When I consider all the things about my alcoholism the one I never think of is the way it affected my husband. How, after years of dealing with me, he might have a part of him that has just given up on me. Then when I think of that I strangle and choke some inside.
It’s not only the things I said when I was shit faced, deep in and blacked out; it’s the things I said the next day, too. It’s how I took out my overflowing anger at myself on the person dearest to me. I was so critical and hard on myself in my own head, it was bound to spill over into my marriage. It was bound to stain us.
It’s hard to think of the hundreds of times I’ve told him “You’re doing it wrong” or “You aren’t doing it right”. I struggle to reconcile the way I feel about him to the way I act about him. It’s hard to know that now, even without the booze, I am in the habit of using him as my mental punching bag. This is true when I’ve had a tough day (“You never blah blah blah”) and when I’m feeling extra superior (“You should blah blah blah”).
At group on Tuesday I was busy talking about how injured I am by things in our relationship. I was easing my uncertainty by blaming it all on him. My therapist kindly but firmly gave me some perspective. She talked about making amends. She talked about how I’m not the only one who is hurt by my alcoholism. It showed me that as much as I don’t want to I have hurt other people with my behavior. Hurt them. Hurt him.
I was crushed by this. My heart crumpled, crippled by the weight of my own persistent ugliness. Sometimes it’s too easy to stay in the self centered swirl of alcoholic behavior even when the alcohol part is long gone.
It’s one thing to become sober and not drink anymore. It’s entirely another to take responsibility for the person you were while you were drinking. Just because the booze goes away doesn’t mean the giant life eraser swoops in and undoes all of your already dones.
I came home that day and hugged my husband to me. I looked up into his face. Into his eyes. I said “I’m sorry for all the things I’ve done. I’m sorry I hurt you, and that I didn’t see you were hurting. I can’t change it, but I’ll try to make it up to you.” I gave him the apology not for me, but for him. It felt different. The intention wasn’t to heal myself, but to give healing to him.
He smiled his crooked smile at me and pulled me close. “It’s OK,” he said.
I offered an apology rather than requesting forgiveness. Even though I think my words couldn’t possibly have that much weight they can come on bearing tons. The people I love hold all the things I say, all the things I do, and so I need to be care full with them. I still have a long, long way to go. I am still pretty angry inside for reasons I don’t really understand. Sometimes I’ll be sitting and realize I’m all clenched up and bitching in my head and wonder, “What are you so cranky about?” I wonder if it’s because I know I need to work harder, even though I feel like I’m working so hard already.
It has taken me all week to wrap my head around the fact that my drinking affected him deeply, that it can’t just be chalked up to having too much to drink and easily blown off. That I hurt someone I love with my careless words, over and over again. That he carries that hurt. That “I’m sorry” helps, but doesn’t fix it. That just because I want him to forgive me maybe he just can’t yet.
I haven’t totally forgiven myself yet, either.
Understanding the hurt I’ve caused others only deepens the understanding of the hurt I’ve caused myself. There are amends to be made all around my life. Letters to write. Apologies to offer. Wanting to be someone and being that person are two different things. I have to do the work, untie the knots, comb out the snarls. Push myself to be the woman I am today when I want to go back to the comfort of being old me.
Making amends takes time. Trust takes time. If there’s anything sobriety teaches you it’s that things take time. (Aghhhhh! Sometimes so much time!) That’s OK too.