For years, I quarantined myself, staying a safe distance from anyone I might hurt while navigating my marriage to an alcoholic. Consumed with hypotheses, I lost track of time trying to manage if then scenarios in pursuit of one that would leave my marriage, my family and me in tact. Now on the long end of a decade, I realize there isn’t one.
Finally, though, I can step out of the space to which I have been confined. A space where I chose to be alone to manage Swenny’s drinking, minimize the damage to our family and livelihood, and manipulate perceptions of family, friends and neighbors as our lives and marriage unraveled.
Placing down the heavy shield I carried for protection, I am finally encouraged to share the story of my husband’s alcoholism and our quest for sobriety. And the value of doing so became apparent to me this summer when Swenny entered intensive outpatient treatment. I watched him draw strength from the people he encountered there, choosing continued group therapy after graduation to ensure they remained at his side.
In conversation, he spoke with a familiarity of his newfound recovery colleagues usually reserved for close friends. Their stories became part of his, and I watched as my role became minimized. As Swenny’s support group grew, I found myself wanting to add to my own circle of friends, if only to relieve the burden I placed on those closest to me by seeking support from others who have walked a similar path.
So I started to open up, not in closed group sessions held for that purpose, but whenever opportunity provided. In doing so, I learned that support can be found almost anywhere. And the fullness I felt by being direct overflowed when I realized my experience was helping someone else. As my story became known, longtime friends and neighbors, new professional associates and even parents of my son’s teammates came forward saying, “Me, too.”
Once surprised to hear our story amplified by my voice, I now find it calming. Uncomplicated. And apparently, almost normal.