A friend sat down with my husband and me for some advice the other day. She was struggling with her alcoholic husband, read my book, and knew that we were a success story. Who better to talk to than someone who has made it through and lived to tell the tale? In order to enlighten our friend Tommy wanted to share the reality of how his mind was working when we were smack dab in the middle of our hell. He gave her the real, alcoholic man’s version of how his mind worked when he was in the throes of his disease. When our friend told us that her husband said he wanted to stay together and work things out Tommy’s response brought tears to my eyes. Despite his nine plus years of sobriety and a prevailing marriage, it was still hard to hear what he had to say. I love him for his honesty and faith in the truth but some things a woman just doesn’t want to hear.
“I told Charisse that I wanted to change for her and the sake of our marriage too,” Tommy said. “But I was lying. Alcoholics lie. I had no intention of changing.” I was dumbfounded. After all this time and everything we went through I still believed that he was telling me the truth when he said those words. It threw me for such a loop that I’m not positive what my response was. I think it went something like this, “In your heart you meant it though, right Honey?” “No,” he said. “I was lying.” We moved on to the issue at hand, which was my friend’s situation. Tommy was clear that just because he felt that way it didn’t mean that her husband was lying, he just wanted her to know that alcoholics will say what you want to hear to keep from dealing with the situation.
What astounded me about his honest and forthright declaration was the pain it caused, if only momentarily. We are doing great, better than ever in our twenty five and half years together. Still, hearing his words wrenched my heart. That pain helped me to empathize with our friend on a more profound level than I can say. I’m sure you have experienced pain that dissipated over time. The memory of an incident stayed with you, but the stabbing in your heart no longer occurs when you think about it. That’s how it has been for me regarding Tommy’s drinking for quite some time now. We tell his boozing stories and laugh and regard how lucky he is to be alive.
In order to help my friend to the best of my ability I needed to relive the pain. It helped to remind me that at the very core of the agony I suffered was rejection. The thing we codependents say to ourselves over and over again is, “If he really loved me he would quit.” We take their addiction quite personally. We make their problem about us. I was able to tell my friend that it wasn’t until I got my mind off of Tommy and started concentrating on my own issues that I was able to get free. Free from self-recrimination. Free from believing that if I was good enough or did enough he would change for me. I’m going to jump out on a limb here and say that most codependents have a savior mentality. The compulsion to fix people is inbred in our psyche.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer fellow codependents is this, leave your alcoholic loved one to God, and concentrate on getting to the root of your own issues. Ask God to open your eyes to the part you are playing in the miserable game of pain. Make yourself accountable and pray for guidance in how to handle the situation until your loved one finds their own accountability.
We are very blessed. God had a plan for our lives and it included staying together. It may not be the same for you. His plan may be for you to move on with your life without your alcoholic. Every person’s situation is unique. The way to get to your answer is to lean into God and His word, get help from Alanon and possibly from a therapist. First and foremost take care of yourself. As my therapist once told me, you are no good to anybody when you are falling apart yourself.
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. If you are a survivor that can offer some more insight or someone living with pain and shame and have questions or need prayer please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.