I have mentioned that I do not like to feel out of control. So, that moment when I realized that regardless of my herculean efforts to control my life and that these efforts were really just to soothe my anxiety and really did not have much bearing on my situation at all – well, it kinda freaked me out.
Now, I knew I could not control my kids. I mean, have you ever met at toddler? All you can do is set parameters and cross your fingers you will be there when those boundaries are breached so you can limit the chaos or damage. I knew I couldn’t control my then husband, I knew I could not plan away his alcohol addiction. But, that does not mean that I didn’t try.
For a period of time I made it my priority to spend time with him and grow our relationship. I made sure he could see evidence of my devotion and strove to create a deeper friendship between us. I was careful to have alternate beverages in the house. I planned social outings with friends and we went on vacations. I took care of all of the kid responsibilities so he could be devoted to work. We were not a perfect family, but I worked hard to build a life that would make us all happy and content. I wanted him to have the family that was worth fighting for.
Yeah. It doesn’t work like that.
Addiction really doesn’t care. We could have been the royal family with the most supportive members and the most money and the most fun activities planned all the time and addiction would infiltrate anyway. His addiction was not about me or our kids or our family. I had heard that addiction was a disease, but really, what did that mean? Well, now I know. Like cancer, it can strike anyone in any family. And, only the one who is in the disease can engage in the treatment for it. The kids and I couldn’t do it for him. And, the craziness of alcoholism or any addiction really, is that no matter how much the addicted person may WANT to be free of it, it just isn’t that simple. Sigh.
I remember very vividly the day I realized that I no longer wanted to live the life I found myself in. I have never felt so alone. We were at a family reunion and I was surrounded by my family, my extended family, and my extended extended family. Now, all that comes to mind is Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby, “And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” I was surrounded by my people and I was alone. I was trapped inside this knowledge of what was happening to my husband and, as a result, how miserable and helpless I felt and how the chaos was affecting our kids. At the time, my ex didn’t even realize the insidiousness of the alcohol and it wasn’t something I was able to explain with enough clarity for him to understand. It was like seeing this tsunami approaching, knowing the destruction it will bring, knowing I needed to prepare and guard against it, and not at all having the ability to do so. I was not in control.
I did not leave at that time. I chose to stay. But, this meant finding a way to crawl out of the misery and helplessness I was feeling. In order to do this I had to concede that I had NO control over this situation, I could not control his alcohol consumption. I could not best friend him out of it, or love him out of it. I could choose to live in anger or I could choose to live in love. I chose love. Love of my family, love of my husband, and most importantly, love of ME. Disclaimer: I am human. I did not stay in that place of love 24/7. How could I? I am not a sitcom mom and as much as I really, really want to most days, I do not live in a Hallmark movie. I was living in the Lifetime movie channel where things are messy and not pretty. I made mistakes, I got angry. I lashed out. But, my ultimate goal when I woke up every day was to see my life and my people through a love paradigm. This is still my goal. How could I have regret if I loved my way through the difficult times instead of allowing bitterness to reign?
Now, in reaction to this epiphany what ensued was, in all reality, an Escape Plan. You know, when the idea that you might be ok with divorce? The Escape Plan begins the moment you allow this thought to even enter your mind. When this happened I began spending my time with one foot in my marriage and one foot out the door, preparing myself to live on my own. I explained this to myself, at the time, as an effort to prepare myself for anything, as if my preparedness would stave off the ugliness of alcoholism and keep divorce at bay.
Also, doesn’t work this way either.
But, in all of this I did learn the very deep and honest truth: I am the only one I can control. That’s it. Just me. So, I am the only one who can create a life I love, find the happiness I desire, and live the sort of life my kids can be proud of me for. Ya’ll. THIS was my turning point. My life is MINE. It was at this low point, I began living like it.
I am thankful for these very trying years. I learned a lot about the world of addiction and through that I learned very important skills for a successful life. I learned to set boundaries. I learned to choose happiness on days when I really, really didn’t want to. I learned that spending time for myself is necessary and not a luxury to feel guilty for. I learned that I needed to discover my convictions and take the steps toward living them. I learned about codependency and how this is not so nearly as romantic a concept as I once thought. I learned that I still love art, music, and being outdoors. I learned that playing with my kids was more important than cleaning my house. I learned the importance of having a confidant or two to confide in. I learned the beauty of counseling.
I learned that even when I am angry with God, He still loves me. He did not give up on me while I was throwing the ultimate angry temper tantrum and giving Him the silent treatment. He waited patiently and showed me in my still moments that He was still there, in the eye of the storm, guiding me.
In my entire life, my biggest dream was to be a wife and mother. I had not thought much beyond this, really. And the crazy thing in losing part of this dream, has been to discover that THERE IS SO MUCH MORE. Oh so much more to life and so many more dreams to be had.