After I left.
I was a wreck. All I could think of was how upset Sam would be when he came home. Mostly sad – and he was. I didn’t know what to expect the next few days after that – he had told me many times he wouldn’t ever stop drinking for anyone. I thought there might be a good chance he would tell me to kiss off. I knew one of two things would happen since Sam isn’t a manipulator. He would tell me point blank that he wasn’t going to stop drinking, or he would get help and stop.
He was angry, upset, and some of it was with good reason. I had taken his child and left him, and he felt betrayed. I simply kept repeating to him that when he stopped drinking and made some life changes, I would come home. I refused to cave in to his anger.
The 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) were all very evident during the next week. I felt myself at times wearing down – he was upset, I had a crying baby who decided she would not sleep for anything, I was living out a suitcase, and I had no car. (My parents picked me up.) But I knew in my heart that this was the best thing for us. I just waited to see what he would decide to do now.
In the meantime, I went to Al-Anon and found that I wasn’t insane. I was just like everyone else in that room that had ever dealt with an alcoholic. What struck me most was when they said that I had perhaps come here to “fix” the alcoholic, but Al-Anon was about helping myself. I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.
Just what I needed to hear.
Sam began to go to AA – without me or anyone forcing or coercing him too – every night. We started to talk honestly about his drinking, how it was such an integrated part of our lives but that neither of us could ever really speak about what it was doing to us. He admitted that every day, every hour, he thought about alcohol. Which I had known, but it had been denied so long that I felt like perhaps I was reading into it too much.
We started to pray together. Awkward at first – I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it was so easy and wonderful and we just came together as a loving couple. But it was a start, something we had never done together in our 7+ years of being married.
Sam came down to sign papers on our home that was being sold, and we went to coffee. He told me he was an alcoholic, that he was so sorry for the mess he had made of our lives, that he loved me and wanted to start over again. I know this is going to sound trite to some of you that have dealt with this your entire lives, but I knew that if he didn’t mean it, he would still be fighting me to keep drinking in some small way.
My parents supported whatever decision I made, and I chose to stay with them until both of us could go see our marriage counselor. When we did, he was pretty unsure if we should be back together right away, and asked if we could wait another week, or two. I have to admit, it was getting pretty rough from lack of sleep and being away from my home. But it was Sam looking at me and saying, “I want my wife and baby back,” that made me go home – those were words I had waited to hear for years from someone I felt had become completely indifferent to me.
The counselor was impressed by the steps Sam had taken, and encouraged us to go home and continue down the new path we had set.
Sam was sober, I was working on having to control everything in our life. We went home and started making small changes – a food budget to save more money, letting Sam in on the finances, and being together on his days off as a family. We began to go out and actually do things, and finish projects, clean our house together, work on things. He started working out and has lost 40lbs in the past few months.
Oh, I know. I threw up in my mouth a little too. Must be nice.
We go to church, we pray together, we talk about alcohol. The other night our complex threw a party and a few people passed by Sam on his way up the stairs who were drunk, screaming at him to, “Come on down and have a few beers with us!”
He came in and told me that it had been really tempting, for a second, to head down there and have a beer. But then he thought about us – how far we’ve come with each other, how we’re learning to trust all over again. So he just came home. He still goes to AA on a regular basis, and talks to me about how it helps his alcoholic voice to go away – the one that convinces him he’s not a “real” alcoholic, that he can have a drink casually, and that everyone is wrong. AA beats that little voice out of him, and he comes home ready for another week.
My changes are partially because he stopped drinking, but also because of giving my life to Christ. I was so out of control with having to dictate everything in life. Pretty soon, it was going to affect Bella too, and I knew it. Al-Anon is teaching me that even if Sam were to drink again, I have choices. I do not have to be a raging lunatic that stalks my husband and berates him for everything. I don’t have to stay – I don’t have to go. I have given my life over to a Higher Power and know that although I might be tempted to control, I can simply let go and let God, and then make choices based on rational, reasonable thinking.
There may be setbacks in the future – for both of us. Sam quits things cold turkey and never looks back; from chewing tobacco, to drugs, to food. But whatever happens, as long as we are both committed to making our marriage work, to providing Bella with a safe place to grow up, and to getting back on track with our faith and each other, then I know we will be OK.
I am happy. For the first time in years, I can say that I enjoy seeing Sam walking through the door. I love his days off. I look forward to spending time with him, and seeing him with Bella. I do not have a constant fear of “What if” anymore, because I know that I am not in charge of the future. We’re not perfect. We still argue – but absolutely not near what it was. And out arguments end in talking things out, calming each other down and reminding ourselves that we aren’t going to live like that anymore.
We’ve seen our counselor – about a month after I went home. He actually teared up in his office listening to us talk, and kept saying how proud he was of both of us. For someone that has listened to us with concern for a year now, it was really a big deal to hear him say that.
Small steps are making big changes. I’m going to continue to blog openly about our progress, and please know if anyone reading this ever wants to vent or has a question, I’m here. I get it.
Thanks for reading.