The Isolation of Hiding Addiction | Life with an Alcoholic
If you’re feeling isolated in your current situation, I can empathize. Even now, while getting my story out and hopefully helping others, I feel the isolation of hiding addiction for all those years I was living with an alcoholic husband. Some people don’t like that I’m finally being open and honest about the last decade or so of my life, and I’ve lost them. That’s hurtful. People who were my family for 17 years have unfriended me because I’m sharing the truth that was my living nightmare all this time.
Seeing people’s true colors does not bring satisfaction, it brings sadness.
It also brings about reminders of why I hid the truth all that time in the first place.
Why Do We Keep It Hidden?
Me? I chose my loyalty to my husband over telling the truth to his family.
It actually wasn’t about my own pride most of the time…it was about his. He was a…difficult…child, to say the least, and worked extremely hard as an adult to make up for it. Super successful at his job, always posing as the perfect son, willing to do just about anything to gain approval and love. Because I loved him and cared about him, of course I worked hard to support him in his efforts to succeed.
The worst thing I did, though, was to hide his addiction. If I could go back in time, I’d have come forward much sooner. I would have reached out to his family, to my family, to our friends, and who knows how things may have turned out. Maybe the same, but maybe not. At the very least, the isolation may have lessened.
I remember one poignant time that I lied about his drinking, a day that haunts me even now. I don’t like to lie. It’s not something I do. One night I awoke to hear him screaming and swearing into the phone. I remember being horrified and terrified all at once. It turned out he had called his aunt to tell her off, berate her, and go off on her about her daughter as well. He left a voicemail, if I recall correctly. I was so embarrassed.
The next day, his mom called and spoke to me. She asked me point blank if he was drinking often, and if he hurt us. Knowing just how much it would hurt him to disappoint his parents any more than he just had…I lied. It killed me, but I did it anyway. I told her no, he wasn’t usually like that, that we were safe, that he didn’t drink a lot, it was a fluke.
It was so hard not to tell her that YES we need help. YES he drinks almost all day, every day, when he’s not working. And that while no, he didn’t often go off on crazy tangents like he did that night…YES his continuous and uncontrolled consumption was hurting us.
Funny thing though, it was never mentioned again, not once, in the past 8 years. Even when we split up, they never said anything about his drinking to me. He was supposed to tell them as part of his 12 step program, and I had repeatedly requested he do so, but maybe he didn’t, so I don’t put any blame on them. The isolation of hiding addiction has always been mine to deal with.
But then I told the truth
It’s taken me a complete year on my own to feel ready to be open and honest with the world about the life I experienced, and while it’s been full of positivity and support overall, it’s also been tainted with the nightmare of not being believed and instead dropped or ignored. The isolation of hiding addiction never seems to go away.
Two months ago, I learned that one of our daughters had found empty beer cans in her dad’s bathroom cabinet while she and some friends were playing hide and seek. I was so frightened by this discovery, and what it meant for our children’s lives and their safety. They need a sober dad, and they need to be safe when they are with him.
Making that phone call to his parents was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I heard his mom’s heart break through the phone lines.
I was shaking and having panic attacks for the next 24 hours, scared out of my mind for how he might react, and if I or the children were in any danger for outing him. I just wanted him to get help. I can’t be there for him anymore, and as much as I’ve tried to help him the past, it’s not my job anymore. I had let go, but I still wanted to see him succeed.
And then…nothing. Like, literally, nothing. Nothing happened at all.
I texted them to see what had happened if they had spoken to him yet, because I was freaking out…and I got no response at all. It was radio silence. Come to find out, they did indeed speak to him, because he spoke to our daughter who had found the beer cans. He had a perfect story to explain those cans — a friend had left them in there for some reason. In the master bathroom, down the hall, and around the corner, under the sink, in the cabinets. Perfectly normal, right?
The truth doesn’t always set you free in the way you expect
Though you may lose people you thought loved and cared about you when you finally come forward and it will hurt deeply, know it’s all part of the path to breaking free from the chains addiction has wrapped around YOU when you weren’t paying attention. We are not the ones abusing a substance, but we ARE abusing OURSELVES by continuing to cover for our loved one. The weight of their addiction can be almost too much to bear sometimes, I know. I’ve been there.
But even with the losses, even with the new stresses being open might bring into your life, none of it can outweigh how you will feel when you can be you again. When you realize it’s not your job to hide someone else’s problem. That YOUR health and happiness is important too. That you are not actually helping your children with your actions, either, even though you may think you are.
Break your chains.