The prince or princess always shows up, and everyone lives happily ever after. That’s how it happens in the movies or on television. We live in a society where relationships and marriages are glamorized.
People who are in love stay in love, and they love loving each other.
Writing about my value and worth is much more difficult than noting what I don’t deserve. It’s easy for me to be hard on myself.
But, I can list a number of tangible things that I’m proud of: my daughter, that I bought a house at age 27, my career, a published paper, helping my sister financially through vet school and her wedding. These tangibles are the outcomes of the intangibles.
The intangibles are what is important. The intangibles are the things I want to model for my daughter.
I spend time with the ocean.
When I visit her, we have conversations about life. I throw all of the pain and grief that has accumulated into the waves, and I talk to the people I’ve lost. We catch up, and I leave feeling cleansed and healed and whole.
I spent time with the ocean.
I traveled back in time in my thoughts as I walked along the water’s edge, back to when my struggles really began, to a fragile adolescence with big feelings and no skills to surf the waves.
George spotted me in the drapery rod aisle. I had a list of measurements for the various windows I needed to cover in my new house, so I was in the aisle for a while. He paused at the end of the aisle, ready to offer good natured ribbing about what was taking me so long. I flagged him down to scan a couple of drapes that were in the clearance section. They would be perfect if they truly were the $7 or $8 that was advertised on the shelf, but the item codes didn’t match.
“I saw you in the aisle earlier,” he said, curious about what I was up to. “Yes, I just moved here yesterday, and I have a new house with a lot of windows to cover, so I’m prioritizing what needs to get done now. I have my list,” I held up for him to see. “Where did you move from?” he asked. “Tampa, though I’m originally from Chicago. You from North Carolina?” I asked in return. “Nah,” was his response, an answer I hear a lot here, just like Florida. Everyone, it seems, moved here from someplace else. “I’m originally from New York. My mom has folks down here,” he explained to my unasked question.
“What brings you here?”
“You drive tonight and I’ll drive another day.”
Even though I anticipated getting a text like this from my husband today, it still gets my stomach churning and darkens my mood. By now, I’m fluent at translating these texts, and this one is easy: “I’m coming home early to drink so I can be plastered by tonight. I won’t be able to safely drive our family anywhere, so it’s on you.”
My mom’s alcoholism instilled in me a core belief that I was different, inadequate, and deeply flawed. I developed a belief that there was something wrong with my family, and there was something wrong with me. My parents were divorced. We didn’t have a lot of money. My mom was an alcoholic, and no one explained to me what that meant, or how she struggled with an illness.
Instead, it was normalized to smell whisky and see an adult passed out or wobbling around or urinating on the carpet in a half-asleep, half-drunk stumble. I didn’t understand, but I knew that this was my life. I didn’t know that my fight or flight system was in high gear, probably most nights. I developed a subconscious defense mechanism crafted from perfectionism and high achievement.
As the partner of someone suffering from addiction, alcoholism is part of my life, my fabric of experience, and continues to take me on a deep and bizarre journey. Through this experience, I am learning, growing, trying different approaches to things – essentially navigating a thick jungle with no guide, no map, and no trails. However, it is a part of my life’s journey and I continue to become better and better at guiding myself.
But I can’t tell my story without impacting my partner. So the question lingers:
Who owns my story?
When the bottom drops out of your life, you learn really fast you don’t have nearly the control you thought you had. Releasing control means accepting that the once wonderful marriage I had is gone.
I think it was about 4 years ago when I wrote my first letter – my first letter where I addressed the issue at hand. It was the first of many letters to come where I stressed how much I needed my husband, how much my kids needed their dad.
I begged and pleaded for him to stop drinking.
As the years continued, I continued to write my letters to him. I cried, sobbed, begged, pleaded and threatened, but it was not enough.
I changed through the years, and so did my message. Where the letters once started with, “I need you! I can’t live without you,” the sentiment slowly turned into, “I can do this on my own. The kids and I can no longer continue on this merry-go-round with you.”
They say you know when you know. It is 100% true.
This is the letter I read to my husband at his intervention. I thought it was the end.
It was just the beginning.
Deep Guts run cheap on video-
Nagging aspirations and duties
that won’t leave you alone.
Lethargy has taken a room upstairs,
screams “Join me”
as you languish away,
watching what’s supposed to be done just sit there,
left to simmer.