Sleeping with the “normie” – recovery with a spouse who drinks

My husband still drinks. I haven’t asked him to stop drinking because of my situation – that wouldn’t seem fair – he doesn’t have a drinking problem. We have a shit load of alcohol in the house, but I don’t freak out about it because we keep it out of sight. Our lifestyle has changed tremendously since I quit drinking and, for the most part, we are both happy with how we compromise in that respect. I do struggle when he’s having a drink or two at home, though. I don’t know what the hell he gets out of just a few drinks, but that’s a mystery I’ll never solve. On these evenings when he drinks, I often have to remind myself that he doesn’t have the same kind of relationship as I do with alcohol. A few seconds of reflection are tolerable, but some nights aren’t as smooth.

DISCLAIMER: YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ SOME OF MY PRIVATE, NOT-SO-PRIVATE-ANYMORE THOUGHTS. I’M NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT THEM. IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING SUPPORTIVE TO SAY, I’M GAME. ALSO, I’M TERRIFIED TO CLICK “PUBLISH”, BUT WHATEVER.

Sitting at the counter, rests a water-stained stem-less wine glass, ravenously filling with rich, grapey, smooth perfection. Hints of oak and mild tobacco pillage my fluttering nostrils – and it all smells like home. As the vino gurgles through the aerator, it taunts me, “Neener, neener, neener! I’m sophisticated and delicious and you can’t have me!” My internal dialog gets a wild hair up its ass and goes to town. Come along on the crazy train for a minute and sample my secret, not-so-secret-anymore hell:

God damn wine. Screw him. Why the hell can’t I drink it? I’m a grown woman, I can make my own choices. Who does he think he is, giving me an ultimatum and then flaunting it in front of me?! That gurgling makes me want to shove that aerator up his ass. Why does he have to invite the booze, can’t it just be me and him? Hmm…Maybe this is just my perspective and not reality – if I had one or two drinks, that’s all I’d be focused on. He probably doesn’t focus on it one bit, he just has a drink and lives his life – he’s so weird. This isn’t fair. I bet I could have just one glass now. It’s been so long. Maybe I’m cured! Maybe I’m not actually an alcoholic – I was never THAT bad, anyway. I functioned well in all aspects of my life still. Well, except for verbally abusing the shit out of him – yeah, I guess that was pretty bad. Glad I don’t remember any of it. Would it hurt anything to try again though? I miss wine tasting with him. I miss our happy hours and funny adventures. I miss the relaxation. I miss the buzz. I miss getting wasted. I miss feeling normal. But I’m not normal, am I? I’m such a loser. I could never stop at just one or two, all I’d want to do is get shitty drunk. But what would that really accomplish? A glowing buzz, a moment to just let go and be wasted. Shit…I’m totally obsessed! The next day I’d be hung over AND be required to be a good mom, no thanks. I’d regret the shit out of losing my 8 years’ status and have to start back at day one…hour one…that’d be enough of a disappointment and reason to drink myself into oblivion. I don’t want to lose my life. I will not disappoint my family or myself. Plus, I have two kids I am responsible for! I want them to look up to me and know that because Mommy can do anything, they can too. Shit. Once again, I’ve talked myself out of this shit. Good. Like it was ever really touch-and-go. This is still annoying, though. Why can’t he just not drink? Would that be a fair ask? What if I did ask him to not drink? Would he be willing to? That’s a scary thought…I wouldn’t want him resenting me anyway, so it’s not an option. I’m the one who is strong enough to overcome resentment, I’ll take this on. I’m so much stronger than anyone knows. I’m actually the shit. He’s so lucky to have me. OK, now I feel a little better and actually hope he enjoys his wine…but not too much. If he gets a buzz on, I’m going to go through this all over again and want nothing to do with him. Maybe I should get out of here and head for the hills. Ok, ok. Simmer down, cray cray. All is good in my world. And both worlds can still meet for now. He’s totally fine. Stop watching him. Don’t count his drinks…STOP! Deep breath. Everything’s ok. I’m ok. One day at a time and I’m still sober. Damn, I think too much. I’m so strong, though. Look how I just worked through that shit. I really AM the shit…

Yep. Pretty intense for a gal on any given evening, huh? Sometimes I honestly wonder if I could be considered clinically insane in these moments. Why is it so hard to remember that I choose sobriety for myself?

Face it and conquer it!Why does it take a few grueling minutes of inner torture to bring myself back to a place of peace? Sometimes I envy those who have significant others who are also in recovery, versus being with a “normie”. What a huge and instant support system, plus, they’d understand you on that level that only addicts could. But the grass is only greener where you water it. And I love my man. If I didn’t have challenges, I wouldn’t be human. And I’ve learned how strong I am. I’m not willing to give that up for anything.

So, here’s my takeaway: Boundaries are essential. In early sobriety, I had a rule that I wouldn’t open or pour drinks for anyone. I don’t know what happened, but somewhere along the way I started to slack. I think I wanted more normalcy and to be useful and less of a burden. My husband and I recently discovered that this boundary must be reset. Holding or pouring a drink is too dangerous for me. It’s death in a cup and could easily slide down my throat, poisoning everything beautiful in my life. This telling conversation sparked after I’d snapped at him – he was innocently pouring wine and I heard gurgling – “Go into the friggin’ pantry and shut the door when you’re pouring that gurgling shit, mother fucker!” For now, I am going to keep being real with myself about what sets me up for success. I’m grateful to have a partner who wants me happy and will agree to pour his wine in the pantry, so I can’t hear it. He’s pretty incredible and boy, has he learned more than he ever wanted to about alcoholism! I’m not a big fan of “rules”, but they are necessary in my life, at least right now. I’m hoping someone out there knows what it’s like to go through this. I always come out on the bright side, sure, but why does it feel so traumatic every damn time?! It’s draining and infuriating, but in the end I’m grateful that I can coach myself back to my peace. I always reach my peace, and that’s what matters most.

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

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20 Responses to Sleeping with the “normie” – recovery with a spouse who drinks

  1. Todd Branston says:

    Amazing post and great insight, as always. I have come to expect no less. It’s apparent you work on your shit.

    I think for me it isn’t that someone drinks or that they are alcoholic or that I am concerned the alcohol would stimulate any desire to drink – it’s none of this. I work around people in varying stages of addiction and recovery in my professional life (limo driving and clinician) so the ‘energy’ of being around that in my personal life is too much. I need a break. Recently one of my limo clients gave me a very expensive bottle of whiskey. It’s apparent this guy has a problem with alcohol and I am sad for him – he’s in his own process and he drinks to change the way he feels. I thought about refusing this gift, but it was important to him so I graciously accepted. When I brought it home I let my wife know that I didn’t want to be reminded of anything to do with alcohol as I see my house as a reprieve, so it’s out of sight. I tried sending it to a few friends, however, I understand that it’s illegal for a regular patron to ship booze. So much for that.

    Ya know, I think you have every right to make additional boundaries and ask that he not drink around you. When we’re partnered we all make concessions for the people we love, and I am not sure that this is any different. I don’t think you need a million reasons why – you spent hundreds of words talking about how this bothers you. And as I said, perhaps it’s not about you having a desire to drink, rather, it’s about not wanting that shit in your face all of the time. It seems to me there is a difference between resolving something and rubbing your face in it.

    If the alcohol isn’t an issue for your friend he’s likely willing to agree to a different boundary. Remember – you deserve it…and the boundaries we set are constantly telling our sobriety/recovery what we think, and the importance we place on “it”

    Be well.

    Todd

  2. This is great, honest writing. I love your more rebellious posts, because so much of what one reads is the “sweetness and light” of sobriety – how the recovering alcoholic would NEVER think of drinking, how booze disgusts them, etc. How knitting afghans or running or aiding the elderly fills the void…

    I am 18 months sober. I had a long, ghastly run with white wine and bad behavior, but I am trying to move forward and repair the damage caused by my alcoholism. After the holidays, I was rooting around in the freezer and I unearthed a bottle of Gin. I never drank Gin, but for some reason this bottle was like a beacon: I fondled it, opened it and smelled deeply, looked at the beauty of the thickened, icy liquid… I put it back, thinking it was ridiculous to pour out- but it kept calling to me. The bottle of Gin would pop into my head at the weirdest times. I poured it out…

    Staying sober is difficult. We are not soldiers. There is no need to add to our burdens by forcing ourselves to resist temptation under our noses. It is hard enough for me to resist drinking wine when it is a distant memory. It is fair to pour it out, ask a loved one to keep it out of sight and give ourselves a break for doing so.

    Thank you for all the great insight.
    M

    • Thank you, Marilyn. Feels like I’ve had the mentality of a soldier, but you’re right…it doesn’t have to be that way where I can have some control over my surroundings. I appreciate your comment and am proud of you for pouring out the gin. Gross. I, too, have taken a gnarly sniff here and there…so simple, but SO intense. Gonna explore boundaries some more…Take care of you!

  3. RecoverySI says:

    Chrystal, this really struck me:

    “Why does it take a few grueling minutes of inner torture to bring myself back to a place of peace?”

    And what popped into my head was this: “Spiritual muscle-building.”

    I have no idea, really, whether that’s a good response, but it’s the one that came up.

    The analogies to working out at the gym cascaded through my brain, after– it’s a good thing, working out to improve your strength and endurance and flexibility. (I ignored the inner voice that reminded me of my own sick time when I was spending 7 hours a day at the gym reveling in my brain chemicals…)

    But you know how the fitness clubs advise someone who’s coming in for the first time– out of shape and sedentary– “please get a checkup from your doctor before you start an exercise program?”

    Same deal. You can’t just dive right in to this kind of spiritual muscle-building. You have to be ready.

    And the other risks– that you’ll become obsessed with how much you can deadlift for the sake of your ego or to show off for others, and start taking ‘roids, and go down the sick road– those are there, too.

    But as the over-used phrase has it: “No pain, no gain.”

    As always, you inspire me.

    • I love that, Cecile – spiritual muscle-building. No matter how “ready” I was, it still felt like diving in, though. Can’t imagine it feeling any differently. It’s such a different world. I’ve often felt like I’ll drown in this sea of scary, lonely unknowingness, but even in the very beginning, there’s been this ever-growing sense of pride and self-reliance that has kept me afloat. I always appreciate your comments, Cecile. You’re so awesome!
      My best to you!
      Chrystal

  4. Rachel says:

    Chrystal, your posts are so inspirational – and REAL. Though I don’t have to battle with alcoholism, I am desperately battling my weight right now. It’s pure torture when Sammy or his kids eat junk in front of me and don’t gain an Asian ounce! But I remind myself that my body is different from theirs and doesn’t process things the same way… I, too, have an intense inner dialogue with myself. My determination comes from wanting to have a baby – and right now, my body isn’t ready for that 🙁 But I love reading your posts because they’re very candid and apply to so many situations. Go you!

  5. Tim says:

    Hi Chrystal. After many failures I once again have decided I need to stop before my life turns into a disaster. I found you through the sober blogs directory, and your situation feels the most similar to mine, with one significant difference that I will get to in a bit. It is because of this difference that I hope I can provide some value or perspective in return.

    I’ve only read your Feb 5 post so far, but your thoughts and writing style are right on for me, so thank you very much for sharing. My “off switch” was apparently disintegrated about 5 years ago. I have a lot of good friends, am well off, have a great job and family. When I drink, I always drink too much. But I don’t get angry or abusive. My speech is affected, and on occasion I have driven. Passed out twice once I got home. My friends gave have never made a big deal of it since I don’t get loud or angry., and it hasn’t affected my job, so it just kept happening, way too often.

    What you said that really hits home for me: “He probably doesn’t focus on it one bit, he just has a drink and lives his life”. Wow – so simple, so true. When I drink my purpose is to get drunk because….. as described in Todd’s comment: “he drinks to change the way he feels”. The difference between me and my non-alcoholic friends is that I drink to change the way I feel.

    I’m a firm believer that a group of people that always agree with each other miss important perspectives and the possibility of a better solution to a problem. *** Obviously, no one who comments here can be wrong about anything, we may just see things differently ***.

    Ok, on to the alternative perspective. I do not believe that the people around me should stop drinking, hide drinking, or change their behavior in any way. I stay in shape, that doesn’t mean my family can’t keep cookies in the house. Friends smoke, but I can walk by without having a cigarette. It does not bother me that my wife has a glass of wine every night. But I think the reason for that is I feel my problem, and for me in particular, that means I need to take care of it regardless of my environment. If I have to rely on others not doing something, when it inevitably happens, I’m fairly certain I will fail again.

    I’ve been to a number of parties where my friends all drink (20+ people). If I can make it past the first hour and then see most of them buzzed or on their way to being drunk, its actually been pretty fun. At that point there is no pressure, the conversations are still pretty funny, and I have a feeling of great relief that I can drive without worry and will not wake up hung over.

    All that said, I absolutely feel the urge from time to time, and it is quite powerful. I honestly don’t know how to get rid of it, or if it will just be with me forever (probably the latter).

    Thank you again for posting your thoughts.

    PS: That gurgling makes me want to shove that aerator up his ass. Not sure if that was supposed to be humor, but if it was, pretty funny 🙂

    • Tim, I’m so glad you wrote! I appreciate your perspective – it sounds like you’re in a great place. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I’m there, too. Maybe it’s because I’m a chick or because I’m a little bit crazy (honestly, they go hand-in-hand), but I can be hot or cold at any second. Being around alcohol, in general, doesn’t necessarily make me feel safe, let alone having it in my home and under my nose. I consider my home to be the safest place on earth, my retreat, my cocoon. My blog post sparked some good conversations for me and my husband, though…so I’m feeling a little better right now. Not sure that urge will ever go away, either. And yes, I meant every word of wanting to shove the aerator up his ass…resorting to violence is my go-to problem solver and I’m not ashamed. I frequently entertain that little scenario and others like it. My husband is one lucky dude. 🙂

  6. Jason M says:

    Chrystal, I love your honesty in your sharing. I relate to your feelings. My social drinking wife doesn’t really drink in the house, but I do have similar feelings to you in that I respect others freedom to enjoy alcohol. Alcohol isn’t my problem. Living sober without my old solution (Booz) is my problem.
    For me to solve this I needed a new solution to fill the loneliness and emptiness I feel sober that alcohol used to fill. I know you’re not a big fan of AA as we’ve exchanged tweets in the past. I’m not writing to tell u to go to AA. I just want to share my experience cause what I found helped me. I took AA as gospel at first. I did what they told me and loved it. I started to notice that a lot of old timers that seemed happy were in fact very explosive with anger in business meetings. I’ve come to notice the quality of their sobriety was weak bc they were letting their egos in sobriety sneak back into theirs lives if in fact they had even ever let it go.
    I heard a speaker who seemed more at peace than other I’ve heard before. He said that he prayed and meditated for an hour in the morning and at night. I didn’t think I could do this and I still don’t pray that much. I did however take from this, that I was inspired to do more praying and meditating from the heart. At six months sober I truly took this seriously and have noticed serious spiritual improvement. I was told “don’t take anyone’s word of a higher power greater than myself. Seek one as best I can and let that power present itself to me in a fashion that shows letting go of old ideas” This has helped me immensely. I do love AA and still go but I do respect people who don’t and I believe one of the problems with AA today is that people are doing just enough to stay sober and forgetting about the power of humility and letting go and trusting and listening to their inner moral voice. More prayer from the heart, more seeking and more asking for help has inspired me spiritually. My Religious father in law told me that he believed there is much more than AA and I tend to agree with him now. AA got me started spiritually but it can be taken so much further and I think many are missing this in the program. Early members of AA knew this but current AA members I believe are falling short.
    I listen to many speakers on you tube Al Anon and AA both. Sandy B for AA and Father Tom for Al Anon. They both have been extremely helpful for me. Al Anon especially for family issues. I hope this helps bc I know how hard it can b to weave through life with addiction and feelings of fear doubt and loneliness. Lots of Love to you and your family. I have 3 little girls 3,5 and 7 so I feel you when it comes to being a parent. I will continue to pray for you as well as others dealing with addiction

    • SoberChrystal says:

      Jay, I LOVE your outlook and perspective. You sound like you’re in a great place and I’m so happy for you. Too bad you’re a Patriots fan, but I’ll forgive you. I really love this: “don’t take anyone’s word of a higher power greater than myself. Seek one as best I can and let that power present itself to me in a fashion that shows letting go of old ideas”. Thank you for sharing that. And I completely agree that “people are doing just enough to stay sober and forgetting about the power of humility and letting go and trusting and listening to their inner moral voice”. It’s hard work, being honest with ourselves. Terrifying, really. I am grateful you took the time to comment and I hope that you continue to speak out. Awareness is key to breaking down the stigma and to opening doors for those who are suffering. Thank you, my friend. Keep up the great work!

      • Jason M says:

        Hi Chrystal, Thank you for the kind words. I couldn’t agree more with you about honesty being terrifying. Everyday I have to dig deeper into the truth about stuff I thought I was already being truthful about. It’s quite uncomfortable but when we walk through it life gets much better. To quote Seattle’s own Macklemore “truth, the only thing I ever used in moderation” I can identify.
        You keep up the great work too. You’ve inspired me to start a blog myself. We’ll see how that goes. I will try and keep the Patriots talk to a minimum 🙂

        • That’s so exciting – starting a blog! It’s incredibly rewarding to have complete strangers read your words and appreciate them. I’ve learned a lot from readers and the support I’ve received has brought me to tears at times. Can’t wait to read your blog. Please send me a link when it’s up and running!

  7. Al says:

    Chrystal, you rock. I’m 33 days sober and came across your blog today. Totally respect and admire your attitude. I’m managing my recovery my way, staying flexible and open to new ideas, with the only rule being no booze. Keep up the good work and stay hard!

    • SoberChrystal says:

      Al, YOU rock!!! I’m happy to meet another sober badass. Keep up the great work, you are amazing – 33 days is incredible! And I love that – STAY HARD!!! I certainly will! 🙂

  8. Ella says:

    Hello Chrystal,

    I just read your blog post, first I’d like to say…wow! You are truly an amazing woman! This obviously is your outlet, and kudos to you for having one. Everyone needs some kind of release. I am new to the sober world, and man do I want to drink some days. I just want to grab a bottle of some fabulous vino, like a dark purple Syrah from Austrailia…yum! But then, I too have similar thoughts to you…the well if I do it it will be amazing and feel so good…then the aftermath will soon come and the pain won’t be worth it.

    Sometimes I like to think about my sobriety randomly, like on a sunny day when I am driving…I take in the fresh air, fill up my lungs and let the air out and think to myself…wow, this feels good to be alive, healthy, and without pain. This time a few years ago I may have tried to breathe on a sunny day and felt like a complete pile of shit -right out of a donkey’s ass; because of the huge hangover I had from the night before. It’s good to have those thoughts that I often do, and think…yeah…I like being sober. It’s good for me, I tell myself, it allows me to remember everything, my head is more clear, I don’t have to worry about cheating on my husband if I go out, or driving home drunk, or who’s going to drive so that I can drink more, so many things that just aren’t a part of my life anymore.

    I wish so badly, that I too could be that “Normie” as you call it. All I want is to go out for dinner and have a glass of wine like EVERYONE else does. Why can’t I do that?! It’s not fair. What’s wrong with me…?

    On the other hand, your post really got to me…I can’t help but feel that it’s pretty selfish of someone to live with a person in RECOVERY and think that it’s ok to drink in front of them. Every night? That seems like a bit much, but who am I to judge… Honestly, would you be writing this post if you didn’t feel the same way? When it comes to YOUR quality of life, what is important to you? 8 years of being sober and you still struggle everyday with alcohol and the one person that you are supposed to love and trust the most throws it in you face. That seems like someone choosing the alcohol over your happiness. Or quite literally: “neiner, neiner, neiner.” While my opinions might be strong, I would have a problem with this…maybe the boundaries as you say you have need to be updated. Maybe the boundaries should be no drinks in the house. Are you afraid that he will be home less if this became a boundary so that he could have a drink out at a bar?

    I have a friend that drinks, when I did drink we drank a ton together. Since my sobriety, I have offered that she drink and insist that it won’t bother me at all. She still chooses not to drink in front of me because she feels it is considerate o of me and respects my struggles with alcohol.

    I think there is some vital information in your post. You express anger and frustration and a lot of it seems to be towards your husband. I know you consider him normal because he doesn’t express the common traits of a “typical” alcoholic, but is he different than you? Why can’t he just not drink in front of you if he is so normal?

    For what it’s worth, I wanted to share these thoughts with you. I hope you can take something from this. I wish you the best of luck! You seem to be a high spirited person, don’t let anything bring you down! Keep your pep up and stay strong & passionate!

    Sincerely Yours,
    Ella

    • SoberChrystal says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Ella! I appreciate your thoughts and can’t help but feel like you got my back! 😉 At my husband’s defense, it’s not every night that he drinks and since this post we have determined a few more boundaries that work for both of us. Perhaps my rage made it seem as if he throws it in my face – he would never do that. And as far as having a sober home, I have never wanted to be “that” person – to turn our world upside down. There’s a certain kind of comfort for me when I know some things will stay the same. Many of our guests that come over have drinks, and I enjoy myself during those times. We just had visitors stay with us for 2 weeks and they drank every night – didn’t bother me at all. Weird, I know. Maybe I’ve climbed a mountain. To answer your question, if we did declare our home a sober one, my hub wouldn’t be out and about, he’d be with his family at home. We are actually going to start planning my 10-year sobriety party and it’s going to be a cruise!!! He will be sober for the whole darn thing and that’s a beautiful thing to me. And you’re right, this blog IS my outlet…pretty raw here…when I write, I basically shit out everything that comes to mind and then I click “publish”. My quality of life is grand, I assure you. I’m an even happier woman having this outlet and having amazing people like yourself to relate to and feel more validated and supported. If I have to bitch here and there online to gain a bit more understanding and to spark new conversations with, for instance, my man, then I’m totally down with that. Thank you so much for your support. I truly appreciate it. Congrats to you! Keep up the amazing work and keep in touch!

  9. Sean Michael Ames says:

    I’m in early sobriety and I can’t escape alcohol. My spouse drinks at least a beer or two every day and enjoys social drinking with friends and family. When I complain, she just throws my horrible past at me…”if you drank like I do we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” I’ve very recently asked , in a loud and despicable rant, that alcohol no longer be allowed in the house. After much debate ( screaming) she consented. Now I have something I’ve wanted all the time but am afraid she’ll find more reasons to be away from me. She’ll hide it and go to places and see people where she can drink. I’m insane over this! I have completely gone round the bend. I feel the only safe place for me is in my room with the door closed. I know it’s a day at a time but it’s human nature to think about our future and the future looks bleak. Sadly, I do resent alcohol and the people who drink it. I wish them all hang overs until the end of time.
    Alcohol has nearly killed me. Why would someone I love, someone without a drinking problem, find it necessary to drink at all at this point in our lives?
    Ps. I’ve been trying to get sober for decades

    • SoberChrystal says:

      Oh Sean, this breaks my heart. BUT it’s part of what will make you stronger in the end. You made a courageous and life-saving choice and you’re trying to become your new self. Us sober folks have to be stronger than the average…we need to be more understanding…this is a huge change for everyone involved, not just you. It’s not sad that you resent alcohol and the people who drink it, it’s part of the process, my friend. I’m happy as hell when people have hangovers too! I’m sorry it was such a struggle to get the alcohol out of the house. I’ve teetered on whether or not I should get rid of it myself, but being almost 9 years in, I think I can handle it and I don’t feel compromised. If your wife doesn’t have a drinking problem, more power to her – but if that’s a deal breaker for you, whether she continues to drink or not – that’s something you need to figure out. I am so proud of you for getting sober…decades in the making! You should be so proud of yourself. Be gentle with yourself and take some deep breaths. I wish you the best of luck…keep me posted, I’d love to stay connected if you want some support. Chrystal

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