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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Life lessons...

I’ve learned a lot about life in general over the past 60+ years. I learned this lessons by experience and not just because someone said or warned me about something. The things I learned are from the University of Life in the Real World and, also, the College of Alcoholic Insanity in Chaosville. Some of the lessons are very simple, others more complicated.

The simple and easy to understand ones like, “If it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true,” were the hardest to remember. I’ve fallen into that trap more times than I can remember. When Riley was sober for a period of time and seemed to finally understand what alcohol was doing to his life, I would be happy.
The longer it went on the more trusting I became and finally, I felt that I didn’t need to question or be cautious of his agree ability. So I would trust that he would just be going to the grocery store which should only take about a half hour. When the trip turned into a very long 8 hour excursion ending with him returning home drunk, I’d slap myself on the forehead and say “What was I thinking?” His sobriety was too good to be true and it truly was too good to be true.

I had wanted Riley to be sober for so many years that it became a part of my everyday prayers. “Please God watch over those I love and help Riley get sober – Amen.” “Thank you for the bounty we are about to receive and help Riley get sober – Amen.” “God, bless this union of souls in marriage and help Riley get sober – Amen.” During the times when God answered my prayers with sobriety, Riley would become a completely different person. Having Riley in sobriety was good, but the arrogance of his believing he was superior because he was sober sometimes made me want to re-think my requests to God that he achieve sobriety. He lacked family focus and expected it to be excused because he could only focus on staying sober. This was when I learned that I should “be careful of what I pray for” lesson.

“Things are not always as they seem.” Early in Riley’s alcoholic adventures, I did everything I could to keep people from knowing the extent of his drinking. I worked very hard at making us appear to be a typical military family. Things were definitely not as they appeared. To Riley’s command we were a stable, happy couple with two well-behaved children. It appeared that we may have been the poster family for the military way of life. The reality was that we were always just an inch away from a melt-down. We didn’t appear to be a dysfunctional family, but being functional was a fantasy at our house.

I didn’t have a lot of time to think about “What will the neighbors think?”. I didn’t really care what they thought. If they were gossiping about us – so be it. That just meant they were leaving someone else alone. I knew that things were not perfect inside the neighbors four walls, talking about us gave them a reprieve from their own miserable lives.

When I first became a Navy wife, Riley’s deployments were almost unbearable for me. I wrote letters every day and marked the days off on the calendar. I planned romantic homecoming for the day the boat would return to port. My heart ached for him. As the years went on and I had more deployments under my belt, I didn’t write so many letters. I didn’t bake and send cookies so often. And picking him up when the boat came in turned into nothing more than giving him a ride home. “Things change.” The familiarity and difficulties of our marriage changed how I viewed those deployments. Where I once dreaded them, I grew to love them.

For years I tried to beg, plead, threaten, cajole and force Riley to want sobriety. The problem was that I (Linda) wanted it so badly I could taste it. But Riley didn’t. It didn’t matter how much I wanted it or what extreme I might go to in order to get it. Riley didn’t want it so it was never going to happen. Still I tried over and over again. “You can’t always have what you want.” My personal belief was that if you wanted something bad enough and were willing to work for it, then you should be able to attain/achieve/have whatever it is you want. The truth is sometimes no matter what you just can’t have it.

I want to close with a question that is frequently asked to me and Riley as a couple. “After being together for 49 years, what is your suggestion for staying married?” I hate that question because my answers are not romantic or even very helpful. The best way to stay married is to live apart or at least have separate bedrooms. The only reason Riley and I are still married is because we were separated for 15 years. The times when we were a real married couple, he was gone more than 50% of the time on Navy business. That’s my magic formula.

3 comments:

Lakelady said...

I too have been married for 49 years....separated for 15....and yes live away if possible....still attend to his medical needs and pay bills, but no emotional attachment whatsoever.....That is the only way to survive.....I have a wonderful relationship with my kids and loving grandchildren and a man who treats me with the respect that I deserve....:)

Leonard L said...

A few years ago I stumbled on your excellent work Not only as a writer but the work that you do that comes from your heart. I have cried with you and I have laughed with you and I have been depressed with you. My Wife and I married in 2006 her 3rd, my 3rd no kids together but all our kids are grown with youngsters of their own This woman means the world to me, she and I live apart and have for over 6 years now. we have a visitation thing so to speak. every other weekend or every weekend.. depends on what is happening during the week with work or what have you. We both have been asked and told.. why do you put up with this? I would not be married to someone who refused to live with me. you should get someone else.. Bullshit. When we are asked about OUR MARRIAGE. and why we don't reside together.. we simply say. We answer to each other on questions like that and if you don't mind we would rather talk about what interests you so much in our lives that you lost focus on yours. With this woman I have promised to God to love and and to hold until we part by death. if its every other week end or every other day.. The Lions will never loose any sleep over what the Antelope or Zebra think. BTW neither of drin,,k 1996 until 2000 I was a 2 bottle a day vodka drinker for 3 years. I believe there is a root cause that makes us drink and until we face what really is wrong self medicating becomes something that most cant return from. God Bless you Linda and I keep you and Riley
aka"The Immortal Alcoholic" in my prayers and look forward to your next post.

Harmony Rose said...

I can relate to much of your post. However for me I am also the wife of an alcoholic who is now recovering (almost 3 years sober) For us it is very different. Through all the lies, betrayal, manipulation, infidelity, emotional abuse, abandonment, etc. I never wanted to be without my husband but I did get to a point where I almost lost all hope in believing anything could ever be any different. In our separation and in my own spiritual experience I learned a whole new way to live, and love my husband and Forgive and because of that we are never apart and more importantly we never want to be. We are very blessed that our life once destroyed by alcoholism is turning out the way it has. We have our bad days, I have my triggers, but we choose to be a part of one another's healing because for us when we learned that we could be apart that is when we came together. I then wrote my book Married Under The Influence and share our true story and what life was like for me/us living with alcoholism. Thank you for sharing I love reading your blogs. Hugs to you & Riley!