My husband is an alcoholic, were the most difficult words to say.
I first uttered those words late last year in the ER, as doctors and nurses were working to save my husband’s life. In the midst of the chaos, his command called to check on his status. My husband was experiencing acute liver failure. As I unveiled this dark secret, I feared for my husband’s future—his life and career. The only thing he loved more than the bottle was serving his country.
I kept this secret from my family and close friends. It was a lonely existence. In addition to the loneliness, I lived in fear of losing him to the bottle. My fear nearly smacked me in the face as my husband was transferred to critical care. One of the doctors took me aside and asked if my husband had a living will. Those words shot through me. As I looked around the room filled with doctors, nurses and machines beeping, the loneliness intensified.
For the next 72+ hours, I didn’t leave his side. As the storm began to pass, I realized I wasn’t alone. Studies have shown members of the military suffering from alcohol abuse is significantly higher vs. the civilian population. I searched for articles and blogs from the perspective of a military spouse married to an alcoholic. There was nothing.
Alcoholism is the elephant in the room.
Over the years we’ve attended countless command functions where alcohol was not only present, but an honored guest.
My husband’s drinking was tame compared to many others. He was keen to avoid raising red flags. He reserved hard-drinking for home, away from prying eyes.
On a typical night, he’d drink until he passed out. I dreaded weekends and holidays. I resented the extra day of leave tacked onto holidays. He’d binge from the moment he came home, to the night before work. I yearned for deployments, just for a break. I felt guilty as I watched with relief as he left. I felt especially guilty as I watched families cherishing every moment. Deployments renewed my love for him. We were closer with oceans between us, and distant when only separated by a bottle.
If I had to choose between my husband having a mistress, or being an alcoholic, I would’ve chosen a mistress. A mistress doesn’t seek to destroy and kill, she doesn’t incapacitate her lover. I could reason with a mistress, not with a bottle.