She’s Staying With Her Husband Suffering From Alcoholism

She’s Staying With Her Husband Suffering From Alcoholism

Today we have a particularly interesting interview for you. Dana is one of my best friends, and has been for over 20 years. We met in college before I was married to a good man that suffered from alcoholism and addiction. She also married a good man that suffers from alcoholism.

She’s decided to stay with her husband for now, so we dive deep into why and how she’s staying. We have so many women ask how to stay in their lane and find happiness whether their loved on is drinking or not. If you’ve ever wondered that same question, then today’s episode is for you, sister.

 

Michelle: Hello, hello Dana. Thank you for agreeing to do this. I’m incredibly grateful.

Dana: Thank you for having me. I’m grateful to be here.

Michelle: You’re welcome. Okay, so for those that don’t know you, I’d like to introduce you. Women that have taken our Love Over Boundaries program may be very familiar with you because I did an interview with you. It’s a bonus inside the program.

And I have to tell you, we have so many women tell us they just love that interview. They say they love how positive but honest it is.

Okay, let’s get into it.

You’re married to one of my favorite men in the whole wide world who suffers from alcoholism and addiction.

You’ve decided to stay, and truly have one of the healthiest, happiest marriages I’ve ever seen. And to be clear, I’m not comparing this to only marriages that have alcoholism or addiction involved, I’m talking about all marriages. And you all have the sweetest, and most well behaved kids.

So for those women that have the Love Over Boundaries program, this is your girl. This is Dana. And if you haven’t listened to the interview in the bonus section (or it’s been awhile), go back and listen once you’re done here.

For those of you that haven’t heard, this is part of the Ask Me Anything series we’ve been doing this year. You can find all the episodes here:
Ask Me Anything Episode 1
(about my ex-husband) Ask Me Anything Episode 2
(with my ‘current’ husband)Ask Me Anything Episode 3

This episode is going to be a bit more conversational because we both have experience here.

Dana: I remember when we did the interview for Love Over Boundaries and I was at a really healthy point in my recovery. I’m so glad that we got to sit down that afternoon and really talk about it. I believe when you get to a place in serenity and recovery of your own it really is so wonderful just to sit in it and enjoy it.

I’ve actually never listened to the interview, because I don’t want to hear my own voice. Nevertheless, I’m just so happy to be back again and talking about it some more because it’s a really important topic.

Michelle: Yes.

 

Dana + me

It is a very important topic because what women love about your story is that it’s possible to stay married and be happy.

I always say that, but women are probably thinking, “Okay, Michelle, you left. How do you know?”

I have met enough people to know, and you’re living proof that it’s possible to stay married and be happy whether they get sober or not.

Because your recovery started regardless of what they were doing. Would you say that’s true?

Dana: Yes, absolutely. Which, I have a question for you, and I’m going to ask right off the bat.

Not to hash up what they call ‘war stories’, because two women that love a good person that drinks too much could go on for days and days just telling their war stories. It just cultivates negative energy, and no healing comes from that.

If we go way, way back because you and I started talking about this when you were also on your own way to recovery.

My question for you is:

Looking back on the time you were married to an addict, can you think of anything you did with a positive intention that ended up causing damage or harm?

It could have been an attempt to get him sober or help in some other way. It came from a good place, but in the end it was damaging.

Michelle: Gosh, that’s a great question. Okay, so you’re saying any time that I tried to help, but my help actually ended up causing damage or harm?

Dana: Yes, exactly.

Michelle: This is not to negate from the question, but the answer is no.

No, because every time that I tried to help, first of all, it didn’t work.

Let’s just be honest.

The best example that comes to mind is rehab. I begged him for years to go to rehab, I was researching all the options out there, and thinking based off what I’ve read in whatever book, I’d found the perfect rehab for him. I called an intervention center, an interventionist, I contacted his family, and I contacted his job to arrange for him to go. The cost was $70,000 so that’s what I raised for him to attend.

All the detailing and ‘behind the scenes’ work was on me, I did all of that. He did say yes, he agreed to go. When he came back and his sobriety lasted around 1 week.

And someone could say, “Okay, that could be really heartbreaking for you.”

And it was. It was devastating. I was devastated. But at the same time, the way I look at it, all those attempts, including that one, even though they were costly, they were building blocks that needed to teach me the lesson to stop freaking trying to help.

That bill took us years to pay off but it was a building block. So, no, I don’t regret them because they were necessary.

I’ll be honest, it takes me a little bit longer than most people to learn these hard lessons. The pain came after trying to help. But again, it was necessary to mold me into the woman who stopped helping her husband and started helping herself.

Dana: Yes that makes total sense.

Did you ever go to Family Days? I remember going to Family Days.

Michelle: I did. I went to Family Days, with a baby, nursing. With Graham.

Dana: Oh gosh, yes you did.

Micelle: I remember nursing him and thinking, “Oh my God, I’m so tired. I’m here just to save my husband and feed my baby all in the same moment.”

Dana: Oh, I’ve been there. Not with the baby, but I can remember ironing my shirt so it’s really nice, being so studious and so peppy and alert. Like what the heck was I thinking? Is this really going help? No, it’s not going help.

Michelle: I do think there’s a part of us, when we go to Family Days, that wants to be sure we’re not blamed. I remember I felt that. I didn’t want to appear like the wife that was partly responsible for getting him here, so I put on a mask and I was like, “Look how together I am. I’ve done this, and this, and this. And I’ve read this, and I know exactly what’s going on here.”

So for those that don’t know what Family Days are, it’s where the family is invited to the rehab facility after the one suffering has completed the program. It’s usually 3 or 4 days where we’d all stay together, we’d meet their therapists, their team, and go over aftercare treatment. We’d hash out different things with or about our loved ones. To share our pains, hard times, or hurt feelings.
There was a big part of me that felt very insecure at Family Days. I remember sitting in those meetings and thinking that I wanted to make sure they knew this was not my fault.

And there’s another big part of me thinking,

“Are you sure? You’re telling me that this man is ready to be released? He’s completed the program? And you’re sending him back to me healthy? And you’re sure he told you the truth? You’re sure you’re aware of everything going on with him?”

Did you ever feel that way, Dana?

Dana: Yes, yes I did. I have family members that suffer from alcoholism and addiction as well. So when I went to Family Days, it was first with them.

I remember being at one Family Day and at this point, I’d started my own recovery. Meaning I was learning how to move away from codependency.

This was such a graduation moment for me because the therapist who was releasing this particular family member said,Now, if you don’t hear from them for a couple days make sure you follow up with them and give them a phone call. Go to their house and make sure they’re okay.”

And I said, “Baloney.” Right? “No, I’m not going do that.”

And they looked at me and my loved one looked at me like, “I don’t have your support?”

And I said,

“This person has all my support, but I’m not going to go chasing after them every three days that I don’t hear from them because they might be using again.

I’m not going do that. What I will do is if this person calls me and says I need your help, I’m right there for you. How would you like me to help you? What would you like me to do? But I am not gonna go chasing after this person. They’re not being released to me, they’re not my responsibility. I’m here, but I kind of don’t want to be here. I really would rather go do something else this afternoon.”

That was a really big liberating moment for me. Because when you go and seek serenity and and seek your own recovery from codependency you can get to an amazing place where all this stuff and all this confusion just becomes really quite clear. That’s when you get yourself back again.

You can start taking care of yourself again. So I digress, I was asking you that question, but it reminded me of a lot of situations that I’ve been in. I can look back and compare where I was 15 years ago to where I am today.

Michelle:

I absolutely remember you telling me that story and I remember getting angry. I felt angry at that advice, because that’s really crappy advice.

Dana: Isn’t it?

Michelle: They’re basically telling you to be their babysitter and their enabler.

Dana: Yep. Exactly.

Michelle: That’s not the deal. The deal is that I get to get healthy, and they get to get healthy. We have to do it separately.

And exactly what you said, it’s amazing, and exactly right.

It always blows me away when I think about how much I lost myself in this addiction and how it happened so slowly over time that I didn’t even realize how dysfunctional it was until I got into another relationship or I broke away.

I separated myself from it enough to go, “Wow, where was I? How did that happen to me? I’m a smart person, I’m intelligent. I never would have thought that I would be in this situation, or setting the bar so low. When did I just start to accept all of this in my life? When did this start to be okay?” Did you feel that way?

Dana: You know, it’s a very, very powerful disease. It’s so powerful that someone such as yourself, when you say, “I really feel like I’m a very mentally strong person.” And it’s amazing how it will, over time, really manipulate your mind.

Michelle: It makes you think you’re crazy.

Dana: It has a whole laundry list of things that it does to your mind, and it’s so powerful, the disease. You really have to have a respect for how powerful it can be and how damaging it can be.

Michelle: So let me ask you a question because you knew me after I graduated high school. We met in college before I was married in my first marriage.

Dana: Yes.

Michelle:

So when we were in college together did you ever think having known me that I would have been in a relationship like that?

That I would have put myself in a situation where I needed a restraining order?

You can be truthful. Did you see these tendencies? In my relationships with the guys I dated in college did you see there were red flags in my own behaviors?

Dana: Again, I grew up in a home with alcoholism and started my recovery from codependency at a very young age.

Having said that, I only say that because I’ve always had a respect for how strong alcoholism and addiction is.

If you would have worded the question like, “Do you think Michelle could have ever become a codependent?” I would say that codependency is so strong it will knock out the strongest person I know. And I would just give them you as an example.

But, the answer to your question is no. Absolutely not.

I would’ve thought that you may have gotten into it, but I don’t think you would’ve stayed as long as you had. And there were different circumstances that played into it that really tied you to your first husband, but I think you would’ve left earlier or sooner, or figured it all out sooner.

Michelle: Yeah. Yeah. To your point, that’s how strong addiction is. The power of the disease is just crazy.

Dana: This actually sets up my next question for you, which is:
You’re doing all this study on the whole world of recovery for us women who are married to addicts. When in there did you discover this world? Because it is like this secret remedy. This whole part of mental healing that people don’t really know exists. We talk about grief, we talk about depression…Usually negative. But this particular topic, when did you discover that this exists?

Michelle: I love that question. I discovered it when I stopped looking … When I stopped studying addiction and alcoholism, when I stopped trying to attend meetings, or read books about addiction, and when I actually put down everything that had to do with the words ‘codependency’, or the words ‘addiction’, all of it.

I just said,

“I’m done with that world. I’ve been in that world for 10 years. It’s not making me any healthier, instead I actually feel like it’s keeping me sick.”

I kept feeling like I was going around in circles. The promises to get sober, and then having hope. Then the weekend would come around and I would be fearful, scared, and panicked.

Following him around from room to room and checking all of the secret places, trying to make sure there weren’t bottles stashed, or drugs in the pockets of his pants hanging in the closet, or his phone wasn’t lighting up with calls from people around the block who wanted to party with him.

Then all of my effort resulted in him trying to get more creative to get away with the addiction. It would happen again, and then he was messed up and I’d get angry and frustrated, and lecture, or yell, or beg, or drive around town in the middle of the night in my pajamas with my kids in their car seats trying to look for him and tell him to come home.

We’d be stuck, because it’d be Sunday, and he’d be passed out on the bed and I’d be sitting there at the end waiting for him to wake up so I could teach him a lesson, and show him his child and say, “How could you do this to our family? How could you reject him? Fine, reject me, but how could you reject your own blood?”

And then it would be Monday again… And in the early days, he’d go to work. I’d find a renewed sense of hope again because structure would be there. The distraction would be there for the work week.

And then towards the end it became almost every day or every other day was drinking and drugs.

So I felt like I was just constantly going in this cycle, and the more that I started to learn about addiction the more depressed I became about it.

Dana: Yeah.

Michelle: I remember thinking, “Okay, so statistically this is really it?” So I had to really draw that line in the sand where I said, “I’m not barking up this tree anymore if it has to do with addiction.”

And back then there were message boards, because that’s how old I am…There weren’t Facebook groups or anything like that. So I was in message boards for women, and they’d get in there, and to your point earlier, they’d share their war stories.

And I’d read them, and I’d feel like crap and hopeless. So I said I was done. No more message boards, no more books, no nothing. I need to find tools elsewhere because I realized maybe I was sick too. Maybe I’m addicted to addiction, and maybe I need to do some work. I need to figure out why and how I got where I am, and do my own work to get out. And maybe the tools that I need to start implementing have zero to do with him. And that’s truly when I started to change.

Michelle: That’s why we have this community, frankly. Because when I figured that out, things changed. And I’d never heard of it before. No one had caught on yet, so that’s why I needed to start this community.

Because we’re all going to Family Days and hearing bad advice. We all need to turn away from addiction and place our energy into practical tools that have nothing to do with it.

Dana:

Do you remember your first feel good moment?

When your motivation in life shifted from getting your loved one sober to finding serenity for yourself? When you started to see serenity for yourself, do you recall any of your first breakthrough moments? Any first moment of feeling good or thinking, “This is actually gonna work.”

Michelle: Yes, I wrote about it in my book.

It was a Sunday afternoon and he had disappeared again, and I had three kids and was exhausted. I just didn’t want to do life anymore because I was so tired of giving myself pep talks, pushing through it, and putting on a brave face for the kids.

I just wanted to fall apart and stay in bed in my pajamas and leave. And who knows where to, I didn’t know, but I just wanted to escape my life.

I walked out into the kitchen and they were there eating breakfast. And it wasn’t even a real breakfast, because I had no capacity to make a real breakfast. It was like cupcakes or something terrible.

Dana: That’s under the umbrella, your life, you just can’t manage anything anymore, even breakfast for the kids.

Michelle:

Exactly. You’re exhausted, you’re on E, you’re empty. You’ve got nothing left to give.

Pancakes, making homemade pancakes from scratch and seeing another mom do it makes you feel like the worst mom because you can’t crack an egg. You know? You’re just too tired.

Dana: Yeah.

Michelle: I went into the kitchen to get the kids. I told them, “We gotta go. We’ve got to leave this house”

It can feel like you’ve become a prisoner of your own home. Leaving feels impossible because you’re always waiting for them to call or walk through the door.

So we got in the car. I didn’t even know where we were going, but we left. No makeup, no cute outfits, I literally just walked out the front door. We all loaded up in the car, and we left.

I turned on the ignition and pulled out of the driveway. In my head, I’m thinking, “Well, that was a victory in and of itself. We’re all going somewhere. I don’t know where.”

Then, I could breathe. I took a breath as we were driving down the road. I rolled down the windows, I put on some music, I let the kids look out the window…

Dana: Fresh air, different scenery.

Michelle: Yeah. And I drove. I decided we’d go to the children’s museum, which would have been loud and overstimulating. And I would have compared myself to every other mother there thinking that every other mom had a sober husband to come home to after the museum, why didn’t I?

But it was closed, which was great. So instead, I drove to a local mountain that had a little bit of a hiking trail, and I opened the trunk to grab the stroller.

I didn’t have any proper supplies for hiking, but I found a water bottle, an old bag of Goldfish, and some binoculars. I was thinking, “It’s amazing how you always have exactly what you need. Just enough.”

I grabbed one of Graham’s blankets from the backseat of the car and up the mountain we hiked. It ended up being the most beautiful afternoon I’ve ever had in my life.

And it was just us three with a bag of Goldfish, but I worked through so much stress on that mountain with my kids and I came back down that mountain a different woman.

Dana: Wow.

Michelle:

And I knew I could do this. On that mountain, I found a sense of independence. And I knew that I wasn’t ready to leave yet. But if I ever needed to leave, I had what it would take to do so. I knew everything would show up when I needed it to show up.

 

Dana: That hike felt good. It just felt so good. And not only does it feel good, but you now have control of going on a hike whenever you want.

So it’s like for the first moment you have control back. If you want to make yourself feel good, you know how to make yourself feel good.

Michelle: I mean, amen to that. Isn’t that the whole stinking point – to take responsibility for our own happiness and stop placing it in the hands of others? Even in marriages that don’t have addiction, not looking to our partner to be in charge of our joy. Why do we do that?

Dana: It’s very scary. It develops fear.

If someone else has control over your feelings and your happiness it’s a very scary feeling.

Bad things happen when you’re driven with fear, most things happen that are fear driven.

But to give someone else the control, especially someone who is completely incapable, it’s a wonderful feeling to get it back. I often feel like this program is applicable to people who aren’t even in relationships that deal with addiction. It can apply to any relationship.

Michelle: Yes, it’s so funny you say that, because I get that feedback all the time. I hear women saying that they’re going to let their friends know about the program, because they can use these skills even though they don’t love someone suffering from addiction. The tools aren’t based on addiction at all.

But yes, they’re tools every woman needs to learn. I certainly did. It helped prepare me for my second marriage.

Can I ask you a question now?

Dana: Yes, please do.

Michelle: Here’s the deal, I know that women listening are so curious about your story. So how did you get to this place? How does it work? Tell us how you make it work and how you stay sane.

I’ve seen you interact with your kids, and I’ve seen you interact with your husband, you’re one of the most loving, open-hearted women I’ve ever met in my life. And you continue to be even with the lingering history or threat of addiction in the background.

How do you make it work every day?

What’s the secret to staying and still having this joyful, happy family?

Dana: Going back on what I said before, I do feel like I sought out recovery at a very young age for my codependency.

I was successful at living in a home with more people under the influence of addiction than not.

My childhood home was full of addiction, but very high functioning, and very loving. We had this big secret of addiction in it. I was able to find my way through it, and come out on the other end of it as best as I possibly could.

My bedroom was were I found serenity, making a really cozy bedroom for myself and having the television in there so at six o’clock at night when all the first drinks were hitting the bloodstream I could go to my room for the night.

Luck comes into it too, I also was lucky enough to get my own car… I was given a car when I turned 16, so I was able to hop in the car right after dinner and go for the night.

Now, looking back, I know it wasn’t by accident, but there were some good people in the community who reached out to me.

They gave me the invitation to come on over and watch sitcoms that would come on at eight o’clock, or give me some extra support that I needed.

My point is, going into my marriage, I was already very aware of being able to have a life like that. Also unfortunately, because in a perfect world, I wouldn’t have married someone who suffered from an addiction, but I think statistics say something crazy like 90% of people who grow up in homes with addiction, then marry addiction. Which is crazy because you think it’d be the exact opposite.

I will say that I found my relationship with my husband very familiar and very comforting almost because of his addiction.

I remember the moment that we were officially joined forever. We went through the whole wedding and whatnot, but a year before that I remember being in my parent’s kitchen at five o’clock.

We were all drinking wine and eating cheese and crackers. They had a beautiful, beautiful home that I grew up in. Everybody was laughing and having a really good time.

I remember that moment, and we all just fell in love that evening, and he joined my family that night.

My parents fell in love with him, he and my sibling got along beautifully. I just remember it was a beautiful moment.

So there are things about addiction, because it is so deep-rooted, that are comforting, the lifestyle of it. I know it sounds so sick and twisted, but that’s what drew me into marrying someone who abused alcohol so much. That is what kept me for so long, because it was familiar.

I started pursuing recovery, because I would find that I would start thinking a lot about leaving. I’d start saying that this relationship probably isn’t the best for me.

So, to get back to the original question: How do I function in all of this?

I do happen to be married to a man who is an incredibly high functioning alcoholic. He is incredibly active, so many people in our life don’t even know that he’s an alcoholic.

We try not to call him an alcoholic, we try to say he “suffers from alcoholism”, or “he has alcoholism”.

Because he’s high functioning, that’s part of what contributes to it working.

Michelle: So you’re not in an abusive marriage?

Dana: No, no.

Michelle: He’s genuinely a nice guy, whether he’s drinking or not.

Dana: Yes. And I need to make this very, very clear: There are people who are in your community that you’re helping, Michelle, who should not stay.

And there are people who might want to give it a try. Everyone is completely different.

And who’s to say that I should stay? We can talk about that again in a minute, but I don’t know if my staying is the right thing to do either.

My husband might even tell you that too.

We’ll treat it as the next part of what makes it work is that I have worked so hard on my own recovery that we don’t have those attacking conversations anymore.

He used to say things like, “Well, if you drank wine last night why can’t I?” Or, “Gosh, why don’t you just leave me alone? You’re putting so much pressure on me, no wonder I drink so much.” And all those just disgusting arguments that we’ve all had.

We don’t have those anymore, because I refuse to start them, I refuse to engage in them. I might relapse in the future and have that argument again, but I had it with my mother, I’ve had it with a sibling, I’ve had it with my husband for the first 10 years of my marriage, and I hated it.

So we don’t have that argument anymore, and it’s led to these really beautiful conversations where he’ll admit things to me that I have longed to hear.

Like he’ll say things like, “Yes, that time you thought I was drinking, I told you I wasn’t, I was.” And just to hear that and know that you weren’t going out of your mind, that you did smell it, or you did notice that the level was lower on the booze, or you did think he was acting weird.

We have these great conversations that are leading to a place where from day to day, I do choose to stay, because it’s just more acceptable if he starts to drink and he starts acting the way that I don’t really care for I can pick up and go to my safe place and it’s fine. He feels shame when he sees me go there, I know he does.

I’m talking about a physical safe place, so I’m not going to lay in bed with you tonight, we’re not going to wake up together tomorrow morning. This is what I’ll do, but I won’t rag on him for it.

I’m not making a deal about it, because my motivation isn’t, “I’m gonna sleep on the couch and hopefully tomorrow you’ll feel so bad you’ll get sober.”

No. I’m going to go here and I’m just going to continue with my life. It’s created a nice environment for us.

That contributes to the length of our marriage too.

Michelle: I love that. I love everything you just said.

I’m also going weigh in here, because I know you two and I’ve been in your home. I’ve stayed in your home, I’ve seen you guys enough.

It also helps that he is one of the best fathers I’ve ever seen. I saw one time your son was a little shy and a little scared to come in, and your husband was on it. He stopped the conversation with my husband mid-sentence, walked out of the room outside, was all over your son and helping him feel better.

I just feel like having that kind of attentive co-parent is so helpful, because I know a lot of women in our community feel like single moms even though they’re married. And your marriage is the opposite. He’s just a really good dad.

Dana: I know that he would totally approve of me saying this, in some of these newer conversations we have when we’re honest about his disease, one of his biggest frustrations is that, because he has admitted recently how tired he is of being an addict.

He’s just so sick of it. He’s exhausted. And it’s such a big part of your everyday life.

Michelle: You mean like the battle to stay sober, that’s exhausting?

Dana: Yeah.

Michelle: I can’t even imagine.

Dana: And the shame it comes with.

Michelle: Yeah. Oh, heck yeah.

Dana: One of the greatest things, and I’ve shared it with you before, someone said, “You don’t have to be so hard,” it was about my mother. It was a very dear friend of mine said, “Stop being so mean to her. She hates herself enough already.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh, you’re right. She hates herself enough, you don’t need to hate her too.”

Michelle: I love that.

Dana:

You start to get sympathy for the user, because it is exhausting. And you can see that.

But he looks at himself and he’s trying so hard, right? He has his career, his fathering, his being a husband, and mowing a lawn, stupid stuff like that.

He’s like, “I’m so good at all that stuff, I’m trying so hard in all the other areas.” Yet at the end of the day he just comes up he’s still an addict, and he still carries a ton of shame because he knows things that I don’t even know.

He knows some war stories and embarrassing things that he’s done that I don’t even know about that’s very embarrassing.

Michelle: I think when you hear stories like that of a man that’s trying so hard, and he hasn’t stopped trying. It’s not like he’s, like some people, just throw in the towel and go, “Screw it.”

I know one woman who told me last week he said to her, “Look, you’re married to a guy who drinks too much. Deal with it, I’m not gonna stop.

I have no desire to stop anytime soon. I like drinking and I like the way drinking makes me feel, and I have no intention of stopping. So you can stay or you can go, but it’s up to you.”

And she just felt so frustrated, because she’s thinking, “What am I supposed to do with that?”

And I said to her, “Well, you have to respect the fact that he was honest with you. Now it gives you the freedom to choose so you’re not constantly waiting for him to hope and try to get sober.”

So I love that your husband is always trying. There’s never a lack of effort there, which is probably why he’s so exhausted.

Dana: Well, he’s not trying to get sober. It’s day to day. So today, it’s still early enough in the day where he hasn’t used, but last night he drank.

Michelle: But Dana, so this is fascinating to me. This is another layer.

Dana: Isn’t it, though? Yep.

Michelle:

Because you’re saying that he genuinely likes drinking and you’re not getting triggered enough to the point where you are not packing your bags and going.

You’re watching him pull a glass of alcohol to his mouth and you’re like, “I’m okay with that. I love him.” How is that?

Dana: This goes side by side with the example you just gave about the woman whose husband told her he’s not going to stop.

I’ve been told that before. “I like this, I’m not gonna stop.” So this is what I would do with it, and again, this does not work for everyone. It really does depend on your situation.

I would say in my mind, “Baloney, you hate that you drink. You want to stop drinking more than anyone in your life.”

That’s what I would think to myself and I wouldn’t use it as a tool to call him out on his BS to try to get him sober.

I would listen to him, give him a hug, and I would put that in my heart. All the while, knowing that I know the real truth.

I would just have to have the confidence that you know, that I know what you just told me is a load of baloney. You want to get better but you can’t, and you’re not going to anytime soon. That’s what I would’ve done with that information.

But again, that’s if it were coming from my husband. And that’s how I would use it. And I would like to hear that, because it would help me just stop focusing on trying to get him sober.

To get back to the question, you were asking what I do with the situation where he’s doing it in front of me?

I just stay in my lane. And this goes back to something that we talked about earlier, you really, really just have to stay in your lane.

If you’re making the decision to stay with him, it’s a momentary decision.

I can change my mind in another moment, and leave if I would like to. But I’m staying right now, so I’ll stay in my lane.

When I feel the urge to say something, I try to think about the words I want to say and the situation. I think, where are these words going to get me? And where will I be in 24 hours? Are we going to get through this?

I was saying before, this circulation of talking about this and going through all this. You can’t, and you just really focus on yourself. And you mind your own business.

It can get to a place where he’s decided to talk about something important, but this isn’t the right time to do so because he’s using, you just have to learn how to peacefully (and physically) leave the situation.

I have set up my home in a way that I can go and sleep somewhere else, or I can go and curl up in this room and read a book where there’s really no room for anyone else to come in, or I’ll take the kids to do something. But it’s not the dramatic thing. It’s not like we slam the door and we’re not coming back.

It’s just my focus, 100% of my focus is on my serenity.

Michelle: I love that. I think that’s great. And I’m listening to your story and going, “I can picture you doing that.” I think for the women who are listening that have left or are contemplating leaving, like you said, I think every situation is so different.

And it doesn’t mean that you’re weak if you don’t want to live with that. If you might be exhausted where you’re like, “I don’t want to keep choosing to stay in my lane. I don’t like this atmosphere and I am going to decide to leave.” That’s okay too, it doesn’t make you any weaker person.

Dana: No, not at all.

Michelle: You could be married to someone very similar to what you’re describing. And you could have boundaries around being unfaithful, or other behaviors that would be your line in the sand.

But I think the moral of the story is that you have the freedom to choose, like you said.

And you have the right to change your mind at any point. And that there’s no wrong answer here.

I remember when I used to lead those small groups, I remember a woman who was coming in every week with bruises. The guy that was running the program was saying, “Michelle, you have to pull her aside, you have to get her to safety. You have to go get in the car with her, drive to her house, pack up her stuff, and take her to a shelter.”

So I did, I pulled her aside afterwards and I told her, “Listen, this is what I’ve been advised to tell you to do. How do you feel about this advice?”

Her response was that people had done that before, but she would always go back. Ultimately, she got to choose.

She chose what she thought was right for her at that time. She did eventually leave, which was wonderful, but at that time, she wasn’t ready yet.

This is why I highlight you so much, because it’s possible.

You’re a very healthy, happy woman with a healthy, happy marriage to a great guy.

And you deal with this. It’s just part of the course. That’s freaking amazing. That’s something to be so proud of.

Dana: I don’t know if I would take pride in it, because there are a lot of contributing factors that just happen to be circumstantial that if anything were different I wouldn’t have the choice to pursue this.

I don’t know if you’ve heard that saying: if someone’s drinking, then stops drinking, sobriety just gets you to the start line. You have a whole world of recovery to go through.

If someone in your life gets sober that’s great that now they’re not using, but you still have all of this healing and all of these things that have been done to undo.

Michelle: It’s a lot. It is a lot.

Dana:

For anyone who’s listening, it is a lot. You are not alone. It is a complicated disease, it really is. And you can look at it from so many different angles.

Michelle: Yes. Thank you.


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