I grew up in a family where wine was a part of most dinners and celebrations. We all knew that my dad had a drinking problem but he was a quiet kind of drunk. Mostly he fell asleep after dinner. Except for when he and my mom fought. Then it was ugly and physical and scary.
I married in my early twenties to a man that rarely drank. We moved overseas to a country where alcohol was freely used and we began to drink wine or beer in the evenings. When we moved back to the US, we continued this habit, often under the guise of needing a glass of wine to sleep. Except it was always more than a glass. For a while in my twenties, I began to wonder if I had an issue but my first pregnancy I had no problem stopping drinking. After I gave birth, I drank less and less. But my husband drank more.
One day I was in a grocery store buying brandy. I had decided to make homemade vanilla as Christmas gifts and I needed brandy to do this. While in the store, I heard an almost audible voice in my head say “Don’t buy it.” I was beginning to realize that my husband had a drinking problem. Drinking seemed liked something he needed to do, not something he enjoyed. He would buy the cheapest wine possible and mix it with Sprite or Seven-up to make wine coolers. He began to buy box wine so that he could drink more for less money. I ought the brandy despite the voice in my head. When I brought the brandy home, he tasted it and that is when things really started to go downhill. He started buying brandy on a regular basis and drinking it quickly.
My husband was a graduate student and I was working. We had a young daughter. I would look at him at night, when he would come home from the library and I had a sense that there was something off. But he hid it very well, never slurring his words or having a hangover . But there were empty bottles in the morning and At one point he had an injury that required surgery. He was immobile for many weeks and in pain. He begged me in tears to go and buy him brandy so he could sleep. I was horrified and refused. He continued to beg and I continued to refuse. I knew we were in trouble.
After this, we made an agreement that we would stop drinking. I kept the agreement. He didn’t. He became paranoid and irritable. The last week of graduate school, he came home absolutely plastered. It’s a night I will never forget as he yelled out accusations to me that I was cornering him. It was devastating and I was terrified.
We moved on to a job that was a disaster. After six months, we went back to the city where we had gone to graduate school, broken and ashamed. The drinking got worse and my husband spiraled into a deep depression. I began teaching a few evenings a week but had to quit because it was clear that my husband was drinking while I was gone and I was afraid for my daughter. Somehow during that time my husband hit rock bottom and decided to go to AA. He got a wonderful sponsor, got deep into counseling and made some painful discoveries about his past and why he was self-medicating with alcohol. Through hard, gut wrenching work, he gained sobriety and has been sober for 12 years.
What I want you to know is that alcohol was a liar and a thief in my marriage. It stole trust and made me live in fear and suspicion. Recovery wasn’t easy. As my husband worked through the 12 steps, he had to be truthful with me in very deep ways. At one point he took me through the house to show me all the places he had hidden bottles. He thought I would be pleased with his honesty. I mostly thought that he was a deceitful, lying jerk. Alcoholism made me feel stupid- how could I have missed so many signals for so long? I don’t worry about my husband drinking again because he has done the hard work of recovery. But I have an eagle eye for any form a deceit or fudging on the truth. I won’t put up with the slightest falsehood and my husband knows this.
My husband has a job that requires a high moral code. After receiving a really negative response to our honesty about alcoholism at one potential job, we have now decided that being a recovering alcoholic is privileged information and we only share it with close and trustworthy friends.
What I want you to know is that I felt alone and afraid during the years that my husband drank. I didn’t know who I could talk to or how they would judge me. Realizing that I was married to a man who had the same issues as my father was especially painful. I want you to know that I was angry with my husband during those years and in the early years of recovery. But what I also want you to know is how proud I am of my husband for dealing with his pain and walking the hard road to sobriety.