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 post is by Joanne.
"What do you mean his blood alcohol level is toxic? He hasn't been drinking. I've been with him all day." - The look of pity on the doctor's face is one I will never forget. "What do you mean his liver is enlarged by 30%? He doesn't drink more than anyone else." - There was the look again. That was Easter Sunday, 2006. That was the day I realized that I was married to an alcoholic. What I want you to know is that a spouse's drinking problem isn't about you. It is about them. What I want you to know is that you are married to a person and you are married to a bottle. They are separate and they are the same. What I want you to know is that you tried. You went to therapy alone for 7 years, you went to AA with him, you forgave 10,000 apologies, you questioned yourself when he lied and said he hadn't been drinking when you smelled the tequila on his breath, you screamed, you played it cool, you went crazy and banged your head against the wall and gave yourself a bruise that was 2" in diameter, and you prayed and prayed and prayed. What I want you to know is that after all of that, you are still you. He has his choices and you have yours. An alcoholic doesn't get to decide for you that you have to be married to an alcoholic. He doesn't get to decide that his children have to live in a house with an alcoholic. He doesn't get to decide that you have to live with that nagging knot in your stomach that starts about 3:30 every afternoon - wondering if he'll come home drunk or not. Nobody gets to decide that for you. You decide that for yourself. You are independent of the alcoholic. You write your own story. You decide how your story ends. What I want you to know is that his drinking is between him and his demons. It is his choice about what to do with his situation. It is your choice about what to do with yours. I want you to know that no matter what, it is scary.
I want you to know it is heartbreaking, that you will feel like a failure at times, isolated at times, like a fool at times. What I want you to know is that if you do leave, then it doesn't mean you don't love him anymore. It just means that you couldn't take it anymore. You gave it your all. You did your best. What I want you to know is that if you make your choices based on what is best for you, everything will be okay.