's hard to know that the wonderful, caring, thoughtful man you married is in there somewhere but he is facing a daily battle, literally for his life, with the desire to get his alcohol into his system.

Most of all, I hope that if you know someone who lives with an alcoholic, and you probably do - even if you don't know the person is drinking, please be compassionate. Please know that as someone who loves an alcoholic, they are trying to be the best spouse, parent, friend that they can be, and not go insane with the still drinking alcoholic in their house. But also, I'm trying to see every day, what I can do to help today be the last day he drinks. Sometimes that means I leave the room when he starts talking about other women because I don't need to hear it, and he can be left with his own thoughts. Sometimes it means that I need to think carefully how I want to act before I speak. I don't want to react to his careless drunken ravings. Sometimes it's buying ice cream for the kids at our favorite place every single night he's out of town on business because we can. Sometimes, it's deciding he has the right to drink if he wants to, but he doesn't have the power to kill my joy for living.

But every day, it's hard.

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