14 September 2009


Many people ask why I have stayed so long and put up with Greg's alcoholism. Like with many things involving emotions, it is not an easy question to answer. To start with, we have been married for nearly 34 years and in addition were together five years before that, so that is a heck of a long time invested in one another. The alcoholism only started 6 years ago when Greg took early retirement because of heart disease and the diminishing ability to commute to work. The previous 28 married years had been a normal reasonably happily married relationship.

When the alcoholism started, it was uncharacteristic and I had hoped it was a minor blip which would right itself. By the time the penny dropped that there was no quick fix and this was not going to get better, the thought of leaving him was at the time out of the question. You know how it is, if you have teenage kids, you want things to be consistent for them, particularly with important exams looming on the horizon. You don't want to upset the apple cart. The problem is that the alcoholism does not make for a peaceful life anyway, so you are damned if you leave and damned if you don't. [All credit to Kay that she managed to survive the shellfire and do as marvellously in her exams as she did.]

With each detox or hospital emergency (which ultimately led to yet another detox), I hoped that this time it would work, but inevitably Greg would return to drinking again, fooling himself and me that the occasional drink would be OK. Unfortunately I was to learn that an alcoholic cannot dice with alcohol in that way. It's all or nothing. No grey area at all. One drink leads to another and another and in the end it spirals out of control again. I admit that I had high hopes just before the first detox. When that failed, my expectations became less and less with the subsequent ones. The statistics speak volumes...apparently only 1 in 10 alcoholics manage to overcome their alcoholism.

Another thing, I suppose, is that I come from a family where marriage is sacrosanct. My parents were ecstatically married for over fifty years before leukaemia tore my father from my mother. [My mother has still not got over her grief some eight years later and says goodnight to his photo on her bedside every night.] I thought I was equally blessed in my marriage as things were fine up until 6 years ago. To give up and walk out on the marriage just because of the alcoholism seemed cowardice. I suppose too, I have always liked a challenge and I thought I could beat this black shadow that had crept over our family. Unfortunately, though, it has since shown me who is boss. One thing is for sure, the whole experience has made me a stronger person than before. I have achieved things and endured things I would have thought were not humanly possible.

Early on in Greg's alcoholism, an emergency doctor once told him that if he stopped drinking abruptly, he would suffer horrendous withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations, fits and tremors. That frightened Greg so much that he would turn to drink as soon as he woke in the morning, for fear he would start off the withdrawal process . Ironically the very thing that made Greg feel ill in the morning was the very thing he needed to feel better. He would wake retching, feeling nauseous, shaking. But after a couple of stiff drinks for breakfast, he would begin to feel better and the day would continue with bouts of sleep and renewed drinking to keep up the alcohol levels to avoid withdrawal. This deep-seated fear has now made him alcohol-dependent and his lack of willpower has meant that he is unable to reduce gradually, as the doctors all advise. I have seen this fear in him and witnessed him reduced to tears when he feels he wants to stop but knows he just dare not. I have oscillated between feeling sorry for him, because he was not always like this, and being extremely angry about what he has put the whole family through.

There comes a point in this cycle between the detoxes, when Greg is no longer able to buy his own supplies. This is at the point when he is usually drinking a full bottle a day, his health has deteriorated and he is not eating at all because the alcohol suppresses the appetite. He becomes physically weak and mentally incapable. I have therefore been the one to buy his whisky supplies when it gets to that stage where he can no longer get out on his own. The one alternative is that he goes without alcohol (which, as I have mentioned above, he cannot for the reasons of withdrawal) or the other alternative is that he drives to get it himself. I would rather have it on my conscience that I am enabling him to drink by buying the stuff for him than risk him running someone over with his car if he gets it himself. Of course I would rather not have either option, but the fear he has (and, if I am honest, I have too) of the withdrawal symptoms is too strong a threat to ignore. We are both caught up in this addiction for different reasons. Him because he needs that alcohol in his system and me because I know if he doesn't get it, it will tear him apart. I am however the only one between us who seems to understand that it will eventually kill him. He seems to think he can outwit it. I am resigned to the fact that he will never manage it. His health has suffered too much already and each time he detoxes he does not bounce back so easily and his liver and brain suffer that little bit more. I know it is killing him. Also I am aware that, if I should decide to leave him, he would not be able to cope and would inevitably be alone in an emergency and possibly die alone. Not exactly a nice thought for any of us to contemplate, whether we are alcoholics or not. Strange as it may seem, I certainly still care enough to feel guilty about this.

Shortly Kay is about to embark on a new chapter in her life and will be leaving home for exciting adventures at university. I then have some tough decisions to make.


Gin said...

((((Rosiero)))) You are a brave woman. I hope that whatever decision you make will be what makes you happy. You deserve it.

Eliza said...

I dont envy you at all, what an awful situation to be in. All I can do is offer you are (((hugs)))

aims said...

Please don't let a number of bloggers guilt you into leaving him because we think it is best.

Do whatever you choose from the bottom - and with - all your heart.

We all wish the best for you. We have given up on Gregg a long time ago.

Still - love is a strange companion at times and makes us do things that nothing else would.

In the end only you can decide and only you have to live with him/it.

I wish you bravery dear friend. You know I am always here to listen.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

I probably shouldn't comment here, as I'm a newcomer to your blog, but I have to ask- why do you think of it as giving up and walking out on a marriage? To me it's more like he gave up and walked out but left you responsible for his body. If you have to choose between valuing yourself and valuing a marriage that he's destroyed, what's the score?

I didn't read your whole blog, but what does your daughter say? I can't believe having an alcoholic dad around equals 'stability.' What does she think?

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

Each time side bar shows a new post from you, I girder myself just in case there is bad news....

thank you for sharing more background to Greg's story, your too of course...and kKy.

I understand your reasonings behind your choices.... I wouldnt dream of judging, walking in your shoes, well I still have my own.

Although I understand the illness, its Greg's choice to well...I guess kill himself and kill a part of you too that leaves me cold, chilled to the bone. It's such a selfish illness, like depression, it becomes al consuming, seemingly drinking in all the goodness around them...uninterested in life as we know it.
Quite shocking that 6 short years can turn a lifetime of togetherness into a fraught, tense and very upsetting and hurtful experience with a day to day attitude to get by.

You know I think of you often and am thankful that 'there but for the grace of god (of whoever that higher power is..)go I'... grateful for the 12 steps.

Elaine said...

I completely understand his (and your) fear of the withdrawal and why you continue to buy him alcohol. I understand why, when he's in this state, that you stay. But if I were in your shoes, the thing which would hurt me the most would be all of those times AFTER Greg has had a detox - those times when he was free of the clutches of alcohol with no need to self medicate - yet he still chose to do so.

You are so brave and strong; so supportive of him. He may not have a choice right now...we know he is unable to just stop...but he has had the opportnity to do that. And safely. And he chose not to.

One more chance? One more detox? It's such a tough call.

I'm sending you my love. x

DogLover said...

Rosiero - that's a marvellous account of the problems alcoholism can bring. You have all my sympathy.

And Aims - your comments are exactly right!

Linda - Gold Coast said...

My heart goes out to you Rosiero, it's a no win situation sadly. {{{{hugs}}} Linda xoxo

dulwich divorcee said...

Heart-wrenching as always, Rosiero. I hope so much for your sake that Greg is the one in ten. He does cope with the withdrawal when he's on a detox - are you sure that what that one emergency doctor said was right? Is it worth a second opinion? Thinking of you as ever x

Kit Courteney said...

Eloquently put.

It would be nice to think that the decisions you make will make YOU happy, whatever they may be.

nuttycow said...

Thank you for this post R. It's so easy for us, as outsiders, to say "go" when we don't really understand the complexities of it all.

Well, whatever happens, there are a lot of people out "here" rooting for you and willing to lend an ear (or anything else that's needed!)

Ellen said...

Your searingly honest and heartfelt post is very moving and one we so wish you didn't have to write. Whichever decision you make in this impossible situation will involve compromise, but when the time is right to make it, I hope that it will bring you some peace. Nobody deserves this more than you. You are in my thoughts.
PS. Good luck to Kay.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

The thought of what would become of him if you left him alone is quite scary. Also, you would presumably have to move out of your own house? (and risk him burning it down). It's not a clear cut situation at all. I had alcoholic parents (as well as ex husband) and I know you can't just turn your back. Whatever else he is, he's Kay's father. You're a brave and compassionate girl. I think I said to you a while back that it would get worse before it gets better. But it WILL get better. Sooner or later. We're all here to listen whenever you need to let off steam.

Millennium Housewife said...

I'm so glad you wrote that Rosiero, beautifully and tragically summing up the dilemma that you exist in I hope that you receive more support now rather than questions about why you are still with Greg. x

Anonymous said...

Hi Rosiero,

I'm glad you made this post is it very easy for those of us who are outside the situation to be judgemental- well me anyway. When we put ourselves in the same position would it be so clear cut? The person you married is lost for now but still there and the large percentage of your life together has been good.

I know you'll do what is right in your heart and that's all you can ask of yourself.

Take care


Rebel Mother said...

'Why' seems to be the eternal question in everything.

Why did it pick our loved ones?
Why did they pick alcohol?
Why us? What did we do?
Why why?

For ten years I asked that eternal question, with no answer. For a further 5 years I have resigned to except the circumstance for what it is, because an understanding of it and exceptance of it when you cannot beat something appears to be the only way one can survive it.

BTW that arsehole emergency doctor should have been struck off - its played further on Greg's fear.

Much love RMxx

Flowerpot said...

You seem very aware of the situation which can only be a good thing. Whatever you do will be tough - it's tough now - but you have the strength to do it. You take care.

Nota Bene said...

Why? "Because"

I'm sure you have the strength to make the right decisions all round.

All the very best

Working Mum said...

I don't think I've wondered why you've stayed with him, I've just accepted that you do. "In sickness and in health", and alcoholism is a disease. Antisocial though the symptoms are, he is your husband and, as you say, you have been married a long time, so you care for him still. I guess you are approaching a different stage of life now with Kay leaving for University, so it is natural to stake stock. I hope you find peace in whatever you choose to do.

June said...

Please don't let me be one of the bloggers guilting you into making premature moves. I do understand. I do. It's painful as hell, no matter which way you jump, and I know that you question your every move. I know that.

I spent some time the other night reading your earliest entries and relived so many emotions from my own life.

I wonder if you have read AA's Big Book (the chapter on The Family Afterward), or if you have attended an AA meeting in addition to Al-Anon meetings. You could, you know; it's perfectly okay for non AAs to attend open AA meetings. I mention it because it might be helpful for you to hear some of their stories...from their points of view...on What It Was Like, What Happened, and What It's Like Now.

I suspect that Greg's alcohol addiction began long before you began to feel it was a problem.

June said...

The Big Book online: http://www.aa.org/bigbookonline/en_tableofcnt.cfm

Anonymous said...

Rosiero, my heart really goes out to yo. You and your family are in an absolutely dreadful situation, as you know. I have some limited experience in this area and one thing I do know is that only he can change. No-one else can do it for him. However, to change he will need some support, well lots actually. So I suppose your decision is - is your support enough or do you have to hand that responsibility over to the professionals or let him decide for himself if really wants to recover or not. I'd stick by him until you reach the point where you realise nothing you can do will help. You may have reached that point already or they may still be time to pull him back from the brink. If he can consider the idea of AA then you are getting somewhere but only he can make that decision, and you deserve so much better. It's a dreadful illness. Only he can decide to stop drinking, and is is possible, trust me.

karen said...

You are a very brave women. I was lucky I got out of a drug filled marriage when my son was 3yrs old. I was with my husband 5 yrs before marrage and 7 yrs after . But when he stopped going to work and just layed on the sofa in his underwear all day high on something . I thought if I am going to have to go back to work I am not going to care for a lazy man and let my son see him like that all day. I am so happy I got out. My son is in his second year of college now and he is ok. Your kids will be ok too. Because they have you. Good luck.


laurie said...

i can't help but wonder if that first doctor way overstated the withdrawal stage and put the fear of god into your husband unnecessarily.

i mean, he *has* dried out more than once in detox, right? and got through it.

so for greg to say that he needs to drink all day to keep a certain level of alcohol in his system and therefore avoid the delirium tremons, etc., is nonsense.

i do understand what you wrote, and it makes perfect sense to me. hard to walk out on what had been a very happy marriage after what seems like a possibly manageable problem.

whatever you decide will be the right thing, because YOU will decide it, not us. but you could, of course, make your relationship conditional, as he is:

he's saying, take me, disease and all.
you could say, i'll take you, but only if you kick the disease.

in other words, leave on a temporary basis. perhaps he needs a crisis to find the fortitude to help himself. he has no reason to help himself right now.

PMFAddictionTreatmentCenter said...

thanks for the blog post!
It is commendable of you to continue on in this relationship. Your love is enviable. Seeking outside help is imperative and in the long run will help you deal and cope. Best of luck to you!

Debbie said...

I just can't imagine what you are going through. I admire you for not giving up immediately. You do have some tough decisions.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, it has explained a lot to me personally and made me realise where your incredible strength and bravery comes from. Why, a good question. But only one you can answer.

CJ xx

mythreemonthokinawadiet said...

I have no advice for you but wanted to thank you for taking the time to write your posts.

Seeing your husband through your eyes reminds me how easy it is for a few-a-day to get messsy.

I'm still a "young" guy and I need to read stuff like this to remind myself what happens when things spiral out of control.

I have noticed even without alcohol some men can't handle early retirement.

I probably would not retire for health reason. Just find a different job that matched my abilities.

Thank you from a long time reader.

Anonymous said...

I wish there was some words of wisdom that I could impart and feel helpless because there's nothing I can do or say to help.

When I first found your blog I found it completely compelling and devoted an afternoon to reading it from the beginning.

I can only admire the way that you've handled this situation and how your lovely Kay, with your support, has done so well despite her home circumstances.

My thoughts are often with you,


Strawberry Jam Anne said...

I have to say I admire and applaud your loyalty Rosiero and understand why you feel that way. Cannot possibly say what my reactions would be in similar circumstances. Thinking of you. A x