The Alcoholic's Wife
Updated: May 14, 2020
Tonight's post is a little shorter than the last one. As I mentioned on my instagram today, I learned after my first post that the blog, although so rewarding and genuinely something I believe to be a part of my soul's purpose, can also be painful. I stopped communicating with someone I love because of what I wrote in the last post. Although my intentions were nothing but good, this person did not see things the same way. When we choose to align ourselves with the new version of who we really desire to be, we have to be willing and ready to let go of people, places and situations that are not in alignment with where we are heading and who we are becoming. Sometimes that includes people who have been in our lives for a long time. So I am just proud I was able to get this up this week.... sometimes it's the small wins. Sometimes it's the movement and honoring that life isn't always easy. It's about the growth, who we are being and honoring what we think we deserve.
Who is the alcoholic's wife? What is she like? How does she exist in the world?
I am going to speak to my story, who I was, what I was like. I do not want to generalize, but I'd imagine most people who have attended Al-Anon meetings (a support group for people in relationship to people with alcoholism) and have been in relationship to people deep in addiction, recognize that they can probably relate to a lot of these ways of being. To the outsider, the alcoholic's partner is usually the victim, the one being taken advantage of, the one who "seemingly" has their shit more together than the addict, as they go through their codependent relationship. But codependency by nature is an addictive way of being. Addicted to the control, addicted to the highs and lows, addicted to the love being given and taken away, addicted to victim-hood. So there is your mirror, the alcoholic's wife (aka me) was addictive too. My addictions were just in prettier suits.
What is codependency? The classic definition of codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, *one-sided* relationship, where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive or underachieving behavior. I'd like to highlight the part where it says "one-sided". Nothing is ever one-sided. It is always two people. Yes, one person might be draining another person and utilizing them for all they are worth, but at the same time both people are getting their needs met and to be honest, both draining each other equally. Both people are getting something from a codependent relationship.
The person in the classic definition who is being relied on for the other person's emotional needs, also relies on the other person to fulfill their need of being "the strong one", "the right one", "the one without the problem", "the better one". This person being "relied on", who has the same limiting beliefs and ways of being, is also getting their self-esteem and emotional needs met by the other person. The belief(s) being that they are not worthy of feeling, that the world and people aren't safe, that love only exists in the form of conditions. Nothing is ever one-sided, circumstances are always co-creation. A person's way of being can not exist without the other person's way of being. One is the victim and one is the emotional abuser typically, and the roles tend to switch back and forth during codependent relationships.
Throughout my marriage, I played the victim about 95% of the time (that doesn't mean I wasn't emotionally abusive, I was, I just didn't see it that way because spending money didn't meet the classic terms of emotional abuse). Everything was happening to me. My ex-husband was the problem and I "should" all over this man. You "should" go to AA. You "should" read this book and go to this therapist. You "should" workout, eat this food and take care of yourself. You "shouldn't" hang out with this person because they are "x". I was all about control and controlling my ex, was all about making sure I was okay. It's not that the stories I was telling myself about his drinking, his disappearing, his side relationship, and some of his friends weren't for the most part, accurate, they were. However, this was the easiest way to not look at my own shit. I genuinely, with all my heart can say, I didn't think I was the problem at all. I literally sit here laughing to myself, because it is asbolutely ridiculous to think I wasn't participating in the sickness or toxicity of that relationship. Just by staying in codependent, toxic relationships, I was participating. Somewhere in there, I related, I accepted, and I was definitely a part of the problem, a part of the story.
People in codependent relationships are self-abandoning to belong and fulfill. A) because their self-esteem is very low and they don't know their feelings matter and B) they feel so unworthy of having feelings and needs that they just continue to put others needs before their own. It's easier to play the victim, then to take responsibility for what's happening in their lives. I could blame my ex for my unworthiness, for my lack, and for addictions. I never had to take responsibility for myself. His problems were "bigger". When I say "bigger" I mean more visible to the naked eye. So I got to sit back and blame him for all my unhappiness.
I was abandoning myself all the time to make sure my ex-husband was okay. Make sure he could get to work sober, because I never dreamed at this time, of being worthy of making any money, so he had to be okay. I would pick him up from the office when he had been sneaking booze all day, so he wouldn't drunk drive home. I'd give up jobs and meetings to try and sober him up, to talk to him about going to rehab or offer whatever else I thought could "fix" him. Never looking at what I was doing. Never looking at how it was easier for me to blame him for us not having enough, blame him for our relationship going down the tank, blame him for shopping, because if you're drinking and disappearing, why shouldn't I be able to run up the credit card bill. There is no doubt we exacerbated each other's addictions. His drinking exacerbated my controlling-ness, which exacerbated his hiding of his drinking, which exacerbated my shopping, which exacerbated his drinking, which exacerbated my victimhood. You see two people work in relation to the other. One way of being can not exist without the other.
Two people in a codependent relationship have the same belief systems, they just typically have different ways of living into those beliefs. We both had the belief that our feelings didn't matter. My ex made his feelings disappear or not matter through alcohol/ numbing techniques and I brushed mine under the rug by making sure he was okay and never asking myself what I needed. While I slowly felt like I was drowning in my addictive, void filling tendencies.
My addictions were more bottom shelf, paper bag. I let them take a back to seat to his because I didn't believe I had a problem first and foremost (haha) and I had been taught my whole life that my feelings weren't important. My stress fracture in my foot and need to take a break from tennis, was outweighed by my mother's need for me to compete and win. I walked around with a cracked bone in my foot for nearly 3 weeks before we went to the doctor and my mom acknowledged there was a problem. I learned from an early age that I didn't have problems, that I didn't have feelings and if I did then I needed to "suck it up" and stop complaining. So I just looked for solutions. Solutions to be okay for someone else. Be okay, be the best, perform better, get better grades, get a full ride scholarship for tennis, ignore my feelings, ignore my pain, ignore my sadness and live the life someone else wanted me to live. Live the life of someone else and make sure they're okay. I even stayed in my marriage two years longer than I thought I should, because my mom loved my ex husband. I didn't want to disappoint her. By no means is that her fault. I was a grown ass woman and very capable of making my own decisions, but the codependency was strong within my relationship with my mother and continued to be strong within my relationship with my ex husband.
So that's what I did, all the while counting calories, struggling with bulimia, running up the credit card bills, getting too drunk and running to the plastic surgeon's office to put botox in my forehead. Not many people saw this way of being from me and if they did, we all just kind of ignored it. It looked okay from the outside, but man, was it a bit of mess inside.
I didn't realize until after my marriage, that I was a part of the problem. I didn't realize how big my mirrors were. The real ah-ha moment came when I got into a similar emotionally abusive relationship after the divorce. The difference this time being I actually learned boundaries, so I didn't stay very long. When we start to figure out who we are and what we want, essentially what we value, we can say no to everything that isn't that. When we align with this new way of being, the people, places and situations that don't align with us dissipate and new people, who align emerge.
Tip of the Week:
If you are in a codependent relationship, start to ask yourself some questions. Why am I abandoning myself? How am I addicted? How am I a mirror of this person? Why am I letting this person's problem be my problem? How am I playing the victim?
Start to look at your belief systems around love and worth. I can guarantee if you are in an addictive relationship some of your beliefs probably look like mine did:
"People aren't safe"
"My feelings don't matter"
"Validation is love"
"Love comes when you are the best and is taken away when you are not"
"Fix it and make it better"
"I am unworthy of healthy love"
It's pivotal to start to become aware of these belief systems so you can start to make the unconscious, conscious. Until we do, we will think everything is happening to us. When in actuality we are creating it.
Sending everyone so much love and healthy vibes