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The confusion of living with a "happy drunk"

Old 07-23-2016, 05:39 AM
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The confusion of living with a "happy drunk"

I'm realizing that my former personal stereotype of what an alcoholic or problem drinker was is what kept me in my relationship for so long. Growing up my parents weren't really there, and my mom (an alcoholic) would get nasty when she was drunk. She would be up late into the night essentially arguing with herself because no one was participating or saying anything back... she would just go on and on saying the most terrible things. If you dared to say anything it would be like hitting a reset button and she would continue on for another hour, so you'd have to just sit there in silence and hope she passed out soon.

My ex on the other hand was entirely different. It's making me tear up just thinking about it. His drunk behavior created a lot of cognitive dissonance. He would say the nicest things, he loved everyone, wouldn't stop talking, I'd have to "become a bitch" in order to get him to leave a party. So while he was disrespectful in the sense that I drove, we agreed on a time that we'd leave and hours would go by... he was just "so nice and lovable and what is there not to like"?

While drinking he would cook for me. Or he would do yard work. Or he would make sure I was in bed and not cold. It was when he was not buzzed or drunk that I experienced the brunt of his stonewalling, deflection and projections. How confusing!

I needed to put this out there. For me, my mother being belligerent and nasty while drunk was far easier to spot as an issue. When someone is extra nice while drunk, that's just confusing as hell.
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Old 07-23-2016, 05:51 AM
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And there is the one that isn't hostile, but retreats from any personal relationship when drinking. Sits in a chair like a zombie. No interaction at all. Not mean, just not present. Of course, when there was a family function he was slurring words, making emotional statements and walking into walls. But he didn't have a problem!! Oh, yeah...*he* hadn't had too much to drink to drive.....that garage door just got in the way of the bumper...how many times? The gkids/kids weren't in danger cuz he hadn't had too much....uh....right!
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Old 07-23-2016, 06:51 AM
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Expanding, once again, I totally get what you're saying. Only occasionally was XAH overtly mean (he always had a passive/aggressive side, but that was easier to ignore or pretend away). Usually he was exactly as you describe your A, kind, caring, helpful--a pretty good guy as far as anyone could see. It was the unseen part, like an iceberg, that caused the damage.

I mentioned that I had a bad time in June, and it hinged on those good memories. I was tired at the end of a long day and threw a frozen pizza in the oven. When I got it out and began to cut it up, I had an intense flash of how XAH and I would fix a frozen pizza, he'd cut it up so I'd get more of the crust b/c that is what I liked and he'd get more of the "filet" b/c that is what he liked, and he'd arrange the pieces in a particular way so they fit perfectly on a fish-shaped plate that I especially liked.

OMG--I was just destroyed. I thought "who is ever going to love you like that again? It's almost your birthday, and who is even going to send you a card or get you a gift or even care?" Expanding, I cried on and off for days. I mowed my lawn, cut back trees, pulled weeds, walked my dogs, and cried and cried and cried.

It was not that I wanted him to come back--I know, I absolutely know that it would never be what I wanted, he is an active A and there is simply no way...It was another layer of grief, much like what you seem to be experiencing in your recent posts. And it was intense. I started some days kneeling by my bed, sobbing, not knowing how I could even stand up and go get dressed. I knew it was over and done between us, but the sorrow for the loss was by no means done and over.

And as you say, when you have many memories of kindness to look back on, it makes it that much harder. But it does pass. It always passes.
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Old 07-23-2016, 07:26 AM
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Oh Honeypig, your story made the tears flow. I feel you. It's the little things that show you how much a person cares. I found a card that my ex made me for Valentine's Day last night. I stuck it on the outside of a kitchen cabinet but it became one of those things that kind of fell into the background and you stop noticing.

He cut out little hearts and glued them to the front and when you opened it it was one of those 3D hearts that popped out. It said I *heart* you. One of my favorite cards. It made me wonder, "what the hell happened?" How did we get here? I couldn't turn the other cheek anymore...

I do have those feelings of "who is going to love me like that again". At the time it feels like one of those once in a lifetime things. But if it was real, and really once in a lifetime then he wouldn't have had to keep asking me "what my problem was". Someone who respected me would've listened the first few times, or had been able to make the connect themselves after one of the many times I spent the night sobbing and sharing my stories of how I grew up.

You are absolutely right it's another layer of grief. It was brought on by having to sell the house. I'm going to see it completely empty, and even though it already feels that way seeing it is too much to imagine. We were here less than five years and although I never wanted to stay here much longer than that I always thought it'd be because we were progressing.

That's the thing though, our relationship wasn't progressing. The only things progressing were his drinking and my desire to get healthy. We couldn't have been going in more different directions. I was holding on to the imagine in my head of what I wanted us to be and I was in denial, such bad denial over how things really were.
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Old 07-23-2016, 08:18 AM
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My AH is a "happy drunk" too. Mellow, pleasant and softly spoken.

His main issue, as I see it, is his utter refusal to take responsibility for the running of our home, lives and marriage.

He gets unpleasant if he needs a drink and it isn't available. Full of anxiety and snappy.

Not all drunks are nasty and abusive. I was when I drank. Thankful to say once I stopped six years ago, that behaviour left me very quickly.

I think a lot of it is to do with what is under the drinking. That determines the drunk behaviour.

AH quit for about ten months recently. He was horrible to live with for most of that time. Such a relief when he picked up again.
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Old 07-23-2016, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Expanding View Post
I'm realizing that my former personal stereotype of what an alcoholic or problem drinker was is what kept me in my relationship for so long. Growing up my parents weren't really there, and my mom (an alcoholic) would get nasty when she was drunk. She would be up late into the night essentially arguing with herself because no one was participating or saying anything back... she would just go on and on saying the most terrible things. If you dared to say anything it would be like hitting a reset button and she would continue on for another hour, so you'd have to just sit there in silence and hope she passed out soon.

My ex on the other hand was entirely different. It's making me tear up just thinking about it. His drunk behavior created a lot of cognitive dissonance. He would say the nicest things, he loved everyone, wouldn't stop talking, I'd have to "become a bitch" in order to get him to leave a party. So while he was disrespectful in the sense that I drove, we agreed on a time that we'd leave and hours would go by... he was just "so nice and lovable and what is there not to like"?

While drinking he would cook for me. Or he would do yard work. Or he would make sure I was in bed and not cold. It was when he was not buzzed or drunk that I experienced the brunt of his stonewalling, deflection and projections. How confusing!

I needed to put this out there. For me, my mother being belligerent and nasty while drunk was far easier to spot as an issue. When someone is extra nice while drunk, that's just confusing as hell.
I had an "idea" of what an alcoholic looked like.

My husband was not it. He was also fairly happy when drinking (until the alcohol started to leave his system) and drinking helped him to be the life of the party. He told me once when sober "You are the only one who has a problem with my drinking." He may have right. Because it did not fit into the category I had in my head of a problem drinker it took me a long time to figure out it was a problem.

Now I use a different measuring stick on if I am concerned about someone's behavior/addiction. How does being around them make me feel? Am I walking on eggshells? Am I trying to keep the peace to try and manage their behavior? Do I feel like I take up too much space/time/energy/needs.

Regardless of what another's stuff looks like if I listen to myself, and trust my own instincts/guts I am not usually wrong. Honestly right now in my life I am struggling more with people who struggle with co-dependency as a trigger.

I don't always have to know what "category," another fits in, I just need to listen to myself.

Your recovery work has been amazing Expanding!
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Old 07-23-2016, 12:09 PM
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I would like to share some information I heard listening to AA speakers as I was learning about this disease that my husband and myself both have.

Putting in simple terms, they were suggesting there are two types of alcoholics.

One type (the sort I am) who once quit becomes happy and comfortable in their own skin. Anxiety leaves them as it was brought on by the alcohol they were drinking. Work will be needed to improve their life but without alcohol, this is very possible.

The other sort (my hub) drank to feel normal, happy in their own skin and to lift their depression. Without alcohol, he feels desperately depressed, suicidal. With a constant supply of alcohol, he goes about his life feeling comfortable.
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Old 07-23-2016, 12:15 PM
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My idea of an A was an elderly, unkempt man with long hair and beard who lives on a park bench. Who drinks nasty rough cheap drinks straight from the bottle.

I am an A and I am a financially comfortable, well groomed lady in my 50s. I drank posh wine in posh glasses! Then moved on to vodka mixed with diet coke as I didn't want to be fat.

I think what I am saying is there is no typical alkie.
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Old 07-23-2016, 12:20 PM
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Alcoholics and addicts come in all different shapes and sizes. I think most people picture alcoholics and addicts as loud, nasty, out of control, hostile, and completely wasted and out of it. It is what happens behind closed doors that will reveal whether the person has a problem most times. It is harder when the person seems to be nice, caring, loving, etc. while drinking or using drugs to not be in denial that there is a problem because oh he/she is wonderful!

Thank you for this post, it is a reminder that addiction and alcoholism comes in all shapes and forms.
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Old 07-23-2016, 03:13 PM
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It's extremely difficult to deal with the happy drunk, because that's what most others see, and then it seems like you're on another planet, because he's not the "great guy" ALL the time that others see.

I think one of the major reasons I've stuck with AH after all these years is because of his compliments, his cooking (I identified with your pizza story, honey pig!), his great sense of humor, the several things we have in common.

And then there's our kids, who see their dad as such a wonderful guy. He texts them constantly with messages about how much he loves them. Who wouldn't respond to that?? Yet, they know it's been difficult. They know that he hasn't been the best husband, and they've fully supported my own decisions, whatever they may be. As you said, expanding, it is such a cognitive dissonance.

But what do you give up for that happy drunk? Do you sacrifice a predictable life? A safe life? An ability to enjoy simple pleasures? TRUE respect--not manipulation? I so identified with the "bitch" comment--my own AH tends to divide women into "bitches" and "babes" and both labels are there to suit his own purpose--his own way of objectifying women. I HATE both labels and I refuse for him to use either of those terms in front of me. To be honest, I aspire to be a "bitch"--which will mean I'm finally living on my own terms, and if he calls me one, I'll take it as a compliment at this point!

So look behind the "happy." My mother once told me that some men have a white shirt on, but underneath is a dirty T-shirt. Which means that they are superficially happy or bright, or witty or wonderful, but behind that there is a residue that other people don't see, but which makes them difficult to live with. Focus on the dirty t-shirt.
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Old 07-23-2016, 03:28 PM
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the problem with the "happy" drunk isn't the HAPPY part...it's the DRUNK part.
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Old 07-23-2016, 03:55 PM
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My AH when drunk would be the fun life of the party, he made friends quickly, everyone liked him, he was funny, sociable, warm, cheerful, embraced everyone with warm hugs, enjoyed cooking, hiking, sports, really any activity suggested he was game...only rule was that his liquor goes with him everywhere he went.

But... The flip side to the alcoholism was the idea of building a future with an alcoholic. Things that require responsibility such as not drinking around children, not drinking too much at a party/work function/wedding, not drinking and driving, not drinking out in public on the streets etc. He couldn't give me that security. Then there is the finances, because you certainly know that if an alcoholic is making good money they will spend their money on better brands of booze (more expensive), go to bars more frequently, buy more booze. Then there is the idea of children together...well how can I be assured that he won't drink around the kids everyday? These million things add up to become a gigantic nuisance.

My AH went to rehab, he is currently working on his sobriety and I see a big change in him. Who once was an extrovert is now an introvert. Movies, reading, playing vids have become the norm for him. He doesn't easily make friends, not as sociable anymore. He's retreating back to the way he was prior to picking up that first sip of liquor. I need to get readjusted to the new him. He needs to get reacquainted with the old him.
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Old 07-23-2016, 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by alcoholics wife View Post
My AH when drunk would be the fun life of the party, he made friends quickly, everyone liked him, he was funny, sociable, warm, cheerful, embraced everyone with warm hugs, enjoyed cooking, hiking, sports, really any activity suggested he was game...only rule was that his liquor goes with him everywhere he went.

Who once was an extrovert is now an introvert. Movies, reading, playing vids have become the norm for him. He doesn't easily make friends, not as sociable anymore. He's retreating back to the way he was prior to picking up that first sip of liquor. I need to get readjusted to the new him. He needs to get reacquainted with the old him.
I think it's interesting that we (I--I'll speak for myself) can latch on to an alcoholic's identity, to their detriment. One of my sons once commented, "When Dad drinks, he has a short period of time when he's 'happy, fun Dad' but then if he drinks too much, he's 'mean Dad.'"

Another son asks me regularly if his father is drinking--and if he is not, is he "somber?" In other words, is he fun to be around?

How difficult must it be for an alcoholic whose identity is based on fun, but who find it impossible to be 'fun' without alcohol? Expecting them to "dance" with the gun pointed at their feet is our own way of objectifying them. I think I'm guilty of that.
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Old 07-24-2016, 05:01 AM
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There were many times when I would look at him my heart breaking, willing him to be himself. It has been hard to accept that after all those years together I didn't and still don't know who he really is. I feel in my heart of hearts that what he projects to the world is not really him.

SoloMio - I don't think we can blamed for expecting the person they pretended to be
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Old 07-24-2016, 05:27 AM
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Originally Posted by SoloMio View Post

How difficult must it be for an alcoholic whose identity is based on fun, but who find it impossible to be 'fun' without alcohol? Expecting them to "dance" with the gun pointed at their feet is our own way of objectifying them. I think I'm guilty of that.
It is very difficult--my husband made me feel very badly for quite some time
by statements like "you're no fun anymore" ,
"I can't make you laugh like I used to when you drank" and so on to the point where I
actually tried "moderating" multiple times to get with the party program
and stay connected in my marriage.

Truth is, although I was the life of the party when drinking,
at heart I am pretty introverted and have been dealing with
anhedonia (I think) in part from growing up with an angry alcoholic
mother--any feelings I felt were pretty much compromised,
crushed, or betrayed by her when drunk, and I was so
emotionally enmeshed as a codependent growing up and beyond,
I just kept putting them out there for her to stomp on for many years
until I didn't really have any left but fear, anger, and anxiety.

Drinking was my way to feel a sense of joy and fun, at least for a little while,
and later I used it just to feel anything at all.
Now that I've accumulated (minus wifely forays into moderation)
four plus years of sober time, I can honestly say most of the time
I feel nothing much at all inside.
I have become more isolated, and I am most at peace
in Nature, with my animal friends, or on my yoga mat.
I read deeply and widely as I did when I was a child
escaping my life, and besides work, SR is the only
"social" interaction I pursue at this time.

That's the price I pay for being sober, or having drunk,
or having grown up with a drunk unprotected, or maybe
it's just who I really am without a drink in my hand.
It's a price I pay willingly, however, as I don't like the person
alcohol was helping change me into.

For Lord of the Rings Fans:

Like Galadriel, I have the choice to put on the Ring of Doom
knowing it will destroy all I love,
or to fade and pass into the West.
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Old 07-25-2016, 06:05 AM
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My AW usually gets all depressed and emotional the more she drinks. And hateful at times. It's lovely....
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Old 07-25-2016, 06:27 AM
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My husband, is all lovey and talkative but it doesn't make any sense and if you don't act like it's the most interesting thing on the planet he becomes a hateful person.
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