Over and out

Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Today, Ben and I had one of our usual brief conversations, around Rosie’s evening chats. He’s resumed speaking to us (albeit abruptly with me), and I took Rosie down to the rehab centre on Sunday to see him.

Rosie started ‘big school’ today – her first day at reception (or kindergarten) – so she had plenty to tell Ben.

Even so, we managed to squeeze in a few sentences, some of them banal (So, what have you been watching on TV lately? Me: Nothing, I don’t really watch anything aside from the news. Ben: Yeah, nothing of note.) But his tone ranges from conciliatory to snarky within the space of a few minutes, and he thinks nothing of simply hanging up on me. I guess he doesn’t really know what to think any more.

Nevertheless, today he told me he is happy with the idea of having separate accommodation after he comes out from rehab. In fact, he said he thought it might be a good idea if we did split, after all.

What? I mean, WHAT??

I believe this is what you might call an ‘about turn’. Not him, mind you, but me. You see, I am still mulling all this over, and although I am the one who suggested the separation in the first place, I didn’t expect him to agree quite so enthusiastically.

Rather than feel relieved, I am confused and upset. I don’t know what to think any more. At the moment, I’m thinking, how dare he. I mean, how dare he think it is ok to say these things to me after everything I’ve been through to help him get well again? And has he ever, even once, thought to apologise for what he’s done?

Which then leads me to: yes, it is definitely a good idea to separate.

After which I think, well, no, not forever. I don’t really want my marriage to be over.

And then I remember the drinking: the time he turned up to Rosie’s nursery sing-along performance reeking of drink; the time he arrived late for Rosie’s appearance as an angel in the church Nativity play – again, smelling of booze; the many times he drove drunk with Rosie in the back of the car; the hundreds of times he’s lied to me about his drinking; the scores of times I’ve had to clean up his various effluvia; the times I’ve had to care for him while he was in withdrawal; the hours I have been spending ferrying Rosie back and forth from the rehab centre.

I remember all those things and I get angry, and then I think: yes, it is definitely a bloody good idea to separate.

And then I see our wedding photo and I remember all the great things about Ben – his dedication to his music, his generosity and gentleness, his incredible way with Rosie, and something turns inside me – call it stupid hope – and I don’t know again.

Many of you have told me how hard it is to save yourself from co-dependence. But what about love? On the other hand, maybe the angry Ben is all there is left. Maybe he feels – and I can’t fault him for this – that coming back here will lead him down the same path again, that our dynamic is one very real factor in his drinking.

A dangerous dynamic

I finished reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye a few weeks ago. This passage in particular struck me for its tragi-comedy. Toni Morisson astutely exposes the extreme ends of co-dependence here. It’s awful, but it really made me laugh out loud, because it resonates, even if a tiny bit, with my own experience.

Cholly, by his habitual drunkenness and orneriness, provided them both with the material they needed to make their lives tolerable. Mrs Breedlove considered herself an upright and Christian woman, burdened with a no-count man, whom god wanted her to punish. (Cholly was beyond redemption, of course, and redemption was hardly the point – Mrs Breedlove was not interested in Christ the Redeemer, but rather Christ the Judge.) Often she could be heard discoursing with Jesus about Cholly, pleading with Him to help her “strike the bastard down from his pea-knuckle of pride.” And once when a drunken gesture catapulted Cholly into the red-hot stove, she screamed, “Get him, Jesus! Get him!” If Cholly had stopped drinking, she would never have forgiven Jesus. She needed Cholly’s sins desperately. The lower he sank, the wilder and more irresponsible he became, the more splendid she and her task became. In the name of Jesus.

I can’t say I’ve ever asked Jesus to smite Ben down, but I can say that the notion of the drinking becoming the glue of a relationship – the constant that defines the relationship – is very real, not just for me, I suspect, but for many others out there.

So, what is to become of us? Has Ben really stopped drinking? Is the end of his drinking the end of us? And even if our marriage does end, will I ever stop being the wife of an alcoholic?



14 thoughts on “Over and out

  1. I appreciate the strength and honesty you show in your posts. I am currently struggling with something similar and trying to make sense of my emotions. At times I feel so strong and so determined and at times I feel as you just described. Not that I want anyone to go through this as I have I appreciate that I’m not alone.

    • I’m so sorry you’re in a similar position. I’d like to hear your story if you are ok to share it. I started blogging so I wouldn’t feel so alone with this situation. And now, so many people like you have been reaching out, sharing their experiences, that I realise there is a whole community out there. I hope people can feel free to vent here about similar ordeals, as much as they respond to my posts. I hope to hear more from you. Take care of yourself.

  2. I think it’s probably too early to tell whether or not the rehab has stuck. Ben might not be drinking *right now*, but it sounds like he has a ways to go before the urges don’t over-power him again. Also, while he might eventually stop drinking, he’ll always be an alcoholic so this will be a battle he’ll have to fight for the rest of his life. And I’m not saying that’s a reason to separate for good, but it’s something to consider.

    But I do know what you mean about loving them regardless of what they’ve done. And it’s hard to forget all the good times because those seem to outshine the bad times. I’m in a similar place with my ex. He’s been very selfish the last 6 months, not wanting me around but not wanting to let me go completely. And I don’t know when or if we’ll break apart completely. I don’t want to, but I really don’t know what is going to happen or what things will be like if we get back together. A person can change a lot in 6 months. So I’ve been holding on..but to what, I’m not sure.

    In the end you’ll know what to do, especially because you have Rosie to think about, too.

    • I’m so sorry you are in a similar position. I had a read of some of your posts and recognise that feeling well. Yes, it’s a hard one. How does he feel about me? Do I hang on? Do I just go? Is he stringing me along? Many years ago, I had a very similar experience. I went travelling for six months, while my BF stayed home. We agreed to meet somewhere in Europe – which we did. Then he told me he didn’t love me any more. We had to travel for the next month together, around Europe, as we’d initially planned. It was dreadful. In the following months, we hung out, even though we weren’t formally together. I went away to study. Eventually, I met someone else (my husband). When I told my ex-BF, he was shocked. You see, he had changed his mind about us. He’s married now, but I know he is still hurt that things actually ended between us. I guess he thought I’d hang around forever. Things may change Simple Heart Girl, but if/when they do, you may have moved on. I guess what I’m trying to say is, you just have to do what feels right for you. You’ll get there in the end. In the mean time, keep running. Running is what keeps me sane, too.

  3. What a blow! It’s always ‘easier’ to be the one to determine the break up’ as opposed to being broken up with by a partner. There is a loss of control when one is broken up ‘with’. I believe it is a power thing, in a way. You have lost so much control over so many things in your life, and marriage is no small thing.
    When I first read your post, my impression was that Ben was just trying to assert his control/power by breaking up with you intead of letting you ‘call the shots’. He sounds very angry…he has lost a lot of control over his life, over his love (of drinking), over his marriage, his relationship with Rosie…so I guess I can understand his feeling angry…I empathize with him but I do not feel sorry for him. (There is a difference!)
    I keep telling myself that we have no control over others…their feelings, their actions, etc….we can just control ourselves…and sometimes that’s a big enough challenge….especially in the emotion department.
    My friend, you are ‘okay’ right now. You have a roof over your head, a beautiful little girl (who is starting school!!!! Exciting!), you are smart, and a person with great strength. Keep taking deep breaths, and telling yourself, “Right now (this minute, this second), I am okay!” You can’t orchestrate things that will happen 1 week from now, 1 month from now, 1 year from now. You can only influence what will happen right here and right now. Do your best to survive and live in the moment, and let the rest come as it will….Problelm solve, and react, when the time comes to do so…don’t worry about weeks or months from now…there are two many variables out of your control to determine what will happen in the future. Do your very best to stay in the moment and keep telling yourself, “I am okay right now! I am going to be okay!” because you are and you will be! Keep venting to us, your blog reader friends and we will do our best to support you here and now. Take care. My prayers are sent to you.
    PS. I bet Rosie looked adorable on her first day! It can also be a sad day for mommas…seeing our ‘baby’ head off into the world on their own! My son is 20, and I STILL feel that way when he heads off to university after being home for the summer working at his summer job. Crazy, I know! Take care!

    • Hey Shelley, thanks for that. Yes, my control freakery knows no bounds. Not only am I trying to predetermine my own future, but his too! No wonder he wants to run away. I know he’s angry and that he’s only been in rehab for about 3 weeks, so things can and probably will change. I spend so much time trying to limit damage, that I forget to just be. I forget about enjoying my time with Rosie. She did look sweet in her uniform and proper school shoes, btw. Last year, she started nursery (which is attached to her current primary school) so she’s been wearing a very similar uniform. I can’t believe she’s now in Reception. We start early here in the UK – and it really does make a mum a bit teary to watch a 4-year-old go off to big school. Rosie only looked back once and when I picked her up later on Monday, she said (eyes wide): ‘Mummy, I LOVE big school.’ I know I’ll be just as sad when she turns 20 and is off to uni. : )

  4. For your sake I hope it’s not one of those power plays that my husband pulls on me all the time. It seems like every alcoholic is different and yet so the same. I will pray for you to have the strength to get through this little piece of the roller coaster. I also wonder if no matter what I do I will always be just an alcoholic’s wife. *hugs* to you!

    • Thanks, dearalcoholichusband. It’s hard to know, isn’t it? I think part of the problem is that his rehab centre hasn’t contacted me at all to talk me through the process. I thought I deserved that at least. So I’m totally in the dark. And yes, it is probably true that he is making a power play. They do this, don’t they? What does your husband do? How do you get past it? How irritating! How are you, anyway? How are you coping? Do you think your husband will accept he needs help?

  5. I am so sorry. I have been there. There is a huge gap between doing what’s right and doing what you want. Of course, the separation (whether temporary or permanent) is right. You both need space to heal. You have been through so much. You are listening to the sound advice from your head. Your heart, however, isn’t fully on board with the plan. I went through this for over 3 years after my divorce and sometimes still struggle with it. I remember the guy that my ex was when I married him. I remembered all of our dreams and plans. I loved that guy with every piece of my heart. I still miss that guy. A friend of mine just read me a quote from a book yesterday. I wish I could remember it now. The premise of it was that you might be in love with the dream, but you are living the reality.
    Stay on this path, but know that your heart has to grieve the loss of the dream. That grief doesn’t mean that you need to undo what has been done. It just means that it hurts.
    As for his reaction, he will probably cycle in and out of this. He’s going through his own struggles. He is dealing with all that he has done. Some days he can probably face it, and some days he probably can’t. Try not to take it as rejection. (Easier said than done.) It’s just part of his healing process.

    • Thank you, StrongerMe. It’s true – the longer we are apart, the easier it is for me to forget that stranger I’ve been living with for the last few years, and remember the person I met some 16 or 17 years ago. Funny, it was like this even before, but each time we saw each other again, the dream shattered almost immediately.

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