This wife finds that a husband seeking alcoholism recovery needs her by his side.
When I married my husband was already an alcoholic, I believe now. Of course, I didn’t know then what an alcoholic was. I was under the impression that an alcoholic is a person who was always dirty, dishevelled, and unshaven and made his bed behind some old building or in the gutter. My husband was always freshly showered, clean-shaven, and neat, and he slept in a bed with clean white sheets.
For seven years, I watched his drinking get progressively worse. He began missing work and needing that morning drink just to get started. I listened to his promises, which were always broken. I went with him to our parish church when he took pledges, which were always broken. I prayed with him and hoped with him, but he still could not stop drinking. In these seven years, we had three children, and I lost my mother and my father. When each of these events took place, my husband said sincerely, Now I can’t drink because . . . But eventually it was always the same, back to the bottle, more broken promises and broken hearts.
In the year I958, I guess there was one drunk too many that just broke the camel’s back. I made up my mind to go to the Legal Aid Society and get a separation from my husband. That way, he could be free to drink as he wanted, and we would not be in his way. This was not done for spite, just to preserve my sanity.
But at this point he was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous. We decided to give our marriage another try, and I had my separation papers put on file. At last, my prayers to St. Jude, the patron of lost causes, had been answered. I saw a ray of sunshine and felt a bit of hope.
My husband attended AA meetings for nine months. Well, at least that was a start. But like most alcoholics (this is my own belief), he or was not convinced that he could not drink in safety. He tried it again, and back to the rat race he went. This time, he tried living away from home for three months. His sickness was progressing, and his health was going from bad to worse. So, after much battling with the booze, he went back to AA. After he had proved that he could stay sober for four ‘years, we bought a new home. Those four years had been the happiest of my married life up until that time. But again he just wasn’t convinced that he would never be able to drink in safety. For the next two years, he stayed sober on his own, attended no AA meetings, and stayed away from his AA friends.
After over six years of sobriety, he drank again. Seven months later, he had to be committed to a nursing home, which helped to put him back on his feet and again steer him in the right direction with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. If anyone thinks this is a plug for AA, believe me it is. If more loved ones knew about this program, more unfortunates would be on the way to recovery.
Now my husband’s brand of sobriety is different. At any time, day or night, he helps anyone who has a drinking problem and wants to do something about it. He even leaves his job if he has to, because someone needs him at that precise moment. He goes out of state to put on a meeting if he can get the message over to someone who needs it. He has started three groups in our area and is contemplating a fourth. He transports members from their homes to meetings and back. He goes to meetings every night of the week, if that is necessary for himself or for others.
His AA comes first, and that’s the way I want it. This is where the wife – or husband – comes in. I should say “spouse,” because alcoholism does not prefer either sex. We who stay at home must be patient with the alcoholic, never questioning the number of meetings he needs to attend or whom he attends them with. You need to have faith and trust throughout your life once your spouse admits that he is an alcoholic.
Many a night, my husband has brought home someone who needs a roof over his head or a meal under his belt. Many a weekend we have had to share with an alcoholic who is coming off a drunk and is afraid to be alone. Many a vacation has been “spoiled” for me and “successful” for my husband because he has had to see a drunk through the week. With every drunk my husband helps, he adds another strong link to his own chain of sobriety. Our living room has been turned into a bedroom hundreds of times.
It hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I say to myself, “This is what I was trying to get away from! This is what I was sick and tired of seeing in my home. And here I am going ahead and doing all these things for strangers!” The wife’s attitude through all this has a great effect on her husband. In my case, I want him sober at all costs, so I try to keep those occasional rebellious feelings to myself.
Through these experiences, I think, I have become a more generous, more understanding person. I have acquired more compassion both for my husband and for the poor, suffering alcoholics he has brought into our home. Above all – and this is very important – my children understand their father’s problem and understand why all those strangers pop into our home at unexpected times.
Their friends know about their father’s “allergy” to alcohol, and so do my friends and co-workers. We are no longer ashamed of him. He has a sickness, and he is doing something about it. So I go along willingly with everything he does in regard to his alcoholic problem. The more people he helps, the longer he will stay sober and the happier we all will be. Too many years have gone by since I was first introduced to his drinking. If he went on one more drunk at this late stage in the game, I don’t know what it would do to me and, most of all, to him.
Please – if anyone who reads this has a loved one trying to kick the drinking habit, remember it is a sickness. If he is fortunate enough to walk through the doors of
Alcoholics Anonymous, walk in with him and stay at his side through it all, because he needs all the help he can get. Above all, have faith and trust and hope, and one day at a time, with the help of God, you can both live to be very, very happy, as my husband and I now are, after being married twenty years.