There’s not a simple explanation really, or is there? In the beginning, the anger from his most significant recent/previous relationship was still very strong and ever present from the start. There was never much time in between each one I later learned. Such blame, anger and hatred he expressed toward her. In hindsight, she had most clearly called him out. I was told, “My ex had me convinced I was an alcoholic!” Those therapists didn’t know what they were talking about, he would tell me. I listened. It’s what I do. His due diligence, his groundwork for the next new “relationship” (with me) had been successfully completed. I would unknowingly help him rebuild his self-damaged image, albeit temporarily. He eventually managed to destroy, to ruin it for himself once again in time. Anyone who had doubts about it all before, was certainly not in doubt about it now.
I bought it all. Every word. There would be no future discussion in store for us about his drinking after that. It was already off the table and I knew very clearly how he felt about the topic. He had already convinced himself he didn’t have an addiction to alcohol. At least outwardly speaking.
I do appreciate a really good red wine. I enjoy being able to identify its complexity and process the uniqueness of what makes it special, to take time to contemplate it’s uniqueness. Like a beautiful piece of art you stare into and see something new and different than you had noticed before.
I was often told I was too slow of a drinker, as if that could somehow ever be a bad thing. I’d have one glass to his three or more at times. If the waitress or waiter didn’t return to refill his glass fast enough, sometimes I’d lose my glass of wine. I’d look down and it would suddenly be in his hand. He even did this at home. I was too slow in consuming it compared to the rate of his refills so it was taken from me to be consumed by him in the meantime, the in between time. The problem was clearly visible (I would later learn) to everyone, except to me. Sometimes we miss the most obvious things when they’re closest to us.
Ironically no one could begin to know just how much he really drank, and it was A LOT. He didn’t drink to enjoy the art of the wine or the scotch. He drank to get drunk. The heaviest drinking was typically done alone after our evening out was over and I was asleep, not in front of people. If it were a party, embarrassingly, we had to be the first ones to arrive and always the last ones to leave. It was embarrassing. I addressed it constantly with him to little avail.
He rarely had hangovers. If he did it was because we were somewhere he wasn’t able to drink a lot of water to prevent the hangover. He was masterful at re-hydrating. I would find bottles upon bottles of empty water bottles piled in the trash each morning throughout the week. Lined up and displayed on the kitchen counter each morning would also be all the empty bottles of wine, as if daring me to mention them. I would simply gather them all up routinely, and put them all in the trash without saying a word. It was the norm. High-Functioning Alcoholism. There’s a reason it’s called that. I overlooked his addiction. I felt the loyal need to protect him and attempt to hide the truth of his issues from our friends, neighbors, associates, and family. It was a self-sacrifice I didn’t see until much later. I now know I hid nothing from anyone except myself. They all knew, but I didn’t want to see it.
Our lives revolved and were centered around alcohol. Everything we did, everywhere we went included alcohol. Whether it was the gym first then the Chardonnay or drinking immediately after work. Alcohol was always at the center of the eventual plan of everything we did. After his DUI (that he was able to have expunged) one late evening while we headed home from our favorite Japanese restaurant, I was always the designated driver because of his arrest, and because I was also the one who drank the least between the two of us. It also allowed him to safely go everywhere as a passenger with a “roadie” large plastic cup of wine. We never left the house without him having a to-go roadie glass of Chardonnay in hand and in tow. I had unknowingly enabled the alcoholism to grow, to become stronger.
They say hindsight is 20/20. That couldn’t be more true. I never addressed the drinking successfully even though it concerned me constantly and worried me deeply. I knew if I mentioned it, I would initiate a battle that I couldn’t win. I was afraid for his health all the time. He refused to get checkups, refused to get routine blood work. He refused to get regular recommended colonoscopies, and prostate exams. Dermatology was okay, because that was for outward appearances, but nothing diagnostically that looked too far or too deep inside of him. Such strong symbolism within there. He focused solely on his outward appearance and neglected everything about himself that was on the inside.
His struggle with self-loathing, self-hatred, substance addiction and abuse, the unwillingness to address and talk about his patterns of behavior, his lifelong inner shame and pain was painful to watch and witness. He would sit up late at night, in the dark drinking alone. He was so profoundly alone within himself. The inner demons that developed long, long ago during his development and in his childhood would never be addressed. The ones he would speak of to me, would only later cause him to be angry for fear of exposure and vulnerability with me for all his hidden secrets. He lived in constant fear of dropping his mask and exposing the darkness within him. There would be what I thought were deep connecting conversations, but again now in hindsight, much of it I’ve learned wasn’t honest or real. If he slipped up and shared something real he would be cold and distanced the next day, angry with himself and now stonewalling me for his candor.
Many tales were just that, I later learned they were borrowed tales that weren’t his to tell. The saddest thing of all is that this is the destructive lifelong pattern. A pattern of fabricated, initially believable emotional connections to another then the eventual discontentment, disconnection and destruction. There was a deep abhorrence for himself in all that he did. When we hate who we believe is our true hidden selves, how can we love and respect anyone who loves us? How can we believe a person loves us for who we are when we have worked so hard at becoming someone else? His incessant pattern of selection for his criticisms of others were deeply, profoundly autobiographical. It resulted in his constant condemnation of others which was actually condemning of his true self. He projected that condemnation onto others. Everyone in our lives, in our close circle was spoken of negatively. No one was off limits or immune to his cruel words and judgments. There was something specifically selected for everyone in our lives.
It’s easy to miss high functioning alcoholism. We are culturally conditioned to see alcoholics as loud, obnoxious, jobless, unproductive, slovenly, deeply in debt, constantly and publicly intoxicated, and while many are, the alcoholism style of the functioning alcoholic is easy to miss when it’s someone whose outward professional and personal appearance seems to be so cohesive and together, at least at first initial glance.
If you notice someone close to you exhibiting heavy drinking patterns be honest about it with yourself. Don’t ignore and excuse behaviors that signal a real complex problem. You alone cannot help them. It will eventually tear you down. They have to want things to change and get help for themselves. Unfortunately I’ve learned it often takes hitting rock bottom before that will occur. Alcoholism is an indication of a much larger, deeper issue that without addressing and working on professionally, can and will lead to a rapidly downward spiral and an often tragic outcome in the end.
The Shakespearean line that has morphed itself and worked its way into our modern day vernacular, “Me thinks thou doth protest too much” has such a powerful, meaningful truth. If you witness and identify displays of rage, anger, blame, projection, control, jealousy, envy, intolerance, grandiose storytelling, criticisms, inner pain, passionate exuberance, a need for perfectionism, the struggle to “call it a night” or an overzealousness and constant (although sometimes covert) attention seeking, it is usually, most often a desperate attempt to convince you of something other than the truth.
I caution you, do not deny what you see and look the other way. Make an attempt to get them some help, or get yourself and your life safely out of their way and their path of destruction. If not, they just may drag you down deeply and into the abyss of their own downward spiral.
4 thoughts on “How I Overlooked His Alcoholism for So Long”
Very beautifully written and heartfelt
All the best Deb
Thank you, Alan. All my very best you and Ann as well.
Your writing is rich with insight. May God continue to provide you with abundant wisdom as you shine your light on those around you!
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Thank you, Christine. ❤️