How do you maintain normal/nice vs. condoning

Old 02-07-2011, 02:36 PM
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Question How do you maintain normal/nice vs. condoning

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am new here and sometimes have no idea which end is up.

As some of you know, we have two young girls ages 3 and 5. AH is a "secret" drinker (except when we are at dinner at my SIL's or out somewhere) and drinks only late at night when the girls are in bed. At present, our marriage remains somewhat strong (although the cracks are beginning to show), and he is a great dad. However, there are times when it is hard to maintain the "happy spouse/mommy" thing because I sometimes wonder if he thinks my sweet behavior towards him condones his drinking. I certainly can't go around the house being depressed or angry toward him even though there are times when I do feel like this. I try my best to make the day go as normal as possible even though I rarely get help from him because he's up late most nights, he naps almost every day and although he plays with our youngest, he rarely leaves the couch. I am still learning how an addict thinks, so when I do my best to maintain a sense of normalcy for the family I am wondering if my behavior makes him think that I actually don't mind that he drinks.

For those who have had success, how do you make sure that the addict is not lead to believe that what he is doing is okay while still maintaining a loving, calm, normal demeanor?
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Old 02-07-2011, 02:56 PM
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IME - my xah thought things were OK for as long as I maintained the status quo. Years and years. I suspect he still thinks things were OK and I just had a mid life crisis and hormones turned me into a nut that divorced him - making a big deal about the system that was working quite fine as far as he was concerned.

I'm not sure my share is helpful because I don't know how you define success. I'm divorced. The rage and resentment eventually consumed me from the inside. I did not turn it on him. So to him, things were OK and I was having issues. Which is actually sort of true I guess.

My cynical answer is that alcoholism is not nice or normal and so it is an impossible task from the get go. Didn't stop me from trying for a decade or so.

I'm glad you are posting - there is a lot of support here and we all support individual choices. My way certainly is not the only way or experience!
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Old 02-07-2011, 03:21 PM
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No answer here, but hugs to you.

I am married to an AH and feel the same way. I've studied all the codependent literature, am in counseling and have just started alanon. I know what I'm supposed to do-detach in a loving manner. From the best I can tell this means not becoming emotionally involved with their drinking, that includes reactions to the drinking. Also, it is in the alcoholics hands to decide when they need treatment.

I can't do this successfully. No matter how much I try I can't remove the fear and anxiety that alcoholism instills in me. I react from it. I have a very rich, independent life which is supposed to help detachment.

Each time I try to accept things for what they are I become more angry and resentful.

I will say that the more independent I become and the healthier I get, the more my husband tries to change, it's not successful change so far, but he got himself into therapy and is making an effort to connect with our children.

Hopefully, someone here will have a successful marriage story.
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Old 02-07-2011, 03:38 PM
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This is something I still struggle with myself.

My XH (even though he is not really drinking that much even though a little drinking is like a little barfing - as gross as a lot - but I digress....) is currently on a path of self-destruction through financial irresponsibility, physical neglect and general pig-headedness. He is still very much involved in our childrens' lives but is constantly getting himself into personal and financial situations that put us all into crap.

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Old 02-07-2011, 04:25 PM
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I think it really depends on your motives. Being not-nice, if it is done intentionally so as not to "condone" his drinking is really a form of manipulation. You're trying to punish him, to show him that he's been "bad".

If you're being nice so as to make your home pleasant for you and you're children, I see nothing wrong with being as nice as you want to be. It takes a lot more energy to be hostile than to be pleasant.
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Old 02-07-2011, 04:46 PM
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Your post seems so focused on him and on somehow making him understand, through your behaviour, that you do not condone his drinking. If you do not condone said drinking, then perhaps you need to say it once, simply, then you might want to figure out where your personal boundaries lie and enforce them, not to affect/punish/influence him, but for your own sake. I don't really see the point in creating a false sense of normalcy when you are clearly not satisfied with the situation. To me, "being nice" = not rocking the boat, which is a futile exercise IMO.

From re-reading your post, it sounds like you're already solo parenting most of the this how you want your life? Is this what you want for your daughters?

Just as an aside, my XAH also never left the much so that his butt left an imprint in his spot. He lorded over the house from that spot...yelled at me and his son, played his countless video games, watched his many movies, occasionally played with our baby girl, with his drink in hand or close by. Now that we're divorced, I've come to realize that I simply will not accept a partner who isn't able to get off his @ss to participate actively in the household, whether it be to shovel snow, make dinner, participate in parenting, or keep the house in a semblance of order. I deserve an equal partner and I can honestly say I work my butt off everyday to "bring home the bacon" AND to be a present parent for my little girl.
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Old 02-07-2011, 05:27 PM
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I have to say I can see clearly now how my AH participated in our family the way he did basically to hide the fact that he was drinking. What was missing from our relationship and family life was him being emotionally present. Physically he was here and he did a lot of helping around - doing the laundry in the basement (to drink); running to the store for groceries (to drink); taking out the garbage (to drink); fixing stuff with tools he needed in the garage (to drink).

I was the one providing all the emotional attachment to the kids. He was there to have fun, most times, but as the kids got older and more structure and guidance and boundaries were needed, I had no support from him.

In hindsight it seems as if he knew his drinking was not acceptable although, as I have posted before I was clueless about the drinking. The lack of emotional support and the constant manipulative reasoning of why wasn't I happy with all that he was doing to help out around the house took its toll on me and eventually I was so enmeshed in this alcoholic drama, lost my self and reached a point where I couldn't see my way to being nice at all.

Now AH is out of the house and I have no help and that's just fine with me. It is what it is.
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Old 02-07-2011, 05:33 PM
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This is so hard...

Originally Posted by Rechellef View Post
For those who have had success, how do you make sure that the addict is not lead to believe that what he is doing is okay while still maintaining a loving, calm, normal demeanor?
I did not do this very well at all. I was critical of her, condescending, and pretty much a complete ass. But, after Al-Anon I was able to see her differently, set boundaries around her drinking, and enforce those boundaries (which ultimately led to divorce-- though we are together today after two years apart).

Speaking of Al-Anon, I don't believe I'm allowed to tell you what to do here, and I wouldn't anyway because it's not my deal. I will tell you that if you go to Al-Anon, you will find your answer. I'm certain of it.

Take what you want and leave the rest.

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Old 02-07-2011, 05:45 PM
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Not sure what my point was in above post, may have been venting.

Just your post asking "how do you make sure that the addict is not lead to believe that what he is doing is okay while still maintaining a loving, calm, normal demeanor?" seems like your trying to control something into being ok when it is not.

Also I am finding that I am slowly being restored to loving, calm and peaceful little by little through Alanon where I am working on my own issues totally separate from AH's choices.

Hope you find something useful.

I admire your caring attitude and your desire to maintain normalcy. I'm not sure alcohol fits into what many of us expect as normal.
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Old 02-08-2011, 04:46 AM
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According to Al-Anon, we are supposed to "Detach With Love." This concept in itself is difficult, because we're so used to running around covering for our A's.

I tried mine in two steps. For the first step, I tried to detach from getting wrapped up in the alcohol. It worked, at least mostly. He didn't hide his drinking from me the same way he hid it from his mother. He was always open with me about when he was drinking. If I asked how much he would frequently give me too small a number, but in a way that could be attributed to the fact that drunk people aren't good at math, plus he never wanted to admit to himself how much he drank - so I always got the number that he was trying to convince himself he drank, rather than the number he'd tell a stranger. He also stopped trying to hide the empty bottles.
I also made it clear to him that he couldn't blame me for his drinking, because he was the one who decided to do the drinking. I said I could help him keep track of how much he had if he wanted me to do so, I could remind him he didn't want to drink, but I couldn't keep him from drinking. He accepted that, although he did sometimes try and claim that I could do a better job because I didn't do enough to remind him not to drink. Still, it was a major improvement over before, when he always blamed me. Also sometimes he would give me a bottle that he wanted to have around "just in case" to hold onto and hide, so he couldn't just go and get it when he felt like it - with the understanding that if he asked for it, I'd remind him he didn't want to drink anymore, but if he kept pushing I would give the bottle to him (which I did).
At this point, I had a pretty good idea of just how bad the problem was, just how much of his life had become centered around drinking, and just how quickly he was going downhill. If I had stayed on this level of "detachment" - not driving myself crazy about how much he was drinking - my life still would have been consumed with alcohol (in this case, "helping him" stop drinking, which doesn't work, I know for a fact), but it was an important step for me because now I had an objective view to the alcohol consumption, plus a little experience with "detaching" from a specific thing - just had to make it global.
This is a "safe step," because it makes things easier for you, but also easier for the A - XABF didn't have to hide anything anymore, and at this point, he liked that. In my XABF's case it did not make him drink more, because I had a pretty good idea of how much he was drinking before as well, and the pattern stayed the same, as did the gradual escalation I had noticed prior.

The second part of my detachment was to remove my emotions from his. I could empathize with him, but I couldn't allow myself to get wrapped up in his upsets, which was a significant change because everything made him upset. I would empathize, I would tell him I was sorry he felt the way he did, I would apologize only if I had genuinely done something wrong (and I wouldn't continuously or desperately apologize, although I would apologize more than once if he was being civil but needy).
This step started to help me, until he realized what I was doing. In my case, my XABF was also abusive, so when he didn't get the groveling self-depreciating response he wanted, he started escalating at a terrible rate, and doing things I'd never seen him do - all in the timeframe of about three hours. He didn't get too physical with me (he was very "in my face" but only grabbed me a few times and let go almost immediately), but the rate he was going I decided to remove myself from the situation.
So that part didn't go as planned, although I have heard stories in my Al-Anon of people with non-abusive A's where it worked.

So "detach with love" is the best way to go, just keep your eyes open.
If your A is going to be abusive, it's going to escalate while you're trying to detach, so I'd review the warning signs so you're prepared - just in case.
(Most A's won't become abusive - but better safe than sorry. Also, abusive usually starts as verbal and/or emotional first, which can actually cause more damage mentally, but can also give you a giant warning before it becomes life threatening.)
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