The other day, I attended an Al-Anon meeting in my area. I try to go once a week, as I appreciate the shares of disappointment and victories from my fellow members. I was moved by a share from a woman who was so distraught with herself because she still loved the alcoholic that was once in her life.
I don't often contribute, but I shared that I, too, still loved the alcoholic that I was once married to. After all, I didn't divorce him because I had fallen out of love with him, but because I couldn't compete with his addiction anymore. And conversely, I couldn't compete with his recovery, either. I couldn't compete with myself any longer to say or do the right thing, and realized that I just couldn't compete with his best friend -- alcohol. It was him, me and the bottle. A relationship meant for two, but was really three, and the bottle had a stronger love affair with my husband than I did.
It is a heavy-hearted realization that you must go your separate ways; and you can lick your wounds, go on dating sites, even move 3,000 miles away, but the love, friendship and history you had with this person still takes up at least a little space in your soul.
Sometimes when we are feeling lonely or sad (especially during holidays or special occasions), and are still wondering what happened, it's important to revisit the reasons why we left the alcoholic/addict to begin with. I wrote a column some time ago entitled "When Is It Time to Throw in the Towel?" and here are a handful of important concepts revisited that may be the wakeup call you need to jar you back into reality and the healthy decision you made once before.
- You were mentally and physically exhausted in dealing with the out-of-control behavior of the alcoholic/addict.
Conversely, let's look at the other side, when the alcoholic/addict is trying to re-enter your life. I have a client who shared just that. She is divorced from her husband, and lately he has asked her for coffee and dinner, and to just generally get together. After rejecting his overtures many times, she finally stated that when he had a true and honest six months of sobriety, she would meet him for a bite. He responded with a date a month from then.
I have stated in my sessions, columns and book that six months is a fair and reasonable time for a family member to set as a boundary for their loved one to establish a good foothold in a clean and sober lifestyle. Any less time is just a detox, in my opinion, and the alcoholic/addict hasn't had time to reconnect with him or herself in many ways. Also, if one can remember that the recovery process is probably the width of an eyelash compared to the longevity of the addiction, it might be easier to stick to a six-month boundary plan.
On the day of the dinner, my client reported that her ex-husband texted and said that he was ill and couldn't make it and maybe some other time. She was disappointed, as she was hopeful that maybe they could start over, or at least form a friendship from a fresh beginning. Because the credibility factor has always been very flimsy with an alcoholic/addict, we both were skeptical as to whether he was really sick or maybe had a relapse.
Maybe he was sick, but it seemed odd that he had pursued her for such a long time and didn't offer the next day or as soon as he was feeling better. It is unfortunate that the alcoholic/addict has so often promised to do one thing or another, only to fall short of that commitment. Our minds naturally go to a place of duplicitous behavior since we have been programmed with that disposition for so long while involved with them. I suggested to her to start the clock over and pencil in six months from now and see what happens then.
When any relationship ends, it's sad and painful. We can't help but wonder what went wrong and are disappointed that this is not what we had hoped for in the beginning when love was flowing. When a child is asked what he wants to be when he grows up, I have never heard the answer to be "the best alcoholic or drug addict I can be." That's true for the adult, as they certainly don't say, "Gee, I hope I fall in love with a top-notch professional alcoholic or drug addict."
Please don't be too hard on yourself if you still have feelings or even have a candle burning in the window for the alcoholic/addict that has departed your life. For it to be a healthy union, it needs to be with two people -- not two people and a bottle or beer can or illegal substance. Hang in... You deserve better!
If I can be of service, please visit my website www.familyrecoverysolutions.com and I invite you to explore my new book Reclaim Your Life -- You and the Alcoholic/Addict at www.reclaimyourlifebook.com or on Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio on my website only.
For more by Carole Bennett, MA, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.