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.