Abuse and Addiction

(A marriage made in hell)

 When the call came, I could feel myself being plummeted back into the throes of scathing memories. Recollections purchased at the expense of myself and my three sons’ victimization at the hands of my ex-husband, Louie. An onslaught of buried pain was suddenly being projected onto the silver screen of my hard-earned recovery.

Louie had passed, and not one of us could manage to shed a tear. All I could think of in that one split-second, was did he take our legacy of damage with him? Or would it forever remain, solely to be triggered by elusive recollections that continue to haunt me? Forgive me, God, for not being grief-stricken

Paging back thru time, the ruffled chapters threatened my resuscitated serenity. It is utterly amazing, how much the mind can store. Even, after decades, it is capable of bringing back to the surface the storms of the past.

I could almost touch the deafening silence that accosted us from behind that familiar fixed glacial stare. A foul stench of disdain oozed through pinch-contorted lips and a clenched jaw. The abuse vacillated between that, and angry, earsplitting outbursts that could shred what little peace and quiet we may have salvaged on those rare days when he wasn’t erupting; those days he was either getting his way or absent.

This was the volatile environment that smothered me and my children for almost 22 years. This was our normal. And I’d be damned if I were going spill phony tears at the revelation of his passing.

I managed to escape that incarceration over 35 years ago but scathed and splintered. Myself and my three sons still carry those emotional scars. At the time of the divorce, the two oldest, Jake and Dylan were already gone, each jumping at the chance to proclaim their emancipation at the young ages of eighteen and nineteen.

 Jake, the oldest, was the primary target of his dad’s vehemence. And from the early age of fifteen, was already spiraling down the kinked, warped path of alcoholism. And Dylan, who had impregnated his girlfriend and married her at nineteen, left, what should have been a family nest, emotionally damaged and unprepared for life. Both, struck out on their own, not having a clue as to what it meant to be part of a healthy family unit. 

Andy, the youngest, was the only one left at home. At thirteen, although he had been subjected to uglier scenarios, he also benefited from living five additional years in a home where fireworks were not a nightly occurrence: A birthright his brothers had been denied.

One might ask, what does this narrative about abuse have to do with a blog focused on addiction and recovery? In my case, they shared the same stage. Abuse and addiction are often intertwined. A common saying in twelve-step programs is that alcoholism is but a symptom of a deeper problem. And that problem is usually comprised of innumerable characteristics that evolve, due to the influence of drugs and alcohol. Many of those traits begin to develop way before the addict or alcoholic actually picks up. Growing up in an alcoholic home for instance contributes to a variety of evolving personality traits that later on in life might make alcohol look like an attractive escape from reality. In my case, when I started drinking at fifteen, I stopped growing emotionally. Full of insecurities, low self -esteem and a variety of other negative impressions I managed to accumulate living in an alcoholic home, I decided that my dad’s solution, which was to simply escape, seemed to work for him, so I began to see alcohol as an RX for my own problems.

The disease manifested itself over a period of years, in increments of despair, feelings of hopelessness, fear, and self-loathing. Unable to face life on life’s terms, as my situation continued to worsen, so did my consumption. I was spiraling down the rabbit hole, looking for solutions that never materialized.

When Louie criticized Jake at every opportunity, in front of others, I took a drink and told myself tomorrow would be different. When he accused me of infidelity, I took another drink. When he banged my head up against the wall and choked me, I drained the bottle. And when tomorrow came, nothing changed:  Imagine that.

Alcohol had diminished, if it ever existed, my ability to deal with reality. I had absolutely no skills, as long as I was under the influence, to change either my situation or myself. Until I put down the drink, dove into recovery, and followed the things suggested in my twelve-step program, I didn’t see the connection between my problems and alcohol.

Today, I no longer believe that tomorrow will be better, or that change will somehow miraculously occur by escaping down that rabbit hole. Solutions require action. Actions based on a clear head, and a workbench full of recovery tools.

I

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