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Old 04-05-2021, 06:58 PM
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New and confused

I've never reached out to any support group or anything before. I've also never felt so lost. My hubby and I share a diagnosis of bipolar type 2, but he has turned to alcohol to escape. He calls it a maladaptive coping strategy. We are very mu h on the same page about mental health, but the drinking is something I can't wrap my head around. He sees no issue in what he is doing to himself, but does see. Bit what it's doing to me. I have PTSD triggered by the smell of strong alcohol/sweat (not related at all to now) and his drinking triggers it. My safe space mentally is home, but that's been taken away. There is nothing I can do it's seems. I'm helpless and starting to feel hopeless. I know the line 'he has to do it for himself' I know it's true, but it's hard not to feel unloved or worthless. A few people have said he won't change unless I leave, but I can't follow through on that. I'm not strong enough to walk away, because he may not be strong enough to choose me over the alcohol and the honest truth is I love him and don't want to be without him. The things we have when it's good are too much to give up. If it were worse it would almost be easier.

I don't know where to start or what helps or doesn't or how to react when he drinks and shuts down. Tough love? Sympathy? Walk away? Nothing makes sense and I know I will not understand, but I just want to do the right thing to be there. Right now he won't say he has an alcohol problem or is dealing with alcoholism. I reached out to his counsellor and his counsellor told me that I would be wise to join a group for family's of alcoholics and learn about it. It's as close to a disclosure as the counsellor could legally get.

I have it about as easy as it gets when it comes to my own family being amazing and supportive, no elements of abuse, no really major financial crisis... It shouldn't be so hard. He's not actually hurting anyone but himself. The PTSD and my emotions are mine to deal with in a lot of ways and I hate that I resent the time and emotion that gets taken up by this. Sometimes I want to convince myself it's not that big a deal because it would be easier to watch then. I've never felt so incapable of understanding anything as this. I've dealt with my own suicide attempts and his, we've gone through all that and then some. Why can't I figure out how to support him with this? And how do I live my life with this in it if I can't or won't walk away? He's drunk as I'm typing this and isn't in a condition to talk. He's too drunk to hurt himself. I am exhausted and emotional and feeling alone because talking to my supports about him isn't a great option (he doesn't want his father in law knowing all the details.... I don't blame him there!).

Anyways... Its an essay. I don't know any of this forum stuff works and maybe I've done this all wrong, but I don't know what else to do.
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Old 04-05-2021, 07:59 PM
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I just wanted to welcome you Cura. I think its hard to help someone who doesn't want to change - but I think support could help you a lot, and you'll certainly find that here

D
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Old 04-05-2021, 08:37 PM
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I do need support and I know it. I don't have a clue what to do (or more likely, not do) and it's all the same stuff I e been hearing. Leave-then he will see what's at stake... I don't think that's the right answer, but I get a lot more about what to make him do than what to do for me or what to leave alone.

Thanks for the welcome. I really hope I can hear some truth here and get some ides for myself too.
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Old 04-05-2021, 09:06 PM
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Hi Cura, glad you found SR! Sorry for what brings you here though, of course.

I hope you will spend time reading the threads in the forum, you will find stories similar to yours and that can be reassuring. The more you know about alcoholism the better, not for him, for you.

Honestly, you can't really "help" him. He has called his drinking a "maladaptive coping strategy" and that is exactly what it probably is, in his case and in many. Self medication.

The PTSD and my emotions are mine to deal with in a lot of ways and I hate that I resent the time and emotion that gets taken up by this.
That's true that those are yours, but it also means that you would probably like to be able to cope with both to the best of your ability, to take care of yourself. Very hard to do in your situation.

The most important thing here is to take care of yourself. Focus on yourself and what you want and what you like to do. You don't need to be there when he's drinking if you don't want to be. Leave the house or leave the room, his drinking issue is not yours and if you make it yours, you will go down that particularly crazy path with him.

Al Anon is a great support. They do have online meetings as well if they aren't offering face to face meetings in your area right now. You say:
.
  • I have PTSD triggered by the smell of strong alcohol/sweat (not related at all to now) and his drinking triggers it.
  • it's hard not to feel unloved or worthless
  • My safe space mentally is home, but that's been taken away.
  • I am exhausted and emotional and feeling alone
Then you say:

"It shouldn't be so hard. He's not actually hurting anyone but himself"

See the disconnect there?

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Old 04-06-2021, 03:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Cura View Post
I reached out to his counsellor and his counsellor told me that I would be wise to join a group for family's of alcoholics and learn about it.
Feel free to message me if you'd like some help with this part, Cura.
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Old 04-06-2021, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by trailmix View Post

Al Anon is a great support. They do have online meetings as well if they aren't offering face to face meetings in your area right now. You say:
.
  • I have PTSD triggered by the smell of strong alcohol/sweat (not related at all to now) and his drinking triggers it.
  • it's hard not to feel unloved or worthless
  • My safe space mentally is home, but that's been taken away.
  • I am exhausted and emotional and feeling alone
Then you say:

"It shouldn't be so hard. He's not actually hurting anyone but himself"

See the disconnect there?
I suppose i feel like it shouldn't be hurting me. I see your point. I've read some stuff on here that's helping and even more confusing all at once. I guess that's just learning.

How do people watch this and feel these things while still doing their own thing? I feel like I'd have to disconnect a part of me to do it if that makes sense... And how do you respond when people tell you to just leave? The idea of leaving to make him 'see what's at stake' feels manipulative and makes me think it would only inspire short term change or make things worse, but my counsellor says that if it triggers my PTSD and is causing stress I should consider leaving him... First time I've ever found this counsellors response to be so far off my own beliefs but am I missing something here? I know no one can tell me what's right for me without knowing more, but its been said like it's obvious and standard to leave if you love an alcoholic that doesn't want to quit.
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Old 04-06-2021, 02:47 PM
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Fallen Angelina I'm brand new and can't send messages until I have 15 posts. I guess they want to make sure I am what I say I am (makes some sense, but translates to I can't message you yet). I would like to hear your ideas though. There's a lot of harm done in my world by religion related things so thats a factor I guess.

Thanks for reaching out to me.
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Old 04-06-2021, 03:48 PM
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Hi Cura, I'm glad you found us and hope you manage to find some support here.

Originally Posted by Cura View Post
First time I've ever found this counsellors response to be so far off my own beliefs but am I missing something here? I know no one can tell me what's right for me without knowing more, but its been said like it's obvious and standard to leave if you love an alcoholic that doesn't want to quit.
The appropriate actions to take in response to a loved one with an addiction is extremely non-intuitive. Most of us believe that being caring and helpful to those we love when they are in trouble is the correct way to react. This is certainly true for most situations; however in the case of alcoholism an healthy, appropriate response is very very different.

Alcoholism is sometimes called a disease of choice. Unless the individual wants to stop drinking there is no way that any one can help them. Furthermore, if they decide they do want to quit, the best people to help are other alcoholics or professionals. The best spouses and family can do is step back and stay out of the situation. All of us here had to learn to do this and it sucked beyond sucked . . . . it is super tough.

Keep posting Cura and let us know how you get on. You are in a very difficult situation.
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Old 04-06-2021, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Cura View Post
The idea of leaving to make him 'see what's at stake' feels manipulative and makes me think it would only inspire short term change or make things worse, but my counsellor says that if it triggers my PTSD and is causing stress I should consider leaving him...
If people are telling you that it will shock him into action, that would be the wrong reason to do it. It might, but - it probably won't. And leaving just to shock him WOULD be manipulative. Your counselor isn't telling you to do that *to him* but to do it *for you.*
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Old 04-06-2021, 05:59 PM
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Bekindalways, that's part of my confusion entirely. With both of us dealing with Bipolar, I'm used to being in tune and attentive and have a really good understanding of that part, but I ha ent figured out how to support that and still give him the space he needs (and I need) for him to figure out what he wants and what he will do. People and brains are waaay too complicated for their own good I'm sure!

How do you feel out where the line of space and support is? From your experiences, is it something they can tell you at some point, or other ways to figure out what is support, what is trying to fix, and when to just turn around and go to another place?

Sorry - I have so many questions I didn't know I had.
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Old 04-06-2021, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Cura View Post
How do you feel out where the line of space and support is? From your experiences, is it something they can tell you at some point, or other ways to figure out what is support, what is trying to fix, and when to just turn around and go to another place?

Sorry - I have so many questions I didn't know I had.
Good question Cura. Ask away.

We often use the phrase, "stay on your side of the street.". This means that you take care of your own problems; he takes care of his. Generally if there is something he can do for himself then you don't do it. An example would be "finding an AA meeting". That is something that you shouldn't do for him. However, finding Alanon meetings for yourself is completely appropriate. I tend to think we support others the best when we take care of ourselves.

Unfortunately he may have no interest in getting sober. No one can change this. If this is the case you need to decide what you can live with and what you can't. There are ways to detach while living with an alcoholic but these tend to be temporary fixes. Some people do decide to stay with their alcoholic even if they keep drinking.

One thing to keep in mind is that alcoholism is progressive. It will get worse.

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Old 04-06-2021, 11:02 PM
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Alcoholism affects every single person that comes in to contact with it. The alcoholic, their friends and family, workmates, everyone.

How do people watch this and feel these things while still doing their own thing? I feel like I'd have to disconnect a part of me to do it if that makes sense.
It absolutely makes sense and yes, it's true. How can you stay so emotionally attached to someone that is hurting you and your relationship with them. Of course you absolutely can, but what will that do to you? There is a saying around here, you don't set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. You know how it goes, if you let yourself be beat up/drained emotionally you will be no good to anyone and especially not to yourself.

So there is detachment. You don't have to stop loving him, but detaching yourself from his problem with alcohol is pretty imperative. He will quit drinking when he wants to and not a moment before.

First time I've ever found this counsellors response to be so far off my own beliefs but am I missing something here?
As Velma mentioned, the message from your counsellor is quite different from the - set an ultimatum! message you are getting from others.

It's imperative that you look after your own wellbeing.

You didn't Cause it, can't Control it and can't Cure it (the 3 c's)
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Old 04-07-2021, 02:20 PM
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Trailmix and Bekindalways,

It's funny to hear things I know and use in other situations brought up here. When you say to look after yourself first, it's seems so obvious to me how important that is and how much I have not been doing it. I was a volunteer first responder and had it drilled into me 'self, then team, then subjects' for a darned good reason. Failure to do that has resulted in the death of other volunteers in that organization and I feel a bit slow having not seen that. Thank you for making that clear for me.

​​​​​Streets. Yes that makes sense. I am scared of staying on my side and watching him get worse, but I see that is mine to deal with.

We ended up going for a walk and talking yesterday (4 hour walk on account of still talking) and I asked him if some of what I've read here describes his experience. He says he wants so badly to tell me where he is at and what he feels, but doesn't know how to put words to it. It was amazing how a small prompt or question allowed him to start talking, and when I told him where I got the insight from he genuinely thought about why his feelings and actions line up with what I've read.

He may be stubborn and he. y not want to stop, but he is trying to hear me and trying to tell me things he doesn't have words for. I can't ask for more and for that 4 hours he dropped his defensiveness and talked and told me the questions he asks himself and the frustration he feels when he doesn't understand why he feels his compulsion to drink.

I didn't think the start of getting support for myself would open up the door to that kind of conversation. I'm just grateful he is a strong enough person to have that conversation, and to be honest that he doesn't want to change his coping strategy. I respect that honesty - it doesn't happen when he's drunk or emotional, so hearing it when he's mostly sober means a lot.

Thank you for the advice, for drawing attention to my thinking patterns and for validating what I'm feeling. I have a few ideas and a few goals I think I'll set. Small things like taking up a coworker on learning about my new camera, leaving the house to work on my school even though I feel guilty leaving him stuck in his head and drunk. They are small, concrete things, but hard to do I suspect.


Anyways, thank you. I'll be back in a few days to set some more goals and see how this goes.


​​​​
​​​​​
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Old 04-07-2021, 03:59 PM
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Cura, there’s another consideration here...alcohol is an extremely addictive drug that works on a biochemical level to hijack neural pathways that are normally managed by naturally-occurring hormones that regulate and stabilize our moods and wellbeing. Your husband’s use of alcohol as a “maladaptive coping mechanism” is more than just a conscious choice at this point because of the neurological and addicting effects of alcohol ingestion. It may also be interfering with any medication he may be on for his mental health issues.

There are many good books out there on the biochemistry. of alcohol addiction and as you have had medical training, it might help you understand more about what’s going on here. Your husband might be receptive to that line of research, as well?
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Old 04-08-2021, 02:23 PM
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Ariesagain,
Yes - I have tried to explain generally to him how it works, but he isn't interested. It helps me in a way to understand the mechanism though. I've done some reading there and have lots more to learn. The medication interaction is a problem and certainly makes it worse. His meds haven't been working for some time now and at this point it is getting worse quite quickly.

It's a vicious cycle between two really hard diseases. Sometimes I just want to whack him over the head with a frying pan and see if some of his brain's crossed wires sort themselves out... It works with computers right? Jk. I don't want to dent the poor man! He's got enough as it is!
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Old 04-08-2021, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Cura View Post
Ariesagain,
Yes - I have tried to explain generally to him how it works, but he isn't interested. It helps me in a way to understand the mechanism though. I've done some reading there and have lots more to learn. The medication interaction is a problem and certainly makes it worse. His meds haven't been working for some time now and at this point it is getting worse quite quickly.

It's a vicious cycle between two really hard diseases. Sometimes I just want to whack him over the head with a frying pan and see if some of his brain's crossed wires sort themselves out... It works with computers right? Jk. I don't want to dent the poor man! He's got enough as it is!
LOL. Yes, Iíve often wished I could hit the CTL-ALT-DEL keys in my own brain, let alone someone elseís. Itís funny, but itís also really, really tough, and Iím very sorry youíre going through this. Sending you a hug.
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Old 04-08-2021, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Cura View Post

It's a vicious cycle between two really hard diseases. Sometimes I just want to whack him over the head with a frying pan and see if some of his brain's crossed wires sort themselves out... It works with computers right? Jk. I don't want to dent the poor man! He's got enough as it is!
I'm laughing too Cura. We get this kind of thing here. Yeah, don't do it but yep, thanks for giving all of us a sympathetic giggle.

Ugh. Your AH really is up against some tough stuff. He may never want to fight it. As an adult human, it is his right to choose how he wants to live. Knowing this to be true doesn't necessarily make it any easier for you.

Keep learning, posting, and figuring out how to detach and clean up your side of the street.

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Old 04-08-2021, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Cura View Post
How do you feel out where the line of space and support is? From your experiences, is it something they can tell you at some point, or other ways to figure out what is support, what is trying to fix, and when to just turn around and go to another place?
Well, truthfully, what do you have to support? If he had decided to quit drinking, well, then if he asked you could drive him to an AA meeting? Generally when someone has a problem, we like to help if we can. Hungry? Can I make a sandwich? Sad? Want to come over and talk it out? You know what I mean.

Alcoholism is something that requires professional help or at the very least, a group of people who understand and can help (like AA).

What I'm saying in a round about way is you can't help him unless he specifically asks for your help (like the ride to AA). You can listen to him if you want to, you can listen to him tell you his problems for years, however, that doesn't mean you are capable of solving his drinking and/or problems and it doesn't mean he actually wants you to. You can't fix this.

Many who come to SR want to help, just like you do. It's not a bad thing! It just shows your compassion, but it's not wholly realistic.

Here is a vague analogy. Say you need to lose 10 pounds. You really want to! You say to your friend, I need to lose this 10 lbs, it feels horrible, I can't fit in to my fav jeans, etc etc. Maybe you say that often! You may still have the dessert after dinner you know? You may not be ready to do it just now but it makes you feel better to acknowledge it. You don't expect your friend to solve it for you or drag you off to weight watchers.

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Old 04-09-2021, 12:12 AM
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Cura.....I know how confusing this might be for you to wrap your head around, at first. It seems very counterintuitive to most people---and, especially, to those of us who may have co-dependency tendencies,,,lol.
A general suggestion....don't pressure and nag him to "quit drinking" or to go to AA, etc. This just tends to cause them to dig their heels in deeper---and, secretly resent you even more.
Sure, you can talk about his drinking behaviors----BUT, talk from the perspective of how it makes YOU feel, as an individual. Always start with "I" sentences.And, you can be very honest about how it affects You.
Here is an interesting idea---an alcoholic will accept input from other alcoholics much easier than they will a loved one who is close to them. The idea is that alcoholics tend to carry quite a burden of feel ing shame and guilt. They don;t feel the "judgement" so much from another alcoholic....whereas, criticism from a loved one only tends to trigger more guilt and shame and cause even more desire to drink to cope with those feelings.
Also, if you pressure and nag them to "do something about their drinking"----this usually results in them blaming you, even more,about their drinking. Blame...blame....blame....
You can be a wife, but, it just doesn't work to try to crawl inside their head and try to be their therapist. That has to be left to the professionals. It never works, because it is too subjective to you. You are too close to it to ever have full objectivity. And, the outcome is too important to you---where a counselor or therapist doesn't have that burden of such subjectivity.
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Old 04-16-2021, 11:43 AM
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So much wisdom here. Thanks guys. It's been finally some sunshine and I am trying to just do my own thing. I think it's helping me, but changing behaviour is hard so I'll take the progress. And I'll smile. That helps too. ​​​​ ​​​​
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