27 September 2010

Scars

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.

20 comments:

bad penny said...

I have just found your blog & read your post with great empathy. My father was a very heavy drinker & certianly contributed to an earlier death.
There is an alocoholic in my extended family whose drinking & behaviour affects many. I've told one or two of those affected that THEY can go to AA to receive support as it has such a devastating effect on their lives.

Furtheron said...

What a great post.

I think my family is ok about my alcoholism - that is a massive assumption fed of course by the fact I've not drunk in over 6 years. However I go to AA regularly and know that I'm always just an arms length from the next drink. I have to be vigilant against that. Which is ok for me but my family therefore are to a degree constantly reminded of the past and have to cope with a different present - I don't drink but do the AA stuff. I try to ensure a balance etc.

So are they ok with it? Well better than they were 6 years ago or if I'd not stopped which would be either watching me kill myself or having experienced it like you and poor Kay have.

Good luck with the journey - but it is your journey now, Greg has got off the bus you can pick the route now - don't ever feel guilty about that.

Nota Bene said...

I've always been impressed by your strength and resilience, and am glad you've moved on to a new life, albeit with baggage that most of us can only guess at. I think you'll do well, as will Kay.

But of course if you're ever short of things to fill up your day, you can always pop round here and do some painting, or the gardening, or...!

Kay L. Davies said...

Hi --
Some of the strongest women (and men) I've ever met in my life have been the ones I call "well Al-Anons" who still attend meetings, not because they need a crutch, but because they have so much to offer the newcomers.
If you make meetings a priority, you will be able to become one of those strong persons. Then you will see your role in life is much larger than you now think.
You will have the opportunity to carry the message of recovery to countless others, to those you saw at that meeting who are still living with an active problem, and to those who haven't found Al-Anon yet. You'll be able to be there, waiting for them to sidle into the meeting with downcast eyes and trembling lips. You can hold their hands and tell them there's hope. You can do what professionals cannot. You can understand.
Al-Anon isn't a quick fix, it's a life answer. You learn, you recover, then you pass on what you have learned so that others may recover. There's an old Beatles' song that says "we all want to change the world" and here's your chance. You might not find a cure for cancer, but you can offer hope to the hopeless, a new life to the despairing. But as it says in AA, you can't give away something you haven't got. First you go there for yourself, then you go for others.
Lovingly offered --
Kay

Saz said...

OMG...l am weeping, you know why....

every word you have written is like a stab in my heart...
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.

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.

Achelois said...

I admire and respect so much your honesty.

I haven't wise words. I think yours are the wisest. The post helping I think more people than you will ever know.

Take care.

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

I do so admire you Addy. I know your situation from reading your posts for a couple of years now but do not know how you must be feeling, can only imagine. I think you should use the AA crutch for as long as you need to but you are being so positive about your situation and your future that I feel you will soon begin to see light at the end of your dark tunnel.

I read some of the comments too and found "Furtherton's" words quite moving, espeically the last paragraph.

Sending a hug. A x

Retiredandcrazy said...

Don't forget that part of the Al-Anon preamble that says - "take what you liked and leave the rest". Every Al-Anon member is different, just like the rest of the population and there will always be those that can't seem to move on. Make sure that you are not one of them!

With the help of AA Davy had been sober for 36 years when he died. I stopped going to meetings several years ago but most of my friends are from either AA or Al-Anon so it became a integral part of my being.

Al-Anon gave me strength during the drinking years and is still giving me strength in coming to term with my grief, one day at a time. If I was to give you any advice at this moment in your recovery I would say don't analyse too deeply Addy, just enjoy the friendships you are forging.

Also it might be your turn to pass on the message of hope and love to others that are still suffering.

DogLover said...

Addy, what a helpful posting for other people who are in your position!

It has always seemed important to me that Al-Anon members progress (at their own speed) through all the Twelve Steps and I think true serenity only comes that way.

I wish you well on your journey and I like Retired & Crazy's final paragraph.

[Bad Penny and Strawberry Jam Anne - it is Al-Anon for the families and friends of alcoholics, AA for the drinkers! They share similar programmes]

Flowerpot said...

I think you are much stronger than you think Addy but echo what Kay said about the meetings giving you and other people strength, not being a crutch. You have been through so much and of course you will bear the scars, but it's very early days yet. I have a friend who's been a recovered alcoholic for 25 years now and I know it wasn't easy at first. I wish you and Kay all the best - I am sure you will find the strength and courage to lead your lives to the full, but take one step at a time maybe? Thinking of you. xx

Millennium Housewife said...

Addy, you are inspiring and wonderful. I have no doubt that you can make a life for yourself full of happiness and fulfilment. Like physical scars, the alcoholic scar will always be with you, but one day you may wake in the middle of the night and stare at it in the moonlight to find it's hardly noticable at all. It has in fact become something with holds a strange beauty and that you may be proud of.

dulwich divorcee said...

You must be an inspiration to others in your Al Anon group. You have borne it all so bravely. I'm sure all the projects you've arranged will keep you going in the short term. In the long term, without wanting to sound like Mystic Meg, I am sure there is a huge amount of happiness waiting for you x

Footballers Knees said...

Hi Addy, as usual beautiful and thought provoking writing. Thank you.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

We don't realise do we, that even after our loved one may have gone, the nightmares still continue - I say that with the utmost respect of course.

Take care, CJ xx

June said...

I subscribe to the theory that sober alcoholics are never "recovered," but "recovering." By the same token, I believe that anyone whose life has been affected by alcohol can never expect to be "completely recovered." Whether or not that translates to victimhood is a matter of choice.

Hypercryptical said...

What a beautiful, thought provoking post. Take care.

Anna :o]

Working Mum said...

I'm sure the shadow of alcoholism will always be there. It's how you deal with it and what you make of the rest of your lives that matters now. Kay has a bright future ahead of her and so do you.

Nechtan said...

Hi Addy,

One thing that has always been apparent to me when reading your posts is that you are a strong person. But its easy to forget that a strong person has as many hardships to deal with as a weak person, sometimes more. I cannot begin to imagine how hard things are for you and how hard they have been for a long time, and Kay too. I do hope those scars fade with time and the two of you have much deserved happier days ahead of you.

All the best

Nechtan

Fat Grump said...

I am very late to this but couldn't go without commenting on your wonderful and moving post.

You described so well the trauma which worms it's way into the very being of those living with the nightmare of alcoholism.

I eventually divorced my drinking husband, but his behaviour and his treatment of me over many years HAS left deep scars. I have become so fiercely independent now that I have found it hard to trust men again. I have a lovely man in my life now, but when he (occasionally, rarely) drinks too much I almost clam up..physically and emotionally. I just couldn't go through being at the mercy of another one who might 'go off the rails'. I am not very good around drunks at all. I am frightened of them to be honest, because of their erratic and often volatile behaviour.

After all, I married a man I loved who became an absolute monster because of the demon drink. I had to bring my children up alone, so although I have a peaceful existence now, deep down I still feel betrayed, hurt and angry that our lives were lived in such turmoil because of an addiction to alcohol.I feel strong to have come through it but I also feel extremely vulnerable as well. (I hide it..we become used to wearing masks when we live with a drinker. I felt so ashamed that our home life was dysfunctional, noisy, turbulent, violent. Never in a million years did this 'nice' woman imagine she'd be living in that way, and frightened for her life...AND of the affect her husband had on our neighbours.)

It's water under the bridge now and my life is good, and I have moved on, but when it's quiet and I am alone, the memories come back and worm their way into my well-being.

Your post describes so well what so many of us feel like now. Superb writing. Thank you.

Amy Charles said...

Furtheron writes: "So are they ok with it? Well better than they were 6 years ago or if I'd not stopped which would be either watching me kill myself or having experienced it like you and poor Kay have."

The way to find out is to ask them.

I am struck by the similarities between the experiences of marriage to an alcoholic and marriage to a seriously mentally ill man. I see my ex daily, due to our visitation arrangement. There are still problems, to be sure. We still live with the effects of his illness. But it's nothing like it used to be.

It did take years to recover. All I can say is that if you have an impulse to health yourself, that green shoot, you will heal. Just keep yourself away from more unhealthiness. If you meet someone who turns out to be bad for you, please do not hesitate to say goodbye to that person. You and your daughter come first. Good luck to you --