The art of being codependent

Glass of wine in hand, as the rest of the house has gone to bed. I feel as bad as he was some days, for keeping a bottle hidden. He caught me once. Made a big deal of it and said it would be my fault if he relapsed. He did…maybe already had at that point…but supposedly has stopped again.

But I swear I smell it sometimes. Not a liquor-y smell, but a sweetness that came after…something from the way it metabolizes. Maybe you have to be the spouse of an alcoholic to understand. But it puts me on the defensive and I scrutinize everything he does and says, looking for solid evidence. This is what it is to be codependent.

Last weekend I actually found a half empty bottle of vodka hidden behind the console table in the family room. He denied knowing that it was there, and there was no way of knowing if it had been there 6 hours, 6 weeks, or maybe 6 months. But it made it worse…finding something to confirm my fears…and I’ve been less trusting ever since.

And so I did a bad thing tonight. It was the smell again, and the way he was trying so hard to be cheerful, and just off, I guess. I wanted so badly to know for sure…even to be proved wrong…maybe especially so. And so I asked what he thought about keeping a breathalyzer in the house. You can buy them on Amazon.

Nope. Did not go over well. He said that would be fine, but that in return he gets all my passwords again. Email, Facebook, the iPad. He says he doesn’t trust me any more than I trust him. And the worst part about it is that he’s right. He wouldn’t be happy to know about the places I’ve been…this blog…our private lives exposed, included. A loss of trust is a very big thing, and it takes a lot to earn it back. I’m not trying as hard as I should…I recognize that. Afraid maybe to put my whole self in and then find out that he was drinking the whole time. Is it instinctual to always want to keep things even? It sure as hell isn’t rational.

And so I am sitting here…hiding in our daughter’s room, where I sleep most nights since she went off to school…surrounded by projects half done, and wondering what my next step should be in life. And drinking the wine I keep hidden in her closet. And wondering how, exactly, I arrived here. Life. Some days it’s a little overwhelming.



Today I read an entire page about a girl studying her own hand. Such a mundane topic, but when well written it can hold your attention…leave you enthralled even…or at the very least, can remind you that sometimes it is less what you say, and more how you say it.

I’d hoped to say the right things. When I started to write here, I’d hoped to make a difference. Hoped that my experience…my pain…would make life better for someone else. I still believe that everything happens for a reason. That every experience teaches us something. That every life we touch is somehow…even if ever so slightly…forever changed. Maybe it’s just a way to justify my existence. To feel I have purpose. Sigh. Or maybe I’m just crazy.

I don’t write much here anymore. I guess that’s obvious. After awhile it felt like too much whining. Too many dark and dreadful days. It didn’t make me feel better, and I doubt it would help anyone else either. So much for making a difference.

Well here is the honest truth…as I know it anyway…

There isn’t a handbook for convincing your loved one to go to treatment. There isn’t a step-by-step list of instructions. There isn’t a book…or even a library of books…that will save you. You can go to meetings…and you should…and they will help…but they will not save you. You are fucked. Sorry. That’s the honest to god truth. As I know it.

You will come out the other side someday. You may feel like you never will, but you do. You will arrive fairly well physically intact. Some people will even congratulate you for all the good work you’ve done for somebody else. But you still won’t be you. Count on it, darling. You’re going to come out as somebody new.

There…I sound jaded. It wasn’t my intention. Nor was it my intention to WHINE so terribly much. I do appreciate my life. Small moments…simple things. It was my advice to T when his world was coming apart. Appreciate the small things…the things that work…even when the big things don’t. Gratitude. It will make life bearable.

At this moment, I am grateful for the last of the wine I stashed with a neighbor. A rose’, consumed outdoors at dusk. The crickets chirp, the birds sing their last evening song, and the world is still…the last days of summer. I am grateful for warm weather, and humidity, and feeling the air touch my skin. I am grateful that my children are happy and healthy. I am grateful that my husband has stopped drinking again. As far as I know. I am grateful for trust. For love. For a week of vacation that starts late tomorrow. For feeling less anxiety the last few days. I am grateful for good friends, and family that means well. I am grateful to have made it…almost, as it is still a few days away…to my 25th anniversary. Proud of that, all things considered. I am grateful for a few simple words from T in response to a message he was under no obligation to return. Grateful. Grateful for more things than I can list.

There…that’s it. In case these are my parting words. My one useful bit of advice. Gratitude. Be grateful. For all things…big and small. Even when your heart is breaking and you feel all alone. Especially then. Be grateful.

addiction, Recovery



I try not to think. I try not to feel. Truth is you get a little numb to it after awhile. You lose your desire to fight, or to cry, or to swing a bottle at someone’s head. You get up each day and do the things expected of you, most of them anyway, and from all appearances everything is normal.

He’s still drinking, and still lying to me and saying he isn’t. I’m not sure which is worse…the drinking or the lying.

I found the last bottle in his car. He’s working today, and I could drive to where it’s parked right now and use the second set of keys to get in and see if anything is there. What an enormously codependent thing to do. Half of me says Do it. Prove to him and to yourself that you’re on to him. Show him you have reason to not trust him. That your frustration and fears are justified.

The other half says It’s a waste of an hour and the gas it will take to get there and back. That if you find something you’ll be miserable for the rest of the day, and if you don’t, you’ll feel foolish. That if he catches you, it’ll just make things more tense at home.

Mr. Anxiety has settled back in for a long and uncomfortable stay. I don’t like it. And I think this is unfair…the whole stupid thing. To me and the girls. Especially the girls. Why are we being punished for his mistakes?

addiction, Infidelity, Love, Recovery

As her heart whispers, Never leave…

Maybe we all know the very best things we can do for ourselves. The amount of sleep that we need, the proper amount of exercise we should get, the number of servings of fruits and vegetables we should consume. Our minds are rational, practical things.

Not so much our hearts. Our hearts crave the unreachable. The toxic. The unthinkable. Our hearts are spontaneous, erratic, and lack any shred of common sense. Um, or maybe that’s just me. :)

I’ve had lapses. Days that I’ve done the wrong things. And days that I so really want to. Thus this letter to myself. Here…read it. Publish it for the entire world. Admit that you are fallible. No one here will judge you. No worse, anyway, than you judge yourself.

Dear self,

It is over and most of the time you feel better because of it. No more unreturned texts, no degrading pictures, no waiting, no wishing for something you can’t have. Reality…it wasn’t a healthy relationship and he couldn’t be what you need. He was selfish and vindictive and he didn’t care about you nearly as much as you cared about him. You survived on crumbs. Small handouts to keep you there. You deserve better.

You may think it’s ok to revisit that place on a day you feel lonely or sad. You may think one peek at what he’s doing, one message to see how he is, one more try to get him to love you. Once won’t hurt.

Wrong. It hurts EVERY SINGLE TIME. Every picture, every word he writes, every post he likes on Facebook, everything he says to you. Every new beginning is followed by a hurtful and horrible ending. It leaves you feeling angsty, bereft, and confused.

If he loved you, wanted you, valued you, he would come to you. He would be a grown up and use his words. Or at the very least, his actions would speak for themselves.

If it was meant to be…if you truly belonged together…god would place you in each other’s path. It would happen on its own. Fate cannot be forced.

There is no reason to say that one last thing. You’ve said it all. Told him what an ass he was, told him you wanted to spend the rest of your life with him, told him exactly how you felt…the good, the bad, and the ugly. And you even said goodbye with a good measure of dignity and grace. Let him go.

Maybe it won’t work out with Chris. Maybe he will never forgive you. Maybe he will start drinking again. Maybe he will die young. That doesn’t mean you should go back to T. Not ever. You deserve better. You deserve to be loved and respected and wanted for WHO YOU ARE, not just for sex. You deserve to be valued and pursued. You deserve someone who falls all over themselves doing their best to love YOU.

Put away your phone, your computer and this iPad. Organize something. Clean something. Work in your garden. Take a walk. Go shopping. Get a pedicure. Snuggle under a blanket with a book and some tea. Have lunch with a friend. Watch a chick flick. Eat something you shouldn’t. Be good to yourself. Love yourself. Walk away and be happy. :)




Poetry for T

I wanted to talk…to know how you’ve been, what you’ve done since I saw you last. You wanted a half naked picture.

I wanted to see you in person, to hear your voice, to be close enough to touch you…just once, after all these years. You said “Next time take your underwear off.”

I wanted to know everything about you…your hopes, your dreams, your greatest disappointments, every one of your secrets. You wanted to know whether I prefer top or bottom.

I wanted you to love me, to remember me, to think of me kindly after I have gone. You said “Your hand keeps getting in the way.”

I wanted to be there when you were sad, to love you the right way, to make up for the way she treated you. You wanted me to use better lighting.

I wanted to marry you on a beach, to wake each day beside you, to grow old with you, to be together until we die. You said “Maybe we could meet up once. You know, for oral sex.”

“Why just once?”

“The correct answer…so we don’t get caught.”

I will paint you in one color. I will forget every kind word you ever said to me. I will make you into a monster. Which unfortunately is pretty easy. I will remember you with sadness and regret. I will cover myself in pain. And I will never ever ever text you again.

addiction, Infidelity, Love, Recovery

Letters to T

I’ve written at length about my husband’s addiction, but very little about mine. T. T is my addiction, or at least the target of my addictive behavior. I write about him here as if our relationship is mutual. Maybe it is mutual to a point. But it isn’t a grand romance, and I am not his lost love. And in the time that we are apart…the in-betweens, where one or both of us accepts that what we are doing is harmful to our marriages and subsequently gives the other up…he is just fine. He thrives in fact. Or at least I imagine he does. He never does anything to prove me wrong.

We are, at this very moment, in one of the in-betweens. Or maybe it is a “forever apart” instead. But I wait for him still. I wait for an impulsive text. Something to show he cares. That he misses me. I’ve been waiting for nearly ten weeks. Still nothing.

And so I will try to be more realistic. I will expose our relationship for what it is. Predatory and pathetic. Morally bereft. Wrong. Simply wrong. And hurtful too. It was a way to boost our fragile egos, bruised as we were by our critical, inattentive spouses. It was a way to get back at them for their wrongs….a pitiful form of revenge that was safe and unknown. It was cowardly and childish and immature. And it hurt. It hurt to want something I couldn’t have. To love, and to not feel loved in return.

The truth…the pictures made me feel objectified. Used. Used and then discarded when the novelty of them wore off. He gave instructions…suggestions, I suppose. Positions and angles and specifics…what he wanted to see. Faces were never shown. It was, after awhile, impersonal. Clinical. I could have been anyone. Anyone foolish enough to say yes.

Maybe it would hurt him to read these words. Maybe he would disagree, and say it wasn’t that way at all. There were moments that he said something kind. Moments during our awful break-ups where he seemed sad and hurt. Moments that his voice softened when he heard mine, or where he texted something sentimental and sweet. I lived for those moments. I clung to them. I shaped a relationship out of them.

Why…why would you do it? Why would you let it continue so long, with such risk, and so much pain?

I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer. I was hopeful. Hoping that if I waited long enough I would either get over it…lose interest maybe…or life would improve for the better, and I wouldn’t need it anymore. Hoping that he would fall completely and utterly in love with me. That he would save me from the disaster my life had become. And I would save him from the misery of his failing marriage. And we would live happily ever after. The end.

It was a distraction. It was an escape. It was a way to forget about the things that weren’t working in my life. He was someone else to be mad at. Someone else to blame. Our relationship was something else to focus on. Something to think about other than my alcoholic unemployed husband.

The addiction. My addiction…

I would think about it for hours. The words I would use, the message I wanted to convey. I would type them in to my phone. I would look at them for awhile. Debate. Should I sent it? It was not me. I am not flirty or forward. I do not say inappropriate things. I am quiet. Shy. A wallflower. But I would write terrible things. Do I send it? My heart rate rises. My hands sweat. My thoughts swirl about. Fuck it. And I hit send. My lungs contract. My stomach falls to the floor. A thousand elephants stand upon my chest. And I smile and feel I’ve gotten away with something.

I wait for the return text. The vibration of my phone in my hand. The sound my phone makes.

When it comes…it’s like a drug injected deep within my veins. A rush. A high. Endorphins. Dopamine. Adrenaline.

I can survive on that rush most of the day. I can go without food or sleep. And sometimes I did. I ate little. I slept little. I lived it. Breathed it. Waited for my next fix. Planned it. Again, thought of exactly what I’d say. I lost 7 pounds the first three weeks. 3 more in the months after that. And at its worst, when it consumed me, 4 more gone in a flash. For awhile I had to pull up my size nothing jeans.

After the rush wears off…after the conversation by text is done…ending as it usually did, with parting words, “Hope you have a good day” or “Talk to you next week”…after the rush comes a bit of a low. The adrenaline wears off. The excitement is gone. The drug has been abruptly withdrawn from my system. I fall into a dark depression. If the words were unkind, such as during our many breakups, I am beside myself. Inconsolable. Kinder words might result in a gentler reaction. A sudden exhaustion overcomes me. I close my eyes and fall into a deep, contented sleep.

I talk of all of this in the present tense. As if he may text me at any moment. Truth is, he is done. He is gone. There aren’t any texts. Not even a few words to ask if I’m ok. He has closed himself off from me emotionally. He is indifferent. Cold.

And it hurts like hell, and it breaks my heart. Why does he have to be that way? Why can’t he love me?

I love my husband. Leaving him for T was never my end goal. Common sense says it isn’t justified to grieve. But I do. I love him and I lost him and he was always there for me….for the last four years anyway…just a few moments away at the other end of my phone. And then he is gone.

I am desolate.

addiction, Infidelity, Love, Recovery

When All I Want Is You

Unable to write a word for such a long time now. We live moment to moment, all of our weaknesses, our demons, our secrets exposed. Recovery is not at all what I thought it would be. It is not a fresh start. It is more like a rehashing of the mistakes that we’ve made. The many many mistakes that we’ve made. Coming to terms with ourselves.

The words below…an email I sent to my husband just over a year ago. Written in the wee hours after I’d caught him drinking vodka during the day. He was unemployed, depressed, escaping deep within his addiction. I was fighting mine…an unhealthy relationship with T, which had come to a head just two days before. We were lost souls, all of us, and this was my desperate plea to make things right. There was no reply to this email, or to any of the others that will follow. My cries fell on drunken ears. One of the few things I’ve learned in this process… The addict will never hear you when they are using. They may respond. They may even answer with words that make sense. Words you want to hear. But they do not truly understand what you’re saying any more than you understand why they do what they do. Addiction is not rational.

March 3, 2013

Wide awake in the very early hours and wishing you were here. Wishing last night had gone differently. Wishing you were truly ready to quit drinking. Wishing I had never told you about Julia’s uncle. Or better yet, never met him at all. Wishing you and I were better at talking things out. That I lectured less and that you talked more. Wishing that we could get a do over. That the day you sat in my dorm room completely depressed,telling me that you felt your drinking was a problem, that I would have said and done the right thing. I loved you so much, and I was so young, and I thought you were perfect. I still love you so much, though now…so many years later, I am not so young, I realize that nobody is perfect, and I’ve grown to love you so much more. Watching you suffer is the worst thing ever. You don’t have to tell me how you feel…I think I already know. You’re embarrassed and ashamed and you don’t want anyone else to know you have a problem. You’re a private person, and the last thing you want is to let someone in…to see you at your worst…to see your darkest thoughts and your greatest weaknesses. You’re afraid to quit drinking. You like it. You like how it makes you feel. It gives you a few hours of escape, which right now I’m sure feels pretty good. Plus you’ve done it for so long that it’s part of who you are. Where do you turn when that is taken from you? Oh yes, and you are really angry with me.

I know I can’t force you to stop. I know that what I do and what I say probably make everything worse. I know that you want to stay in this marriage…or I really hope you still do…and that you would rather just dump out another hidden bottle and throw it in the recycling and stop on your own. But I also know that doesn’t work. That you’ve tried that several times and failed. That alcoholism is a sickness and it needs to be treated by a professional. You wouldn’t be able to cure your own cancer at home. Sometimes you have no choice but to ask for help.

I can’t make you go. I wish I could. I can’t fix this all alone. I don’t want a separation. I don’t want to lose a moment of my life with you, much less risk all of my moments. I know that if you leave there’s a possibility that you will never come back. I don’t like my odds as far as that goes. But having you here…hiding and lying and denying…its bad for all of us…for me, for the kids, and especially for you. We have to do this.

What I want, truly….I want you to want to quit. I want you to go to treatment willingly. I want them to cure you of your addiction and to teach you to live your life without alcohol and for it to he fabulously successful. I want you to come out feeling like you’ve been given your do over. I want you to come home and be mine again, to be MY Chris. I want to live happily ever after with you, to grow old with you, to lecture you about the perils of spoiling our grandchildren. And when we’re too old and too tired and we’re ready to let to, then I want to die at least a few minutes before you so I will never have to feel the horrible emptiness of losing you.

You get it don’t you? I don’t want a separation, I don’t want a divorce, I don’t want anyone else. I want you to quit, to get well, and to be with me…healthy and sober…for the rest of our days. And I hope, with all my heart, with every fiber of my being, that you want the same thing too. Please please please.

Love you always.