Life After an Alcoholic Husband

Alcoholism segued subtly into our marriage, stealthlike, until it was everything in our lives. Now, years after my husband’s passing from alcoholic hepatitis, a glance in the rear view mirror.

  • I don’t anticipate with dread what I’ll find when I come home.
  • My basement no longer smells like Scotch. And urine.
  • I sleep through the night.
  • Broken promises and lies are no longer the norm.
  • I’m not constantly making excuses.
  • The tension in my neck and shoulders has disappeared.
  • I finally, finally realize that there was nothing more I could have done about his drinking.
  • Constant worry has been replaced with tranquility.
  • I live in the present, no longer haunted by ‘what if’ scenarios.
  • Chaos has been replaced with happiness.
  • There is nothing I miss about life with an alcoholic.

Sharing Privately

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Some followers here at Widow 2.0 who lost their spouse to alcoholism mentioned in their comments the need to share with family, but in the form of a journal — and to share privately. One way to do that is to create a private Facebook group just for your loved ones, where only invited members can see your posts, as well as respond. It’s a helpful way to disseminate your thoughts, but only with those you choose.

Whatever you decide to do, keeping a journal is worthwhile. It’s chilling when I read my notes years later. But it’s the only way to capture how you’re feeling in the moment. Writing helps to heal and make sense of all that you’ve gone through.

Besides sharing with loved ones, there is something very comforting in sharing with the widowed community. For those who are survivors of an alcoholic, there seems an even stronger need for solidarity. Feeling guilty? Angry? Responsible? Thoughts unthinkable, unspeakable? For all of you who have watched a loved one drink themselves to death, it’s important to reach out to our very specific community of widows. May you find peace and comfort. You deserve a good life.

 

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Lie to Me, I’ll Believe

Lies

Did you believe the lies they told? The lies you told yourself?

In my essay in The New York Times, “Surviving an Alcoholic” (5/27/15), I wrote about the challenges the widowed of alcoholics face: shame and guilt.  But what about the lies? The aftermath of death is often filled with discovery. I’ve touched upon this topic before in my blog, the secrets uncovered post-mortem. With the overwhelming interest in my Times piece, readers reached out – not only survivors of alcoholics, but survivors of drug addicts, sex addicts, gamblers. Of course, not all addictions cause or contribute to death. But the realization of their spouse’s secret lives and alter egos was an added agony to the devastation of loss, compounding their grief.

In a Psychology Today article, “The Truth about Lying,” Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Virginia, notes: “You save your really big lies for the person that you’re closest to.” While that may not make you feel any better, perhaps you feel less alone.

The truth is, relentless honesty isn’t likely. Can anyone of us claim having never grasped for that ‘little white lie’ in a sticky social situation? But the big lies hurt. The big lies destroy.

When I began to suspect my husband was an alcoholic, I didn’t let on, in part because I was in disbelief. He’s a social drinker, it’s not what I think. I needed proof.

But even after months of scrutinizing, there was still a swirl of emotions upon discovering evidence: vindication (I was right, he’s an alcoholic – I’m not crazy.); revelation (I was right, he’s an alcoholic – What now?); devastation (I was right, he’s an alcoholic  – What has happened to our life?). How much more proof did I need to accept what I already knew? I was lying to myself.

Was I lying to others by my omission? Except for the few who knew, those whose help I desperately needed in order to help Robert, I refrained from telling others. It was suggested by my husband’s physician that the time for admission would come later in Robert’s 12 Steps phase. In order to help Robert focus on his recovery and his career, the doctor thought it best not to share.

We lie to spare feelings, to avoid awkward situations, to protect our loved ones, to save lives. Our goal was to help Robert. But the truth is the only one who could have helped my husband, was my husband. But he was lying to himself.