Alcohol abuse is a disease. As with any disease, it has the ability to wreak havoc on families and to destroy lives. A marriage that is touched by alcohol abuse is one that will know destruction, pain, and a lack of trust. For me, it was also a communicable disease. I was already predisposed to catching it and chose to ignore all the appropriate precautions.
My husband and I met as “social drinkers” (whatever that is) and enjoyed a great deal of fun and excitement in our courtship and engagement. We were both the life of every party, surrounded by friends and frivolity. The drinks flowed freely; we were without a care in the world. A true whirlwind romance.
At least so it seemed at the time. With the help of alcohol to glaze over the truth, I was able to disregard what should have been a warning of things to come. If he was late (or never showed at all) for our dates, there was always a good excuse. If he cheated, it was just that he was confused. If he didn’t pay his utilities and they were not on for my next visit, it was that he forgot. Certainly not that he had gambled and drank away all of the money, which he had plenty of.
That lasted for a time, and then we became man and wife. Yes, the courtship had held its share of heartache, but he promised that everything would be different when we were married. And I, because I wanted to, believed him. I trusted that the drinking would stop, or at least slow way down, because we were working on becoming a family now. We would suddenly by responsible adults, the Ward and June Cleaver of the 90s.
That wasn’t to be. Instead, we became a timebomb ticking day by day and year by year. We eased gracefully into true and full-blown alcoholism. This could no longer be called social drinking. That is for people who do it occasionally, with friends. We drank every day, alone, together, or in groups. There was no other way to get through the life we had built. Neither of us had coping skills for when everyday stresses and problems came along, so gulp, chug, swallow…
We hurt each other tremendously with betrayals, angry words, broken promises. It wasn’t that we wanted to. We were very in love actually and best friends, but the alcohol was destroying us by encouraging us to destroy one another. I became almost completely reclusive, there are only so many times that you can humiliate yourself drunk in public before you decide that staying in is best. For me, the party was definitely over. The drinking was not, I just did it alone.
For him, the party rolled on. He began to “forget” to come home from work. Maybe he really did intend to just stop off for one drink, I’ll never know. But, for the alcoholic, there is no such thing. He would stumble in around midnight or later to be confronted by a wife equally intoxicated who had been home worried and hysterical for hours. The sdenes that followed were not idyllic to say the least.
We were, however, functional alcoholics. We went to work every day, hungover but present. We paid our bills, creatively at times, shuffling them around if we spent too much that week on our addiction. In public, we looked very happy, invoking the envy of many of those who knew us. Nobody really did, only the face we presented to the public. No one could have imagined the horror we were living.
Our arguments became more frequent, occasionally physical, but always hateful. We spoke the words to one another that expressed the self-loathing we had for our own weakness. It wasn’t as if we didn’t try to quit. We did, time after time. If the night before had been especially bad, such as one that involved violence, we made the promises. It would never happen again. Sometimes, we stuck it out for a few days, but it never lasted. Our life together had been built on alcohol addiction and it seemed to be both the glue that held us together and the tornado ripping us apart.
Glue can only hold for so long under the heavy winds of the tornado and eventually, we ended the destructive marriage we had tried to keep together. We could no longer live tearing each other down. The end of our relationship was devastating for me. I had been so in love with him. I remembered the man he had been and ached for what could have been, but it had to stop. I was able to recover eventually and move on, in sobriety. Sadly, he was not. The question, for me, is not how alcohol abuse can lead to marital problems. It is how can it not?