Sunday, January 18, 2009

Question Three

Glenna and Uncle Terry in front of his rental, a Dodge Avenger. We teased him a bit about the car. "Really?" he said with smile. "Am I really in an Avenger?"

Uncle Terry's visit was far too short, but extremely informative. I posted here about some of our discussions, and I wanted to address the last question from that post.

What do we do if someone we love is an alcoholic?

When someone we love is behaving in a manner that's destructive, either to themselves or others, our first instinct is to fix them. We can see the problem clearly and of course have all the answers! Imagine our hurt and eventual anger when they fail to respond to our logic and promptings. What we have forgotten was the first observation in the previous post, an alcoholic loses their ability to listen.

Since we have forgotten that they won't hear us, we have continual thoughts such as shaking them by the neck until their teeth rattle (or maybe that's just me!), dragging them to counseling, or taking drastic measures to "snap them out of it."

This rarely works, and for good reason.

There are instances where an intervention is necessary. The reason this can work is because of true accountibility, as spelled out to me by Uncle Terry.

Accountibility is not telling someone what he or she must do. It's not demanding they behave a certain way or adhere to a standard. Unfortunately, this is usually our first reaction with a destructive loved one!

Accountibility is speaking the truth in love. Truth, without love, is cruelty. Truth, spoken in love, has amazing healing powers.

I can only use my own marriage as an example. Himself was drinking only during the weekends, but I would notice a tension headache beginning to creep up on me around noon on Fridays (since that's the start of the weekend, right?). Sometimes, he wouldn't drink on Friday. Rarely, he wouldn't drink at all. I never really knew, and that's what created the tension.

Things changed for me when I was able to tell him the truth. During the week (read, when he was sober) I explained that if he wanted to drink on the weekends that was fine, but I no longer wanted to be around him when he did. I would no longer sit at a party and force on a smile. I would no longer put up with the unpleasantness of having a drunk in my room (I would sleep on the couch). I would no longer be the brunt of his jokes for the amusement of his drunken friends and family, either. I assured him that I loved him and understood that he would quit when he was ready (he constantly told me this). When he was ready, he could just let me know.

The amazing thing was, I didn't feel angry anymore. In fact, I felt completely calm and in control of my emotions; so matter-of-fact about everything. I didn't have to play the game, so I didn't. I didn't toss and turn on the evenings I slept on the couch. I slept quite peacefully! I began to pursue interests and look for a church. I knew I had to get back to God because life was impossible without Him. I visited several churches (some were pretty whacky!) and found one I enjoyed. Himself was supportive of this because he knew it would let him do as he pleased.

Or so he thought.

It took only one weekend of doing things seperately for things to change. It took only one weekend of me sleeping peacefully on the couch. On November 6th, 1987, Himself took a good, long look in the mirror. He had partied at his sister's house the Halloween weekend before and didn't have his wife around to make him feel guilty. He slept alone fretfully because I was on the couch. As he says it, he saw his future. He could continue down the path he was on and eventually lose everything; wife, job, and home, or he could quit now without regrets.

On that November day, he chose change.

And we lived happily ever after.


His first weekend with purposeful sobriety was h-e-double-hockey-sticks for both of us. He was so unbearable, it was a relief for him to say, "I'm going to a meeting."
"Good, why don't you?" I agreed.

It's not like he didn't know anyone there at the AA meeting. His father had been sober for quite some time now and had helped countless others. Himself knew the truth. He knew the signs and steps. When he finally faced the truth, change happened. He accepted it readily, and our marriage began to heal.

Frankly, our marriage is still healing today! One doesn't stop their addiction and presto! Life is perfect! It's a long, hard, wonderful, worth-it road to discover why. I am so thankful to be on this path with him. I am so proud of all he's accomplished since that November day. He's amazing. He continues to amaze me still.

So, what can one do if their loved-one is an alcoholic? Speak the truth in love. Be honest with yourself and with them.

You're ___________ too much. It's hurting me and hurting yourself. I don't like it. I feel lost and hopeless when you do and afraid for our future. I don't want to live that way and I'm praying for you. It's not hopeless, and there is help for us. Let me know when you're ready.

Drinking is only a symptom of the disease of alcoholism. If you have a loved-one who is an alcoholic, I urge you to get educated. Research it as you would any other disease on the internet. Pray without ceasing. Talk to people who have gone before you. I'd be happy to talk to you, myself!

My name is Mrs, and my husband is an alcoholic.

1 comment:

agable said...

Thank you so much for posting this and for your honesty. Sometimes I see what I am going through with my dad and what you've been through and I just have to thank God for putting you in my life. It is so helpful to know that happy endings can happen. I love you Mrs. Welsh! :)


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