Joan’s (not her real name) story – living with an alcoholic

I started going to Toughlove® as a friend told me that I was probably more dysfunctional than my husband who is an alcoholic. Initially I did not want to believe it, but gradually realized that I was the one who also had a major problem. Seven years of feeling trapped and having mental abuse. Of being manipulated and feeling totally worthless as each time a crisis arose I was told how useless I was and how I was not doing my wifely duties!!!

Over the past 7 years I have put up major protection around myself, put the smile on my face and said I am fine!!! Mmmm, more like it, I blocked all my emotions off as a survival mechanism. Rescued more and more animals so that I could run or hide away from the problem, it was way easier than facing up to what was really going on. I have always hated conflict and guess it was easier to keep myself busy. Boundaries, oh my word that was not even in my dictionary!

I tried a number of things but nothing seemed to help. Toughlove® was a rude awakening for me as there was no more hiding from anything as everyone was going through the same stuff as I was and I could not hide my emotions any longer. The first week all my emotions came tumbling out and I realized quickly that this process was about me and healing myself. I had to start dealing with all of my emotions that I had hidden away for 7 years.

I was scared of going to Toughlove® at the beginning. Tried to find any excuse not to attend as I could not hide away from the truth and the reality of the problem in my life.

I blamed myself and thought I had failed. I thought I could change my partner over the years and started to realize that I could not change him at all, that it was his choice to change his own life and fix himself. I now have to fix myself and all the hurt that I had buried over the years.

It has taken me 6 months to start taking real action. Before that I was too scared to stand up for my rights and take a stand. I always thought ‘what if’ and ‘I could not do that in case…..’! Now I have realized that the only way to really help the addict is to take a stand, no matter how hard it is, as that is the only way you will really help them.

Sure the guilt is sitting on my shoulder and tempting me to revert back into my old ways, but I have realized that the only way my partner will realize that he needs help is by being really tough. I actually think I should have started being tough a long time ago and maybe he would never have got to the stage he is at now.

Many a day I look at the situation and wish for a miracle. Questions go wizzing through my head and I keep coming back to WHY????? Why does such an amazing person destroy themselves when they could do soooooo much with their life? But the answer is not mine to find, it is his answer that he needs to find deep within those layers of hurt, which has been hidden away so well. I am peeling the layers off my own onion, and he still needs to get to that point of peeling his own onion – I hope he does get there one day.