Friday, March 15, 2019

Congratulations Neal!

I got a message the other day that Neal from the documentary “Risky Drinking” is celebrating FOUR years of sobriety! He is working and living a good life. He is happy. Unfortunately, his marriage did not survive the disease. But, as with many alcoholic marriages, they have found a way to care about each other at long distance. Sometimes large sacrifices must be made in order to get and keep a place of sanity.

I remember the day when I told Riley I was leaving him. I had left him many times before but this was different. I had thought and planned carefully what I was going to say. I made plans and knew exactly how I would make my exit. My ducks were in a row by the time I talked to him.

He came in the front door after having been gone for several days. I didn’t know exactly where he had been but I did know it was someplace that I wouldn’t like and with someone I also wouldn’t like. By that time, it really didn’t matter because there wasn’t much of a marriage anyway. I stopped expecting him to be where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be there.

There so many factors that led up to the exit talk. There was my car being repo’d from the result of having a female friend forge my signature on loan documents. He put our 12-year-old daughter in a position of having to drive 30 miles on a busy interstate in order to get both of them home because he was too drunk to drive. He told her to keep it a secret from me and she did. I was admitted to the hospital and no one could find him. I was discharged several days later and he never knew I was hospitalized. The final straw was receiving a foreclosure notice on our home. He had retired from the Navy without telling me and was pocketing his entire retirement pay.

Riley was an alcoholic. All the above actions were a side-effect of the alcoholism controlling his brain. If I were to name a co-respondent in my divorce, it would have been the Aristocrat Vodka. Maybe I could have sued for “alienation of affection.”

On that day… when I told Riley of my plans to continue my life without him… he was shocked. He couldn’t understand why I would do such a thing. He protested. He cried. He asked if there was anything he could do. I was calm. I told him directly what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. After a long while, he came to me and asked if there was anything he could do to help make the transition easier. I told him what I needed and he agreed to help me leave.

I did not divorce Riley. After so many years of marriage and going through the trials of being a military wife, I felt that a divorce would not be in anyone’s best interest. I knew that eventually he would need some help and I didn’t want my children to be put in that position. I also didn’t want to jeopardize my well-earned military benefits.

Riley didn’t want a divorce either. He liked being married because it gave him a sense of security for his future. It also gave him an out when it came to being involved with other women. He could not marry them because he was already married. It worked for him.

Although we were separate, we were still, in many ways, still together. We talked every couple of weeks and if we were in the same town, we would have dinner together. Christmas was usually spent together as a family with our kids. We were separated, but we were still married at long distance.
Every couple with alcohol as a third party to their marriage comes to a kind of “impasse”. The eventually figure out what works and what doesn’t. They come to terms with either staying physically in the same house or moving out. They learn their limits and how to stay within them.

I believe in “til death do us part.” But which death is the question. The death of the person? The death of the marriage? The death of trust? The death of the person that once was? Each couple will decide when and what the “death” is in the marriage. Sometimes the alcohol chooses for us.

Appointments are available for coaching loved ones of alcoholics. Until April 1st  an interactive version of the “Workbook for Caretakers of End-Stage Alcoholics” will be included with each scheduled and paid appointment. Make your appointment by e-mailing with the word “coaching” in the subject line. Choose from the available package options. Tell me your most convenient day and time and we will connect.

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