It was one year ago – almost to the date – when we made the difficult decision that Swenny would move out of our home and into a sober house. We had already endured a terrible year of very heavy drinking, which put Swenny’s job in jeopardy, not to mention the damage done to him and our family. Things were out of control. To regain some control, I decided to sell the home we loved in order to have a financial cushion to pay for what I knew was coming – a move to a sober house. I had done my homework with the help of a few very incredible friends and felt I had found the best possible place.
One night, after finding the vodka and Swenny passed out on the couch, I huddled with our two kids and shared the plan. For teenagers, they amazed me with their level of support and maturity. They were all in, so I delivered the news to their father. Either agree to the plan or leave. For the first time, he said, “I can’t do this alone. I need help.”
A few days later, our son walked him to the car to say goodbye. I watched through the window as they shook hands, the younger man extending his support – through that handshake – to his dad. Unconditional love.
From there, our summer went along uneventful. We saw Swenny fairly often and eventually he felt he had done all he could at the sober house, and was ready to come home. Things seemed to be going along fairly well, until they were not.
The pattern goes like this: conversations cannot be recalled and are therefore repeated; his eyes are bloodshot; he smells like vodka; he becomes quiet; he withdraws. For my part, I watch him, ask him and hope he’ll let me in. He does not, so I begin searching for bottles of vodka. Swenny hides them well, but I always find them. Sometimes it takes weeks, even months, but I am very persistent. And I prevail.
Here we are again. Unsure of what to do next, I did what I seem to do best…delivered yet another ultimatum. Get help, or leave. I feel like a parent who threatens and never follows through, and worry that in this way I enable him to continue drinking with no real consequences other than damage to his health and our happiness. Both might be lost causes, so I have handed the baton to him. In taking it, he agrees to develop a plan for himself. It might include AA, it might include outpatient therapy and according to him, it might include exercise.
Whatever plan he formulates, I do rest easier knowing he’s doing something to help himself. Not dictated by me but created by him for him. I do worry, though, that it won’t be enough because he has not acknowledged the severity of his addiction to alchohol.
The first person he called, for example, was a friend from his sober house. I asked why he chose to call this person first. He answered, “Because he had a relapse once, too.” In the most helpful of ways, I said that I am not sure he can consider this a relapse because he’s never strung together more than a few weeks of sobriety.
While he goes through the motions of seeking help, I’ll do my best to support him. Even though what I really want to do is Let.Him.Have.It.