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Spouses of Alcoholics

Updated on June 19, 2013
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We're far from alone.

Consider these statistics from the National Association for Children of Alcoholics:

  • · Seventy six million Americans, about 43 percent of the U.S. adult population, have been exposed to alcoholism in the family.
  • · Roughly one in eight American adult drinkers is an alcoholic or experiences problems due to the use of alcohol. The cost to society is estimated at in excess of $166 billion each year.
  • · Separated and divorced men and women are three times as likely as married men and women to say they had been married to an alcoholic or problem drinker.
  • · Almost two-thirds of separated and divorced women, and almost half of separated or divorced men, under age 46, have been exposed to alcoholism in the family at some time.

Quotes from the Bottle

Wine hath drowned more men than the sea.

THOMAS FULLER

For most normal folks, drinking means conviviality, companionship and colorful imagination. It means release from care, boredom and worry. It is joyous intimacy with friends and a feeling that life is good. But not so with us in those last days of heavy drinking.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, The Big Book

I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day.

FRANK SINATRA, quoted in The Hangover Survival Guide

Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.

HERMAN MELVILLE, Moby Dick

When you go out with a drunk, you'll notice how a drunk fills your glass so he can empty his own. As long as you're drinking, drinking is okay. Two's company. Drinking is fun. If there's a bottle, even if your glass isn't empty, he'll pour a little in your glass before he fills his own.

CHUCK PALAHNIUK, Invisible Monsters

I have taken more good from alcohol than alcohol has taken from me.

WINSTON CHURCHILL

Bacchus ever fair and young,

Drinking joys did first ordain.

Bachus's blessings are a treasure,

Drinking is the soldier's pleasure,

Rich the treasure,

Sweet the pleasure--

Sweet is pleasure after pain.

JOHN DRYDEN, Alexander's Feast

As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find understanding companionship and approval. Momentarily we did -- then would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face the hideous Four Horsemen -- Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, The Big Book

Scientists announced that they have located the gene for alcoholism. Scientists say they found it at a party, talking way too loudly.

CONAN O'BRIEN

99 Bottles Excerpt: Introduction


I've attended more Alanon meetings than I can count. I've befriended more spouses of alcoholics than I can recall. I've memorized the Serenity prayer frontward’s and backwards. I've taken it “one day at a time.” I’ve even taken it one bottle at a time. I’ve made out pros and cons lists. I’ve even made pie charts. I’ve prayed. I’ve researched. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried. But, search as I might, I've yet to find that one answer I've been looking for: Whether or not to stay married to an alcoholic.

While I haven't found the answer to that question, I have figured out some things along the way. Most importantly, I've learned that maybe I'm not asking the right question. Maybe, there is no right answer to my question at all. Maybe my question doesn’t need answering, and, that is the very answer itself.

Fair warning: Just because I’m writing a book about my experiences as the wife of an alcoholic, by no means does it mean I have the answers to questions you may be asking. Part of my desire to write this memoir in the first place was to search for those answers myself. While I cannot tell you how to live with or leave an alcoholic, what I can do is offer you comfort in knowing you are not alone.

My name is Erin. I'm 33 and the mother of two beautiful sons. I'm an enabler and the wife of an alcoholic. I'm sad. I'm hopeful. I'm scared. But despite these things, I am still very much in love. And, like so many others, I don't know what to do.

This is my story.

90 Bottles: Patterns: An Excerpt

“Could we get a break in the rain?”

While the stories of the men and women I've encountered in Alanon meetings are each unique, it wasn't long into attending meetings that I realized they possess many similarities. Namely, when people speak of their alcoholics, they speak of patterns.

By 2002, my husband's pattern of alcohol abuse was as easy to predict as my youngest son's sleeping and eating patterns. How this surprised me, given his love of all things routine and predictability in other aspects of life, is beyond me. A man who believes the color orange is a risk or waking up past 9 a.m. on a Saturday is a sin is not about to operate differently when it comes to his addictions. Instead, he will invariably chose to construct a routine around his binges.

By now, Matt was working full time as a lead carpenter. He'd come home from work three times a week with a six-pack of Budweiser Ice at 4 p.m. My job allowed me to be home in the afternoons after MJ was out of kindergarten for the day. I'd pick MJ up, pick up Jacob from daycare, and begin cooking supper.

Our dinner schedule was one of the first things to revolve around Matt's drinking. He'd announced, somewhere in those early years, that he was no longer going to eat dinner on “drinking nights.” Eating food, he reasoned, prevented him from getting drunk as quickly. And, since I was "micro managing" the amount of beers he consumed, he felt he had to do everything to be sure he got the best buzz he could get off that six-pack. With him drinking every other night, I adapted to cooking the kids' favorite meals on his drinking nights. Chicken fingers, Sheppard’s pie, hot dogs, and hamburgers on the grill became staples for us on those nights. On sober nights, we ate Matt's favorites; manicotti, lasagna, and chicken parm. There was a part of me, on those sober nights, that felt like if I made dinners happier, made him feel more special, he'd somehow want to be sober more often. That was only one mistake in the hundreds I made as I began my long journey as the wife of an alcoholic. I just didn't know it yet.

I often wonder if I should have paid more attention to the dullness in his eyes. They carried the hardness of a lifelong drinker by the time he was 30. When he’d come home at night, he’d force a smile at me, tilting his head. His expression reminded me of an undertaker and his arms would lay listless at his sides as I said my hellos and debated asking him how his day went. Doing so would generate a 20-minute bitch fest about the state of the economy or the $4 cost of milk. Eventually, I stopped asking and retreated into a self induced fantasy land where Farmer Charming’s smiles were real and he hugged me back.

I’m not sure if it was the drinking or the depression that came first to begin this pattern. Matt told me, early on, that he’d suffered from depression as a child. I’d thought very little of it. Blinded by love, I didn’t understand how difficult depression could be - not only to the person suffering from it, but to the people who loved that person. I also viewed his mood swings as another layer to his depth that I so admired. But I soon noted a fragile tango between Matt’s depression and drinking: He’d get down and would use beer to self medicate.

Despite repeat pleas for him to see a doctor for his depression, only once did he take me up on this offer - which was short-lived after the medications caused side effects he didn’t like. Living with his moods was almost as difficult as living with his drinking. He’d swing into violent moods the kids and I would refer to as “Dad’s rages.” During these times, we knew our best bet was to stay as far away from him as possible. While he never hit us, he became skilled at using his voice, body language, and sudden outbursts to control us with fear. Intentionally or not, these sober rages often made me rush to hand him the bottle - if only to calm him down.

Resource List

For more Information on Alcoholism:

Adult Children of Alcoholics Worldwide Service Organization
P.O.Box 3216
Torrance CA 90510
310-534-1815

Al-anon/Alateen
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, VA 23454

American Council on Alcoholism
1000 E Indian School Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85014
800-527-5344

American Foundation for Addiction Research
P.O. Box 2112
Carefree, AZ 85377
480-368-2688

Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE)
9800 La Cienega Blvd., Suite 401
Inglewood, CA 90301

Mother’s Against Drunk Driving
511 E. John Carpenter Freeway. Suite 700
Irving, TX 75062
800-GET-MADD (438-6233)

National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
313 W. Liberty Street, Suite 129
Lancaster, PA 17603-2748
717-392-8480

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)
12 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10010
800-622-2255

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
National Institutes of Health
5635 Fishers Lane, MSC 9304
Bethesda, MD 20892-9304
301-443-3860

National Organization for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
900 17th Street, NW, Suite 910
Washington, DC 20006
202-785-4585

Partnership for a Drug-Free America
405 Lexington Avenue, Suite 1601
New York, NY 10174
212-966-1560

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
P.O. Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20847
800-729-6686

Women for Sobriety
P.O. Box 618
Quakertown, PA 18951
(215) 536-8026

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