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A Dry Drunk, but Just Toward Me?

Old 12-25-2014, 04:33 AM
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A Dry Drunk, but Just Toward Me?

My wife of 20 years is 8 years sober. Very proud of her recovery, which she's worked very hard to attain.

In the past year she's exhibited lots of worrisome behavior toward me, including:
  • Defensiveness
  • Narcissistic anger
  • Out "victiming" me
  • Openly ignoring my feelings
  • Viewing everything I do with an unfavorable lens
  • Criticizing/Correcting me and explicitly prohibiting me from same

Somehow, I have become the recipient of all her projected self-loathing and she openly talks to me about how wondrous getting a divorce will be. I don't take bait, but just say, "Gosh, it sounds like you're in a lot of pain about all this." No response other than a withering glance.

I'm doing my own work to recognize my co-dependency issues and become a better spouse by being a better person, but much work remains. I am addressing the resentments of being the long suffering spouse who takes care of everything and trying to let go of some of my self-appointed areas of responsibility, but that just seems to anger her all the more. She says "I don't like the person I am when I'm around you," which I find troubling and yet a relief.

Is it possible for someone to be a "dry drunk" to their spouse, but make great progress otherwise?

In fairness, she also has family of origin tendencies toward isolation and suffers from bi-polar depression, a thyroid condition, imminent empty nest, low self-esteem, entering menopause, control issues, stress of a new career change and more.

Any thoughts? Am I unique?
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Old 12-25-2014, 04:59 AM
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Hi, Todzilla, and welcome to SR. I doubt very much that you're unique--all of us here seem to have things in common, and it sounds like you fit right in...

First of all, let me mention that "recovery" and "not drinking" are 2 different things. It sounds as if your wife may be successful in the "not drinking" area but sadly lacking in the "recovery" area. And then again, this may just be who she is. I've heard it said here many times that if you get a horse thief to stop drinking, you've got a sober horse thief. Sometimes the alcohol isn't the source of all the problems; there is mental illness or other personality problems that were masked by the drinking and now are revealed in all their glory. Unless those issues are also addressed, the A is now sober but still manifesting all kinds of unpleasant and unhealthy behavior.

Have you sought help for yourself during those 8 years, like Alanon or Celebrate Recovery or counseling? There is no reason you're obligated to continue to accept the abusive behaviors you describe (and they are abuse) simply b/c she's not drinking. Your needs and happiness are equally as important as hers. And since it sounds like neither of you actually is happy, what keeps you both in this relationship? You don't have to answer this here, but it might be good to think about it.

I'm glad you've found us here at SR and I hope you continue to post, telling us more about your situation. There is a ton of support, experience and wisdom here. Read, read and read some more, Todzilla. You are NOT alone, you are NOT unique in your situation, and there is definitely hope for a happy future for you.

Wishing you strength and clarity.
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Old 12-25-2014, 05:05 AM
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Todzilla....the thought that I had, reading your post: "When one partner makes significant changes in a relationship--the other partner will respond in SOME way. It is like a dance, in many ways.
I don't know enough about you all to say "dry drunk" or not. I also don't know how well manged her bi-polar condition is managed. It can present as irritability and restlessness, etc. But, I can't address that either.

If this has been going on for a year, I would suggest enlisting the help of a professional--at least, a few appointments to talk it over, yourself.....to get some perspective. I imagine the atmosphere in your home is a bit miserable?

LOl!..Menopause can be a B**** for some people--but we can't blame your list on that!

It all sounds pretty complex, to me. I would get some outside help before waiting very much longer.

dandylion


By the way: I want to welcome you to the board!!!
Please hang around---you will get a lot m ore feedback once the holiday has passed, I am sure.
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Old 12-25-2014, 05:29 AM
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Honey pig, Dandylion,

Thanks for your replies. We're both seeing individual and couples counselors. She's active in AA, I'm going to Al Anon, trying to find the best group for me.

We've got a lot to unravel, but when she's in a good mood, we click amazingly and I want to be around her forever. But as those times become increasingly rare, I just don't know.

My work is to not feel anger or resentment when she says hurtful things to me. Some days I do a great job of interpreting her lashing out as a cry for pain. Other days, I feel myself getting really pissed off that she's indifferent to, or actively seeking to advance, my pain.
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Old 12-25-2014, 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Todzilla View Post
We've got a lot to unravel, but when she's in a good mood, we click amazingly and I want to be around her forever. But as those times become increasingly rare, I just don't know.

My work is to not feel anger or resentment when she says hurtful things to me. Some days I do a great job of interpreting her lashing out as a cry for pain. Other days, I feel myself getting really pissed off that she's indifferent to, or actively seeking to advance, my pain.
Your statement about how you "click when she's in a good mood" reads just like the posts of those who talk about how amazing their A is when he/she is sober. The problem is, the 2 sides belong to the same person, and one is as real as the other. We don't get to separate the "good guy/gal" from the bad one.

I'm not so sure it's "your work" to stop yourself from feeling what any normal healthy human would feel. We are not in training to be saints--we are in training to feel good enough about ourselves and strong enough in ourselves that we no longer accept unacceptable treatment. And I myself would consider someone being indifferent to my pain, let alone someone seeking to advance my pain, as unacceptable. She has problems in her life, yes, but so does everyone else. That is not an excuse.

I'm glad to hear you're in Alanon. I hope SR can be a useful adjunct to that program for you. It sure has for me.
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Old 12-25-2014, 07:19 AM
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T- I hate to make this comment, but if she is working the 12 steps of AA then she shouldn't be acting this way. In her 8 years of recovery, as she ever made amends to you for what she put you through? I really find it hard to believe from what you are saying that she is totally committed to working the AA 12 steps program.

Not sure why she is so angry with you, but it sounds like another situation of an A and a codependent. Have you ever read co-dependent no more??

Welcome to my world....

All I would say is keep working your alanon program. Sounds like she doesnt like when she doesnt get a reaction when she is "mean". That is taking care of your side of the street, you are working the program. If you keep minding your own business and strengthening who you are, you will be able to do what you feel necessary regarding your marriage. You get healthy, she stays right were she is.

Treat her behavior like she is drinking and hit some open AA meetings and keep reading and posting on SR.

((((((((((hugs))))))))))
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Old 12-25-2014, 08:14 AM
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being active in the fellowship and living a spiritual life are different things...
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Old 12-25-2014, 09:24 AM
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Y'all (sorry, I'm from the South) are asking really insightful questions and offering great perspectives.

I believe my wife has very little self awareness into her behavior. She can only view things through her own lens of (for lack of a more charitable term) emotional narcissism. If I bring up my feelings, she immediately redirects to her feelings, either by explaining how my disclosure of my feelings hurts her or trumping my pain with her greater pain. It doesn't seem to matter how carefully I couch my feelings so as not to accuse. I know it's unhealthy to keep score, but my regrettable behavior pales in comparison to hers. Doesn't excuse mine and I'm making amends for it. She made amends to me a while back, as part of her recovery, but they were perfunctory and fleeting.

I am trying to seek to understand more than to be understood, but there's a point at which I feel I'm feeding an insatiable beast. Not finding a positive way to disclose my feelings and have them be heard, rather than act as a springboard for her trumping diatribe seems to be dooming our relationship.

I can look at life without her as not the end of the world, and in fact, a mixed blessing, so I'm thankful that I don't have a high level of desperation. That said, I've been through this before (hence my need to work through these issues through Al Anon and Buddhism rather than repeating them forever) and bailing on this long standing marriage with a kid and a lifetime of shared assets will be a rather lengthy and painful process.
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Old 12-25-2014, 09:32 AM
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Todzilla....very true...while she may never change...you do have to get to the bottom of your issues for your own inner peace and that of y our child. I am glad to hear that you are mindful enough to not want to repeat a pattern down the road.

I do know that you can absolutely do this. Do you mind my asking how old your child is?

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Old 12-25-2014, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by dandylion View Post
Todzilla....very true...while she may never change...you do have to get to the bottom of your issues for your own inner peace and that of y our child. I am glad to hear that you are mindful enough to not want to repeat a pattern down the road.

I do know that you can absolutely do this. Do you mind my asking how old your child is?

dandylion
Thanks, Dandylion! Child in question is 16, with college ambitions in a year and a half. Impending empty nest is weighing on my wife's mind no doubt. My two older kids, from my first marriage, are in their early thirties. I saw the pain they suffered through their Mom's and my divorce (they were 2&5 at the time) and I hate to inflict that on my youngest. Older kids are an Emergency Veterinarian and an MD, both in healthy relationships, so I know it's not an irrevocable sentence.

My current issue is letting go of trying to get my wife to recognize her behavior toward me and it's destructive effects. I keep clinging to the hope she'll become self-aware and change. She may, but that'll be her move, not mine.
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Old 12-25-2014, 10:14 AM
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Todzilla....at least, at 16, there is not quite so much agony over custody issues as with younger children-- if things are untoward.
It looks as if the whole family is approaching a crossroads of life in one way or anther, doesn't it?

I am sure that you are proud of your other children, also. It is a blessing that they have their feet on the ground and have healthy relationships. This is what all parents want for their kids.

I think that alanon and your therapy will help you to distinguish between what may be clinging to "false hope" and what is true reality. And, that my friend, is one big melon!

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Old 12-25-2014, 12:20 PM
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I'm kind of in the same boat tz... my "list" is similar. I started in alanon back in Feb and started getting a whiff of recovery over the summer and I want <a lot> more. Got a sponsor, started working the steps and discovering stuff and it feels great to start breaking free of the old busted stuff. I have to manage the logistical footprint of the recovery work so its not a burden for others.. yet raw's doesn't use much time or effort beyond seeing her shrink (which shes doesn't talk about much) and some non-AA fellowship. I realize my recovery is about me and if there is to be influence its thru attraction not me trying to point things out. I've sure done a lot of that in the past so my living amends includes NOT doing that kind of thing. But its hard to keep my mouth shut when I see her so closed down and afraid and sad. I get the stick too- redirection, displacement and isolation and its often hard to let go. I have the feeling her mind is an uncomfortable place and has been for a while.. it seems like the way I'm to help now is to be there, not applying pressure.

But it turns out I'm obsessed with not having sex or making love or having much of any intimate contact which is a prominent feature of our marriage post-alcohol (and years preceeding). I'm working with that now its proving a major hurdle and I can trace it back to my teenage years so it'll be a while recovering from that. Its a primary topic over which I've applied pressure, emotional & otherwise.. but disengaging myself from myself if you will is delicate and as complicated as can be.

I often hear things like "if its working for you then leave" bandied about but I really wonder how people can so blithely consider breaking up a long and at least variably successful marriage particularly when there are kids involved and things are not actually insane. Yet my codie brain will keep going to "what about in ~10years when the daughter is out of the house?", and the classic "If only she would do...". The prospect of pulling the divorce trigger over the lack of a satisfactory intimate life or just because we aren't perfectly happy together just looks gross to me.. more of the same old dysfunctional crap that has made a mess for so many others.

I have found that the harder I work my program the more clearly I can see things and the more delicately I can respond... so thats my plan for the immediate future.
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Old 12-25-2014, 04:09 PM
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" My current issue is letting go of trying to get my wife to recognize her behavior toward me and it's destructive effects. I keep clinging to the hope she'll become self-aware and change."

Sounds like me, "I am only trying to get my xhusband to stop drinking and seeing what he is doing to our family. I keep hoping that a the serenity stick will hit him and he will see the light"...

We all have this issue. I was hoping this Christmas season that the ghost in scrooge would walk my xh around in a dream and show him his past and future. haha!! That's how crazy I am. It take time and work to accept that we can not change anyone to want what we want them to be or do.

Work and more work on yourself. Keep coming back, posting, hitting meetings. One day hopefully you will be a peace on what ever you need to do for you.
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Old 12-25-2014, 05:18 PM
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There is a book called The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists that I found quite insightful. It might help you sort through which characteristics are most likely alcohol related, and which are just part of her personality.

From my experience with my now XH, narcissists don't change much. Their self esteem is build on being the center of attention, whether it be as a success or as a victim.

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Old 12-25-2014, 05:40 PM
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Hello and welcome to SR. I am relatively new here as well and have found A LOT of comfort in this forum. I also have LEARNED a lot.

I don't really have any advice to give you- my AH (alcoholic husband) is in treatment and so our recovery is just getting underway. Furthermore, we are only 4 years into marriage.
What I wanted to to tell you is that I'm so sorry your wife has said those hurtful things to you. "I don't like the person I am when I am around you"...wow...that is very hurtful, especially when she is your WIFE! You deserve more than that.
My AH says some things to me that just make my jaw drop and my heart ache. I really hope that you find peace and that you are far enough in your own recovery to not let those words define you. That is the real kicker for me. I eat up the words and allow them to destroy who I am.

I hope you find peace this holiday season and that your wife gets a reality check. It is NOT ok to treat others like that. EVER.
Probably didn't help you out much, but you should know that her words don't define you. I'm sure you already know that...but just a reminder.
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Old 12-25-2014, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Todzilla View Post
Y'all (sorry, I'm from the South) are asking really insightful questions and offering great perspectives.

I believe my wife has very little self awareness into her behavior. She can only view things through her own lens of (for lack of a more charitable term) emotional narcissism. If I bring up my feelings, she immediately redirects to her feelings, either by explaining how my disclosure of my feelings hurts her or trumping my pain with her greater pain. It doesn't seem to matter how carefully I couch my feelings so as not to accuse. I know it's unhealthy to keep score, but my regrettable behavior pales in comparison to hers. Doesn't excuse mine and I'm making amends for it. She made amends to me a while back, as part of her recovery, but they were perfunctory and fleeting.

I am trying to seek to understand more than to be understood, but there's a point at which I feel I'm feeding an insatiable beast. Not finding a positive way to disclose my feelings and have them be heard, rather than act as a springboard for her trumping diatribe seems to be dooming our relationship.

I can look at life without her as not the end of the world, and in fact, a mixed blessing, so I'm thankful that I don't have a high level of desperation. That said, I've been through this before (hence my need to work through these issues through Al Anon and Buddhism rather than repeating them forever) and bailing on this long standing marriage with a kid and a lifetime of shared assets will be a rather lengthy and painful process.
By the way- I would like to compliment you on your fine vocabulary, sir! You (in my opinion) have a talent for writing! I put in bold a phrase that I don't know the meaning of. You don't have to answer...I'll google it!
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:39 AM
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Originally Posted by schnappi99 View Post
I'm kind of in the same boat tz... my "list" is similar. I started in alanon back in Feb and started getting a whiff of recovery over the summer and I want <a lot> more. Got a sponsor, started working the steps and discovering stuff and it feels great to start breaking free of the old busted stuff. I have to manage the logistical footprint of the recovery work so its not a burden for others.. yet raw's doesn't use much time or effort beyond seeing her shrink (which shes doesn't talk about much) and some non-AA fellowship. I realize my recovery is about me and if there is to be influence its thru attraction not me trying to point things out. I've sure done a lot of that in the past so my living amends includes NOT doing that kind of thing. But its hard to keep my mouth shut when I see her so closed down and afraid and sad. I get the stick too- redirection, displacement and isolation and its often hard to let go. I have the feeling her mind is an uncomfortable place and has been for a while.. it seems like the way I'm to help now is to be there, not applying pressure.

But it turns out I'm obsessed with not having sex or making love or having much of any intimate contact which is a prominent feature of our marriage post-alcohol (and years preceeding). I'm working with that now its proving a major hurdle and I can trace it back to my teenage years so it'll be a while recovering from that. Its a primary topic over which I've applied pressure, emotional & otherwise.. but disengaging myself from myself if you will is delicate and as complicated as can be.

I often hear things like "if its working for you then leave" bandied about but I really wonder how people can so blithely consider breaking up a long and at least variably successful marriage particularly when there are kids involved and things are not actually insane. Yet my codie brain will keep going to "what about in ~10years when the daughter is out of the house?", and the classic "If only she would do...". The prospect of pulling the divorce trigger over the lack of a satisfactory intimate life or just because we aren't perfectly happy together just looks gross to me.. more of the same old dysfunctional crap that has made a mess for so many others.

I have found that the harder I work my program the more clearly I can see things and the more delicately I can respond... so thats my plan for the immediate future.
Schappi, so to hear you're in similar straits. I am lucky to be older, so being cut off from sex is a little less physically painful than when I was young and constantly horny.

I see my wife as so deeply whatever-the-opposite-of-peace is, but I am not seeing her be at all self-aware. Rather, she puts defending her wounded inner child above all else, including our daughter. It's so sad.

I can't do the work for my partner, but I can do it for myself. That's where I am these days.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:41 AM
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Originally Posted by maia1234 View Post
" My current issue is letting go of trying to get my wife to recognize her behavior toward me and it's destructive effects. I keep clinging to the hope she'll become self-aware and change."

Sounds like me, "I am only trying to get my xhusband to stop drinking and seeing what he is doing to our family. I keep hoping that a the serenity stick will hit him and he will see the light"...

We all have this issue. I was hoping this Christmas season that the ghost in scrooge would walk my xh around in a dream and show him his past and future. haha!! That's how crazy I am. It take time and work to accept that we can not change anyone to want what we want them to be or do.

Work and more work on yourself. Keep coming back, posting, hitting meetings. One day hopefully you will be a peace on what ever you need to do for you.
Thanks, Maia.

You're right to gently point out the fallacy in my wishes. I need to let go of those desires to have her change. At the same time, I need to understand what I am and am not willing to endure.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:48 AM
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Originally Posted by freetosmile View Post
Hello and welcome to SR. I am relatively new here as well and have found A LOT of comfort in this forum. I also have LEARNED a lot.

I don't really have any advice to give you- my AH (alcoholic husband) is in treatment and so our recovery is just getting underway. Furthermore, we are only 4 years into marriage.
What I wanted to to tell you is that I'm so sorry your wife has said those hurtful things to you. "I don't like the person I am when I am around you"...wow...that is very hurtful, especially when she is your WIFE! You deserve more than that.
My AH says some things to me that just make my jaw drop and my heart ache. I really hope that you find peace and that you are far enough in your own recovery to not let those words define you. That is the real kicker for me. I eat up the words and allow them to destroy who I am.

I hope you find peace this holiday season and that your wife gets a reality check. It is NOT ok to treat others like that. EVER.
Probably didn't help you out much, but you should know that her words don't define you. I'm sure you already know that...but just a reminder.
FreeToSmile,

Thanks for your empathy. I wish you all good things in the work that awaits you.

As you probably know, it's very hard to let go of cruel things your spouse says, especially if they never recant or ask forgiveness (or in my wife's case, offer occasional and vague apologies "for anything I may have said or done that hurt you."). In my case, this erodes my trust of her, which in a cruelly ironic twist, is one of her main complaints of me. I swear she is completely oblivious to the possibility that her behavior influences my trust of her. It would make a hilarious movie if I weren't living it.

My wife preaches empathy, compassion and true intimacy, yet does everything in her power to sabotage those very things. I fear she thinks that divorcing me will solve all her problems.

I look forward to our joint counseling and my continued "shopping" for the right Al Anon group.
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Old 12-26-2014, 05:12 AM
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Todd-
It's very hard to comprehend that a's are very selfish people, drinking and not drinking .. One A told me that A's usually find really nice people in their lives that tolerate terrible behavior.

Our problem is we accept the inappropriate behavior. So the pattern continues. So until we respect ourselves and don't accept that crxp, nothing will change. Give yourself some time. Work a program, you will become strong enough to say enough is enough. Don't force a solution.

We all get to that point. I just divorced my a after 26 years married and 34 years together. Hardest thing I have ever done, and wouldn't wish it on anyone. But he loved all his addictions more then me, I was a door mat to him and it got very old. I am sad some days, but I don't miss all the drama..

I don't have to deal with his selfish, me, me, me behavior anymore. I love him still, but I can love him from a distance. Be kind to yourself.
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