Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Anyone else unable to forgive OH historic alcoholism?(83 Posts)
We have been together 30 years. He had a big drink problem for over 20 years - gave up totally for 5 years - and is now drinking again (last 5 years) - but not so heavily. But I keep having flashbacks to the alcohol incidents - and wondering why I endured them at the time....does that mean I forgave that behaviour then ? but why am I looking back with anger. now...?
These are the flashbacks:
Me cowering and trying to cover for you whilst feeling deep shame, watching our friends wince with embarrassment when you were the only one really steaming drunk when we were out or when we entertained - slurring, dribbling, red-faced, eyes-rolling, head lolling, falling asleep at the dining table by 9.30, boring the arse of people, not being able to keep up with the conversation, falling over, dancing like a dick head.
Every, fucking, time. Me getting distressed and moody on every social occasion when you behaved like this - so never enjoying anything and creating an atmosphere with F&F.
Then next day your long lie ins and hours in the bath, reading the news papers detached emotionally and physically unavailable to us all (x4dcs) as you dealt with the hang-over so could not participate in normal family life - the fun stuff and the not so fun stuff (childcare/chores/decisions etc) - so I did this all alone with seething bitterness and contempt.
Your refusal to acknowledge that you had a drink problem (even though both of your parents are/were alcoholics) - because as you were able to (i.e. forced to) totally cut out drinking Sun-Th as you couldn't function at work with hangovers and you had already lost one job -- but from your pov it was fine to get hammered on Fri & Sat and to not function as a father or husband all weekend and on holidays. So you minimised and defined yourself as a "binge drinker" not an alcoholic. N.B. AA definition is that you have a problem when your drinking impacts/upsets those around you......it did, you knew that, and did not care.
The constant lying about how much you had drunk. Every single time. 'just had one bottle of red" - so who does the empty 2 litre bottle of cider below to?
The visual image of you behaving like this on our wedding night - you stayed up in friends bedroom until 6am and then zig-zagged along the hotel corridor then slumped to the floor at our door.
The time (or the only time I was aware of it at least) that you shat yourself due to being so pissed - we were alone in a foreign capital city and the rest of NYE was spent trying to find somewhere to clean you up and dump your pants.
The time when I had just given birth, asked you not to drink whilst looking after our PFB and went up to bed...came down at 4am to find baby stuck at end of sofa and you slumped drunk.
When I had gone away for 2 nights to a family wedding leaving you in sole charge of just turned 2yo, 3yo and 5 yo - and you triumphantly declared on my return that you were now teetotal - because, your words, "I thought - Great!! she is going away, no nag, nag, nag about drinking - I can get brilliantly plastered - so I did - but the next day i couldn't cope with the kids and though I would die" - I took this as a positive - and congratulated your efforts - i did not consider the risk you exposed our v young children to and I did not appreciate that I should never have left you with them. I am deeply ashamed of this.
For the 5 years you were dry - I strangely found it deeply irritating, i suppose it was admitting that you could not do moderation i.e. normal and that the problem and the label was 100% real. All or nothing Then you started drinking again, slowly at first and now heavyish - and lies are creeping back in again.
Loads of other hideous (non drink related) dreadful behaviour after the drinking subsided then crept in (or became more apparent) and I decided to divorce - but took you back as I knew that you would keep sliding and end up the lonely dirty alchi in a filthy little flat - and you would blame me (or I would take some responsibility) for this demise - and this was not the father I wanted for my x4 dc.
But it was just not working, i could not live lie - I despise and hate him for the historic alcoholism and have separated now for good.
Maybe the Q am asking is why can't I forgive myself for enduring/enabling for so long - and even though there is not an apparent drink problem now - I am unable to get over the past - both what he did and what I didn't do (i.e. walk)
I was going to ask exactly the question you put at the end. There must have been something big in it for you, because what you've described sounds horrendous. Have you tried al-anon?
There's a lot to unpick there. Are you angry about the past? Or the current drinking?
Sounds like he was no hero even when sober..?
You might not forgive because the drinking is just part of tge bad behaviour. You realise he wouldn't be great even if he never touched a drop.
The alcohol seemed like the demon but over the 5 years it became apparent HE was a tosser booze or not. Gutting.
Bizarrely I have been to al-anon a few times in the past long ago - to deal / seek a solution for his parents (one now dead - at 64, other v disabled/ill by drink! - still drinks) not to deal with him - and he didn't go to deal with his own parents... scratching around to see what was in it for me - nothing really I am the main breadwinner and reluctant trouser wearer - we did get on socially and intellectually - have v similar interests in arts/music etc. We met when v young (in school at 17) - early years the heavy drinking everyone was doing it at teenage parties and uni - but then evolved / self regulated - he didn't at any point (until he put our 3 young toddlers at risk) - I had a v tough upbringing and believe I accept low standards due to low self esteem - classic co-dep - always trying t fix the impossible - flogging a dead horse
squizita that may well be what has happened. I also remember an expression "Dry Drunk" from Al-anon - I assumed that it meant that even when sober/dry the previous alcoholic could have a difficult personality.
OP I had to reply to this even though I don't really know where to begin. I'm married to an alcoholic who has been dry for a while. I have had massive problems forgiving and it's all bound up with feeling that I was a total and utter idiot to put up with it for as long as I did before I chucked him out and we separated. I was brought up never to give up on something merely because it was hard going and so I accepted his terrible alcoholic behaviour as my lot in life for far too long. This has been at least as hard to deal with as the things my husband did. It's had a terrible effect on my self-esteem which wasn't great to begin with.
I would have thought that the fact that he is drinking again makes it all the harder for you. I don't believe that alcoholics ever really have it under control. His current drinking must remind you of so many awful times.
Not sure what else to say... but I totally understand where you are coming from.
No, Dry Drunk means specifically the sort of alcoholic who stops drinking to prove that they're not an alcoholic, but never ever admits that actually they are, that what they did in the past was wrong and that they cannot control the way they interact with alcohol.
So to be clear, you are separated from your H although still married? This strikes me as a very good thing. He may have kept his drinking under control these last five years (or at least is giving the appearance of doing so) but it won't last.
HopeClear - I am glad yours is now dry and you found the strength to forgive. I recognise what you are saying about your up bringing and how this set you up too try to hard for too long - maybe we need to forgive our younger selves first for enduring/enabling for too long - I read this quote recently and it is helping me to understand why I did this:
"She was taught in her family of origin to accept a high level of frustration for a minimal level of love and caring"
Tripot although I misunderstood the definition of "dry drunk" your definition actually fits him exactly - total denial - maybe this is what I found so strangely irritating in those 5 dry years - no acceptance, understanding, regret for himself or those around him......he is drinking again, lying again but not to the level of the past - but if I think about it he is now drinking everyday whereas before he had cut out S-Th. I am also aware that I got sucked into it - he was always shoving a glass of wine inot may hand when I came in from work, topping up my glass - so I had a dirty little habit of 1/2 bottle a night - I think he liked to get me numb and toned down so he could get lashed in peace. We separated 4 weeks ago - we will get divorced - I had a dry Jan and have cut out my habit.....which has transformed my mood for the better.
Do you think once a drunk - always a drunk?
I remember when he started drinking again 5 years ago - it was just larger on hot holidays (it has been a slow return) one of my friends was horrified and I said I was anxious but would only worry when he hit the red wine at home - we have been there for a few years now - and I didnt really see it as a problem as we were sharing a bottle a night - but then the cider started to get added.... the lies started...he is nowhere as bad as he was in the past - but there is other shit flying around and I just cant do it any longer.
Something hi I know exactly what you are talking about ive been there, I've had those awful flashbacks: the embarrassment, the shame, the anger the tense atmosphere the day after, the awful tension when he tried to cutdown or cut out, the denial, the anger at him and myself, for staying with him. The hiding of bottles, the lies, the constant watching, the loss of friends the loss of his job. The money he'd borrowed from people for drink. The tiredness and feeling worn out by hiding the alcoholism and running a house and working to pay the bills, I was the main breadwinner for the last 5 years. I know about the cider added to the wine too. I remember hanging in there waiting for the glimpses of the " real" him - the sober him but when he was sober he was miserable and edgy.
My OH is now dead - he died of throat cancer directly related to alcohol and tobacco - the oncologist told me this. I had and have, 16 years on, flashbacks and bad dreams. I'm remarried now but it took me a long time to get used to my dh drinking just normallyand I gave him quite a hard time and I'm very wary around drink and drinkers and I'll probably always be like this
After he died I was relieved and I felt guilty about this as I couldn't grieve at first and then I went into a phase of feeling tremendous anger at myself I couldn't understand why or how I'd stayed or how I'd somehow let the alcoholism catch me unawares - how Had I ended up with him?
live your life - you owe it to yourself - you only get one chance. He will always be an alcoholic - for us his need for drink was bigger than his need to for us to have a child his sperm count was very low and this was attributed to his alcoholIsm. I have no children and I was the fertile one - why did I stay when he couldn't or wouldn't give me children?
Something your separation is all very new and raw and all these 'why did I stay' questions are completely to be expected, I think, for a while to come. You'll be thinking clearly for the first time in a long time and also this is early recovery for you, from that co-dependence that kept you there.
Yes, I think and I know, once an alcoholic/ addict, always an alcoholic. I've been in recovery since 6 months after I met my DH and he still occasionally has kind of flashbacks to some of the awful stuff I put him through. Because your DH was dry rather than sober, he can't or won't see this. So now it's time to care for and be kind to yourself. Al-Anon might help now, or counselling?
AA says that alcoholism is a progressive disease, so he will go back to where he was. (Their theory... and it's taken him 5 years... but seems very much in that direction.)
My understanding of dry drunk is someone who is sober, but hasn't fully engaged with the steps and isn't happy where they are. They've still got the alcoholic mind even though they're sober, and the change won't stick.
What you went through was painful to read. It's no wonder it's still there. Did you find Al-anon useful when you were there? I know there's also CODA (codependent anon) in case they meet closer, or at better times. S
Do you think once a drunk - always a drunk?
He's made very effective use of the 'boiling a frog' technique on you - you know the theory that if you put a frog on to a hot stone he will jump straight off, but if you slowly warm it up bit at a time he won't realise it's boiling til it's too late? (Purely metaphorically). When he started drinking it appeared to be innocuous - your friend expressed concern, you said it was tolerable as long as he avoided specific activities that had been really bad before. Then he kept you lubricated because it would undermine your ability to say 'you should not be drinking' if you were doing it too (even though the two things aren't analogous). It's crept up again and will only get worse, because that's what he wants to do and he's always done what he wants to do.
Do you know what would happen if I announced I was going to start drinking again? Literally every member of my friends and family would be shocked and worried and horrified. Because they all know I had a very serious problem - and they all know because I told them. Addiction thrives on secrecy and you kept his secrets. He kept them by not engaging with his recovery whilst he wasn't drinking - because he wasn't actually in recovery (I don't mean going to AA, he wasn't in the mindset of recovery).
It may never make sense to you why you tolerated it for so long. But you can start talking about it now. I don't mean shouting his problem from the rooftops, but start opening up to friends as you have here, about what it was like all those years. I like the saying 'sunlight is the best disinfectant'. I would also engage with counselling as BoxofSnails suggests - you've been through a very long period of trauma - the dry years as well as the drinking years. Now you've given yourself permission to detach and to heal, so engage with that. I think this book is often recommended on here for co-dependents.
Nellymay - what you sacrificed for this man is so v v sad. I hope that your new partner can finally give you the love and peace you deserve.
Box and Sparkle - I have so much to learn about this *"dry rather than sober" "the alcoholic mind" - I had never thought there was a distinction - "progressive disease" - yes I can see the slow decline - and as I said the only reason I did not divorce him last year was that I could see that he would end up the lonely dirty alchi in a filthy flat and I did not want this for my children - but as someone said to me on MN - I would just have the lonely dirty alchi living in my home.....but he has now left - gone to live with his lonely dirty alchi mother in her filthy flat....we will be divorced this year....
I need to go back to al-anon and start CODA.
tripot - yes I kept the secret - never spoke to anyone about it - was ashamed, tried to save face, covered it up, internalised it. No one would say he has a drink problem now from his current consumption or behaviour - but I know it is on the way.
I am also just thinking about when he started drinking again after the 5 dry years -- and it exactly at the time of the traumatic untimely death of my mother - maybe he needed comfort in the bottle - or maybe he saw me so grief stricken and distracted - he tried to medicate me with what I called "weeping juice" - as I had my half bottle every evening and just wept and got numb - and he joined in. I was not drinking at home before this time.
Do you think no-one would believe you if you told them about the extent of the previous drinking? I'm talking about people who are on your side, your friends who have no particular need to minimise your experience because they know him too. You need to say what you've said here and be believed in the real world too.
I think the reason he chose the time of your mother's death was because he knew you were too vulnerable to stop him at that moment. And that once he'd restarted with you protesting it would be too difficult for you suddenly to object.
Yes - it has just struck me, 5 years later, as well that he selected this time opportunistically to restart for the reasons you state tripot.
His best friend was alarmed at the time and said to him -"Wow mate - do you not think this is the worst time to start drinking again - S needs you."
I didnt really notice or care as I was so consumed with grief and it was not in at the deep end drink wise for him. In some ways it was a relief as I felt agitated when he was teetotal.
One or two close friends know of the extent from before and witnessed it (probably loads others did too - I am in denial that it was so obvious) but now believe him to OK due to being dry for 5 years and now drinking again but not an an excessive degree - they would n't see his consumption now as problematic - not sure I do either - but given the context - slippery slope etc - I should be concerned - but in reality dont give a shit....because I dont give a shit about him. I know he will detriorate and as I said it was the only reason I took him back before - so the kids wouldnt have an alchi father.
I think I am still most angry for the historic stuff - I am not really angry for the current drinking - he has other behaviours that are more challenging and are the main reason for the divorce - although I am sure they are linked in some way.
Something what I'm getting from your thread is a realisation of the last 30 yrs, it's like you've finally been allowed or allowed yourself to shout it out loud.
You don't need to forgive him, his misdeeds are not yours to forgive or forget. You do need to forgive yourself though, for 30yrs you've survived, coped quietly kept the family together and shouldered the burden of a very long relationship with him and alcohol.
It's a long time lovely so it's going to take a while to come to terms with the ending. There's a lot to process, and your at the start of the journey. You've lost your mum but I imagine the grieving process for her was curtailed somewhat by his issues and needs much like your own needs I suspect. Your going to be grieving for the. Loss of a marriage, him, time spent on him and issues you've not had time to really deal with.
Your on a new journey and your only now got the band width to allow yourself the time to process stuff, so now it wants to be heard and it will be heard. Be kind to yourself recognise the inner strength you have shown and the skills you've had to find over 30 yrs to navigate that path. Now it's time to take. Those skills and use them for your own benefit, it's a bit of shock when you suddenly recognise it's your time, and only yourself standing in front of the mirror.
What a moving post OP. I can really imagine how hard it's been.
I had an alcoholic partner for a bit and it was really fucking annoying. Luckily it ended before we had any major commitment. I'm still cross at him harassing me and stalking me. In fact reading your OP made all that rage come back. How dare anyone behave like that as an adult? . No advice but huge sympathy.
I think that I am trying to justify my divorce - and feel guilty that I am bothered by stuff 10 years ago and not happening now - but this thread is helping me see that the last 10 years have been dysfunctional as well -- no recovery, acceptance - apology.
Guilty - that is a very good point:
"You don't need to forgive him, his misdeeds are not yours to forgive or forget. You do need to forgive yourself though"
- I always feel guilty - for tolerating/enabling/hiding it at the time and for not being able to forgive it now when it is technically "over".
I am not able to love or care for this man and I have been drained almost to the point of extinction by his drink problem and many other issues - and it has impacted on my 4dc and my efforts to mother/nuture them whilst juggling with him.
Should I avoid local Al-anon groups and go further afield in case I bump into a neighbour? Or is this what everyone does and I would be just or even more likely to bump into someone further afield
The way Al-Anon works is that if you do bump into a neighbour, they won't say anything outside, because they'll have their own reasons for not wanting you to do exactly the same. The 'Anon' in the name means anonymous and members of the groups respect this and take it very seriously. I know people in the groups I've been to who are happy to say hi to me if I meet them while out shopping or whatever, but equally there are others who make it clear that they do not wish to be acknowledged in public and that is respected. I know a lady whose family and friends are unaware that she attends Al-Anon, and we've seen each other in local shops. We don't acknowledge each other there.
It's a small world and you may recognise people, or meet the friend of a friend, but it's easy to deal with and you shouldn't let that stop you getting the help and support that Al-Anon can give.
What Hopeclearwater says. Al Anon is anonymous and your anonymity will be respected.
The only thing that I remember at Al Anon when I went a long time ago to try and understand his parents (lol) was a lot of apologising for enabling the alcoholic - if i am honest that annoyed me as I didnt see that I did that at any point....and it seemed that just by breathing the same air you enabled.
Well, there's a phrase at Al-Anon (there's a lot of phrases) about taking what you like and leaving the rest... I don't always go along with some of it, but that's fine, and it was a massive help in learning about addiction, alcoholic behaviour and my response to it.
Join the discussion
Please login first.