How I Dealt With a Partner Who Didn’t Quit Alcohol
Lee Davy is the creator of Needy Helper, host of The Alcohol and Addiction Podcast, an effective altruist, and author of Needy Helper 2015 Diary Excerpts. As a Transformational Coach, Lee helps people better themselves by coaching them to recreate their life story into one they are passionate about living. His platforms are used to motivate, inspire, educate and to support people to gain self-confidence and guide them back to their authenticity. You can find him at www.Needyhelper.com or The Alcohol and Addiction Podcast. Download Five Free Chapters of His New Book Here.
How I Dealt With a Partner Who Didn’t Quit Alcohol
On our backs, sweaty hand synched into a sweaty hand, the itchiness of the pool table baize hidden deep inside a moment of love.
“Who wants to live forever.”
It’s her funeral song.
I cry, standing at the altar, eulogising my love.
“Who wants to live forever?”
It’s a moment of pure love and connection.
She has a handful of my hair and is pulling it out like a farmer lifts carrots from the land. She is much stronger than I thought she was. I don’t know what to do? There is a deviousness about her I recognise. I know this twisted stereotype. I still can’t handle it the Jekyll and Hyde of it all.
My instinct is to punch her but remembering my father’s lesson that I should never hit a woman I refrain. I need to remove the problem. I decide to try and push her out of the front door. The act is exhausting. The veins on my arms pronounced like rivers running to God knows where. I tear my hair out of my head and also out of her hand; open the door ajar and with all my might, push the screaming banshee into the dead of the night.
I turn around and sit with my naked back against the cold frame of the door. The sweat settles into cuts along my arms and wakes me up. I am breathing and panting heavily. There is smoke coming out of my mouth. My body shakes as she charges the door. The adrenaline subsides, the door stops rocking, and tears become inquisitive.
“Who wants to live forever?”
Fucked up, love.
I open the door an inch.
She is on top of me again.
I can’t do this.
I don’t have the strength.
I first kissed her when I was 11-years old. It was in my mother’s backyard. I next kissed her when I was 14. I wanted to do it; she didn’t. She gave me love bites on my back and a silver bracelet with her name on it.
Alcohol was eating away at our life
At 21 we were married.
Five years later we had a child.
Eight years later and our legacy was heading for the cat litter tray.
I loved this woman so much. When I was younger people had posters of Kim Basinger and Kim Wilde on their walls. I had photos of this woman. I knew alcohol was eating away at our life. I tried to talk to her about stopping, but anger created a chill like crystal. I needed another plan.
I turned to Allen Carr and the Easyway to Control Alcohol. When my son was born, Carr had helped me become a better role model when he helped me quit smoking. I needed his help once more. I needed him to help save my marriage.
Looking back in the cold light of hindsight, I quit alcohol for all of the wrong reasons. I was using it to belittle my wife passive-aggressively. By showing strength, I was creating weakness. My plan, albeit a subconscious one, was to shame her into quitting.
I stopped no sooner had I turned the last page. Initially, she was proud of me. Everyone was. One day, my wife called me at work in a flood of tears. Unbeknown to me she had read the book out of curiosity and apologised for her part in our war. She quit. Life was as it should have been.
It didn’t last for long.
Allen Carr told me that I would still be able to maintain my position in my social scene once I had stopped drinking. I don’t think he had ever visited the Welsh Valleys. Alcohol is as much an important part of their heritage as sucking in the green, green, grass of home. As Tom Jones used to sign, drinking alcohol when you were 14 years of age was ‘not unusual.’
Those people who were once proud of me were now scared of me. They didn’t know how to behave in my presence. They felt awkward as if my behaviour touched a nerve they didn’t want to be exposed.
I handled it.
My wife didn’t.
She made a decision to start moderating. I tried to shame her out of that choice. It didn’t work. Instead, it solidified her decision. Life became a nightmare for both of us after that. God knows what impact it had on our 8-year old child.
Alcohol had kidnapped my wife
At one point we both agreed to see a marriage guidance counsellor. I poured my heart out and showed her my pain. I told this stranger that alcohol had kidnapped my wife, and I wanted her back. My wife thought I was melodramatic.
“Your marriage will continue to be in serious trouble unless you quit drinking,” the counsellor told my wife.
“I am not quitting drinking.” She said.
Even today, seven years on, that line still cuts deep. The moment you realise that you are second best to a bottle of wine pounds on every cell in your body. It is a crushing experience and one that hurts me to this day. If for some reason, today, someone puts me second, my mind races back to that sofa; that stranger; that savage sword.
And so nothing changed, and everything changed.
She continued to drink and I didn’t. I judged her. I shamed her. I tried to change her. Despite quitting alcohol to save my marriage, it was destroying it. And it wasn’t only me who was feeling the pain. Each time I told my wife that she wasn’t good enough, what did that do to her self-esteem?
Imagine, being in love with someone who wants you to be someone else?
I can’t think of a worse punishment.
If she was blind to my pain then how blind was I to hers? Internal manifestations are secretive. We look at the masks of humanity and think we are looking in a mirror, but we believe that we are smarter than we are.
We see flaws and mistake them for struggles. If I had the skills to have recognised this, I would have had far more patience. Mindfulness would have allowed me to be present with anger and resentment; feel them; play with them; let them slide.
I had no idea what her life was like. Who is this narcissist who believes he knows it all? The man who doesn’t believe in God because he thinks he is God.
Leave he alone.
Judge her not.
Lost in a world of hurt
I would have stayed with her forever; lost in a world of hurt. It was fear and the path of least resistance. Manacled to chains forged from sadness is easier than breaking into happiness. I was a weak man. She was the strong one. I never saw that.
One day, she sat me down on the couch and told me she wanted a divorce. I could see in her eyes that she was serious. It must have taken her tremendous courage. She loved me; always would, but after 20-years of togetherness she needed to face the truth – I no longer made her happy.
“Do I make you happy?” She asked.
“No, but I know you can like you once did,” I replied.
I was trying to change her until the bitter end.
I remember telling my son. He threw himself onto the couch in death throes – crying, wailing, not understanding the why. I didn’t realise it back then, but it was a day that would forever change my relationship with him. Our bond was never the same from that day. How can you father when you get to see him so rarely.
We promised him that things wouldn’t alter. We lied. I moved out and went to live with my Mum. Within a year, I fell in love with someone else. My wife told me to collect all of my things. Otherwise, they would end up on the tip.
As I stared at all of these possessions, I cried until tears dried. All of this stuff. Is this what I have become? A man in his late 30s living in his parent’s box room worrying about where he is going to keep his Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
I gave everything to my friend that day.
“What do you want me to do with the wedding album,” he asked me.
I honestly didn’t know.
I stowed it underneath my bed.
It didn’t feel right having those memories pecked to pieces by seagulls.
Would love to blame alcohol
Over the years, our relationship worsened. Today, she refuses to speak to me. Our indifference has been terrible on my son. He is piggy in the middle. We acted like children thrusting a young man into the role of an adult far too early in his life.
I don’t know what to say to him today. Fathering from afar. I have never been splendid at it. I was always better when I lived with him and took him for granted.
I would love to blame alcohol for our downfall, but it’s an illusion. We all know, deep down, that we turn to alcohol so the unsolvable remains unsolvable. And so it was with my first marriage.
I can look back with years of sobriety clearing the air, and I can see that we were two very different people destined to find love elsewhere. Our lack of communication skills meant we were never able to understand each other’s pain. Conflict resolution was a thing for war chiefs, not young married couples desperately lost in a dream of what the fuck do I do next?
Today, I am happily married for the second time. I am going to have my second child in September at the age of 41. Everything in my life has changed except one thing. I have quit gambling, overcome a £30,000 debt load, left a job I hated and created one I love, stopped by unhealthy consumption of sugar, pornography, and live a healthy vegan lifestyle.
The one thing I am yet to change completely is the ability to communicate better. I improve every day, but there are still times when I look at my wife and see the same frustration that once lived in the face of my first.
And guess what.
There is no alcohol involved.
When you quit drinking, and those you love don’t, then everything will change. You have renewed energy, and they don’t. You can see, and they remain blind. You are free of denial, and they are not. You leave the cave; they like it.
You look back and realise that the one true bond you have with those you loved was alcohol. It was the glue that strengthened your bridges and over time it’s treacherous to cross, and if you are honest, most of the time you don’t want to.
A friend once asked me if he had to like his dying mother.
“She has tortured me all of my life, and even now, with both legs amputated, lying in a hospital bed, she is making my life miserable.”
I told him that he didn’t have to like her. The reason we feel the need to love those of flesh and blood is that it’s written in Chapter Can’t Remember from the Book of Get a Life.
It seems in many ways we would prefer inauthentic and damaging relationships over the fear of being alone. We would prefer the path of least resistance watching House of Cards with our cat instead of getting off our fat asses and meeting someone of our ilk.
Freedom for everyone
A few days ago, my wife and I were talking about that divorce and what would have happened to my son had we remained together. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but you realise that despite all of the pain that comes with a painful divorce, the freedom for everyone that follows is worth every single darkened tear.
I would have loved to have stayed rooted to that pool table connected by the bass. Life isn’t like that. Sometimes you catch the ball, other times it hits you in the face and breaks your nose.
There are over seven billion people on this planet. It’s only when you spit on the flame of alcohol that you recognised individuals who feel like you feel, hurt like you hurt, and want to be loved like you want to be loved.
It’s difficult to see them because your eyes hurt when you open them. Give them time. They will adjust.
“Who wants to live forever?”
I guess we all do, and yet we won’t win this race against our mortality.
Life is like a snowflake.
Find the beauty in yours before it melts.