Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Request From A Reader

The following request was made by a reader. Here is her question. Please add your thoughts as you feel appropriate.

Just a word to the person making this request for advice. None of us are qualified to provide any advice . . . We can give you examples and ideas of what actions you could take. However, I say this with caution - the advice is worth exactly as much as you paid for it. We are not in your shoes. We have no emotional attachment. And we can hardly understand your situation.

BUT . . . There ARE some things you can do, such as; "Keep the focus on you" and what you can do to set up "boundaries" and "detach with love" . . . .

Here is the request from a reader:
I need advice. My husband has been cutting back on his alcohol usage. It was causing great pain within our marriage. His father is an alcoholic and alcohol is the bond shared between the two whenever they get together.

My mother in law has chosen not to ever discuss the pain in her marriage to an alcoholic and I respect that. I have mentioned to her several times that my husband, her son, struggles with abusing alcohol. Sadly, she points at me as being far from perfect,end of talk. At our most recent family gathering I mentioned to her that our marriage was improving since we were actively taking measures to address the alcohol abuse and he'd agreed to cut back.

A month goes by and she calls my husband via his cellphone and invites him home to New York to spend quality time with his father in a BAR watching and Irish football game for the weekend. I am hurt by her attempts to separate my husband from his family in TX and place him in an environment that he's weakest in.

Anytime spent with his father always revolves around excess beer drinking. She didn't invite me or speak with me about this. I'm pretty sure she knows how I'd feel. I feel she's not respecting me and our children. We have 3. They need a healthy father. I hoped she'd support his efforts to cut back and not place a gun to his disease.

Any thoughts on how I should respond? I feel she's not being respectful of me. Please help.

Thx in advance and sorry this is so long.


Anonymous said...

I too found myself in a similar situation over a year ago. My ex wife's mom and dad stayed with us for several days on the way to Hawaii to visit her sister.

Her father (an alcoholic) kept whispering in her ear to buy some booze. Of course being an alcoholic herself, it gave her an excuse to drink herself.

Long story short, she bought the booze, they hung out together, got drunk, then came the issues, and me and her mom just had to sit back and watch it unfold.

I had no power of her, her dad, the booze. I simply had to detatch and watch it all go down.

So, I see your mother in law simply looking the other way in her relationship, some resentment toward you in regards to wanting to see your husband step away from the drinking, and possibly creating a gap between your husband and father in laws relationship, let alone her relationship with her son.

Very difficult place to be.

I still have no power of the alcoholic, but I can, and continue to regain the power that they had taken from me.

All I can share with you is that if your husband wants to drink, he will, regardless of your mother in law, your father in law, the bar, or the Irish of Notre Dame.

I am sorry that your mother in law does not see or understand her son does not have to carry the life, the trials, and tribulations of a drunk. She should want and desire a better life, a clean and sober life for her son, to see that the next generation doesn't have to follow in the same footsteps.

I wish you well, and hope that all works in favor of your husband, you, and your family.

Peace this Thursday.


Kim A. said...

I am sorry for the pain that the disease of alcoholism is presenting in your life and your families. I struggled many, many years to make sense. I came and went to many Alanon meetings trying to find a way to change things (other people). When I was finally beaten, it was at that moment that I truly became willing to work the Steps with a good sponsor because all of MY efforts, no matter how loving, had failed miserably and my loved one still drank and his family still turned an eye yet I was the one who hurting and really was acting more crazy then the whole bunch of them. (Hindsight) It was suggested to me that I get to as many meetings as I could, get a temp sponsor , put my loved ones in God's hands, and start taking care of myself the Alanon way (one day at a time). I was told to hang onto whatever little bit of hope was left and to trust that my HP loved my husband far more than I did, so to have hope. It worked for me cause I finally gave up on MY way. I will be thinking of you. Namaste, Kim A.

Joe said...

I thought this would be good service work - to post a request for help on the blog.

I will do this on a regular basis if people have a "burning desire/issue."

My thought is this; To detach. Don't get sucked into the poisonous orbit of alcoholism. It is a dance that goes to music that changes every 5 minutes. Just when you think you are making progress, the dance tempo changes, and you adjust to that new tempo. Then you have to adjust again, because the music changes again. Soon, you look like Elaine's dance on Seinfeld.

Tell the person what you want. If they don't follow thru, then you decide what you want to do. You can take no action or you can set a boundary - (see bounaries on this blog or Al-Anon literature).

As for what your mother-in-law thinks, well, that's none of your business (concern).

Keep the focus on what you can do for you. As you get better you can spend more quality and quantity time on the children. Do not get obsessed on what your husband is doing. That is our disease. We begin to obsess. Obsession is our drug, our alcoholism.

And alcoholism will draw you in. It will "bait" you. It will goad you. It will try to confuse you and make you feel insecure.

Keep away from the fire. Don't get lured in. It gets it's strength from your wanting to control, fix, and argue.

My sponsor says, "when you go toe to toe with alcoholism, you lose everytime."

The way to fight it is "surrender." Surender is not a sign of weakness. It means you are going to focus on what you CAN do, and how you can control your thinking and behavior regarding everything that is important to YOU outside of fighting/combating alcoholism.

Step away from the flame.

You will find hope in more Al-Anon meetings, a sponsor and readings.

All my best - Joe

tearlessnights said...

It sounds a little like mother-in-law has had to live life married to an alcoholic for a LOT of years and hasn't felt worthy or valued/valuable enough to think she deserves or could even hope for better. It almost seems a little like she could be threatened or jealous that YOU might actually have a hope of a better life. (Plus she might feel a urge sense of shame that HER son is possibly an alcoholic and is hurting his family in any way - she might feel like that casts judgement on her mothering). thus she consciously or subconsciously may indeed be undermining you.

As we are learning, you are powerless over your mother-in-law and powerless of your hubby. If he wants to stop or cut back on his drinking, he will. If he doesn't, he won't. If he REALLY doesn't want to drink, you will see him not going to bars, not walking down the booze aisle of grocery stores, maybe even steering clear of his dad, who knows? But it will be on his own... because HE wants to. Nothing we loved ones say, do, nag, threaten, cajole, cry, whine, beg, plead, remind, scold, guilt trip etc. will do that for him.

All the best!

Syd said...

The Big Book of AA says that even if a person goes to the North Pole to get away from booze, an Eskimo could walk up and offer a bottle. I think about the fact that I am powerless about what others do. I can't put a protective shield around anyone. They have to decide if they want to drink or not. So if the husband goes to the bar, he has a choice: he can drink or not. It's his choice. The father and no one else is making that choice for him. It sounds like Al-Anon would be helpful for the lady who wrote in.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for responding to my inquiry. I sent a letter to my mother in law about the boundaries that I've set for myself and my children. Additionally I mentioned Al-Anon and how it's helping me. I asked her to please respect my family's cross,the alcoholism. I can't choose for her,but with honesty and the awareness that follows my hope is she won't encourage situations for her son where alcohol abuse is likely. My husband is actively cutting back one day at a time. It's too soon for him to be enticed into a BAR to spend time with his father. His mother should support his efforts to cut back and not knowingly encourage otherwise. I hope she will awaken to how she's enabling both her husband and her son by looking the other way. That's her choice and it's cost her dearly in her marriage. I know I'm not wrong in seeking truth and a better life with a healthier outlet for stress. Btw, my husband isn't able to go to New York due to a conflict in his schedule. This trip did open up dialog between us and he's glad to have found a way out without offending his parents. Grace is sufficient for one day at a time. Thanks for all your kind responses. With honesty and God all things are possible. That's my mantra and I'm sticking to it. Peace out :) Amy

Anonymous said...

I agree the most with what joe says in the above comments.

Don't get sucked in to the drama of alcoholism, because as he says, they will change the rules/the dance/the tempo/whatever on you every time and the rug will be ripped out from under your feet.

It is really hard to admit we don't have control over others and to keep the focus on ourselves. Know that you are not alone.

Go to lots of meetings. Focus on what you want out of life. You can be honest about what you want, but you can't control. I wouldn't even get into it with your mother-in-law. Feel sorry for her as a sad, sick lady. You don't have to be that same woman.

I just told my therapist this morning: I love my family & some friends, but the ones who have the craziness going? I don't like them. I don't see them or talk to them very much, because it's better for me. Sometimes it hurts me, and I feel like a cold-hearted shit, but you know what? I am really not cold. For once I am being good and kind and sane to myself. I have a pretty serene life when I am not around the addicts, and I prefer it that way. I have to go to lots of meetings and learn from others that this is OK. We all do!

Go to lots of meetings and talk about your feelings. You are not alone. Be good to yourself. As I heard someone say, "Detatch with love for yourself." May HP bless you.

Anonymous said...

Wow, just wow. What excellent comments from everyone. I am sorry to hear of your situation. I wish for you to find some serenity and peace in your life and that your husband finds long term sobriety.

I also have a MIL married to alcoholic FIL for 30+ years, Irish Catholic ancestry, alcohol at every family event, yada yada yada.

When it became apparent that my husband, her son, is also an alcoholic, she began being subtly nasty to me and blaming me for his drinking. (she accused me of driving him to drink, and was derogatory of the fact that I have my own career, etc)

I on the other hand expected her to understand and sympathize with me, because now we were both married to alcoholics. Boy was I wrong!!

So I realized I was making myself miserable over her behavior because of my own unrealistic expectations of how she should be behaving. (how could I have been so stupid as to think she would come to my rescue instead of defending her son's behavior?)

I was also making myself miserable trying to control how my husband behaved. (If he went to his family's house where there is always alcohol, etc.)

This was my husband's modus operandi. He would try to bait me into making his decisions for him. For example he would ask, "Well do you want me to go to my parents house or not?"

And then I was damned if I said "yes go" because I gave him permission to go drink, and damned if I said "no stay home" because then he would claim I was being controlling, and use it as an excuse to feel sorry for himself and drink at home.

***I finally realized the right thing for me to say was "Its your decision, you decide". What an epiphany that was for me! And oh how he would pester me and continue try and get me to make the decision for him. But once I recognized the pattern of behavior we had fallen into, I realized all I could do was to change MY behavior and MY response.

I had to just detach from my inlaws and their craziness, and detach from my husband's drinking. It is not easy at first. It is still not easy, but it is getting easier. I joined a gym and began to focus on myself and what makes me happy instead of obsessing about stuff I had no control over (like my inlaws and my husband's drinking)

Eventually there came a point when I was ignoring my husband's drinking completely...not in denial about it, just had to detach and ignore it and let him deal with all of the consequences. And there were some serious consequences.

Finally after 5 years just when I had given up hope on our marriage, seen the divorce lawyer, and had been absolutely (can't believe I typed that, he drank Absolut, no pun intended) completely ignoring anything to do with his drinking for about a month, he finally began to find sobriety. Go figure.

So Joe is right when he says it is none of your business what your MIL thinks, and Kevin B is right when he says you have no power over the alcoholic. It is hard news to hear and it takes awhile for the message to sink in.

I have been to some Alanon meetings and although I am not a regular meeting attendee due to my personal cicumstances, their underlying message is a helpful one. Even if you don't at first find that you buy into everything they are selling, I am sure at least some of it will be more helpful than if you had heard none of it.

Also there are some very good recovery blogs online, this being one of the most helpful in my opinon.

Best of luck to you in your circumstance.


Anonymous said...

I've been going to Alanon meetings for about 6 months. The slogans are helping me reprogram my thinking and teaching me to focus on myself. Here is the slogan I grabbed onto first and will work hard to never forget...Live and Let Live. How fundamentally beautiful. Alanon is saving my life and I have learned that both parts of the slogan are of equal importance.

I am on the way to serenity by accepting the things I can change and understanding what I cannot. I now know I cannot change anyone. I have choices and so does everyone else.

Good day to all,

Anonymous said...

I can not tell you what to do but I can share my experience with you..
I was married for 9 years with a drug addict,but in my eyes my life was perfect,,that is called DENIAL,I tried everything that I could at that time,but i couldn't change him.
I got married again 9 months ago and guess what? he is also and alcoholic,,so if is something wrong in this picture is me,,,that little word that i always try to avoid ME,,when i came to my first meeting i was totally addictive to my exhusband ,my husband and my closest brother (another drug addict)
I forgot that I need me,I can change me,I need to love me and believe in me..
but to do all of this i need to go to the this step-I'm totally powerless over this disease,I can not control anybody but changing my own behavior and been good with myself has been helping me to have a better relation with my husband ,today he goes to AA and has been sorber he knows for how long i don't count his clean days,,but i can tell you i belong to Al anon for 17 months,Today my life is not perfect but i have tools,I have hope and I'm closer to God that ever,I'm not alone anymore and try to keep in mind that is JUST ONE A TIME...
I wish you the best ,God bless you!!

Catherine said...

Joe, I like the idea of featuring a "Help!" every once in a while. I've been to meetings where I wanted to ask everyone, not for advice, but for ideas and to hear their experience on a particular topic.