TO THOSE IN THE MIDDLE
I remember many years ago, when I published my first book, "The Alcoholic Husband Primer: Survival Tips For The Alcoholic's Wife," I knew exactly what I wanted to say and who I was saying it to:
The woman who was just beginning to come to terms with the fact that her husband was an alcoholic. The woman, like the woman I had once been, who had very little understanding of what "being an alcoholic" really meant. The woman who needed some "basic" facts on a subject that was anything but basic.
And now, after over 20 years of marriage and after what has easily been five years of sporadic contemplation followed by five more years of constant contemplation, I have finally found (stumbled upon?) the focus and clarity necessary to execute an exit plan. I thought I was here before, declarations of "I'm leaving" left along the way like breadcrumbs dropped for the birds, but this time is different.
How do I know this time is different? This declaration is The Real declaration? It's not a very sophisticated or perhaps even convincing answer but the answer none-the-less is, it just feels different. I feel different. Life feels different. Somethings is happening within me. A commitment to action that I have had yet to experience. Of course, this begs the question:
How did I get to this different place?
I'm afraid the answer is a painful one:
A lot of time.
As in the minutes and days and years of my life.
It was not idle time.
I was constantly thinking and searching, longing and wanting, reading and learning but God it has taken me so long to go from a woman who knew nothing of being married to an alcoholic to a woman who is finally ready to free herself from (his) alcoholic chains that bind her.
And so as I did when I was the "beginner," when I was "just starting out" on this conscripted journey, I have something to say now, words to offer the woman like myself. The woman who has seen 10 or 20 or more years of her life fall into the abyss of his compulsive drinking. I know the regret that can threaten to bring on mental paralysis as one looks back and wonders, "where did my life go?"
But who I don't have words for.
The woman I can't speak to, I fear, is the woman in the middle.
The woman who may be still raising children - or even just starting her family with an alcoholic husband. The woman wants to leave/wants to stay. The woman who feels she can't handle this another single day. And then gets up the next morning to indeed, handle it one more day. The woman who feels her soul dying but who also feels the pull of those vows she made and the commitment they represent. I don't know what to say to the woman who is still on that roller coaster of good and bad days, not that bad and horrible days.
I don't know what to say to this woman because the fact is, I did not handle those years very well. It was not pretty how I got through. I ate too much. Lord knows, I ate too much. I yelled too much. I let the rage of regret take over too often. I spent far too much energy hating - my husband, his drinking, myself, my life. I watched for too long as everything I loved about myself was systematically destroyed by a beast from the outside.
Until it became a beast from within.
I seemed powerless to stop or change any of it.
I tried. Oh, I tried. Everyday that I was there, in what would one day become The Middle, I tried.
God knows I tried.
I'd wake up in the morning and tell myself,
"Today I won't yell. Today I won't rage. Today I won't self-medicate with food."
Everyday I tried and everyday I failed.
Until one day I arrived here. At this other side. Where clarity and focus and real change exist.
It was a long slog through the middle and I'm afraid I can't offer much to the woman who finds herself there right now except:
Never stop trying.
Never stop learning.
And don't hang out there as long as I did.