Friday, June 09, 2006

The Article That Changed My Life

I was married to an alcoholic for 14 years. I met him at work while trying to escape an abusive boyfriend-turned-stalker. He was 14 years older than I with a 9-yr-old daughter from a previous marriage. He had served in the Marines and in the Navy, forced to retire with a disability after a motorcycle accident cost him his left leg below the knee. His wife had run off with another man while he was in rehab, taking their daughter with her. He had been abused by his step-father and had learned to fight his way through life. What he lacked in stature, he made up for in brawn. He was fun-loving, kind, and devoted to his daughter.

We were attracted immediately and began spending as much time together as possible. After 4 months of dating, I moved in with him. I was throwing money away on rent since I spent more time at his house than at my apartment, and he wanted to protect me from stalker-boy. Five months later we were married.

I had many misconceptions about marriage, and we didn't see eye to eye on most issues. When I was growing up, my parents fought constantly, and I didn't want my marriage to be like that. The one thing I swore that I would never do is nag. I chose to be non-confrontational, and I refused to fight back.

I had no idea that I had married an alcoholic. I knew he drank, but he didn't drink every day, and neither of us had a problem with it. If he wanted to drink, I wasn't going to stop him from bringing it into the house. I had always thought that if my mother had allowed my dad to drink at home then he wouldn't have had to go out so often.

As the years wore on, it became a problem. When he realized that I wouldn't complain about his going out with the boys, he began to go more often. Eventually, he started forgetting to come home. He was behaving as if he were single while I was at home caring for our children. It never once crossed my mind that he might have been unfaithful. However, he accused me on several occasions of cheating on him, threatening to throw me out and never allowing me to see our children again.

I knew he would never hit me, but he knew how to scare me. I lived in fear of what he might do in a fit of rage, so I tried my best to meet his expectations. Somehow I always managed to say the wrong thing or do something to set him off, and he would launch into a tirade, throwing things and screaming at me. No one else knew, not even the kids. It was our dirty little secret, kept behind the closed door of our bedroom.

Then one night after an evening out with friends, we came home to find the house in the same condition in which we'd left it. The kids' rooms were messy, and he flew into a drunken rage, reducing them to tears. Who did he think was there to clean up while we were out? After he left the room, I instructed the kids to go get in the car. When he saw us walking out the door, he looked astonished and said simply, "You're leaving."

As I drove away, I realized I had no idea where to go. It was late, and I didn't want to go back to our friends' home as they were most likely in bed by then. I didn't want to get my parents involved because I didn't think they'd understand. I didn't know anyone who would understand. We went to Wal-Mart for some retail therapy.

A couple of hours later, I figured he had passed out and it was safe to return home. The garage was locked, as was the dead-bolt on the front door. My key wouldn't unlock it, so we came in through the back door into the living room. It was a disaster! Apparently, he had gone on a rampage. Furniture was overturned, picture frames were broken, and he had even gone into the girls' room and kicked their stuff around. They were confused and frightened by what they saw. Oddly enough, none of his things were damaged.

This was a turning point for me. I began seeking help. I found a website devoted to saving marriages and pored over article after article. One particular article opened my eyes to the reality that I had denied for so long. I had contributed to the problem by covering for and making excuses for him. I was only responsible for my actions and reactions. It was time to turn over to him the responsibility of his actions and reactions, to allow him to suffer the consequences of his decisions, to stop trying to rescue him from his own destructive behavior. As hard as I tried, I couldn't save him from himself, but I knew I had to protect myself and our kids.


BooMama said...

WOW. Wow, Brenda.

Bless your heart. That's a tough road you've traveled.

But I also know there's a happy ending...which is why I'll be eagerly awaiting part 2 (and 3, and 4). :-)

Blessed Beyond Measure said...

You said, "It was time to turn over to him the responsibility of his actions and reactions, to allow him to suffer the consequences of his decisions, to stop trying to rescue him from his own destructive behavior." - I believe that would be called Tough Love. Don't you give God the glory daily that He gave you the strength to leave, and save your family. We are shaped by the trials we've lived through; sometimes the shaping is tough, tough, as yours has been. xoxoxo

Grafted Branch said...

What a compelling testimony. I'm sure that someone in the blogosphere will be blessed in a very applicable way. You may have just saved someone's life. Thanks for your vulnerability in sharing this part of yourself.

Lauren said...

Well, this is my first time visitng, it's good to know (BooMama gave it away) that there is a happy ending. I'll be back for more.

Judith said...

Brenda, Thank you from deep in my heart for having the courage to tell us about what alcoholism did to you and your children. And thank God you got you and them out of it.
Some day when I'm brave enough I will tell you what it almost did to me. You are a very courageous woman, and it's allright to take credit for that. God love you. Judith.

Diane said...

We have a lot in common, but it was my Dad who was the alcoholic. I grew up in much the same situation you describe with your former husband, but my Dad got help and dried out when I was 9 years old after my Mom left him.

Children of alcoholics tend to either be alcoholics themselves or turn completely against alchohol. I do not drink at all. To each his own, but it's not for me.

I know from personal experience how much courage it took to take your kids and leave, not knowing where you'd go and how you'd provide for them. Bless your heart, girl. I can't wait to read the rest of your story. Keep writing, and we'll keep reading. :-)

HolyMama! said...

oh my gosh! speechless!

Brenda said...

Diane, my dad is a recovering alcoholic. I knew about AA and the serenity prayer, but I didn't know any of it applied to me. He's been clean and sober for about twenty years now, but I didn't know that I hadn't left the past behind when I left home. I never realized how deeply affected I was by it.

Texas Gal said...

Brenda I applaud you and your courage. Even now to be able to share your story. I know there is a happy ending. Would love to hear how you got there.

Barb said...

Hi Brenda. I'm back! The courage you've shown by revealing this time in your life is inspiring. My first husband was an alcoholic. I hardly ever talk about it. So believe me, I know this wasn't easy. I know how hard it was to walk away.