Devastated By An Alcoholic-Family Falling Apart

When I attended my first support group meeting, I was totally devastated. The out of control alcoholic in the immediate family was causing our happy home to denigrate. The children covered their real emotions well with smiles on the outside, but I knew on the inside the relationship with their mother was falling apart.

She had always liked to drink and until a couple of years ago,  she seemed to have a handle on balancing the party life with family life. Alcoholism and drug addiction are like a deadly cancer that slowly eats away at the body without any immediate symptoms.

I began to pick up on a few warning signs that something was wrong, but had no idea what that something was. At first, I thought that she was having an affair with another man. I allowed my mind to wonder into many different places trying to figure out why my wife’s behaviors had changed so much. She seemed so distant from expressing the love toward me that I had become so accustom to.

This was the beginning of the cancer eating away at our relationship or at least working on changing the way I went about my daily routine. Prior to her acting funny, I would get  up in the morning, take care of my responsibilities of getting the kids off to school and then focus on work. When my spouses affections toward me and the children began to change, my thoughts were overtaken with obsessing over her behaviors. I was constantly plagued with wondering what was going on? Why was she acting so distant?

I recall doing things like driving by her work to see if she was really there. I started listening to her saved phone messages and checking some of her emails. I was even looking through her paper mail to try and get some clue as to why her personality had changed so much. I remember listening in on phone conversations hoping she wouldn’t catch me. I was totally obsessed and concerned about how my wife had been acting. It was insane behavior on my part that had slowly become a way of life for me over time.

Eventually…her secret was out. She was a nurse and had begun to steal pain pills and any other type of mind altering drug she could take without getting caught. Even though I knew she was doing this, I was not educated in understanding alcoholism or drug addiction. My mind was still internalizing everything like it was something that I had done to cause her to act so oddly removed from the family. Somehow all of this was my fault. I think the reason I thought this is because she began blaming me for everything. If I even said one thing about here problem, she would twist things around and make me feel, think and act as if it was all my fault.

Until you have experienced the drastic mood swings an alcoholic or drug addict has, you may not fully understand how devastating an alcoholic disorder in the family can be.

After a couple of  years of this strange behavior,  I finally found myself in an Al-anon meeting. After that first hour of interacting with others who understood what I was going through, little did I know that my life would change for the better. I had begun a journey that would take the rest of my life to learn all of  the different signs of alcoholism.

The first thing I learned was that I did not cause my wife’s addiction problems. The second thing was that I could not control her alcoholism. Finally, I left that first meeting with a small understanding that I could not cure her disease.

The first step in a twelve step program says that we are powerless over an alcoholic’s behavior and that our lives have become unmanageable. I immediately identified with this because of the devastation that had been occurring in our family. The kids and I had been wondering why mom had been acting so strange and treating all of us with little respect. We begged and pleaded with her to stay at home sometimes, only to be left without her presence for days on end. We truly were powerless over her and had driven ourselves batty trying to control her. In the midst of the madness, we had been yelled at, physically hit, emotionally and verbally abused by her. No matter how hard we tried to get her to realize how crazy she was acting, nothing changed. She continued to steal prescription medications from work and party every chance she could get.

What started out to be an undetectable cancer was now so evident that it was having devastating affects on everyone’s lives in the immediate family.

There were several car wrecks, two arrests, marriage counseling and even a full-term stay in a twenty eight day program and she still chose to live a life filled with self-destruction that was having devastating affects on us all.

In Al-anon, I learned how to detach from my alcoholic wife. There are  thousands of coping skills I’ve been taught through the years that have transformed how I interact with people, not just the alcoholic. The process of gaining the skills necessary for setting boundaries, learning how to love myself, detaching from an addict and loving an alcoholic unconditionally was lengthy.

Just as the cancer of alcoholism had slowly destroyed my life,  the healing process was slow too. It takes a while to learn coping skills to be used with alcoholics. I’ve heard it said: “you can’t walk a long way into the woods and expect to get out quickly.”

Perhaps you have identified with a little of my story. You can learn how to love an alcoholic and stay married to them if they are not horribly abusive. All is not hopeless for you. You just need to learn a few coping skills for dealing with alcoholics.

Make a decision to do something today to start the process of change. Like I said earlier, we cannot change the alcoholic. So, who does that leave that needs to learn how to change?

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