What I Finally (Finally, Finally, FINALLY!) Know
When I decided to start a blog, my idea was to be that voice in the middle of the night - the one I once looked for out of desperation and despair - that was there for any woman who was facing the realities of life with an alcoholic husband. And though I have offered what I could, I always feel like I fall short. Like somehow my words aren't strong enough, deep enough, compassionate enough, profound enough to lift a woman out of the hell-hole life with an alcoholic husband is.
And now, after more than 20 years of living this toxic dance, I think I understand why. I can offer compassion, I can offer commiseration, I can offer tips and tricks and lessons I have learned along the way such as those in my books but ultimately life with an alcoholic husband comes down to one thing and one thing only:
You have to save yourself.
And that's an inside job.
Whether you've been married to an alcoholic for two years, five years, 15 years, 25 years, 35 years or more, here is really the only thing you can do: focus on you. I spent so long thinking "if only he wasn't an alcoholic" until I finally came to understand - it doesn't matter that hes an alcoholic. It doesn't matter if you have a toxic family of origin. It doesn't matter if you work for a horrible boss. It doesn't matter what is OUTSIDE of you that is so gravely affecting your life because the responsibility to fix your life still rests within you.
If you are new to this alcoholic-as-a-husband thing, I dare say you have no real idea of how rough this road most likely will get. You may still feel whole and connected with who you are. You may still feel connected to him. You may still have more happy moments than bad.
Start looking way down the line - ten, 20 years. Will you be able to leave him if you were to choose? You don't necessarily have to change jobs or start stockpiling secrets hordes of cash but I would say you want to make sure you are growing and evolving as a woman - spiritually, financially, emotionally. You don't have to do anything "drastic" or "all at once." 20 years is a long time that goes by very quickly. What is your grandest dream? Do you have a college degree (if you want or need one)? Do you long to be an artist, writer, butcher, baker or candlestick maker? Start fanning that little flame of a dream that flickers within you now.
I remember many, many years ago I thought I would like to get qualified as a "Waldorf" method teacher. One of the reasons was I wanted to put my children in a Waldorf school but with tuition starting at about $20,000 a year, I knew it was cost prohibitive. But if I was a teacher, my children could attend school tuition-free. However, when I looked into the program requirements, I realized I couldn't finish "in time" for my children to enjoy the benefits.
So I never pursued it further.
Maybe my children still wouldn't have gone to a Waldorf school but guess what I would have now? Yes, my Waldorf education accreditation. It may have taken me ten years, just one or two classes at a time but little steps add up to big distances covered.
And if you're like me? Looking at 20, 25, 30 years of more of your life in the rear view mirror. Lost. Gone. "Wasted." The hardest thing - and I do MEAN the HARDEST thing to do is forgive yourself and Start. Now. Yes, yes, you and me should have and could have or oh, where we would be now if only...
But guess what?
We didn't. Whatever we could have or should have or would have done, we didn't.
The biggest tragedy in life is not the people who "waste" 20 or 30 years because they didn't know or see or understand. The biggest tragedy in life is people who waste even a single year more once they DO know and see and understand.
No matter who you are or where you are - a young woman with more years of marriage in front of her than behind or a mature woman with more (married) years past than ahead -my advice to you is the same:
WHATEVER it is.