Functioning

Out of all the people affected by my husband’s alcoholism, I think my eldest step-daughter and myself are the hardest hit.  We are the people closest to him; frankly, the people who love him the most (and he is not the most loveable of individuals under the best of circumstances).

During several of our many discussions about his drinking, my step-daughter has declared that her father is a “functional alcoholic.” A functional alcoholic is someone who is dependent on alcohol but still manages to live a “normal” life – they have a career, friends, hobbies, successful marriages, raise families.

Until they don’t.

Almost universally, the booze takes over an alcoholic’s life – sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but given enough time (and enough denial on the alcoholic’s part), those careers, friends hobbies, marriages and families begin to take a back seat to the drinking.  Eventually, everything in the alcoholic’s life just falls apart.

That’s where we are now.  The long, downward spiral of his life began maybe 5 years ago when many of the events I listed on my “about” page took place – the fight that nearly came to blows with the man he’d tried to run off the road, then being detained and nearly arrested after a flight, returning home from a business trip.  During the holidays, when we had excess time off from work, he’d be completely wasted by 2 o’clock in the afternoon – it got so bad, my inlaws no longer accept invitations to our home for such celebrations, and no longer invite us to theirs.

After one particularly horrible evening, I decided to sit down with my (briefly sober) husband and try to make him understand some very hard facts, among them the fact that he was drinking 3 GALLONS of vodka a week.

No, that’s not a typo.

This had 3 results: he cut back on how much he drank and was no longer drunk to the point he was staggering and slurring his words and passing out most nights.  Good on the surface, but not so good in reality because he immediately began hiding how much he drank – the large bottle of cheap vodka that had been a permanent fixture on our kitchen counter was hidden in the garage during warm weather and the top of our large, walk-in closet during the winter months.  He also began, for the first time since his early 20s, smoking pot on a regular basis again, with the excuse that it would help him not drink (all it accomplished, as far as I could tell, was stink up the house to such an extent that I banned it to the garage, even in the winter).

So, we went along like this for quite some time, with the drinking being particularly bad, hidden or not, around the holidays and getting better again after our annual mid-January fight about it.  It wasn’t until I began thinking I smelled vodka on him at the office that I realized the “bad” drinking was no longer contained to the holiday season and, sure enough, I soon caught him sneaking vodka into the office in my canning jars (of all things).  Once that had happened, I guess he didn’t feel like he had anything to hide and brought what had accumulated at the office home in one of our reusable grocery bags.  There were 10 jars; where he’d hidden them in his office is beyond me.

It was then that a lot of things began to fall into place – his frequent trips home to “use the bathroom” because he didn’t want to use the tiny one at the office, our employees’ confusion about his erratic behavior and inability to remember conversations that had taken place very recently, his parent’s refusal of our dinner invitations, my youngest son’s insistence that he live on campus at college when he could have easily commuted from home, the long stretches of time spent “tinkering” in the garage in warm weather and playing games on his iPad in the bathroom during cold weather.

My husband is no longer a “functional” alcoholic.

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The Burden of Imperfection

I never pretend to be perfect.

I have plenty of faults and foibles, and if you talk to me about them, I may be uncomfortable but I certainly won’t deny they are there.  Some of them, like my tendency to be a slob, I am truly trying to improve; for instance, I’ve stopped throwing my clothes on the floor next to my side of the bed at night and I’ve arranged the shoes in my closet (and have kept them that way, too).  When I remove something from a hanger in my closet, I move that hanger to the front where they are all easier to retrieve when it’s time to do laundry. Baby steps, but the effort is there and the changes being made stay in place.

My procrastination is probably my biggest fault, but I do work on that, too – I haven’t paid a bill late in a very, very long time, and we’ve begun eating dinner in the evening much earlier; I simply start it the minute I get home from work rather than collapsing in my chair.  Some, like my sedentary ways, are more difficult to overcome; it’s no help that almost all of my favorite pastimes (knitting, crocheting, learning to sew, reading, chatting with my sister-in-law and kids online) are better suited to sitting down.

One of my better qualities is that I have a TON of patience, especially with those I love.  So what kind of a statement is it that my patience has worn very, very thin within the confines of my marriage?  I can’t blame this lack of patience on perimenopause any longer, because all of that is on a much more even keel since my periods stopped all together.  My sex drive even seems to be making a comeback…the ultimate irony because it’s the thing that angers my alcoholic husband the most: I simply don’t have the patience to want to have sex with him any more.  The desire is there, just not with this angry, demanding, critical, controlling, self-centered stranger.

Who, by the way, has absolutely zero patience for anything these days.  Especially me.

The underlying current in the tense, often terrifying, minefield that my marriage has become is that if I just tried harder, he’d be able to quit drinking.  It’s been a long time since he’s flat-out told me it’s my fault he drinks, but he has certainly implied it, and very recently at that.  He’s very much an A-type and declares, “I just can’t sit and do NOTHING all day like you can.”

Um, I’m not doing nothing.  I rarely do nothing; I’m always busy doing something, it’s just not what you want me to be doing. You, like every other alcoholic in the world, think the universe should revolve around you and you, specifically, think every moment not spent doing what you think should be done is a moment wasted.

When we had our most recent (and increasingly frequent) fight about his drinking he said he wanted to stop but, again, he couldn’t stop if he was just sitting around all the time.  First of all, this is hogwash, because he drinks no matter what he’s doing.  Building trellises for the vegetable gardens in the back yard?  He’s got a drink close by.  Digging up the new flower beds for the ornamental gardens in the front yard?  He’s got a drink close by.  Spreading soil, compost or mulch for the gardens?  He’s got a drink close by.  Putting in the new sink in the half bath downstairs?  He’s got a drink close by.  I caught him sneaking vodka into the office in mason jars not too long ago, so he’s drinking while working.  He used to drink while he drove anywhere, even the grocery store, until I refused to get in the car with him behind the wheel.

Secondly, it’s not as if I’m forcing him sit around and do nothing, no matter what he wants to believe – the very thought of forcing this man to do anything he doesn’t want to do is ludicrous.  During our last fight, when he implied that it was my fault that he drank, he said that he wanted to “go out and get involved in the community.”  This just makes me roll my eyes.  What’s stopping him?  Not me, although that was the implication.

But the alcohol does.  IT stops him.

Alcoholics don’t get involved in the community.  Alcoholics don’t have friends (nor do their wives, for that matter).  Eventually, alcoholics don’t have any interests beyond their next drink.  He’s not to that last point yet, but he will be, and sooner rather than later.

I may not be perfect, but I’m certainly not stupid.

Hello, World

My name is Jan.

I have another blog.  It was once a fairly popular food blog, but my interest in it began to wane somewhat about 18 months ago and I haven’t posted there in over 6 months.  It’s not because I don’t want to, but because I couldn’t keep sugar-coating what my life was really like.

I couldn’t continue to lie to my friends, to my readers, to the world.

To myself.

On that other blog, I call my husband “Beloved.”  It is more true than he realizes.  I don’t know how I’m going to refer to him here; all I can do is name him for what he is.

My husband is an alcoholic.