Tonight I walked past the stacks of dirty dishes piled in the sink. Glancing their way and dismissing them at the same time. Tomorrow, I tell myself; trying not to think about the fact that I said the same thing yesterday. Thus, here they are. Still dirty. Still taking up space. Still cluttering my kitchen symbolic of the chaos that clutters my life.
As I poured a glass of wine I wondered why it was so easy for me to walk away from this mess. I hated the mess. I wanted to be the woman with the drive to have a spotless kitchen that Martha would be proud of, or at least not scared to eat in. I know the mess makes me feel less of… Take your pick, fill in the blank. Yet I don’t take care of it, I simply turn a blind eye.
That is a part of what happened in my marriage. We all have things that we don’t care for in a partner or spouse. Little habits, ticks, hobbies. Things that just don’t align with you. In the beginning, when he does “it” it’s cute and you tell your friends about it. After 5 years together it becomes annoying, but you make peace with it all in the name of compromise. After all, you’re adult enough to realize that you have your own annoying quirks. But what happens when the habit is a bad one, one that has a very negative impact on your life? What do you do then? I’m sure there are many reasonable answers and some sound psychological ones as well. But all I know is what I did in my case, for whatever reason, was to turn a blind eye to my ex-husband’s drinking.
In the beginning of our courtship, we were career-driven singles employed by Generous Motors. We had plenty of disposable income with which to entertain ourselves. And so we did. He was the life of the party, always the one to get a laugh, always the last to leave – that is if he could walk. Looking back I’m amazed that I actually dated a guy who would drop his pants in the middle of a bar and stand around drinking in his boxers.
Yes, I tried to address it. And I tried to fix it. And I whined, moaned, negotiated, begged and bitched about it. To no avail. And I stayed – for 10 years. And I proceeded to have children with him. And I did all this knowing he was an alcoholic. Well, he was an extremely high-functioning alcoholic. But I still considered it just a phase. What was more of a concern for me was his little narcotic habit of smoking pot. So that had my attention front and center. This I did not turn a blind eye to for whatever reason. I realize there are many people who are educated, highly-functioning potheads that do right by society in this world. But it’s just not something I can condone. So upon marrying me, he ended up quitting. Can you guess what happened then?
Yes, as he stopped smoking pot, his alcohol consumption increased and his anger became explosive. That first year was a total nightmare. It was also marked by the period in which I was introduced to his little problem of waking up in the middle of the night, still drunk, to relieve himself anywhere but the bathroom. It became so bad that I couldn’t sleep soundly because I didn’t know what he would do. There was the buffet table, my family photos, the closet, the corner of the bedroom, the spare room, the living room and even me. Yes, I actually woke up in the line of fire. But I continued to tell myself it was a phase, he’d grow up, we’d work through it, IT WILL CHANGE WHEN WE HAVE KIDS!
Naivety, desperation and hope all played a factor. As anyone involved with an addict can tell you it cycles. They will be ‘good’ and things get better, until they act out again and fall off the wagon. Then it gets worse. Each time the promises come and go. When you’re not taking the blame for it, you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop or cleaning up after it. Trying to hide the truth from friends and family. Playing like it’s all ok and turning a blind eye. It just becomes what you do. It becomes automatic.
My breaking point, as I have written about before, was the need to protect the kids. This divorce, this year, this mess that has become my life has not been easy. And it’s during those really hard times in the last several months that I have wondered if I should consider his offer of reconciliation. After all, it is biblical, right? Factor in the inherent guilt that motherhood brings and the guilt that living with an addict brings.
- I should try to save my family.
- My kids need their dad.
- Divorce is wrong.
- If only I would have tried harder.
- If only I wasn’t so selfish.
Ahhh, they play like a broken record over and over in my head. And with each spin at the turntable, I begin to wonder if I should try to do this again. And then, the addict teaches me another lesson. One I’ve had to learn many times over.
- I can’t fix him.
- I can’t make it better.
- I’m not in control.
- It is not my fault.
- My kids are better off not living in it.
The morning after Emma & Jacob returned to me, I woke up to find a puddle of urine in my kitchen floor. See, their father needed a place to stay for the night and he wanted to spend his last hours in the States with his kids. They wanted him to stay. How could I say no? But I wish I had. Especially as Jacob stood at the edge of the door asking, “Mommy, why is my batman car all wet?” Jacob, go ask your father – ran through my head, yet I refrained. I discovered the origination point of the stream was a large box of the kids Christmas presents including clothes and toys, things that could not be washed.
I had to wake up the alcoholic on the couch and tell him to clean up his mess. He didn’t argue, nor did he apologize. In fact, he never said a word. I finished getting the kids breakfast and set up in the living room with a movie. After all was settled, I went back to my bedroom and cried. I cried for them, cried for me and cried for all of us as I realized that I had no doubts. No longer would I question reconciliation. No longer would I wonder if they would be better off with their father. No longer would I imagine what it would be like if I gave it another shot. If there is one thing I have learned over the years of living with an addict, there is no doubt they will let you down.