Living With Alcoholism
FOR weeks all my husband had done was drink day and night. He would pass out, wake up and then start drinking again. He had been fired from his job, and our financial situation was getting worse day by day. His health had deteriorated and I wasn’t sure how much longer he would live. ‘Where will it all end?’ I wondered.
Before I tell you the outcome, let me explain how we reached this critical point in our life.
I met my husband at a dance in 1947. He had already been drinking when he arrived. Before the night was over he was dancing on top of the table. Later that week he came to visit me. This time he was sober, and I enjoyed his company very much. We had a lot of things in common, so we courted.
The night he proposed he had a bottle of liquor with him, but he wasn’t drunk. We talked at length about the seriousness of marriage and raising a family. I had no intention of living with an alcoholic, I told him. At that, he threw away the bottle and promised me he had taken his last drink. I was so happy!
But not long after we were married he started drinking again. During the years that followed I became more and more afraid of him. He was so unpredictable. He was like a volcano about to explode.
Not only did he continue to drink heavily but he began to gamble at work, which resulted in serious financial problems. Every payday there was an argument. He wanted to give me less and less money so he could drink more and more. Bill collectors were repeatedly calling.
‘How can he treat me this way and then tell me he loves me?’ I wondered. Since I had a part-time job, at times I raised the money to help pay the bills.
At times I couldn’t hold back. I pleaded, “Can’t you see what you’re doing? Your daughter and I are nervous wrecks!”
“You exaggerate!” he snapped back. “I only have a drink or two. I don’t even drink a bottle a week.” Actually, he was drinking a bottle a day!
My life was filled with inconsistency. On occasion he would bring me flowers or some candy. ‘He does love me after all!’ Then I would feel guilty because of the terrible things I had thought about him. Since he was being so nice, his drinking had to be my fault, I thought. If only I could change, then perhaps he wouldn’t drink so much.
He would promise to cut down, and after a few days I was sure that with my help he could stop drinking. But by the end of the week he would make up for lost time—drinking more than ever. A sense of hopelessness would overtake me.
Several times he went to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). They talked about alcoholism, but he felt he didn’t need to hear that. His problems were at home, he thought. My hopes were then dashed again. I felt trapped, angry.
My emotions ran full circle—joy, guilt, self-hatred, resentment, bitterness, hatred for him, wishing he would leave, fearing that he might. It seemed hopeless.
After trying to cope with this for a number of years, I lost all control of myself. One day, feeling desperate, I got in the car and just started driving. I ended up by a stream of water. It was so calm and peaceful. As I sat on the bank I thought of the hopelessness of my situation. The calmness of the water seemed like a magnet. If I could just slide into the water . . .
Suddenly, I heard a voice calling out to me. A woman who lived nearby had seen me and had come to see if I was all right. At that, I got in my car and drove home.
Not long after this, things got worse. My husband began talking about taking his life, even describing to me how he was going to do it. “You’ll be better off without me,” he said. In one way I was glad to hear it, but at the same time I was frantic!
The next morning I knew I had to do something. I got in touch with AA, and they referred me to a woman in my area who had faced a similar situation. She recommended a local group made up of family members of alcoholics. So I attended some meetings.
They helped me to see that I really couldn’t blame myself for my husband’s drinking. He had started before I even met him. Those in attendance seemed to be in control of themselves. They were cheerful and openly discussed their feelings. They lived one day at a time. That’s what I had to do! And even if the same problems were there, I had to realize that today had all the anxieties I could handle. I recalled Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:34: “Never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties.”
At the same time it seemed to me that some of the women there were still rather bitter and resentful of their husbands, complaining about them and describing their faults. Rather than share in this, I didn’t say anything.
However, as I listened to them talk about living with an alcoholic, I learned a number of helpful things. The most important thing I learned was this: I shouldn’t shield my husband from the consequences of his drinking, as I had been doing. Instead, I had to help him realize the problems his drinking was causing. It took a great deal of strength to overcome so many years of negative thinking, but I was determined. I began applying these suggestions.
An opportunity came not long after this. We had to baby-sit for our grandson who was sick and running a fever. Since I had to go out for a while, I asked my husband to watch the boy. I called him from work and cautioned him about drinking. He assured me he would take good care of the boy.
Shortly after I left, my daughter called to check on the boy. To her surprise her little son answered the phone. “Grandpa is sleeping,” he explained. My daughter was terrified! “Shake him hard and try to wake him up.” But my grandson couldn’t wake up Grandpa—he had passed out from drinking. With that, my daughter hung up the phone and rushed over.
About an hour later, after I had arrived home, he finally came to. He asked why we didn’t wake him up. Since he was still drunk, we didn’t say much. In the past I would have dropped it there. I would have been too afraid to say anything. But now I knew I couldn’t shield him from the consequences of his drinking. He had to know what happened. So the next morning I confronted him, describing in detail what had happened. “Do you realize what could have happened to our little grandson?” I asked. It hit him pretty hard. “I could have killed that child,” he confessed.
Yet, on one occasion some months later, he drank all night. But when he got up the next day he asked me to take him to the hospital. He couldn’t take it any longer. I had him call the doctor and make the arrangements. When we got to the hospital, he admitted himself and remained in therapy for two months.
Well, several years have passed now and our life together is getting better and better. It hasn’t been easy for either of us. We must constantly guard our thinking and motives.
There is something else that has greatly helped me—my relationship with Jehovah. It helped me get over the bitterness and resentment I felt, since I knew that Jehovah was not pleased with such feelings, no matter what my husband had done. (Colossians 3:13, 14) How reassuring it was to get to know Jehovah as a loving and merciful Father who does not look for our faults! This greatly eased my guilt feelings.—Psalm 103:9-12; 130:3, 4.
As I prayed day and night he gave me his spirit and strength. By regularly sharing my Christian beliefs with others, I was able to keep my hope alive. I also am deeply grateful for the Christian meetings I attend and the loving association of Christian brothers and sisters. Without them I don’t think I could have made it.
Of course, I am glad that I learned to live with an alcoholic. Learning to take one day at a time was a big help in controlling anxiety. In particular did I benefit from learning not to shield or protect my husband from feeling the consequences of his drinking. Without such insight, I don’t know what might have happened.—Contributed.
[Blurb on page 23]
I had to help him realize the problems his drinking was causing in his life
[Picture on page 22]
The most important thing I learned was that I shouldn’t shield my husband from the consequences of his drinking, as I had been doing