I haven't been to Al-Anon for about six weeks now, what with Kay at home over the summer, or visits to my mother, or last week's trip up north. I thought I'd better put in an appearance this week. It struck me for the first time, that at the moment I am really in a better place than most of the others there. Although, naturally, I would give the world to have Greg still here with me, the nightmare of my situation has gone. I can relax at last. The hamster wheel is turning much more slowly, I can breathe easily, turn the light off at night knowing all is calm in the house and buy what frugal things I need for myself without filling up the supermarket trolley with bottles and more bottles. I am my own master. I now make the decisions what to do or not, what to spend or save, without having to pass it by another person. (Not that Greg was dictatorial about those things, but in an equal partnership, we always chose to agree on things first rather than insist on our own way.)
The majority of others at Al-Anon are still in the midst of their nightmares, with their partners or parents or children still doing the drinking or at best undergoing yet another detox, which for now will bring sobriety but only for as long as the patient is physically locked up for ten days and on medication. Once the key is turned and the patient is out on the street again, they will more than likely be looking for their next drink yet again. When depends on how long their willpower will last out - a few hours, a few days, a few weeks.
Most at the Al-anon meetings are weary, crushed, even numb. That was me a year ago. Thankfully, my nightmare is over, although at a price. The alcoholism has gone, but so has Greg. I am a victim of the alcohol, although I did not drink it and it did not kill me. Although I am in a relatively good place at the moment, Greg's absence is a glaring big hole in my life, ever reminding me of that nightmare.
Whether I shall ever totally recover worries me. There are some people I have met at Al-Anon who have been parted from their alcoholic loved ones for decades, either through divorce, separation, death (or in the case of adult childen, marriage and moves away from home). But they still need the crutch of Al-Anon as they feel they are "damaged goods" or victims. Their confidence or self-esteem has been battered by long years of being in the alcoholic's shadow, of being physically or mentally worn away until only the outer shell of them now exists. They still weep at the memories that never go away. Years of having to pretend to the outside world that everything was fine, yet coming home to violence or aggression or arguments and shouting. Whatever the severity of the drinking, it takes its toll on other family members emotionally and sometimes sadly physically.
I have tried my utmost to be strong - both before Greg died and since. Goodness knows where I get it from, because up to now I have always been timid, shy, socially-anxious and withdrawing. Maybe that comes from being an only-child. But I am damned if I am going to let this beat me. That is why I have been so determined to keep busy and get on with life, to draw up decorating projects and to oscillate between my home and my mother's home to get all the chores done. But sometimes in the wee small hours of the morning, when I lie awake in an empty house and hear nothing but the clock ticking, I am worried. I worry about the slow-developing scar this alcoholic experience is leaving and will leave on Kay and me, long after the alcoholism has passed through our lives and gone.