Hollow rooms

credit – Tracy Bollinger

This room where I sit and type, where I eat crisps after Rosie goes to sleep, where I watch iplayer on my computer late at night – this room feels unexpectedly empty now.

My home hollows itself out. The futon – that futon – is a desert populated by lone cushions that sag like wet thoughts on a sunny afternoon. The shelves slowly reveal books that have been hidden for years behind jars of old batteries and abandoned tools.

The floor is honeyed oak, shining still, the varnish stubborn and enduring. No more wine or beer spills, though if you look carefully, you might find red stains along the grooves between the boards by the sofa.

Today, I rang Ben on my way to collect Rosie from the childminder. Although we met on Sunday, we had little time to speak about anything significant. It was Ben’s birthday, and we’d decided to spend the day in South Kensington along with all the other families. We took in the rocket show (re-learning the laws of thermodynamics in the process) at the Science Museum, picnicked in the fountain courtyard at the V&A and observed hedgehogs in the Natural History Museum’s secret garden. A pleasant day, but one remarkably low on conversation.

So, I rang Ben today, chiefly because I knew he was meeting someone about housing, and I wanted to know how it had gone: okay, apparently.

Ben is sanguine about the whole thing. He accepts that this is the right way forward. He almost sounds like he’s looking forward to it. I guess he wants to see whether he can do it. I guess he wants to try to find his feet again – by himself.

I feel rather proud of him for opting to do that. It would have been easy to be bitter and sullen and blame me and anyone else. It would have been easy for him to demand to come home. I asked him whether he preferred to live in sheltered accommodation for a while, and he said yes. He said he wanted to see how it all went, that he was concerned about accessing after care at the rehab centre easily.

It all makes perfect sense.

But when he told me these things, a wave of melancholy slipped over me. Readers will recall an earlier post, in which I lamented the passing of my relationship. It turned out that it hadn’t quite come to that. But I’m wondering whether the end is in sight now, whether, like me, he is too afraid of going back there, and is choosing something else to break the pattern completely.

I think it’s the right thing to do. But it’s so very hard. I am tired – tired of carrying everything every day. My weeks run into one another, an endless cycle of work, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, child-ferrying, etc etc. I want to just lie down and sleep for 12 hours, but this luxury, like the luxury of long showers, is a thing of the past. What I really want is for Ben to come back and be healthy again so he can help me. So we can finally get on with being a family.

But this is fantasy. We are here, treading a path that takes us further and further away from one another.

We keep telling each other it doesn’t have to be forever. We placate ourselves with suggestions that these arrangements are probably temporary – that we’ll see how it all goes. We leave things open. We are open wounds, searching for space to heal. We are hollow rooms, each without the other, waiting, thinking, searching, reading the shadows that stretch and fade against these empty walls.

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13 thoughts on “Hollow rooms

  1. Such a beautiful way to describe the grief…hollow. It doesn’t matter that your life was hard or that he wasn’t the person that you married. You still had dreams. I know that I could never go back. I can barely speak to my ex. But I miss the guy that I married and formed dreams with. I still wish for the two-parent family. I wish that I could yell, “Tag! You’re it!” Allow him to take over so that I could sleep off some exhaustion. I could feel support.
    It’s never the same. There are wonderful moments of pride and happiness. Moments of acknowledging that you have moved beyond the pain. But that exhaustion? The only relief is if he stays healthy and can parent and support again.
    I wish that for you. Although it comes with its own trials and hurts if you don’t reconcile, I at least hope for Rosie and you that he can keep the demons at bay and support you both. Together or apart.

  2. My husband and I did not live apart; however I know of couples who did and are back together, living in recovery with happier lives. It is very possible my dear that you are suffering from depression after the roller coaster of dealing with the disease of alcoholism. Remember to take good care of yourself, get some help with your child and housework, and in some way, somehow, do some online al anon meetings or access other women in recovery. I can’t stress this enough. Do it for your child and well as yourself. Children are often affected but sometimes do not show the signs of stress until much later. Good luck and may God bless you in your journey….

    • Thank you, KatherinesDaughter. You’re probably right. I often wonder whether I’m a little bit depressed. I don’t always feel quite right. I do have a therapist, though. Well, it is very heartening, to know you and your husband are surviving this ordeal.

    • Are you no longer with her? How did you break the cycle? How did you escape?

  3. Well, I’ve now read your entire blog – to date – and some posts even twice. I’m going through this right now. He’s in rehab, well extended detox, then leading to long term rehab. I have so much anger, so much pain. I really don’t know my you-know-what from my elbow right now. I can barely speak to him, it’s too upsetting. Why? Well because once again our entire life revolves around him and his needs. I’ve had to ignore calls, tell him to back off numerous times.

    I read your words and I understand them completely. I look around the house, ‘our’ new house that we were supposed to share a life in, and I feel hollow too. I almost feel like I’m grieving and the ghost is haunting me. What is that about? Wish I knew. I’m so relieved to come home to peace, and not drama. So why this grief? Am I grieving Hope itself, because I’ve given it up? Grieving our past relationship and the future I thought I’d have? I don’t really know (if anyone does know, please tell me).

    Your words have given me some comfort – knowing that someone else knows this feeling. And the commenters have too, from both sides. Though I must admit I feel anger towards all addicts at the moment. I’m sure that will pass – I’m usually a very compassionate, reasonable human. Not now. Irritable and angry!

    Hopefully you and I will both get back to ourselves. Crossing fingers. xo

    • cheekie – thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. I’m glad that some of my posts and the comments here have provided some solace, even if fleeting. Is this the first time your husband has been in detox and rehab? Or have you been through this too many times to count? I know what you mean about the anger. I was so angry by the time Ben went in to detox. I was convinced at that point that I never wanted to see him again. I resented him for bringing us back to zero AGAIN. I was fed up and just wanted him out of the flat. For a while, I loved the silence. It helped that my daughter and I went away for a month, too. Somewhere in the past few months I’ve had a re-awakening. My rage has subsided like a low tide, and then the loneliness swept in. I can honestly say that I hated him for a while – a long while. But I don’t any more. That hollow feeling, the the wind soughing through your empty rooms, that’s all to be expected. It’s no surprise. His drinking and subsequent carnage became the scaffolding holding your life together. Now that’s gone, and you’re left with you and all those memories of the couple you were way back when. In truth, that hollowness is probably a sense of longing for what could have been, rather than what was. I hope things pick up for you – for both of us, really. Take care of yourself.

      • First time, officially and with professional help – yes. He’s tried on his own a few times, obviously that route didn’t work.
        I told him the other day that I need time and space. Talking to him muddles me. It’s still all about him, every conversation. How horrible the place is, how nasty the other people there are. But he is getting something out of it – which is good. But I need to clear my head, and I can’t do that if I am still consumed by him.

        It’s been 3 days of no contact, not a peep. Bliss really.
        I think for me it’s the only way to break this co-dependant cycle. Until he sees how he manipulates situations and conversations, talking to him only confuses me.

        He relies on me too much. I have a child, I don’t need another!

        And you are right, I’m grieving the ‘what ifs’ and not dealing with the ‘what is’.

        Hopefully space and time will heal a lot of my wounds.

  4. Yes, you need space and you need time. You need to find out how to interpret life on your own, without everything being filtered through the lens of his alcoholism. It’s early days yet. Give yourself a good month of no contact, if you can. With Ben and me, the rehab centre did not allow us to meet for the first 4 weeks. We were permitted conversations, but they were very short and not daily. It’s interesting to hear that your partner complains about the place he is in. Mine does the same. It must be a typical response! Keep breathing and keep disciplined about maintaining distance. That distance will also be good for your child. S/he is probably happy to have his/her mum back.

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