Friday, January 17, 2014

Sobriety and Marriage



My husband and I used to be drinking buddies. When we first started going out we spent a lot of time getting drunk together. It was fun. Silly. We loved food and beer and cocktails and bottles of wine with Sunday brunch. We boozed it up.

Then I got pregnant.

It wasn't a surprise, more of a drunken idea born of us being thirty two and destined to be together forever.

So we got married.

We never really got to know each other. There were never long Saturdays spent curled up together in bed talking about our deepest secrets. We didn't live life, we drank it. He got to know how, after too many drinks, I liked to put on headphones and sing Coldplay out loud. I got to know that when he got drunk he would start clearing his throat a lot. But we never boiled it down to the nitty gritty knowing that makes two people be on the same side without malice and anger. We never made it past the point of competition. We never surrendered one to the other in trust and love.

And nothing makes that more clear than sobriety. Lemme tell you. Nothing.

How do you go back and fix a ten year relationship? There are so many hurts, some big, some really big. Some the same old nags over forgotten laundry or the way you load a dishwasher. How can you say "I'm sorry" for ten years of things and be forgiven?

This is what I'm trying to figure out these days. Because, after it all, there is one simple truth: I want him. He's my person. We have these moments where we get each other, where we know. When he stops playing the role of right and winning and I stop trying to fix him.

Something dawned on me the other day while we were arguing. We don't take care of each other. We used to take care of each other by drinking together. It made us sit and spend time together. We would sit on the porch for hours swilling wine and smoking cigarettes- playing cards or just talking. Now we never see each other. Drinking bonded us, it gave us a reason to be together. Without it we both seem to be at loose ends. Without it it feels like we've lost our great uniter. I wonder if he misses drinking me. I wonder if he feels like he knows me as this sober me.

My husband could be an alcoholic, except he's not. He's one of those people who just leaves half a beer and walks away. Who can have one of anything and then not have to have seven more. It was usually me that spurred us on, me that had to have just one more glass, me that wanted shots of tequila with our summertime beers.

As I have been learning to know the stranger who is me I have forgotten that the person I live with needs an introduction to her, not to be mistaken for an intruder or a mindreader. We share a history, but we don't really know how our own stories go.

The one thing that has suffered because of my sobriety is my marriage. Now that I have a good chunk of sober time under my belt I think it's time I went out and met a man. And that man is my husband.


39 comments:

  1. This really resonated with me. I was married for twenty years, and had three beautiful children with someone who said I was more fun when I was drinking, but why didn't I just stop after one or two? I am now with someone who actually likes me better sober. I like the sober me better too but I question my "funness" a lot, because when you hear that a lot you start to believe it. I am only on Day 5, having got up to Day 43 around Christmas and relapsed. This isn't easy but a sober relationship is definitely a lot more authentic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am WAAAAYYYYYY more fun sober than I was when I was drinking. Drunk people can be so mind numbingly boring. And hungover people definitely aren't a barrel of laughs either. I question our definitions of "fun". What is fun, anyway? Being hammered hooting and hollering while you do body shots? Slurring with blurry mascara at 1:00 in the morning? Making risky decisions and then getting away with it?

      Fun, for me, is having a sense of pride about my life. Having it together is pretty damn fun. Not feeling guilty all the next day is fun too. :)

      Don't worry, you are still fun. :) And relationships are more authentic because they are based on felt feelings rather than emotions from the bottom of a bottle.

      Delete
    2. Your experiences have given you so much insight. I need to realize that I don't need to conform to other people's idea of fun to enjoy life. I am just a slow learner I guess.....But today is day 11 and my journey of self discovery continues.....

      Delete
  2. Stopping drinking has a huge impact on whatever relationship you've been in as a drinker. I am very fortunate to have a spouse who has seen me through many changes- for a while when I was fat, now when I am slender and fit, for a while when I had problems with sex after surgery for endometriosis, to now when I am a willing co-conspirator- and for many years of over-drinking, now abstinent for 80 days. His acceptance of all these variations of me is an astounding gift, and makes this and any future changes easier for me to contemplate.

    Of course, we do have a bit of a history. This year's anniversary will be our 43rd- (I was 19 and he was 21 when we married, babes in the woods that we were). There have definitely been rough patches...but, as you say, I am finding sober authenticity more satisfying than tipsy fun!! And our 3 kids are also cheering me on, which I very much appreciate!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I watched this movie called "Stuck in Love" and it made me think about how we tend to want to make the grass greener with some as yet found new mate, when the nitty gritty of it remains the same. Congrats on 43 years! I love that your husband is supportive and accepting. Sometimes those can be some of the biggest things a relationship needs to keep strong.

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  3. This could have been written by me about my relationship with my husband and booze. We were definitely co-conspirators on the drinking front and we are now doing the sobriety thing together as we both had problem relationships with alcohol. I do miss the sitting outside drinking and smoking together - as you say it bonded us, but I'm sure we'll find something else to bond over as you will too :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! It's nice to know we're in the same boat. :)

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  4. It's funny - I do some work editing an e-newsletter for my old treatment center. Every week is a new topic and we get alumni to write and we gather videos and articles that cover that topic (that is part of my job). One of the topics I proposed to do on the Valentine's issue is about those who return to relationships, like marriage. We all hear about thoughts on dating when in early sobriety - but what about those who come from long-term committed relationships? That's not discussed much, so hoping to shed some light. And voila...here you talk about it.

    I know some people who split up after one sobers up. For many reasons. You lay out some of the challenges that occur when the dynamics change. And it took us some time too to adjust. And it's an adjustment, no matter how much the other spouse is happy that their love is now sober, it's still a big change. And some relationships don't survive it. But it sounds like you are both perhaps shifting. And things will come to you where you can come together in a new way.

    Blessings,
    Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a huge change. Getting sober requires such intense self focus that our mates get to hold our hands and cheer, but then come up empty. My biggest problem is wanting to connect on my terms, when it must be a two way street. My definition of connect might be a long heartfelt conversation, his might be sex and a movie. Both are great ways to spend time together. Something I've been thinking about is how we treat each other: with respect and kindness or disdain and permanent impatience? And, jesus. Having little kids is just hard. It just is. It can suck all the life and love right out of you some days. Then there you are, this dried up loveless raisin with nothing left to give. I'm learning to take deep breaths and think before I speak. And to push myself to be pleasant and affectionate when I really want to grumble and grouch. It is helping. It is helping!

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  5. Oh Amy, I just had my 29th anniversary. I could relate to this so much...for different reasons, but my own forms of dysfunction. My own forms of dysfunction that are probably birthed in similar places as your alcoholism....I just never drank. I am a very different person than I was 29 years ago.....we have gone through hell and back again, we have learned a lot, it has tempered us in so many ways....but there is that element of getting to know the new us, and making it a priority when here, 29 years later, there are 4 kids, a house, jobs, lots of bills, lots of recovering from all sorts of various stuff...but WE are the priority. Or should be at least. I love reading you! I really do. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If there's one thing being in a long long term relationship teaches you it's how to be a complete and total asshole to someone you love. And then to feel indignant about it. As soon as I decided I was going to stop being a one woman team and invite him to join in my inner feelings changed. And suddenly knowing that we do so much to take care of our family, but nothing to take care of each other was a huge a-ha! for me too. One of my things I always say to the boys is "You get what you give." So now I say that to myself too. Without a happy marriage our family foundation just crumbles. It's time to shore this puppy UP! Thank you so much, I really love reading you too. xoxoxo

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  6. Amy, I like this post a lot. I'm really happy for you that you're thinking about this and working on it. Finding a way to share the person you're becoming with the person you love is hard, but it's absolutely necessary, and I think it's the road to peace and joy and all that good stuff. As always, I'm inspired by your insight. Best wishes to you and your family as you keep on figuring this out. xo

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  7. What a great post, Amy. So insightful and smart. Fix it now, it's important. I'm going through something similar after 35 years. We adjusted to the empty nest and now I got sober. He still drinks and it's causing some friction every night at dinner. Hurdles, marriage is a series of hurdles.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Woah.. missed this one as I've been out of the loop moving house.. any further to my earlier comment.. I do so appreciate you sharing what you are discovering and going through. This is really big important brave stuff that you are fronting up to .. with your husband… he's a lucky lucky man. But then I guess he already know that xxx

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  25. My husband and I have only been married 2 years, but for the past year he has been sober for the first time in 30 years. Our marriage was great when he was drinking so I thought sobriety would make it better. I thought we were doing really good. I never dreamed he would say he loves me but isn't sure he wants to be with me anymore. I don't know what to do next. I just know that I don't want to lose him.

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