When I first met my boyfriend, he would tell me I was the girl of his dreams, the miracle he'd waited for all of his life. He would talk for hours about all the places we were going to go, the mountains we were going to climb, the songs we would write and perform together.
It took several months for me to realize that these pronouncements were always made with a beer in his hand. Even as he said he was going to quit drinking and live healthier, he was reaching for another cold one.
I tried all the usual ways to get him to understand: tears and hysterics, level-headed explanations of how he was contradicting himself, ultimatums. Nothing made any difference.
He is still actively drinking. I am growing slowly in my Al-Anon program.
My Higher Power continues to hold me accountable for my own emotions. I would like to blame my alcoholic for all of my problems, but my growing awareness won't let me. Instead I have to take responsibility for my part - the snide comments I let slip, the sly recriminations, the things I do to make him happy that ultimately lead to resentment on my part.
I am also learning that taking care of myself means more than just getting a pedicure. It means setting boundaries. I am trying to learn to give back to myself, although it can feel awkward and selfish. I am also working on my goals. It is important for me to take small risks, to put myself out there, and to share my story and talents.
At some level I continue to grieve that I do not have a partner who can be supportive of me and participate in life the way I would like him to, but I have to remember to keep the focus on the positive. So many times I have longed for a day when everyone will realize how valuable I am and treat me accordingly.
Instead, I have found that it has to begin with me. I am fortunate to have many good, loving people in my life. The journey seems impossibly long, but when I start to lose hope, I have others to reassure me that I am doing great and that I will get better.
By Jessica R., Arizona
The Forum, December 2007
Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.