From the wife of an alcoholic

HI Gayle,
I enjoy reading your column in the Lotus Guide.  I felt the strong urge to respond to one of your kind answers to the question by the wife of an alcoholic.  It’s in the latest issue.  I was married to an alcoholic for sixteen years, with three kids, and in the twenty-two years since being divorced, I’ve gained quite a bit of knowledge, after sight, and awareness on the topic.  I felt you left out the most important advice.  She needs to go to Al-Anon!  Or CoDa.
She mentioned Al-Anon, but it wasn’t clear whether she read their advice, or if she heard it in a meeting.  If she is in Al-Anon, it is obvious to  me that she is just beginning her journey (otherwise she wouldn’t have asked you her question).  Yes, a nurturing, empathic, compassionate woman who wants to fix her situation might benefit by being loving towards her husband and taking care of his stress.  But she won’t stop his drinking.  First and foremost, she needs to nurture herself.  It is very stressful to love an alcoholic.  Why is she with one?  How can she take care of her stress?  (By attending Al-Anon, for starters, and doing the program).  We can only fix ourselves.
One the hardest things for me to accept was, even though I never drank, I had a drinking problem – a huge one.  Any person in a close relationship with an alcohol abuser has a drinking problem!  It was hammered into me in a way that felt heartless and unfair (a professional refused to discuss how I could stop him from driving my kids while drunk, and instead, relentlessly told me I needed to go to Al-Anon – over and over).  I felt unheard and alone, and mad – until I went to Al-Anon and got the focus off of him and his so-called problem that I wasn’t a part of.  It was the death of the old me and truly the beginning of my empowerment.  I began to look deeply at myself with compassion and awareness.   I felt your focus was on nurturing  her husband, while walking a wide berth around the elephant in the room.  Twelve step programs are deeply spiritual in nature, non-judgmental, secular, and beautifully designed, I think!
At that time in my life, I was a warrior fighting for my peace of mind.  And keeping my kids safe. There is nothing more valuable to me.  Giving vitamins and kindness to an alcoholic husband is something I might consider, after giving love to myself and doing for me what I was willing to do for others, while taking me out of the equation.  The first factor in solving the equation needs to be oneself.  Wives of alcoholics wanting to fix  would do best by focusing on their needs, separate from their husband.  This might be a generalization that doesn’t always apply, but it’s generally the wisest path of action, in my opinion.
Been there, done that!

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