The Games We Play

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.

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Drunk Behavior

Before recounting childhood trauma for the better part of an hour this past week, I told my therapist that my husband has three different behaviors:  sober behavior, “I’ve been drinking” behavior, and drunk behavior.

It’s been awhile since I’ve dealt with drunk behavior, and for the past few weeks, it’s mostly been sober/bordering on mild “I’ve been drinking” behavior.  Thus, I spent the better part of an hour recounting childhood trauma on Wednesday.

You know, you’d think after dealing with my husband’s alcoholism for the last 5 or so years I’d realize that it’s just not going to disappear.  But time and time again, I let myself believe that everything is just going to be all right.

Sometimes I feel like a fool.

Tonight is one of those times.

The Aftermath

In my last post, I recounted our “date night” and how it ended with my husband screaming at me that we need to end our marriage and his demand that I “think about how I want to handle this separation.”

That’s been a common tactic with him throughout our relationship – we get into an argument (or an out-and-out fight) and it almost always ends with him saying we just need to end things.  I’m not stupid.  I am fully aware how manipulative that is, but in the past I’ve always backed down and done what I can to make amends, make things better.

Not this time though.

He did not expect me to spend the night in the guest bedroom upstairs (and to be honest, I’m more than a little surprised that he didn’t continue to browbeat me about it; he has in the past when I’ve attempted to sleep apart from him).  The next morning, he was up before me, already showered and dressed and puttering about the house, whistling and humming.

This, too, is standard with him when he knows he’s fucked up.  When someone else does something wrong, he expects acknowledgment and sincere apologies; when its him, we’re all supposed to act like nothing’s happened.

I did not speak to him; I merely showered, dressed, packed my breakfast (I can’t eat when I first get up, so I take some yogurt or cheese and fruit to the office to eat later when I am hungry).  We didn’t speak on our way into the office.  Once there, we had to talk to each other, of course, but it was all on a professional level and very impersonal.  When lunchtime rolled around, I packed up and stayed home (since I’m working part time for now) and spent the afternoon working on my resumé. He went back to the office.

Saturday is our day to run errands – mostly to farmer’s markets and/or pick up our eggs (we are big on local, sustainable food choices; I’ll write about that later if you like).  It’s something we look forward to, especially when we’re visiting our poultry farmer for pastured eggs, as was the plan this day.  I was so upset I was physically ill, so I stayed home, and got very little done that day (also unusual).  I couldn’t even cook dinner, and I love to cook, especially on the weekends – I made my husband fend for himself and my son ordered a pizza.  I had little appetite, and don’t even remember what – or if – I ate.

He, again, spent the day acting as if everything was just hunky-dory.

Sunday when I woke up, I felt much better.  I don’t want to live in an armed camp, or so stressed that I can’t eat or function.  I can’t control his behavior, but I can certainly control mine.  I’m sure he thought the whole incident was going to blow over when I came downstairs and was amiable and pleasant.

I imagine he’s a little taken aback, since I’m still sleeping upstairs.  He’s made a couple of attempts over the course of the last week and a half to test my mood – a pat on the shoulder as I walk by; once he tried massaging my neck and shoulders as I worked in the kitchen.  I haven’t shrugged him off, but I haven’t responded to him, either – I know he did this hoping I’d return the gesture or relent and hug him, but I’m not going to.  He doesn’t get a pass this time.

I’m not sure what he’s feeling or thinking about the situation as it stands; I took off my wedding ring the day after “date night” and put it with the rest of what little jewelry I own.  He continued to wear his, although he took it off while gardening this weekend and hasn’t put it back on.  I do believe he still thinks it’s all going to blow over because I’m still showering in the master bath and my clothes are still in the closet of the bedroom he now occupies alone.

However, once my son goes back to school in two weeks (and after he scrubs the upstairs bathroom within an inch of it’s life – it’s disgusting in there), I’m going to buy some good sheets for the double bed I now sleep in (as well as a new laundry hamper), and am going to move my clothes and belongings upstairs.  If he’s going to want to talk about what happened, it will be then…but I’m willing to bet he won’t.  He’d rather let our marriage fall apart than admit he acted like an ass and apologize for it.

Not that I’m sure that would do any good, because he’s still drinking.

Until this weekend, he was very careful that I didn’t see him with any kind of drink other than coffee or ice water in his hand.  He obviously doesn’t realize I know exactly where in the garage he hides his 1.75 liter bottle (just shy of a half gallon) of disgusting, cheap Popov vodka.  Nor did it take me long to find where he was hiding the drinks – mostly beneath the sink of the half bath downstairs and in the same cabinet he hides the vodka, as well as other easily accessible (and easily found) nooks and crannies in the garage.  And, as usual, he’s averaging 3 to 4 of those bottles a week.

I haven’t checked to see if he replenished his latest bottle (when I checked yesterday morning, it was nearly empty) when he ran to the grocery store yesterday afternoon, although he came back with a 12-pack of beer, ostensibly to share with my son, who enjoys the occasional beer.  But I’m sure I’ll see a new one when I check this afternoon.

I’ve spent the last 11 days in a horrible cycle of either feeling okay (not happy, but okay) and a terribly black depression as it becomes more and more obvious that things aren’t going to move forward until I make them.  Now I just have to figure out how I intend to go about doing just that – moving forward.

Not as easy as it sounds, but more on that in my next post.

Date Night

I’ve put off writing this post for a week, simply because I just haven’t had the wherewithal (or the time, frankly).  But I can’t put it off any longer, because what I’m about to tell you has so completely changed our lives.  Gawd, I hope I can finish it in the next 2 hours.

Before I start, though, you should keep in mind that my husband drinks all day, every day, even at the office.

I’d written previously that my husband suggested we have a “date night” which was to consist of us cleaning out the fridge and then taking a co-worker and his wife to dinner so the company could pay for it.  And we did, a week ago yesterday (last Thursday).

First off, the folks at the restaurant we went to know us VERY well – I’m friends with 2 of the waitstaff on Facebook and we’re on quite good terms with the owner/executive chef and his family. We eat at this place 2 or 3 (sometimes 4) times a month; the food is always excellent, as is the service, and we always tip well.  They know our habits, too – as soon as we sit down, whoever is our waiter for the evening brings our water and asks, “Hendricks martinis?” (Dry and up – mine with a twist, my husband’s with olives – we never even have to make the distinction any more.)  They bring us the drinks and tell us the specials – we rarely order off the menu – and we’ll drink our first cocktail while we decide what we want.  By the time we decide on which special each of us is having, and whether we’re going to order salads or split an appetizer, we’re mostly done with that first cocktail.  I’ll order another and sip it with dinner; my husband always orders a second, as well, and often a third, in the form of an espresso martini with dessert.  I won’t lie and say I’ve never had more to drink, but 98% of the time I stop at those two cocktails and, for the most part, those three are all he has, as well (although it’s not unknown for him to have 3 gin cocktails and the dessert martini, too).

[As an aside, outside of our family circle and some – most – of our co-workers (including the one we were having dinner with), no one realizes the extent of my husband’s drinking problem, and these people at the restaurant are no exception; they think we’re a very happily married couple and a great deal of fun.]

Anyhoo…we got there a little early and ordered our first drink.  No problem.  A few minutes later our co-worker, D, and his wife, K, showed up.  K doesn’t drink, but D ordered one of the excellent Blood Orange Margaritas.  After we heard the specials, we all settled in to having a wonderful time.

I ordered my second drink about on schedule, and D ordered a second margarita, as well; my husband wasn’t quite done with his. It didn’t take him long, though, and as soon as he finished he excused himself to go to the bathroom.  Again, the people at this restaurant know us VERY well, and while he was gone, the waitress came over and asked, “Should I bring T another one?” to which I replied, “Sure – why not?”

Big. Huge. GARGANTUAN. Mistake.

My husband rejoined us and everything was going along fine, when our waitress brought the second drink.  He stared at it as if it were going to shoot him.

“What’s THIS?”

A little taken aback by his angry tone, I replied, “Well, I ordered you another drink.”

“I don’t want THIS,” he declared, in the same angry tone and an even angrier look on his face.  “I was going to order something ELSE.”

Even more taken about, I said, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

I could tell our waitress was also surprised, but recovered much more quickly than me and said, “I can take this and bring you something else, sure.  What would you like?”

He crossed his arms and legs, looking like a petulant child, and tersely said,  “No – just bring me the cocktail menu.”

When she brought it to him, he snatched it out of her hands.  I saw D and K exchanging looks out of the corner of my eye, and our waitress said, “Okay, well, I’ll be back in a minute.”  D and I quietly sipped the remainder of our drinks while my husband glanced over the menu and then tossed it on the (mercifully unoccupied) table next to us.  The waitress saw this – everyone in the whole fucking restaurant was watching at this point – and came back over.  She quietly picked up the menu, and said, “Have you made up your mind?”

“No, I don’t want anything,” he said, still terse and angry, still in his defensive posture.

“Well, I can take this one away – make it never have happened,” she offered.

“NO.” He waved her away.  When she left, he slid it in front of me. “YOU drink it.”

I was near tears at this point, but managed to keep it together and slid the glass back into the space between the two of us.  “No, thanks,” I said, “I don’t want it.”

And that was pretty much the only thing I said for the rest of the evening – I just ate my dinner.  K also didn’t say anything else; she simply ate her steak while D ordered another margarita (and I don’t blame him a bit) and soldiered on, talking with my husband and trying to keep things as light as possible.

Oh, did my husband end up drinking the martini?  Of course he did.

Right before we left I excused myself to go the restroom; while walking there, another of the waitstaff took me by the arm and asked, “You got quiet over there; is everything okay?  Is something wrong?”  I tried to smile, and just said, “Oh, you know – husbands.  Men.”  She let me go, and when I got back to the table, K was quick to say they had to leave.  My husband paid the check, we walked out to our cars, said our goodbyes, and left.

I held out as long as I could, but about halfway home I started to cry.  I couldn’t help it.

“Why are you crying?” he demanded.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“I don’t know what you think YOU have to fucking cry about!  How am I supposed to quit drinking if you are ordering me drinks I don’t want?”

I was so astounded by that statement I didn’t say anything else the rest of the way home.  It didn’t matter, though, because the minute we walked through the door, he turned on me.

“YOU RUINED OUR ENTIRE EVENING, SITTING THERE POUTING LIKE THAT!”

I ruined our evening?” I asked.  “I’m sorry, I’m not going to sit there and pretend to have a good time while you humiliate me!  I don’t know how I can ever go back there after the way you behaved!”

“I humiliated YOU?  I don’t know what you’re talking about – YOU were the one being childish!  YOU were the reason no one could have a good time!!”

Now, I have a bit of a temper myself – it takes quite a bit for me to lose my temper, but once I do, I go ballistic.  I’ve been ashamed of myself on more than one occasion by escalating these sorts of battles, so I stepped on my anger and calmly – well, as calmly as I could manage – began to recount what had transpired earlier.

I didn’t get far when he burst out with, “You’re so full of SHIT.  We should just end this marriage NOW.”

“You know what?  You’re right.  Let’s just end this marriage,” I replied.  We were in our bedroom, so I gathered up the pillows and blankets from my side of the bed and took them upstairs to the guest room.  While I was up there, he called up, “You better figure out how you want to handle this separation!”

I stayed upstairs for quite some time and had a good cry.  When I felt I had some sort of control over myself, I went back downstairs to get my Kindle, phone, 3DS (yes, I play video games – we both do) and all of my chargers.  Fortunately I’d left my laptop at work, so I didn’t have to haul that upstairs, too.  As I was gathering up all of this stuff, he said, in the most reasonable of tones, “You don’t have to sleep up there…”

Oh, yes, I did.  And I am still sleeping up there, and intend to continue sleeping up there.

I’ll tell you about the aftermath in my next post.

 

Abuse

For quite some time, I’ve pondered whether or not my husband is abusive.

Before his alcoholism, he was an exacting man with high expectations, not only of others but also himself – he never asked anything of anyone if he wasn’t willing to do the same himself.  He could be judgmental, but he was never unfair, and while he’s not the most compassionate person I’ve ever met, he’s certainly empathetic. He’s always had a ton of self-confidence – to paraphrase a famous saying, “Often wrong, but never uncertain.”

He was also a lonely man when I met him, with few friends; he doesn’t make them easily.  It’s not that he isn’t personable or charming, because he is – very much so.  But he is also aggressive, and impatient, and demanding…great for a businessman or salesman (both of which he’s done with some success for many years), but not qualities everyone wants to deal with in a friend on a constant basis.

After a 12-year marriage and a 3-year exclusive relationship with two weak men with self-esteem issues, I was thrilled to finally be involved with a man who was an adult, and not someone who needed constant validation (my first husband) or someone who had mommy issues (my second relationship – and boy, did I remind him of his mother)(whom I adore, btw).  It helped that we saw pretty much eye-to-eye on the things a couple should agree on – politics, religion and sex, something that was missing from both our previous marriages.  My ocean of patience was the perfect counterbalance for his impatient, hurry-up nature (and vice-versa).

It also didn’t take me long to realize he had a bit of a cruel streak in him.  Not the kind that makes people pull the wings off flies or torture puppies or anything, but he has a sharp tongue and a quick temper; when angry enough, he has no qualms about saying the hurtful things.  He doesn’t believe in physical violence; I’ve only known him to hit one person in the 17 years we’ve been together, and that was because the person in question kicked him in the balls first.  At any rate, after my first marriage, during which I was verbally and eventually physically abused on pretty much a daily basis, this didn’t phase me too much – after being told how useless, worthless and stupid I was every time I turned around for 12 years, I felt I could handle this unpleasant aspect of his character (and I have).

All in all, there was nothing in this man  that set off any alarms. We all have our faults and foibles, and his good qualities – that included a blunt and refreshing honesty (a good thing, because the man cannot lie worth a damn to this day) – so outweighed any bad that I was more than happy to become his partner in life.

We’ve had a lot of laughs.

And then the alcoholism came.  The man I’m married to now is still aggressive, impatient and demanding with a quick temper and sharp tongue, but the fairness, honesty and charm are all but gone.  Instead, there is a man who complains, bitterly and acidly, about anything and everything, to such an extent no one wants to be in the same room with him for very long.  He rarely has anything positive to say about anything.  But if he does anything wrong and I dare point it out, he’ll do everything he can to make it my fault, my wrongdoing, and if he can’t he’ll start pointing out all of my faults to deflect the conversation (which quickly turns into an argument) away from him.

Now I’m lazy, and incompetent, and incapable.  If something goes awry for any reason, it’s either my (or my son’s, if he’s at home) fault.  And he yells, and screams, and is ugly and hurtful.

No wondering here any more.