We all hear of people who are alcoholics. It’s a pretty common issue in the first world. It’s largely ignored. Alcoholics (and other addicts ) aren’t treated well. It’s an illness, but It’s a stigmatised one. Along with hidden disabilities, Mental Health Issues, and STDs, we don’t talk about Alcoholism.
I am betting you have either uttered the words ‘I couldn’t ever be in a relationship with an alcoholic!’ Or similar. Or, you have heard somebody else say such, and agreed.
And I don’t blame you or judge you.
I don’t even have a negative opinion of those who think ‘That’d never happen to me!’ (See again similarities with hidden disabilities, MH issues and STDs. And the acquaintance with those who have them).
Because, I never thought it would happen to me either. And it did.
Want to know what the elusive ‘They’ do not tell you?
- If you’re the sort who wouldn’t choose to be in a relationship with an alcoholic, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you.
I didn’t choose it. I was young (late twenties), alert, intelligent, smart, savvy, fun-loving and caring. I was a pretty decent person if I say so myself. I wouldn’t attract the wrong sort or be attracted to the wrong sort. What makes it funnier that I thought this, is that I had been single for the best part of a decade on account of being very fussy about who would win my affections.
- Alcoholics can be manipulative and MASTERS of disguise.
Perhaps not the old man fumbling around in the park, donned with charity shop jeans and smelling of unsavoury bodily functions. Not him.
Intelligent functioning alcoholics-them’s the ones we don’t talk about.
I’mI am Post-Grad educated, from a family of successful professionals. I can be a bit ditzy, but stupid I am not. And still, I fell for Geoff’s trap. He was, on metaphorical paper, everything I desired in a man. (I am bisexual, whether that is relevant or not I do not know, maybe).
He was tall, very manly looking, handsome. He had a good job and his own house. He was funny, easy-going, good company. He was caring and tactile, warm and open. And he made it very clear he cared about me. He got to know me very quickly and nothing he could do to help was too much trouble for him. He liked to talk. He came on every venture I did be it a work-related mission, a charitable errand, a night out. We had many interests in common and enjoyed talking about the ones we didn’t. He was sociable and entertaining. My friends took to him instantly, including my savvy, wary-of-everybody best friend. I was absolutely over the moon to fall into a relationship. I was very happy, it was about time. I had decided this could work (believe me as a long time singleton it took some major decision-making!) And I felt very much in love. Within a few months we were planning our future, our home, a business together-and he seemed every bit as enthusiastic and happy as me. He told me himself. And I couldn’t shift the grin from my face. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Except in my case, there is. There is everything wrong with that. And I will explain why.
Consciously or not, Geoff was priming me. Of course the above can happen in a legitimate way and can be the basis for a great relationship. In fact, it should-the beginning of a relationship absolutely should feel amazing, isn’t that what It’s all about?
But this wasn’t the case here.
Once this period was over, and even during it, because he was so wonderful, the red flags were far smaller than they should have been. It took me a year to realise properly that we had a real problem, he was an addict. It took me longer to realise the extent of such a problem. And once I accepted it, he was more open about it. My reluctant acceptance and then the following positive attitude and enthusiasm to help, because he had been so great to be with- meant he no longer had to hide his demons from me.
And this made things worse.
2) ‘People who get in relationships with alcoholics are of low self esteem, stupid, desperate, lonely, martyrs’
Okay this one’s more of me advising of a myth.
I wasn’t of low self esteem. I was actually a confident, self-aware, assertive person.I am a nice person, not arrogant. A pretty ‘normal’ person really, but with good ‘credentials’, good life experience, very functional and independent. I probably had some small issues with myself .I only say this because I feel everyone has and I don’t want to give the impression that I think I was something special, I was not, but I wasn’t a pushover, I wasn’t of low self-worth, I wasn’t vulnerable or needy or desperate for affection.
I wasn’t stupid and I certainly wasn’t desperate-far from it. I was demanding job where I was in charge of staff and statistics, and a weekend job too. I had many friends, I had a busy had an active social life. I am stereotypically attractive and have never been short of attention or offers. I am kind and helpful to all people I like, but I am no martyr.
The issue wasn’t with me, personally. I had no reason to believe I wasn’t just a normal young woman in a developing but great relationship. I felt very lucky and very happy, and very positive about the future.
Yet it happened to me.
3) A relationship with an alcoholic is boring. VERY boring.
When Geoff isn’t drinking, he is asleep. There may have been times when he was doing other things, but they were few and far between. I’d put it at 40% drinking as a main activity, 40% sleeping as a main activity, and the rest divided into doing useful things, reluctantly doing useful things, and half-heartedly doing useful things whilst drinking. In the ‘useful things’ category I speak of home improvement, shopping (but only if I take him), taking his now-crestfallen girlfriend out somewhere, visiting friends or family. Symbolic or creative activities. These are of very little frequency.
As I write this, I look back upon today. Geoff woke at around 6am, me waking at around 8 am. I did some chores and went on some errands.I returned to our ‘home’ (I will come to the fact of needing inverted commas here, later) at around 3pm and he was asleep . And he is still asleep (It’s 1am). He woke briefly to give me a hug when I got in from the gym.
An unwelcomed hug, given I am so jaded I do not want to hug him at all. Sometimes It’s pity, frustration, but these feelings bounce back and forth. A lot of the time, It’s hatred.
It’s boring because they can’t hold a proper conversation. It’s boring because they have no desire to do anything except drink. It’s boring because they have no ‘get up and go’, no ambition, no interest in life. It’s beyond boring. It’s frustrating, soul-destroying and painful.
You repeat yourself time and again about the most trivial of conversations, because they don’t remember the last time you had the same one. They tell you the same stories time and again, because they can’t remember what they’ve said. This happens over months, years.
4)I do not want readers to assume I am high and mighty, tee-total, a ‘health freak’ or someone who is against alcohol for any reason.
I like a drink too. I can drink with the best of them. I can sometimes be out with friends, really overdo it and end up very hungover and ill the next day.I love a glass of wine (or three) at the end of the day. I sometimes have a drink when I am upset, to celebrate when I am happy.
I am not at all against drink or judgmental of those who drink, It’s not the healthiest of ways to live but I am okay with drinking as a rule. As one part of life . Not as what is the basis of life itself.
I am a drinker, but I am also a runner, a gym enthusiast, an ambitious woman who knows how to make money. I love animals, reading and the outdoors. I love to drive and love to walk my dog, I love to visit family and love to be happy. I may be a drinker, but this is not ALL I am . And this makes the fundamental difference.
What *IS* maddening, is that when I get in from somewhere and I want a drink myself,I often reach for a glass of wine, and there is none left. If I want to keep drink for myself, or think I might fancy a drink, I have to hide any booze because chances are, by the time I go to have some, It’s no longer there. It disappears.
5) It’s a vicious circle.
I tried to help Geoff . Believe me I tried and then some!
I arranged help. Counselling, addiction programmes, psychiatry, therapy. I talked to his workplace. I talked to his family. I asked viable friends. I posted (anonymously) on forums . I even did a course on how to help people in his position. I did everything in my power, and all positively and passionately. We were a partnership, and WE were going to get through this and go back to that initial period where he was a great man and I was a great woman and we were more than great, together. We’d go back to all the plans we’d discussed for our future and put this all behind us. YES WE damn would.
Only, it did no good. Depending on Geoff’s state of mind and the timing, and the nature of the therapy it either did nothing, or had a negative affect.
The counselling made him dig up his past which upset him-which meant he drank. The psychiatry made him feel upset and victimised , so he drank. The medication did absolutely nothing. The speaking on forums agitated him as he saw it as me ‘talking about him behind his back’. He found it all patronising. He felt violated and invaded, although he didn’t tell me at the time.
What should I have done, left him to it? I don’t know. Sometimes I think so . It didn’t help, anyway. I could but try. But all of any of the emotions made him drink more. I am a ‘doer’. I don’t approach problems with despair-I approach them with positivity and productivity-how can we work through this, sort it out, make the best of it? I have to plough my energy into things to deal with them. It is my nature. And up until I met Geoff, it served me fairly well.
And now, I am angry that I wasted my time. I am angry that three years of my life have gone and I am unhappy, tired, exhausted even . I am bored, frustrated and upset. I am not able to express these emotions to him unless I want him to drink more, because my being upset , upsets him. I cannot keep them to myself without damaging myself. And the circle begins again.
5) Nothing matters to alcoholics. Apart from their being under the influence to a point they feel okay with.
Our house is unfinished. It needs re-wiring, it needs work doing. I was excited about changing things (see above!), but then his reluctance to co-operate left me crestfallen. He was all for it or perhaps that’s what he told me, yet when it came to the crunch he resisted, preferring to avoid changes, to drink.
I bought new fixtures and fittings . Geoff uses any room as a toilet when he’s of a certain state of unawareness. Everywhere smells. We don’t have a bed , it was taken apart in order to finish the bedroom and I cannot fit it back together. I sleep on the sofa and all my belongings are in a large holdall, or in storage at various friends’ and family member’s houses. I can’t keep anything nice here because I don’t have a bedroom. The basics-also I don’t have the things I feel I deserve, a dressing table, a comfortable place to sit, nice surroundings, a floor I can walk on in stockinged feet.
The garden is neglected. If I don’t do the chores they don’t get done-yet I harbour some pride and refuse to work in dark, smelly conditions so I often don’t do them. The kitchen burnt down before I met him and I am ‘not allowed’ a new one. It smells of urine. I gave in at one point and moved out, and I still rent a room in a place I can escape to. I am not about to lie , I hate him for his behaviour meaning I felt I had to do that. I don’t have a home. I don’t know how he can sit and look at me, and claim love, whilst seeing my living position and the despair it brings.
6) You stop existing.
Once it was out in the open that Geoff had a problem, everyone was there for him. Friends/family. They were full of praise for me at times, but in the last two years I can count on one hand how many times I have had genuine concern for me yet I feel I have died inside. I am trying to breathe underwater, running up a downhill escalator.
Upset constantly, bewildered and out of my depth. But It’s all about him. I am questioning my own mental health (which has never happened before), yet nobody ever cares, I am full of front, the strong, stable one. The one who is content to support.
At one point, when I saw a positive result at the end, this was fine, it was great even!
But now, I have lived through it and seen the lack of progress, smelt him when he’s not washed for days, I’ve seen his apathy toward the treatments offered and toward me and seen the love , pity, warmth and favouritism from others, and I am inclined to want to scream out that I have done more than I ever thought I was capable of and that I matter as well and will somebody please care, or even notice.
But I can’t.
I want somebody to take me out and treat me nicely. Someone to remember that I exist and I too, am suffering. I am very lucky to have not lost my self-esteem throughout all this. I did get very upset for a while, now I am just angry. I want someone to take care of me now-I might not NEED it, but I want it. I want a home that’s comfortable and doesn’t’ smell. I want to be naive again.
You discover how strong you actually are. I know I need to get through this. I know his tantrums won’t break me. I know I will get a better life. I may not know how, but I will.
I apologise for this clumsily-written post, and thank you for reading