Part of healing is being honest with ourselves. And, sometimes, being honest with ourselves can be more painful than confronting the loss we’ve suffered.
I loved Kim, plain and simple. I still do. That love for Kim kept me with her through the terrible experience of her alcoholism, despite my pragmatic brain telling me that the better thing for the security of my family may have been to divorce her and separate the risk of her potentially having a terrible accident while drunk from the family’s livelihood.
Yes, many times I considered that I should do that, but I still remembered the version of Kim before she succumbed to that disease and had hope that she might return to that state. I know she had been clean and sober for a period of three years after the onset of her alcoholism and prayed and hoped she’d find the strength to be clean and sober once and for all. Plus, as most spouses of alcoholics will tell you: I blamed myself to a large degree for her condition. I could always point to things on my side of the fence – my job, my “perfectionism,” my community involvement, my hobby cycle, and the collections of “stuff” it resulted in (it used to drive Kim nuts. As she put it to me: “You get interested in something, you dive into it with your whole being, master it, then get bored with it and move to the next.”). That tempered any action I may have taken. Plus, as I told her dad one particularly bad December a couple of years back when he was worried I’d reached the end of my rope: I’m just not wired that way.
But Kim was an alcoholic. My hopeful brain referred to her as a “recovering alcoholic”, and I knew that she did try, but the plain fact was that, up until the diagnosis, she was constantly drinking with few respites. The understanding of her condition I commented on in an earlier post refers to this alcoholism. I would become furious with her over it, and the hidden, wet beer cans stashed wherever she was drinking when she thought she’d be caught. I never really voiced this fury with her, but I know she could tell.
Early on, I would pull the cans out of their hidey-holes and stack them up prominently where they were found, hoping to embarrass her into stopping. I tried pleading with her, warning her that it would eventually kill her. I tried pointing out things that were great and convincing her to quit. I tried just leaving her be and hoping that would get her to stop. I tried everything that experts on alcoholism say everyone who loves an alcoholic tries, but which invariably do more harm than good. Finally, I just accepted it and did my best to boost her up when I could see her mood swing to more depressed. But, within mere months of that acceptance, her diagnosis came, and it was that which finally ended the drinking. Don’t ask me how or why, but she was absolutely sober for the rest of her life.
In any case: I made a promise, and I kept it, just as she kept the promise she made me by staying by my side when most of my contemporaries ended their marriages in divorce due to the loneliness that comes with your partner being on the road more than home. And, frankly, that promise was a lot easier for me to keep than it would seem, reading only the preceding paragraphs. Kim wasn’t evil. She wasn’t hurtful or unloving. She simply had a problem.
So, if you are going through something similar, know that it is not your fault; you are not the cause. Know that it is not within your control. Like the cancer that took Kim’s life, alcoholism is the result of a biological flaw. Take heart in knowing that beneath it all remains that person whom you love. If you need to break off the relationship for your safety, sanity, or security, no-one will blame you. But know that when that person’s end finally comes, either due to the alcohol, or, as in my case, due to something else, you will likely grieve just as I am grieving today. You probably won’t remember that troubled version of the person you loved as much as the other, earlier version.