Since the day we met over 40 years ago, my wife and I have been social drinkers. Gatherings at weddings, vacations, concerts, sporting events, etc., have always featured alcohol. While I can have a couple of drinks and stop by, when it comes to my wife not so much. She will keep ordering drinks until 2 in the morning. And while sometimes silly fun when we were younger, as we got older the end results often became embarrassing.
I was becoming very concerned about my wife’s drinking and her health. One night when she went over the edge, I filmed her, sent her the video, and told her I no longer wanted to be a part of that lifestyle. I dumped all the alcohol in the house and neither of us have drank since. I almost don’t miss it, and she hasn’t had a problem quitting either, but mentally it’s been very demanding on her. Alcohol was her social lubricant. Alcohol is what allowed her to overcome her social anxiety and self-esteem issues.
Now she either doesn’t attend events at all, or sometimes we leave early because she is so unhappy. How do I show her that she can still enjoy these same events without using alcohol as a crutch?
Your wife has been able to give up alcohol, but hasn’t successfully addressed the reasons behind using alcohol in the first place. In recovery and 12-step circles, her challenges might be called dry drunk syndrome. Her crutch is gone and she limps now, trying to function without it.
Even if your wife quit drinking quickly, driven by the videotaped shame of seeing what alcohol abuse was doing to her (and bolstered by your subsequent sober support), she would still benefit from seeing an addiction specialist, therapist, and/or or attending meetings with others who are recovering. Spending time talking regularly with others who are also struggling to work their way inside her and through her recovery might help her understand her anxious responses and feel less alone.
I hope you will be patient and supportive as your wife continues in the life changing recovery process.
My partner and I broke up. I was blinded. I thought he was happy with me, even though he was struggling with depression and undiagnosed (but obvious) ADHD. I have adjusted my expectations and behavior to accommodate him on many occasions as I too suffer from depression so I understand the need for flexibility. I never stalked him because he didn’t want to go out and I went alone. We had a lot in common and a healthy intimate relationship. I was sad and confused when he said he wanted to break up. I started crying and asked him why he was doing this. He replied that I was being selfish if I wanted him to stay with me as a couple. He said he felt trapped. I didn’t expect to hear it either.
I have always seen myself as a generous and loving person. I never imagined that anyone would ever call me selfish. He hurt almost as much as the breakup. I told him I wasn’t staying where I wasn’t wanted and made arrangements to move. Can loving someone be a selfish act?
Dear Suddenly Single:
People say hurtful things when they push away a partner. How I would interpret your ex’s selfish statement relates to the old aphorism, if you love something, let it go. Your ex is saying that he feels trapped in the relationship and that (according to him) it would be selfish of you to urge him to stay in a relationship that he no longer wants to be in. In that context, pressuring someone to maintain a relationship can be a selfish act.
This doesn’t mean you are a selfish person. You are on the unfortunate receiving end of a depressed man who may be spiraling. As hurt as you are, it would be very nice to part ways peacefully and offer to hold the door open to friendship.
Times Ticking Away wanted to lie and cheat on her longtime partner, and you encouraged her to do it! I can’t believe you’d be so heartless.
I didn’t encourage her to leave; I encouraged her to be honest and understand the consequences of her choice.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @akinggamy or Facebook.)
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