Living with an alcoholic is incredibly lonely.
Say I had to go grocery shopping. I couldn’t leave Mike home with the kids because I couldn’t trust that he would be able to care for them. He’d probably pass out and not hear the baby’s cries or remember to change her diapers. He might hide in the bathroom, drinking, for an hour or more, while leaving the TV on something wildly inappropriate for the kids to watch. (Ethan tells stories of how Mike let him watch History Channel documentaries on ghost hunting, Bigfoot, the September 11 attacks – all nightmare-inducing docu-dramas for a 4- or 5-year old.)
But I couldn’t take Mike with me to the store either. He’d just sulk and be pissed off that he couldn’t get a drink. He’d probably yell or throw a fit about something stupid just to cut the errand short. And, he’d probably claim he was sober and insist on driving.
I couldn’t escape. Couldn’t even break free for an hour or two to run errands. I used to look forward to my hour or two alone on the weekends. It was refreshing to me, walking the aisles of Target and the grocery store. Something mindless to take thoughts away from a hectic career and work week. I’d review events of the past week and reflect on what’s coming up. Since the summer of 2010 when I found out what was going on with Mike, my weekend escapes became rare – really, really, really rare. And soon, I came to resent the fact that I couldn’t go anywhere, do anything, because I couldn’t trust him to stay home – or come with me.
But it wasn’t just random weekend errands. Multiply the lonely feeling by 100 when it comes to going to friends’ weddings or planning a family vacation or visiting relatives. I couldn’t go, leaving him alone – but I was pissed that I was confined to my home with him and missing the things I wanted to do with the people I love.
Sidenote: When Lauren was born, Mike and I spent hours discussing godparents. But I kept putting off her baptism. I knew I couldn’t invite friends (and our first choices for her godparents) to come share our day because Mike’s alcoholism was obvious. Finally, I felt like we had to move forward and just get it done, so we named my mom and Mike’s brother as godparents. It would keep things confined to the few people who knew what was going on. Don’t get me wrong, my mom is a fabulous godmother and I think she was genuinely touched that we asked her to play that role in Lauren’s life. Mike’s brother, on the other hand, well, I haven’t talked to him since the funeral…
I also didn’t tell anyone what was going on. Afterall, I was so hopeful that he’d get better. I KNEW he’d get better. That he’d wake up one day and realize that he had the WORLD to live for – a good education, a good job on the horizon, a fantastic wife ((patting myself on the back)), and two wonderfully awesome kids. If I told people – family or friends – I worried that they’d change their opinions of him, maybe think poorly of him. I didn’t want them to think badly of him because DAMMIT! he was going to sober up and be the man I fell in love with in college.
It didn’t happen.
I didn’t tell friends until I had Mike removed from our house by court order in August. I’m sure people realized that I wasn’t around, that I cancelled plans or just didn’t show up. They might have chalked it up to having a new baby or a crazy work schedule. I don’t know. But when I finally told friends, I felt an immediate sense of relief. I’m not a pity person, but having the people I care about know what was happening brought peace to me.
But I was scared to tell college friends. Mike and I met in college and starting dating my senior year. It was a very small school, and everyone knew us as a couple.
I called my friend, M, a few days before homecoming. She had Facebook messaged me, asking if Mike and the kids were coming. There’s no easy way to have that conversation over the phone, so I just launched right into it. “Mike and I are separated and I’m filing for divorce,” I told her. I explained how I learned about his drinking and how he didn’t want to get better. That we tried AA and rehab. That it was starting to get bad for the kids. I cried as I talked to her.
She was incredibly supportive. “I’m on your side,” she told me.
“Don’t be on my side. There are no sides,” I said. “Mike needs friends. He needs to know there are people supporting him, wanting him to get better.”
“I’m still on your side,” she said. I smiled.
I told more friends at homecoming. One friend, who went to college with us but also high school with Mike, asked, “What do you want us to do?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He asked if I wanted him to take a side, to not talk to Mike anymore (not that Mike had talked to any of his friends in years). “NO!” I said. “Mike needs friends. He needs you to be there for him. Call him, email him, Facebook him, go see him at his parents’ house. I just want him to get better and I want him to know there are people who love him and want him to get better, too.”
At Mike’s funeral, several of his friends told me that they tried to reach out to him, but he didn’t respond.
I think alcoholism made Mike lonely, too.