A friend of mine has a husband who is an alcoholic. He went to detox and, rather than go to rehab, he decided to do it on his own with the help of AA. He says he goes regularly and she has no reason to doubt this. He’s still sober after all. But he’s not happy and that’s making her not happy. She’s trying to make things okay for their family (three fairly young children) but daddy being so unhappy is beginning to spill over on everyone. Their marriage is in trouble.
He’s angry. He really didn’t want to stop drinking but really didn’t have a choice. Just like so many of us functioning alcoholics, there were no DUI’s, he didn’t lose his family or friends, he didn’t lose his job. To tell you the truth I’m not really sure why he finally quit because there wasn’t even any kind of ultimatum from my friend. I guess he just got sick and tired of being sick and tired. But maybe not enough.
I think this is what they mean by being a dry drunk. He’s sober but after 18 months he still hasn’t started recovering. He’s hanging on by his fingernails day after day. It must be exhausting.
I don’t know what his program looks like or if he even has one but here’s what I do know about me.
The drinking wasn’t really my problem. It was a symptom. There were others that told me I wasn’t quite right; that I had some work to do, but I didn’t recognize it until the big one hit. I was obsessive about certain things (clean house, clean kids, etc.). I had to be in control of everything. I smoked. I drank. I had an unhealthy relationship with food. I was extremely insecure. Those were all symptoms that I needed help but I didn’t realize it until the drinking swung wildly out of control and I quit. And then I still wasn’t right…I was just sober.
I spent two years sober before I realized that it wasn’t enough. Unlike my friend’s husband, I wasn’t angry. Quite the contrary. I was extremely grateful to be sober…but I can’t say that I was happy either. After the pink cloud lifted, I was left wondering, “Is this all their is?”
Then I went to AA and started my step work. While I didn’t remain with AA (because it wasn’t a good fit for me) the step work was the single greatest gift I have ever given myself because that’s when I began to recover. That’s when I started picking at that scab. I made it bleed, then I picked at it again until is was finally, blessedly, healed. I turned over rocks and dug through shit that I didn’t even know I had. I cried and screamed and wrote (and wrote and wrote). I read books about this disorder and that disorder and children of alcoholics and healing and forgiving and loving. I spoke to a therapist (complete waste of time and money…wrong therapist).
And then one day I realized that I was at peace. The voices had stopped. There was quiet in my head and from the quiet grew a bloom of happiness like I had never felt before. It was happy just because. There wasn’t anything particularly happy going on, it was just an average day. There was no big event I was looking forward to. There wasn’t even chocolate involved. I was just…happy.
That’s when I knew the happiness was coming from inside rather than outside. I wasn’t waiting for someone or something to make me happy…I actually had the power to make myself happy. That was a really startling day for me…still is. I still have a lot of work to do and I like that it’s different every day, every hour and every minute of my life. I love that I’m improving and changing every day. I love that I’m learning to love who I am. That, in and of itself, is a fucking miracle.
I hope my friend’s husband can find the strength to do the work required to find his happiness. I say strength because it is HARD. But as my mother used to say, anything worth having takes work. And what I’ve found is the more it’s worth having, the harder the work.