There was a review for my book "The Alcoholic Husband Primer: Survival Tips For The Alcoholic's Wife" that essentially said the book was great for women in the beginning of this madness but what about women who have been married to an alcoholic for 15, 20, 30 or more years? What advice is there for them?
I get it. Come the middle of life, the middle years of marriage, it can feel too late to leave but too long to stay. Still, I wasn't really sure how to respond, struggling with my own angry and the emotional inertia grown out of 20 years of living in an alcoholic marriage. Until one day, finally, I knew. What I needed to do. What we all need to do.
Own the anger.
Because the fact is, eventually you are no longer angry at you alcoholic husband. Eventually you are angry at yourself. So, so, so very angry at yourself.
I was listening to a PODcast (John Muldoon) and he said, (to paraphrase of course) that in order to take control of our lives we need to acknowledge our anger and identify what it is we are angry about.
I thought I was angry about my husband being an alcoholic.
And I was.
Ten to 15 years ago.
But you know what I am angry about now?
I am angry about the years I lost to that anger.
I am angry about what I allowed that anger to steal from me.
I am angry about what I gave to that anger.
I am angry about what I allowed that anger to turn me into.
In other words, I am no longer angry at my husband or his drinking or even what he and it did to our marriage and to me.
I am angry at me.
I am angry that I stayed angry.
I am angry I failed to see my own power and ability.
I am angry it took me this long to figure this out.
And anger is the soil from which regrets and resentment sprout.
I look back on all those years I lost and think,
"Why?" Why didn't I get it sooner?
But as angry and resentful and regretful as I am, I think the answer to why is because..
Because I couldn't.
It's like why didn't you get to the the shore sooner? Because there was a raging river in front of you.
My advice to women who find themselves in that seemingly no-man's land of too late to leave, too long to stay is: climb ashore. You've flailed and floundered and fought the rapids long enough. It's not necessarily going to be easy to get yourself out of this river. It's not as though the river is going to gently lay you upon a sandy shore like a drowning maiden in a Disney movie (with a handsome prince in wait to rescue you.) It will be a struggle to leave this river. The shore will be rocky. The climb treacherous and taxing. But you're no longer fighting the waters of an alcoholic marriage. Somewhere up stream, when you were too busy trying not to drown to notice, the river took a turn. These waters that trap you and threaten to drag you under are now of your own mind.
Everything you ( and I) did or didn't do we did to survive. And survive we did. We should not blame or resent or hate ourselves for surviving. We can't, we just can't, devote any more time to our own anger or regrets or resentment. But it's time to move past surviving.
It's time to thrive.