However, I did get a shock a few days ago. The light bulbs in the entrance hall had "died" and Greg couldn't find any replacements in the cupboard in the garage where we keep them. So late one evening last week, he went out to the nearest supermarket to get some more. Yesterday I stumbled upon the receipt for the bulbs lying underneath a chair and found one more item listed on the receipt apart from the light bulbs. It said:
SUTTER HOME FRE MERL... £2.99
I felt the colour draining from my face and my heart beating faster. Knowing that his favourite wine (before his whisky-drinking days) was always a Merlot, I immediately assumed the "Merl" on the bill was shortened supermarket code for Merlot. He had sworn blind over the last ten weeks that he had not drunk a single drop of alcohol nor did he miss it at all. Yet here was a receipt for a cheap bottle of Merlot. I just knew I couldn't trust him.
He was out at the time when I found the bill, so I lay in wait for his return, determined I would kill him at best, and ask questions later. Alternatively I visualised manhandling him into the car and dumping him on social services' doorstep for having broken his promise. As soon as he was back home again, I jumped on him from a great height with the question "when did you last buy a bottle of wine?" I searched his face for any tell-tale signs of lying. He did not know what I was talking about and said he had not had any alcohol. Why then, I said, had I found a receipt for Merlot? He looked a bit sheepish at first but confidently replied that he had been looking for the light bulbs and had passed a display of alcohol-free wine which he had thought might be a suitable substitute for him to drink with our meal at Christmas. He had bought it to try out. As proof, he nipped into the garage and produced the empty bottle of Sutter's Home Alcohol-Free Merlot as proof. He said he had tried it, but it tasted dreadful, so he would certainly not be buying any more of that. Why, then, had he kept this a secret? His reply was that he knew I would be mad at him. It was only after he had left the room that the thought came into my head that a suitable alcohol-free wine is by any other name grape juice, which you can buy in cartons in any supermarket. You don't need it in a fancy bottle with a fancy name. The fact that he was attracted to the bottle was a wee bit disconcerting, as was the fact that he was already thinking of what he might drink with his Christmas dinner, but he assures me (in capital letters and underlined) that he will not go back to drinking alcohol. Hmmm. I've been here before, remember.
Another example that he is trying hard is that two weeks ago his sister, Jill, and her son came down to stay for a day or two, as they needed to do something in London, and it just happened to be my birthday. We all went out for a meal and I confess to having been worried enough not to want to go at all, as I was worried about what would happen vis a vis the drinking situation. However, Jill and I were explicitly told by Greg to order wine (he said it would not bother him in the slightest) and he ordered a lemonade for himself. I was so pleased that he showed no desire to grab a sip from my glass and stuck firmly to the lemonade. So fingers crossed it will work.
On top of all this, he is trying hard to sort out some of the jobs that need doing round the home, either by doing them himself or calling in professionals. He is also having a go at doing some of the paperwork chores (such as tax forms and shopping around for alternative insurance etc.) So I have to give him full marks for trying and it frees up a bit of time for me too.
Finally he has started going to open counselling sessions for recovering alcoholics at the Alcohol Advisory Centre, where he has been in the past. It is a compromise between residential rehab (which he still hates the idea of, mainly for being away from home for six months) and nothing at all. I too am struggling to make something of Al-anon - I still find writing this blog does me more good than trying to speak out in a group. I'll give it till Christmas and then make up my mind whether to stop going. It may be that my blog has now come to its natural end and I will have no further need to bore you all rigid with my tales of woe. Only time will tell.