“Way over yonder in the minor key”

It’s difficult to put into words, this. A few days ago, I had an uncharacteristically candid phone call with Ben. I told him a few truths I hadn’t expected to share with him so soon. He was very calm and understanding at the time, but the next day, when I tried to ring him and couldn’t get through, I fell into a panic, half-expecting him to turn up drunk on my doorstep.

This hasn’t happened. Instead, Ben has resorted to his usual passive aggressive strategy of simply refusing to answer my phone calls. I’ve phoned him every evening since we last spoke, so that Rosie can speak to him (and so I can find out how he’s doing), but each time, I’ve been unable to reach him.

There are two ways of looking at this. Either he is being genuinely passive aggressive and refusing to have any contact with me, and by extension, Rosie. Or he is really working on his recovery.

Each time I ring, they tell me he is at an AA meeting. The AA meetings run until 9pm. Rosie is asleep by then, so hasn’t spoken to her dad for a few days now. And neither have I. I think it’s great that he is at the AA meetings, of course. But what about Rosie?

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be allowed to visit Ben at the rehab centre. But I suspect he doesn’t want to see me – or Rosie. I wish I knew for sure. I wish he would just speak plainly, without all this white noise.

So, is this really it? Of all the ways I imagined our marriage ending, this wasn’t one of them. We’ve had such spectacular bust-ups in the past, it seems out of character to be bowing out without any drama – or even a tortuous conversation.

I expect I’m over-reacting. He probably just needs a bit of time. Fortunately for him, time is what he has. But I can’t help feeling he will never change. This furtive avoidance, this tendency to dissemble, this refusal to confront an issue squarely – all of these things are entrenched behaviours for Ben. I don’t think rehab will address them.

I should be happy, I suppose. Isn’t this what I have been wanting all along? To be on my own? Well, not really. I’ve always expected Rosie to have some contact with Ben, wherever he is. I’m disappointed that he doesn’t feel the same way. I’m disappointed that he is letting whatever bilious feelings he has mustered against me, crowd Rosie out of his heart.

In the end, he will lose out. I don’t need to keep ringing him. And yet, I do feel sad – lonely, even. What can I say? I am on my own – really on my own – out here in London. I sit at my computer or work on my projects, and the futon is empty. The flat is silent. And while I revel in that silence – love it for its comforting constance – I am cast adrift by it.

This morning, I was listening to Midweek on BBC Radio 4. Billy Bragg was talking about his new interpretations of old Woody Guthrie songs. This one caught my ear. Ben and I have broken the frontier of yonder. Our sun sets in the minor key. Our moon rises in extended silence.

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18 thoughts on ““Way over yonder in the minor key”

  1. Hi! Having grown up with a lot of family turmoil, I know that sometimes when the ‘shit storm’ is over, the silence and quiet ‘doesn’t feel right’. It’s not the norm. It’s not our norm. We don’t know how to handle not being in a ‘shit storm’. Sometimes I would find myself ‘pushing buttons’ (saying things, making calls, checking on things that didn’t really need my orchestrating…things that were not meant to be controlled by me) to get back to the old norm….usually without even realizing that this is what I was doing. It’s really hard to ‘let go’. My advice (2 cents worth) to you would be to quit calling Ben. His relationship with Rosie, is just that….his relationship with Rosie! ..it is not for you to orchestrate/facilitate….She will survive a couple weeks without his calls. If you’re pushing, he may be pulling away….perhaps that’s the pattern or the ‘dance’ you have had in your relationship. Give him some space and let him do what he will do, It may not be what you like or know is best for Rosie…but it really is not for you to control or to try to control….and if you are like me…that is so DAMN hard to do…because I try to control everything and everyone….thinking that if I can get everything and everyone in their place, that all is well….(I think it lessens my anxiety…but really, it just increases it.)
    Good luck adjusting to your new norm, and with trying to figure out a ‘new dance’.
    Take care.

    • Actually, you’re right. I am a control freak. Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep, the thought occurred to me – that I am probably more anxious because I can’t see what is happening and what he is doing, rather than anything else. Thank you for this very shrewd comment, Shelley in SK!

  2. if only conversation could take the place of alcohol…
    the silence will be less quiet after time. it’s always time. stupid time.

  3. It might be helpful to attend a few al anon meetings if possible or to join an online meeting or two (they exist). I’m not sure if there are any plans for when Ben returns, but you will be better prepared with some meetings under your belt. A sponsor would really be helpful as well. It’s your recovery too….I’m praying for you…

  4. I agree with Shelley, Ben’s relationship with Rosie is Ben’s, not yours. Its hard for Rosie, but all you can do is be the best mom you can be, remind her that her dad loves her and is working on getting himself better. If he is working on his sobriety, Rosie isn’t going to come first, and neither are you. If he is serious about getting sober, that needs to be his main focus and priority…as much as you think he ought to be calling his daughter (and wife), that’s not what they’re teaching him right now. They are working on the tools he’ll need for a life outside of rehab in order to continue to be sober.
    It sucks, but the best thing you can do right now is work on yourself. Your goals. Your life. Where do you want to be in a year? What do you want your relationship with Ben to look like? You’ll need to work on boundaries and looking at where you can get support (like al anon meetings)…even if you and Ben separate, he is still the father of your daughter, so skills and tools for yourself around how to stay sane with an alcoholic (recovering or otherwise) in your life.
    And maybe how to let go of some of that control 😉

    • Ok, you’re right. You’re all right. I’m being pathetic, actually. I am determined to work on myself over the next few months. I’m still seeing my therapist, which helps enormously. And so do all of you!

      • Oh,no! You are not being pathetic! You are a young mom, trying to figure out your new reality. Being alone, single parenting, being uncertain of your future, etc. We can only imagine how scary and unsettling it all is for you. I, for one, am very proud of you and of the steps towards positive change you are making. Good for you to seek the support of a therapist. That in itself, shows how much with-it-ness and strength you have as you work to making a better life for both you and Rosie. I hope that you know, that my comments and the comments of most commentors are never meant to judge you…but rather to provide you with support, a point of view, or a point to consider. I haven’t walked in your shoes so couldn’t possibly know how difficult your walk is. We all take ‘steps’ as we are able. You are not being pathetic! (and this I know for sure!) Take care.

      • Thanks, Shelley! I am actually really grateful for all the candid and supportive comments from you and everyone here. I appreciate the honesty and know that everything said here is meant in a spirit of encouragement and concern. Thanks again.

  5. I think Ben just needs time. It is still early in his recovery and he will revert back to his passive aggressive ways for right now until he has new tools on how to cope with situations. This process will take a while. I do an outpatient program, as oppose to Ben’s inpatient, and they do assist addicts on how to handle hard situations in a more effective, productive, healthy way. He will be provided with these new positive things and hopefully he uses them. I wanted to mention something of importance, but before I do, I also want to say that you know Ben better than any of us, you may very well already know what I’m about to say and I’m speaking from the addicts side of things. When a person is getting sober/in recovery, your first year there is alot of emphasis on not starting new relationships and making your recovery the number one priority in your life even if you already are in a commited relationship. The doctors, facilitators, therapist etc all say this. I understand that Rosie needs him, but maybe that pressure on Ben to “be” there for her isn’t entirely realistic at this point..? I’m not saying his passive aggressive behavior is o.k., but I just wanted to help you understand the other side of it. I hope this was helpful.

    • Hi Jsapphire – yes, this is immensely helpful. I realise I’m being a bit unrealistic, expecting Ben to be engaged with Rosie (and me) when he is meant to be working on himself. He is very busy in there. Tell me, how are you faring as an outpatient? Ben was in day rehab, like you, before, but he was drinking while attending (which was obviously not allowed, given it was an abstinence based programme). How do you manage not to succumb to your cravings? And how are thinks working with your partner? Is he supportive? Has he been with you throughout? Very curious to know. Btw, I commented on your last post – hope you’re staying focused. Take care and please do share any thoughts ‘from the other side’ whenever they occur. They really help me to understand where Ben may be coming from. I’m so quick to think the worst now.

      • Hi Mtaa,I did read your comment and I left you one in return on my blog :). Thank you for that. I’m doing ok. I still go to work and go to groups (online and in person) and try to function “normally”. Honestly, I keep myself as busy as I can when I’m alone. That’s the worse time (oh and Friday’s which were my big drinking days), the time where the irrational thoughts start and the cravings arise. It is a very difficult time for me. But I’m aware of this so when I get home I surround myself with things to keep my mind and hands busy. I’ve been reading and journaling a great deal lately. If I’m feeling emotional I let myself cry to get it out of my system and if I just can’t sit still, I go to the gym and work off the anxiety. I use my tools I learn in group and other sources as well to help me change my irrational thoughts. It isn’t easy by any means. My partner is supportive, though I keep him a bit sheltered from the emotional break downs. Mostly because I feel more comfortable having them when I am by myself. I’m open with him and we discuss anything and everything that has to do with my recovery. He is aware that it will be a while before I’m back to “normal”. I had been sober for almost three years when we met, so he knows the “real” me, which he wants back. There are a few reasons I manage to abstain: I was dangerously close to rock bottom and having been there before that terrified me. I don’t have a “safety net”. I fully support myself financially, have my own apartment and the rest of my family who I’m not terribly close with live 3000 miles away. That means I’m completely screwed if I lose my job or place to live. I’ve never had anyone who cared enough to not only tell me I have to stop but wanted me to get better and loved me enough to help me do so (I love him deeply for that). I also can’t handle the shame and guilt I feel from drinking. And last but not least, when you take alcohol out of your diet and add the gym, your body looks great;) *giggle. Ultimately, I know my potential, I do love myself and want a much better life. One last thing: don’t be so hard on yourself for thinking the worse or having negative feelings/thoughts pertaining to your situation during this time. You can only behave the way you know how based on experience and that is completely natural. This is going to be just as much of a life changing experience for you as we all hope it will be for Ben. Allow yourself to feel and express the way you need to and then when you have recovered, redirect the focus back to you and your healing. Be well and stay strong.

      • Hey, thanks for that. Sounds like you are really working hard at it – and so far, so good. It’s brilliant that you are self-sufficient – that you’ve clawed your way back and are taking your recovery seriously. I’m really proud of you, and am heartened by the work you’re putting into yourself.

  6. I think possibly that what you most hoped for was his recovery. You are doing what you know is right, what is best for you and your daughter. It doesn’t always mean that it’s what you want.
    And it will take a while (trust me) for some of your panic patterns to change. Your world has been consumed by his illness for so long that it is all that you know. His moods, his drinking, his silence, it all has an effect on you. Slowly, the effects will diminish. But right now, these are all very natural feelings for you.
    Focus on Rosie. He will return to her when he can. She has you. You are her constant. Even when he is part of her life, you are still the constant.
    Deep breath. I know that this is hard. It is a HUGE change. You can do it. You are on your way to peace. It just takes a while to feel it.

  7. Pingback: Over and out « marriedtoalcoholic

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