Mine is a place with room for one. A place from where I chronicle life as the spouse of an alcoholic and mother of two young adults whose dad has alcoholism. In words strung together on these pages and beyond lives their story. Of a man and his children now finding the way on their terms, absent my best yet sometimes crowding intentions to influence their togetherness. Not because they have to but because they want to. He is, after all, theirs and they are his.
I watch how he nurtures them in ways I can’t and challenges them in ways I won’t. And how they in turn, through love that is undoubtedly unconditional, are determining their tolerance for relapse, their means of discovery and their methods of confrontation while growing in their understanding of what one degree of separation is in an alcoholic family.
When they indulge in some of the heavy lifting of Swenny’s alcoholism, they sometimes do so in order to protect him. At times from me.
Summer is our season of relapse. Without an exact pattern to track, it is nearly certain that extended daylight hours will be spent searching for evidence as the symptoms of alcoholism line up in a way that connects the last day of sobriety with one in the drinking continuum that is far past the first.
This summer, though, the only evidence I have found has been circumstantial. Despite scouring the darkest corners of our house, digging in golf bags, checking the underside of box springs and the wheel wells of Swenny’s car, I continue to emerge from my searches without proof. Backed only by instincts which have yet to fail me, I concluded a recent midweek dinner with a serving of questions that asked of Swenny one thing: To let me in. Instead, he lied.
Whatever resolve I brought to the table was consumed by his hedging. So I listened to his untruths and continued to search. Finding nothing combined with Swenny’s refusal to be forthcoming, I asked our son who is home from college how he felt things were going. From the perspective of progress made, he answered in the positive before sharing that which I was never meant to know: Swenny’s relapse is real. And together they have kept it from me.
While I was working late one night in May, our son confirmed a hunch that his father had been drinking by buying a breathalyzer and securing a confession before the test was taken. Just one year ago, almost to the date, he told me immediately of a relapse he had uncovered. This year he was hesitant to share. With words formed by Swenny, he explained his position, asking that I please not confront his dad.
And I won’t. Because as I consider still an exit that leaves each of us whole, I will not risk taking with me any of what they have built. But when it buckles under the weight of the alcoholic lies by which Swenny lives, I will let it fall on him.