Oh my gosh, how I love Lisa. Here’s a woman whose husband is not getting better, but she has managed to find peace in her world. She’s choosing to stay today and is focusing on her needs. And isn’t that exactly what this community is all about?
I love the way she speaks of her life and how she manages to keep the chaos at bay. Lisa also shares how to speak with her college-aged kids about their father’s disease.
And what she shares about how she connects with God is truly refreshing. I think you’re really going to be inspired and uplifted this week.
Michelle: Thank you so much again for agreeing to share your story with me. I’m so grateful. And I know that it’s going to help many women who are listening because I read your questionnaire and was blown away by your wisdom. And I know that there are certain points that you really want to bring out, so I want to make sure to touch on those.
But what I love to start with is: how did you meet your husband, and when did you start to see that there were red flags? Was there a specific instance or conditions where you thought, “hmm, that’s unusual. That’s a lot of alcohol” or “He’s acting a bit funny”?
Lisa: Well, we actually met in college. And he was a couple of years ahead of me, and we were in the same group of friends but never really dated until he graduated and came back. He went ahead. And it was a pretty quick friendship—dating— and kind of started serious, or happened quickly, and actually, I was engaged by my junior year in college and then got married the following year in December after I graduated.
And other than that— the red flags didn’t happen right away because I was still in that college setting, and we’d go ahead and go out and do things and hang out. But I think it was after— looking back I can see the red flags if you know what I mean. The anger comes up and the nastiness— after the drinking and everything like that.
The real issue was always— I was always looking at the behavior first and didn’t connect it really with the drinking until much later on.
It came about, and of course, we were married eight years before we had kids, so there wasn’t as much stress. I think it really started coming out more when we had children. We were both working full time and all of that, and then I saw it, and I would get a little nervous about it here and there. But it was more around the behavior that I was focused on— it’s just the shortness and the anger and the disrespectfulness.
In fact— just getting married young and being codependent and thinking, “Oh, well, that’s just part of the relationship, and you have to take the good with the bad.” But then, one time we had a— there’s another guy that has come over to the house; he was a family friend. But he was helping us out with something on our farm, and I forget how my husband reacted, and he said to me when it was just the two of us: “Boy, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that every day.” So it was kind of a wake-up call. If there was another man that had something like that to say and found that behavior inappropriate, then there’s—
M: Right. It was kind of the validation you were looking for to think that it’s not just you that’s seeing the issues, it is actually validated and witnessed by somebody else.
L: Right. Exactly. Because then, as you know, sometimes it’s that crazy making and thinking, “Don’t bring it up.” And you are thought to be seen as too sensitive, or he didn’t mean it or anything like that. That gets you down on yourself versus having an issue with a behavior. And then, from there, I think it was just increasing over the years and seeing that tie between the behavior and the drinking and being concerned about it.
And I think really recently, it was just making another move. We moved down south, and I was ready to move on my own. And there was pleading. I brought up the issue with the drinking as part of it and the behavior.
And then there was the pleading and then one more time and try.
I thought, “Okay, well, this may be a good chance, and the kids are in college.”
And other things— it started coming up again and being an issue. That’s really where finding your program and the website and the Facebook group and everything really helped to identify and look at that to say, “Okay, it’s that tying in with behavior and the alcohol and everything like that.” Because I had done a lot of reading before about codependency and all that around abusive behavior, but it’s really tying all that to the disease of alcoholism.
M: Absolutely. There are a lot of resources out there that I think are very, very helpful. But I— one of the reasons why I started this program was because I really wanted people to have practical solutions and answers of what to do and not just make it a lot of self-help fluff— which is good, which is important too, but also practical tools. Let’s talk about where you are today. So, you moved with him; you agreed. He talked you into doing this again, and then you believed him when he promised you he would get better. And now he’s not getting better, and you found the program.
You have sons, and they left for college, correct? Are they in college, or have they already graduated?
L: They’re in college now. The youngest is starting up here soon in a week. And they’re both in the same town to where we moved. One was in between classes and starting again. So, I brought it up again.
M: Okay, so how did they feel about their father? Do they know there’s an issue?
L: Well, they do. They know, and I’m pretty forthright about that. They don’t know that there’s an issue now, per se, or that I have an issue with it if you know what I mean. But they do recognize when he’s drunk too much or something like that. So they are aware. And I especially counsel them for themselves to be aware of it and that it’s a possibility. Because research has found— from what I’ve read is that it’s hereditary. So I’ve been very forthright with them like, “You realize this.” So they’re aware.
M: That’s wonderful that you’re taking— I adore the fact that you are communicating with your kids about this. I think one of the biggest mistakes women make is trying to— thinking out of love. It’s always out of love— that we’re protecting our children by covering up for our husbands when, in fact, we’re actually— because they might have this genetic predisposition— we’re doing them a huge disservice. We need to help them prepare for what might be in their future. So I love that you’re talking with them about it. And I think also—and I don’t know if you can relate to this— we sometimes feel guilty because we feel like we’re throwing our husbands under the bus a little.
Did you ever— do you ever walk that fine line between “I don’t want to sound like I’m resentful or angry or cause them to worry, yet I need to be responsible and upfront with this”?
L: Yeah, I think so. And I just have gotten— for so many years I had covered it up and when they were younger not said anything. But I see now it’s just— I guess that mama bear in me has come out and said, “Look, it’s important for the health of my sons and future self to make them aware of it.” And I state it very objectively from the viewpoint of “Look, I’m just worried for you and the future, and you know you just have to be aware of this.” That kind of thing.
M: That’s wonderful. How did they react? How did they respond to that?
L: I think they’re like, “Yeah.” It wasn’t any big surprise because, of course, they’re smart; they know. They see. Luckily, it wasn’t like, “Well, why are you talking about Dad like this?”
M: Oh, that’s so good. That’s great that they weren’t angry with you. I think a lot of moms are scared of that: they’re scared of their kids’ reactions being angry at them. And your boys weren’t angry.
L: No, they weren’t. They just acknowledged— and I think too they have seen— sometimes been on the recipient side or seen me be on the recipient side of the consequences of the disease. So they understand that.
M: That’s so great. I’m really proud of you. Well done.
Tell me about where you are emotionally today. You’re there, you have your sons nearby, and you’re still married. How do you feel today, and where do you think you’ll be three years from now?
L: You know, it’s a mixed bag. Because we’ve had— I’ve tried to set boundaries, and I’ve changed. There’s the understanding that when the behavior starts to manifest itself from the drinking, I just stay away. I just do my own thing. And I’ve brought it up before around— not so much the behavior anymore— because I think sometimes as there’s aging, or at least what I’ve seen in my relationship, is there’s a mellowing out, a lot of times, of the behavior.
And I think it’s not only the effects of the alcoholism, but you have hormonal differences— men’s testosterone lowers. You know what I mean? It’s not the right kind of behavior. That’s mellowing out, and I think there’s a— it’s just difficult because we don’t see the eye to eye understanding of the disease. So it’s like, “Well, I’ll cut back or moderate.” And my viewpoint is: everyday drinking, no matter how much, is still not good for your body long term. I try to position it from the health and the toxic nature of the body trying to deal with that and some medical issues that keep coming up.
M: Does that work?
L: A little bit. I think it has in some respect but not totally. And then it’s sometimes like, “I know, I can’t change. That’s a personal decision— not mine.” It’s like, “Okay, what do I want to do? Where do I want to go?” And it’s not necessarily bad enough that I say, “Okay, well, I just want to leave.” I’m in an area that I really like, and I feel I’ve found a place— a wonderful property.
I don’t mean to sound shallow, but I feel connected to God more and get more reassurance because we’re up on a mountain and looking out. So I guess that serenity and the nature helps me. I’m not in such a dire need to say, “Oh, this is horrible right now. I want to make a big change.” And I’ve never been in the past. “Oh, I’m missing that perfect relationship” or anything because nothing’s perfect or that I missed.
Sometimes it’s just like wanting to be on my own. I kind of missed that getting married so early right out of college. We had roommates and parents before that, so I’m trying to get more time for myself now that the boys are on their own or in college. And I’ve got the ability to explore my inner passions.
M: Are you making time for that? Are you making space for what your hobbies and passions and dreams are?
L: Oh, absolutely. And that sometimes can be a bone of contention, you know, as far as that amount of time, but I’m—
M: —Working for that. Let’s talk about that.
L: Well, it’s just a matter of in the really— and you can probably relate to this too. As an introvert, it’s like, okay, I get my energy from spending time by myself and doing things. Whereas my husband is more of the outgoing— and I think part how he grew up is wanting and needing people around for that interaction. So when I’m here—we’re both together, and I’m doing own thing, then sometimes it’s like, “Oh, well we’re not together, and you’re not hanging out with me.” I do address it sometimes too saying that— the behavior changes from drinking.
I’ve made it clear that I don’t like to be around that. But even in and of itself, it’s wanting to do things all on my own and trying to do that. We were in business for the past five years with our own company, and that was long enough to realize that’s just not going to work with our personalities long term. It wasn’t good for us, and I think he realized it so. Now he’s doing that full time.
M: You know what’s amazing is that I’m listening to your story and I’m thinking to myself, “You know, there’s definitely a form of dysfunction that is going on here with the drinking.”
But you sound incredibly at peace with all the decisions that you’re making for today and for your future.
I hear a very healthy woman saying, “Yes, you might have an issue with me taking time for myself, but I’m making that a priority in my life. And we did work together, and we both realized it wasn’t working, so we’ve made—”
That’s very mature but very wise. That doesn’t sound like a lot of chaos is going on. It sounds like—this might sound odd— but like a peaceful dysfunction. I’ve never put those words together before, but that sounds like what I’m getting from that— is that you’re feeling right now?
Is that is that a reality for you?
L: It is. It feels really weird after all of the crazy dysfunction for so many years. But yeah, with the move, I was ready to go on my own and start over. So I made that decision, and I knew it one way or the other. So I still think that could be an option for me. But right now, it doesn’t seem like it has to be. Now that’s for me. I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised at any point for him to be like, “Well, this isn’t working for me” which has to be his decision. And I think there’s a love still there, but it’s a lot different than it was. I don’t get sad about it per se, but sometimes you think, “Okay, well, could it be different at this point?”
M: Well, what I love about what you’re saying is that— I think the way you’ve gotten to the peaceful way of living in imperfection is because you are at the exact spot that I think every woman wants to be at.
You’re choosing to stay today, but you’re reserving the right to change your mind tomorrow.
You’re not sitting here going, “There’s absolutely no way I can’t make it on my own. I can’t even imagine being without him. I need him in my life” — that desperate kind of— I hate to use the word codependent but that very attached, very needy type of feeling. You’ve gotten to that spot where you’ve realized you didn’t need him in your life to survive. And you chose to stay, but it’s not out of desperation. Does that make sense?
L: It does. And to be honest with you, I think for all these years, a big choice to stay was because of our boys. And that was just a personal choice given the situation. There had been so much that had happened. I guess the big thing was six or seven years ago, I quit my full-time job to start in this family business. And I was scared to death because I had already been the breadwinner with the steady income and the benefits for the most part. And it was just like all that unknown— and then after we did that, we survived. Or I survived if you know what I mean.
So it’s like picking that one leap— taking that one leap gives you the confidence to say, Okay, it’s going to work out one way or the other with your life choices.”
And again, following that intuition and that steadiness— if you really feel something inside to say, “Okay, I’m trying to listen here.” I also credit my faith and spirituality. It’s moving from a structured religion to just trying to connect spiritually with myself to what’s there to support me.
M: Okay, let’s talk about that because I love that spirituality— and I love what you just said. It just touched my heart. That’s one of my hot topics: the whole world vs. faith and relationship. So let’s go there.
How did you get to that point?
L: Well, I grew up in a strict Catholic family. I think that was one of the things that forced our hand to get married right away and not spend the time together. I think my husband had a real plan to get married. He’s the one who makes the decision real quick— quick decisions, and that’s it— and how much was planned to do that before really exploring what we were both like— if he felt he had some anger issues or drinking just to force into that.
And knowing that I was married Catholic, the thought of divorce wouldn’t be what I would think of or jump to right away. And I didn’t, and I think he played on that too and would bring that up. So, our marriage—
I think a part of that was my guilt of how I felt about the relationship— not getting the divorce even though feeling in my gut at the time that it may have been the best thing, especially during the stress and the kids and everything.
I’ve gotten to the point where even the principles or seeing some of the changes in my religion weren’t keeping up with modern— and I saw that through the decisions around the organization of the religion versus the basic principles and faith. So, I’ve just gotten to the point where I’ve moved away from that. And the past few years I’ve said I just don’t want to be a part of that. I have a strong faith, and I rely on— in the morning, I do readings and some meditation to help me connect with that. And I think I feel better for it overall. And I think it’s just a shame.
I look back on that, and I feel like I got sucked in by that religion that made me make some decisions that wouldn’t have worked otherwise, or that I might not have made otherwise and caused a lot of grief. But then, you look down the road, and here I am and like, “Okay, well, I’m still doing ok, so either way, it worked out.”
M: I’m so sorry. So you do your meditation; you do your reading.
Do you go to church, or is that where you just connect with God that way in the morning?
L: That’s how I connect with him. I do that in the mornings, and then throughout the day, I’ll just try and connect. In fact, both my sons have mentioned, “Have you found a church down there and anything you like?” knowing I’d been pretty involved up there, and I’m like, “I just haven’t felt the need to do that.” so I think just me being— I used to have an office job. I felt a lot better after I quit that, and we had our business. And that’s when we were on the farm. I was doing a lot of inside and outside work. And now I’m outside every day for a chunk of time. And for me, that’s that’s where my heart belongs— being outside and touching base with nature, and to me, my faith and spirituality too.
M: I’m really glad that I did not interrupt you because that is exactly what I was going to say. I was thinking about what you said when you moved, and you moved to this spot where you connected to God. I’m hearing that, and I’m going, “Yeah, that is your church.” Your church is what you’ve surrounded yourself with. That is not a building. It doesn’t have walls, but it’s what God created. It’s actually his creation that you are connecting to. The dirt, the land and the air, the sun and the wind and all of it; that’s your church.
And that’s beautiful. I love that. That’s really interesting. It’s amazing how our spirituality and our faith can be the thing that can really bring us complete and utter joy. It’s also interesting how religion can bring us complete and utter guilt. And it’s dangerous.
It’s a dangerous line, and I hear so often women—particularly women of the Catholic faith— say they feel extremely guilty if they were ever to consider leaving their husbands. But also, Christians say that the church would just disapprove of divorce, and so they stay stuck, or they stay out of guilt, but that does not sound like you at all. It doesn’t even sound close to what’s going on within your situation.
L: No, and because of that, I was so tied in with the religion that there was some of that guilt. And truth be told, even before we got married, my parents— we were living together for a little bit, and my parents were like, “Well, we’re not going to pay for the wedding if you keep ‘living in sin.'” So to me now, as our sons get involved in relationships— I told my husband the other day I’m going to encourage them to live with somebody just because I think it’s invaluable to be able to really understand what somebody’s like. You can date, and that’s one thing.
But until you have that day to day that goes beyond that love-in-your-eyes-sparkle kind of thing and you get into some of the nitty-gritty, it’s tough to really find out who somebody is.
M: Yeah. I was raised in that family that had no faith. We didn’t go to church, and I wasn’t taught about anything. We didn’t own a Bible or ANYTHING, and my mom did the same thing. She said, “I want you to live with someone to see if it would really work or not before you get married.” And for me, I did live with my first husband for a couple of years. But I think I called off the wedding twice. So I knew that there was something going on, but I said, for me at least, it was about believing that this person could change if I loved him hard enough. If I perfected myself and helped him enough, he would eventually turn into the man I needed him to become.
L: Yeah. Oh, I know, and I went through that for years too. I think I was just saying, “Oh, well, people change, and that’s not the way it’s going to be all the time. And then after that amount of time, it’s like…
M: Yeah, and they do if they want to.
M: I know I’ve changed a lot since my twenties. I had to work tons at it. I had to work really hard at it. Well, I’m so grateful that you shared that with me. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you’d like me to cover?
L: I was thinking about this, and I think it’s more of a retrospective thing. Some of the the the women and ladies that post on the Facebook page— if you think you have issues, or red flags go up early on, follow your gut. It’s so hard to say that and do it because it’s kind of the same thing. Or just to be aware and listen to that intuition and the red flags. I think it’s more a part of the codependency— “well, there will be nobody else to love me.” Or “Something like this will never happen again.” To say, “Yes, it can happen again.” And to look at that before making that jump or leap moving forward.
M: I think that’s such wise advice. That’s wonderful wisdom from you who knows firsthand what that feels like. I think we all have been victims of believing— because this disease does a very good job trying to convince us that we cannot do any better because we are not worth any better. And that’s just a lie. That’s absolutely a lie that we fall for.
Because I think there’s a part of us that believes— I know for me when I was younger— that there was some truth to that. I was afraid— “Yeah, you’re right. I’m worthy of being cherished and being respected and being told the truth all the time.”
There was a part of me that believed that I deserved the abuse that I was receiving.
And so I love that you’re saying you are loveable, and you will find somebody that will probably love you better.
L: Yeah, exactly. And it’s coming to love yourself first. I never thought of really getting married first— I wanted to be a veterinarian and go to veterinary school, so this was all out of the blue. And looking back, it would have helped to get to know myself and establish who I was first, before saying, “I’m going to go ahead and establish something— a relationship with somebody else.”
M: I love that. Yeah, that’s so true. I was young too. I was 21. And you’re right. I never did the work to figure out who I was. I just depended on him to tell me and to teach me. And when you place your self-worth in the hands of a sick man, where does that leave you? How does that work? It doesn’t. So we have to wait until we get hurt so badly that we take back that power that they have over us and start really figuring out for ourselves our own worth, our own value, and our own gifts. So thank you.
Don’t you just love Lisa? She was so calming and peaceful. I hope you found this inspiring and hopeful. Next week will be just as good so make sure you subscribe, so you don’t miss a single episode.