We’ve been married 10 years and my husband has been sober 9 years. I actually picked him up at rehab the day of our first year anniversary. Ten years of marriage, 9 years of bliss we always joke. It’s not funny though.
I don’t meet many other wives with either alcoholic or sober husbands. So when this Refinery29 story “What It’s Like To Date A Closet Alcoholic” popped into my newsfeed, I was excited to read it. I know exactly what it’s like. I will totally relate to this.
Wow, was I wrong. How in the world did this get published?
I do relate to the writer’s feelings of anger, disappointment and stress while dating an addict. The lying is unacceptable. I’ll be home in an hour—he didn’t come home till 3 a.m. so many nights. And being the one keeping another barely alive because you are the only one holding them accountable is a huge burden. I would rush home from work every day trying to make it there before he hit the couch with a bottle. I rarely made it in time.
But that’s where my compassion for this writer ends. I find it infuriating how this post feeds the widespread misconception that being an addict is a choice and that addicts are bad people.
This misconception is exactly what “closets” so many alcoholics making them feel too ashamed to get the help they need for a better life.
And this idea of absoluteness—that if you are dating an alcoholic you should run for the hills—really revs me up. It’s a complicated choice, if you’re in love.
This is important, so I want to clarify that in my case, even when my husband was drunk, he was a really nice person. He was never abusive—never, not once, physically or verbally. I was the only one flying off the handle enraged. His problem was that he relied entirely on alcohol to have fun and cope with stress or any bad feeling. Drinking was his hobby. He was depressed, and spiraling and wanted to stop, but he couldn’t.
He was the love of my life, treated me well and wanted deeply to recover. If this is your situation too, I think it is OK to try and help them get sober. You can (and should) find support for yourself though, and set your limits—you deserve to see progress and be happy.
I relied a lot on my uncle who was at the time 10 years sober and very involved in AA. I wish I had relied more on Alcoholics Anonymous or a therapist. I also leaned on my husband’s dad, stepmom, sister and brother to help me hold him accountable. They were all there in the middle of the night with me when my husband hit his rock bottom at our house.
I didn’t talk to friends. I was too ashamed (because of the misconceptions about addiction). I kept our struggle secret until the very end when I was reaching my breaking point. My best friends were wildly supportive, of course. I should have told them sooner.
I found ways to cope. I ran almost every day, I walked our dogs, and I worked really hard to rise up the ranks in my career.
I picked up my husband after 4 weeks in rehab on our first wedding anniversary, after we really struggled the entire year. If my husband didn’t go to rehab after he hit his rock bottom, I would have left. I had reached my limit, and he knew it, which is a huge part of why he finally agreed to get professional help.
It took him some time, going to meetings and working through the 12 steps of AA, making new friends, finding new hobbies and even new beverages to drink, to achieve health and happiness.
Today he is everything I knew he would be sober, my perfect match: a very hands-on dad who takes his sons to school, skiing, on boys’ backpacking trips, a top performer in his company, a mindfulness master who meditates every day, a runner who has completed 10 marathons, a compassionate soul with a love for animals that inspires him to follow a vegan lifestyle, a man who will adventure with his family on the weekends instead of watch sports on TV.
The reality is that many addicts recover to lead a beautiful life. And many don’t. It’s such a long, hard road. That’s why you do what’s best for you—go to AA, listen to Rich Roll, talk to your family and friends, have a plan, protect your health, happiness and future.