(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
Dr. Kenner: Tina, you’re dealing with an alcoholic husband?
Tina: Yeah, been married 24 years.
Dr. Kenner: Wow. Has he been an alcoholic the whole time?
Tina: I guess he was but I didn’t know it because he kept it secret for so many years. He was a closet drinker. But he drinks everyday and you know, he used to be like two of the big bottles of vodka a day.
Dr. Kenner: He’s killing himself.
Tina: Yeah. We’ve raised five kids. They’re kind of out on their own, young adults now.
Dr. Kenner: What’s the youngest, how old?
Tina: The oldest is young 30s, and youngest is 19.
Dr. Kenner: But they’re not in the house anymore?
Tina: One is, the college one came back. Let’s see. I’m 55 now. And financially we can’t separate, so I’m kind of wondering what I can do with my life, because this isn’t going to stop. I’ve tried going to Alanon, I’ve gone to counseling for myself. My counselor said my standards weren’t high enough. He’s not physically abusive, he’s not verbally abusive, but he’s drunk everyday. I mean, every day. Falls down. He’s gotten caught drinking once at work and he had to go through a program and if he gets caught again, he’s fired. It’s in his family history. I’ve done marriage counseling and –
Dr. Kenner: What would you like?
Tina: He doesn’t understand. I’ve tried to say, “Can you repeat back to me that you understand how I feel?” And I think he has an inability to understand how other people feel about things.
Dr. Kenner: What do you think he’s running away from?
Tina: I don’t know.
Dr. Kenner: You think there’s a lot of guilt? Apart from the drinking?
Tina: I think it’s habit. Habit and, I mean, he’s drained bank accounts, just like a second mortgage and everything.
Dr. Kenner: I can hear you laughing. What would be the best outcome for you?
Tina: I want to be – when he’s not drinking, on the very rare occasion, like one day in the summer without drinking – to sleep with him and just melt in his arms. I love him. The best outcome for me would to have him stop drinking, because he’s a very intelligent man, but he can’t stop.
Dr. Kenner: And he knows you’ve gone to Alanon, and he knows you’ve gone to counseling, and he won’t get any treatment for himself apart from court-ordered treatment?
Tina: Yes, he did the court-ordered treatment. It lasted the six months but of course it didn’t take. I sent him to counseling once and the counselor asked why he was there and he said, “My wife made me come.” And they never spoke about the drinking, so I guess he thinks it’s my problem.
Dr. Kenner: Well, he doesn’t. He knows that it’s his problem, but that’s part of the denial isn’t it? When you first called, I thought you were looking to escape from the marriage.
Tina: Thinking about it.
Dr. Kenner: Thinking, if I were financially secure, I would leave him. My kids are almost out of the house, I just have one more kid in the house, and I would love to not have to wake up every morning and wonder “what if?” What if he’s driving when drunk? What if he gets fired from his job? I don’t want to see the bottles of vodka. I don’t want to smell it on his breath. I don’t want to hear him slurring anymore. I am so sick of this lifestyle. I want to be able to wake up and be my own person, go make eggs if I want to, go make some coffee and no have the atmosphere in the house, this heaviness, this problem that someone refuses to solve.
Tina: That’s absolutely correct.
Dr. Kenner: If you want that, then you have raised your standards. Because you’re valuing yourself enough that you want to have, if you think of weather, instead of a cloudy day or a rainy day or a stormy day everyday, you want to be able to wake up and feel like it’s fresh and clear inside your own house, the atmosphere. And you have every right to part ways. In fact, I’ve written a book that is called – it’s going to sound like an odd title – The Selfish Path to Romance. And it doesn’t mean the type of selfish that your husband is. It means self-valuing. Can you be true to yourself and find someone you can truly cherish and they cherish themselves enough? Notice he’s not self-valuing, he’s self-destructive. But if you could eventually find a partner who values himself enough and you have a friendship, you have a wonderful companion and you don’t have to worry. Of course everybody has to deal with conflict, but not the type that he refuses to solve for so many years. And he hid it from you. He betrayed you. People think of alcohol as the other woman.
Tina: I feel like there’s a bottle in between us. Even in bed. I’ve begged him, be sober, just one day for my birthday. And he has not done that. I feel sad. When he’s not drinking, I just absolutely adore him. It’s hard.
Dr. Kenner: And that’s the part that confused me, because I can hear your ambivalence. The other part of you wants to stay with him because if he allowed himself to be the person, the potential you see in him, it would be absolutely phenomenal. However, that’s not who he is. What you see is what he could have made of himself. And your hopes and it’s really your fantasy of him, isn’t it?
Tina: Uh, yeah.
Dr. Kenner: If he said to you, “I can’t wait to change.” Right now I’m holding in my hand a book that is a phenomenal cognitive therapy book called Treating Alcohol Dependence. It’s coping skills and training guide, and the first author is Peter Monti. There are multiple authors, I won’t go through them. But they have the toolboxes, which I’m sure you found out about at Alanon, the skills that he could learn to turn his life around are there. But you can’t hold on forever. I mean, you may be at the end of your life, wondering why did I do this? I think of you as young. You’re still young. You’ve got a lot of life in you. You could go dancing. You could just really milk your life. And you’d have to mourn the loss of what you thought could have been your relationship and the father of your kids. And maybe if he sees that you’re serious – you sound so sweet – maybe if he sees that you’re serious, maybe he will change? But if you’re hanging around forever, that is your choice. It’s just I can hear you’re on both sides of the fence. Part of you wants the liberation and not ever having to deal with an alcoholic again. And part of you still loves the person that, if you could make his choices, he would be.
What I would recommend is, you can get my book, it’s selfishromance.com, and it’s making yourself lovable, which sounds like you already are, and how to find the right partner and how to part ways if it’s not working out. Thank you so much for the call.