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I’m not sure I want to stay anymore – recovery from the other side.

My husband is an alcoholic in recovery. He has been sober now for eighteen months. His world fell apart when our daughter died ten years ago in a fatal car accident at the age of sixteen. She was on her way to school with a friend who was driving and they were hit at a junction. She was our only child.

I should have said our world fell apart. In the midst of our grief, I also lost him. He didn’t sleep, rarely ate and began to drink heavily. We needed each other in this, the most horrific time of our lives, but he slowly slipped away from me minute by minute. I had never felt so lonely. I suggested grief counseling and group therapy for those who have lost their children. He declined any offers of help and sank deeper and deeper into his beloved bottle.

I spent the first year after the loss of Annie trying to keep my husband alive. I was terrified that he would die too. The loss of our beautiful daughter haunted my every moment and the fear of my husband dying was too much to bear. Eventually not only was I losing him, but I was losing myself to his alcoholism.

So I pulled back and sought help for my own grief. I did for myself what I tried to do for my husband. I joined that group for people who lost their children by myself but longed for my husband to be beside me. As I’d walk out the door every Wednesday night I’d shout over my shoulder, “You sure you’re not coming with me John?”. The answer was always no, and eventually, he just stopped answering so I stopped asking.

The inevitable happened

The years passed and John’s health began to fail. Year after year, his eyes grew dimmer till there was little light left in them at all. I pleaded with him to see his doctor and as usual his answer was no. He was unable to work or function normally at this point. We slept in different bedrooms and passed each other in the hallway, barely saying a word. It seemed that Annie’s absence meant there was nothing to hold us together, yet neither of us wanted to leave.

Then the inevitable happened. I came home from work one day to find him unconscious on the floor, nothing new there, but I couldn’t wake him this time. I’d known that his liver was failing for some time. All the telltale signs of yellowing skin and bloated stomach were there. I called 911 and he was admitted to the hospital. It was no surprise when the doctors told me had liver disease. He wasn’t quite bad enough at that point to need a transplant but he was getting there. They managed to save his life and warned him that he needed to quit drinking completely or next time he wouldn’t be so lucky.

While he was in the hospital, I found myself enjoying the peace in the house. I thought I’d feel even more lonely than I already was, but soon understood the loneliness came from living with a man who was emotionally absent from me. He was so wrapped up in his own pain he never even considered that I might be hurting too. I couldn’t even have a conversation about Annie, share memories we had with her, or mention her name to him. He would shut down and pretend she never existed. I cried myself to sleep at night and dreamt about her most nights. I’d wake some mornings thinking it was all just a nightmare only to discover her not in her bed or our home.

He decided it was time

John had a lot of time to think while he was in the hospital. It was very painful for him having to exist without his alcohol. All the years of pain caught up with him and he spent a lot of time crying. I sat with him through his pain and tried to love him like I once did. It was then that I knew my heart had hardened towards him. I had evolved, sought therapy, and dealt with my grief and loss, while he chose to drink it down. I understood his methods for a while. I’d be lying if I said that sometimes a shot of whiskey didn’t take the edge off in the most dire of moments. After six months of him shutting down and being constantly drunk though, I knew things were changing for us rapidly.

When he got out of hospital, he never took a drink again. He went to AA and worked hard at his recovery. Finally what I had always hoped would happen, happened and I was happy for him. For me though, it may be too late. He talks to me about his grief now and there are many tears. He’s trying to repair our relationship but I’m finding now that this time I’m the one who has shut down. We started couples therapy two weeks ago in the hopes of repairing our marriage, but right now I just don’t want to be there. Neither of us are the same people anymore and I understand that is due to the loss of Annie. It’s also due to alcoholism though and the fact that I evolved and grew while he stayed stuck in the same spot for ten years.

I’m angry with him. We wouldn’t be where we are now if he’d been able to support me like I supported him. There was no investment into our marriage when it needed it most and I’m just not sure I want to stay anymore; recovery from the other side.



1 Comment

  1. My wife and I also lost our only child, Brian to this disease. He was 31. Unfortunately, we have friends who lost their children also. Our church and grief counseling helped, ease our pain. As I write this, I can look left or right and his pictures are in front of me. I had a nice dream last night and Brian, my Mom and Brother were laughing. Talking about him with friends and my sponsor are good medicine for my Wife and I.

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