I found a blog recently written by a woman who is married to a “functioning” alcoholic. Unfortunately, she only blogged for just under 18 months, and hasn’t posted in a year, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t found value in what she did write.
Because I have. A lot of value.
“Functioning” or “functional” alcoholics don’t fit the preconceived ideas most people have of alcoholism. My husband, for instance, has never been arrested for driving under the influence (as amazing as that seems to me). He not only makes it to work on time, every day and works very long hours, he runs a successful software business.
(Work, in fact, seems to be the only thing he enjoys as much as drinking; at one point I’d have said he enjoys work more than drinking but that, sadly, has changed over the last couple of years.)
People who don’t live with a functional alcoholic have no idea there is a problem, and even my coworkers, who know my husband drinks far more than he should (and that there is an abusive element in our marriage), don’t know how bad it actually is. And the really hard part of it is, at least for me, is that my husband doesn’t seem to know how bad it actually is.
Or does he? I don’t know. You hear a lot about alcoholics not in recovery being in “denial” but I once read something that made a lot of sense to me: “He’s not in denial. He know EXACTLY how much he drinks.” Sometimes I wish for him to come back from the doctor with a diagnosis for something that can’t be anything but alcohol-related, but if my research – to say nothing of personal experience – tells me anything, it’s even that may not be enough to make him stop.
At any rate, while perusing this blog I found a post titled Secret Drinking that really resonated with me. She starts off by talking about how she greets her husband when he comes home from work every day and taking note of whether or not she can smell booze on him, knowing that if she doesn’t, she will before the evening is up, whether she actually sees him take a drink or not.
Sometimes it feels like I am playing a little game called “I Know You Secretly Drink But I’ll Pretend I Don’t Know So We Can Try To Be Happy Together”, and even though I am playing by the made-up rules (and the rules I made up myself, mind you!) I’m still losing.
I can so relate to that, since I played the same game for so long!
To clarify, though most of my husband’s drinking is in secret, not all of it is – on weekends he puts on the show for me called “See, I Bought This Six Pack And Only Drank One And Didn’t Even Finish It.” (I hate that show, it’s always reruns). In his mind, he’s showing me he can control himself.
Another “OMG – I know exactly what she’s talking about!” moment, since my husband often does the same thing.
At some point last year, my husband mentioned to me that he was working later and later at work because he figured the less time he was at home, the less time he had to drink.
This sounds just like my husband’s “I’ve got to keep busy so I won’t drink!” line of bullshit (because it IS bullshit, as I’ve mentioned before).
I would imagine that drinking out in the open – and in front of me, especially – causes my husband to feel judged and ashamed. He knows very well how I feel about his drinking, especially because I find it so damn hard not to make my little comments to let him know that I don’t approve. This in turn probably has a few effects, one of which is to really look at his drinking and at himself. And seeing as he is still trying to control his drinking and further the idea that he doesn’t have a problem, any introspective place probably isn’t a very comfortable place for him to be.
While on his best, most sober day on this planet my husband is the least introspective person I know, this particular paragraph especially gave me pause – not because I recognized so much of him in it, but because I recognized so much of me.
I did used to needle him about it more than I realized. I forgot – or just never realized – that he felt ashamed by (and judged for) his drinking. He may be wholly aware that he is drinking, and how much he drinks, but it is quite possible – likely, even – that he is unaware how it has fundamentally changed him.
I’m tired of playing games.