Thursday, August 21, 2008

Signs of Strange Behavior

This post is about strange behavior of the alcoholic. Some things I should have seen as not "normal." I was lulled into a sense that this is a normal behavior pattern for a person. Below are some of the signs I maybe could have seen and recognized as alcoholism.

As you know, my story is one where I lived with alcoholism for years. I was married to an alcoholic.

Here's the strangest thing. I never knew that my wife - my "qualifier" was drinking. I just grew accustomed to how she was behaving and "just thought" that this - her strange and erratic behavior was normal.

Here are some signs of the strange behavior;

1. Failure at being on time - to anything. I am not compulsive about being "on time" especially outside of the business world. But being late all the time - for anything and everything should have been a "sign" that something was wrong.

By the way, her parents had the same problem with her. She would always be late to everything. And they thought it was "just her."

2. Forgetfulness. Yes, forgetting - a lot. Even forgot to pick her daughter up from school - or was late. Forgot to go grocery shopping - so there was little or no food in the house.

3. Shopping all the time. Another addiction. Forever leaving the house and shopping at the grocery store. It was "just one more thing" at this store or that.

4. Being unorganized - all the time.

5. Moodiness . . . especially at certain times. At 5PM every day she would become the devil. Her face would actually contort - twist - and she would be pissed off at me.

6. Being called a "Control Freak" - is a sign that you maybe controlling. But you are controlling something you don't understand and don't know why. For example, when you start asking questions about why your spouse is going out and you get "none-sensical answers" and you are then called a "control freak" - you may not be the problem, but your intuition is trying to tell you something is wrong and you are NOT listening or you are rationalizing it away. Being called a control freak may be a sign that you are controlling - you are not bad - you are just trying to figure out something that is not making sense. The problem is not recognizing that something is actually wrong.

7. Being controlling. Once you step into trying to control this disease - you lose. You lose your identity and the disease in the other person becomes more powerful in that the disease tells the alcoholic - "See, she/he is a bad person. Let's drink some more."

8. Missing work. Missing planes. Missing assignments. This occurred with Girl Scouts.

9. House a wreck. Car a wreck. I mean a mess. When stuff is scattered all over the floor -clothes or whatever or crud in the car - this is a sign. She was medicating herself away from the reality of life.

10. In my case - our daughter was always being "medicated." It was Motrin this and Motrin that for any pain. I have 4 full bottles of Motrin over my house (I no longer live with my wife and have filed for the big D in hopes that I could/can show some normalcy for our daughter). Our daughter would bring these bottles over in her suit case. I take them out and place them in the cupboard now. She was "in pain." But for some reason, once she was here, the pain was forgotten. I think this may be some sort of transference - my wife medicates herself and she wants to medicate our daughter. As I write this - I am a little pissed about this and would like to figure out what the heck to do about it.

11. Neighborhood women - they were sorta talking about my wife and how "funny" she was. I never "drilled down" into asking what they meant or what they were referring to.

12. Eating habits. My wife would eat a lot. Would these be munchies?

13. She was overly caring about what the neighbors thought of her. She wanted to show she was "perfect" on the outside, but in our home, it was a disaster. No dinners for us. But she would cook food for others who were coming home from the hospital after a baby was born or some event. Their dinner was perfect. Ours, well it sucked or did not exist. A big sign. The alcoholic and the alcoholism does not want to be found out, and wanted to put on a "perfect front." This is very normal in an alcoholic home. Sometimes the spouse of the alcoholic wants to put on the air of everything normal over here. But in reality - the house is screwed. And it - the pretending and denial affects the children - here's how: their gut/intuition is telling them something is wrong - but they are being told "don't worry about it" or "everything is normal" and "don't tell anyone." Puts a big pressure on a little person and makes them grow up confused as all hell.

14. Too many glasses of wine. Kendall Jackson was the affair with whom my wife had. I wonder how may people are drinking to be healthy and in reality - are now alcoholics . . . I really wonder. Who would think an alcoholic could be a white wine drinker?

15. Wife would go MIA for 10 minutes or 30 minutes. Our house was fairly large. So she could hide and drink. Another sign. Duh.

Anyway, these were some of my signs I "coulda," - "shoulda" seen

Please share your experience, strength and hope for others.

I know the focus needs to be on us - but there are some people out there who may be experiencing alcoholism and they are like us - they never knew it or don't know it - and need help to see it.


Syd said...

Where to begin on this? There were many signs for me. Some were:
1. no control over drinking at parties--it was a free for all.
2. lying over how much alcohol was being drunk
3. making excuses to have a drink--it's been a tough day; I'm tired; I need to relax, etc.
4. getting angry at me when I tried to control the drinking
5. my feeling that there was no hope

It's like the BB of AA says, if you think that you have a drinking problem, then you probably do.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had known about the lateness thing 6 years ago. My boyfriend is exactly that way. Even late when it involves things that won't wait for you, like airlines. I too thought it was "just him" and his family does the same.

Forgetting... At first I thought, well, maybe he doesn't have a very good memory, like I don't have a good directional sense. No, eventually I figured out that some of the forgetting was because he was drunk at the time.

I wonder what it is about the grocery store. Again, my bf is the same way. Maybe the fact that beer is there?

Bf is also incredibly disorganized. I thought, Maybe it's just some ADD traits. Or it's because he's male (sorry men, for my blatant sexism). Or because he's an absent-minded professor type.

I do wish I had seen a list like this years ago. You're so right, Joe, in that your gut tells you something isn't right. Eventually you piece it together.

Just this week, I have finally, finally admitted to myself that I have to leave. Nothing is going to change and I cannot live like this anymore. Now I just have to figure out how to do it. How to tell him.

Catherine said...

I pretty much received a resume of drunken behavior not only from well-meaning friends but from my Q himself. The signs were in neon and I just IGNORED them because I had these totally incorrect beliefs about the disease.

The signs that were much harder for me to recognize were signs of my own illness: "irritable and unreasonable" doesn't even begin to describe it.

In either case, I'm not going to feel like a sucker for not seeing things earlier. At least I have some awareness now and have something to work with.

PS -- I'm chairing a meeting these days!

Catherine said...

Oh and another thought about your post. One quote I heard on a cheesy reality show dedicated to rehab: "When the words aren't making sense, it's the addiction talking."

This random little quote has been helpful for me when confronting strange behavior in the present. If what he says or does isn't making sense, I'm reminded what's going on (alcoholism in action), and can sometimes detach from the situation.

Anonymous said...

Here are my "Signs of Strange Behavior". As I write this I am reminded of that comedian who says "You might be a redneck if..." Well, I guess my version is "You might be with an alcoholic if..."

(These first few are clues I should have seen in college when we met)

He doesn't have a hobby other than drinking and watching television.

His favorite thing to do with his "friends" is go out drinking.

He has no friends who are not drinkers. His friends are drinking buddies and that is the only thing they really do together.

His social life revolves around drinking. His family are big drinkers. His mother looks like she has the "perfect family" the first time you meet her, and wants so much to impress people with that. Alcohol is served at every single family gathering.

One or both parents is an alcoholic.

(The next ones are clues I should have seen after we were married)

He drives to the bar one night and you find out next morning you have to drive him to go get his car because he walked home. (He is 28, gainfully employed, and not a college student anymore)

You go out to dinner and instead of ordering wine by the glass, he starts ordering whole bottles and you are only drinking a glass or two.

He is constantly sleeping/napping even after your new baby is finally sleeping through the night and you are thinking "Why is this so hard?" This went on for three years before my lightbulb came on. Not in denial just didn't know what I was looking at.

You do the monthly review of finances and realize 300.00 a month is getting spent on wine at the wine store.

He falls down the stairs at home in the middle of the day and says he slipped on the carpet.

He does not submit his work expenses for reimbursement on a regular basis and says you are nagging him even though there is zero in the checking account and the bills keep coming.

He is always going into the basement (or some other room in the house by himself)for no good reason.

Lots of unaccounted cash withdrawals from the checking account.

People from work calling the house looking for him.

He volunteers to "go to the store", when it is next to impossible to get him to do anything else around the house for you.

He refuses to do simple things involved with running the household, like taking the trash out, and calls you a nag for asking him to do it.

Slurring of speech during daylight hours and blaming it on being tired.

His reason for not doing everything is blamed on being tired.

Anything he has to do with the police that stems from his alcohol consumption.

There are probably more I can think of but these are the first that came to mind and I don't really want to dwell a long time on this because it brings me down.
: (


Anonymous said...

My girlfriend was never late for anything. House was always neat, food was always in the fridge. There were plenty of lies, but she was a REALLY good liar so I never caught any. Didn't sneak out because she was always prepared enough to have plenty in the house.

Really - a very well organized drunk!

For me, the only signs that mattered were how much alcohol she drank and how lousy the excuses for getting drunk were. It's not unusual, and I think, not necessarily a sign of trouble, when a 20 year old gets occasionally tipsy. At that age I didn't know my capacity and got carried away more than once, and I know that I don't have a problem with alcohol.

But when a 53 year old gets wasted at every social function and the excuses get increasingly absurd - "I didn't have enough to eat" (How old do you have to be before you remember that you can't drink on an empty stomach?) "It was hot in the sun" (huh?) and my favorite - "I'll call my gynocologist, it must be a problem with my hormones" (is this the new hot flash?).

Oh yeah - one more. There was the need to attend every social event (including wakes for people she barely knew) where alcohol might be served.

Of course once she got sober everyone around me was like - we all knew! I could have been angry that no one told me but it didn't take long to admit that if I'd wanted to know no one would have had to tell me.

And by the way.... it was all white wine.

nona said...


What a great post! When I look back at all the behaviors I had accepted as "normal" I can see just how sick "I" was. But thank goodness I have a program that teaches me what healthy boundaries are. I no longer walk around totally confused because I can't understand why nothing is getting accomplished. The big sign for me was "resistance" to everything! I always knew that when a decision had to be made or an action taken I would be met with resistance and I would have to do a lot of convincing to get the task accomplished. I have learned not to rely on unreliable people and trust myself to make decisions on my own. I've been living with A&A my whole life. Al-Anon has taught me to "Live and Let Live". Since my loved one left me (I'd like to think because I got too healthy for him)I no longer live with constant confusion and apprehension. The day to day chaos has ceased and I have a clarity that I have not known for years. I look forward to checking this blog to see others "work it."


tearlessnights said...

Thanks for this post, Joe.
I copied and pasted your post and my own "signs" list on my blog, with a link back to your site (plus I have you on my "favorites" list). I generally like what you have to say. Thanks.

I am also happy for you and your daughter, and sad for you and your daughter - that you are filing for divorce. This is awesome and encouraging and heartbreaking and devastating. This is a decision I have been avoiding and prolonging. My husband qualifier (Mr. M) has 5 1/2 months sober... at THIS is nearly as difficult as the drinking and I live on edge all the time that his is about to pick up a drink (my disease)! So, congratulations and I'm sorry.

Dogwood said...

What wonderful sharing of all that we have in common with our spouses/significant others. I can truly identify with every comment. Her are some of my own.

- When talking about another alcoholic's spouse the other spouse is always worse off than you. As if that really matters at this point in your relationship.
- The evercontinuous comment of having slipped and only having two drinks. I suppose two is all one can count to in an inebriated state of mind.
- The continuous following me around the house or wondering where I am. God forbid I should have some privacy or perhaps there is a fear of my coming across the hidden cache of liquid gold.
- The non committment to anything monetary. Elvis has truly left the building.
- The constant criticism of anyone we know who is successful in business. Kind of deflects the focus from one who has managed to ruin more than a few golden opportunities in life.