A while ago, a friend and I were talking about my former life with Rob, my alcoholic ex-husband. (In case you’ve missed it, I was married to a highly functioning, verbally abusive alcoholic. I finally left him on the day I was being tested for cancer when Rob, in a drunken rage, spit in my face, calling me a thief, loser, drama queen and lazy.) This friend then asked me a very thought-provoking question: What would Rob say about me? What would he claim were the reasons our marriage didn’t work out?
Rob says: You’re a control freak!
Lizzy says: Absolutely and completely false.
This accusation from the mouth of an alcoholic is so trite and boring. Pretty much every alcoholic says that their partner (or children, parents, etc) is a control freak. After all, how dare anyone have the audacity of saying the alcoholic’s behavior is unacceptable, right?
The reality is, I had no control. Every ounce of control was held by Rob the Great (Alcoholic). Every single thing I did was controlled by Rob’s temper tantrums, expected temper tantrum, or a hope that I could somehow avoid a temper tantrum. By Rob’s refusal to do almost anything around the house meant that I was worked to the bone, overstressed, overtaxed and, eventually, sick and fighting for my life.
Control? The only thing I controlled was the cleanliness of the home. The more chaotic our alcoholic home became, the cleaner I tried to keep the house. To the point that it became an obsession.
Rob Says: You have a hair-tigger temper!
Lizzy Says: I deserve a medal for restraint.
When one is getting screamed at, belittled, and emotionally terrorized pretty much every day, I think I deserve a medal for keeping my mouth shut most times. True, after a couple days of silence, I would email or text Rob messages about how I really felt. Mostly that he was a lazy, pathetic, abusive drunk and I hated him.
But I walked away from Rob ninety percent of the time I was terrorized. And for that, I am proud of my behavior. Of course, what I should have done was left his drunk ass as soon as I realized what a jerk he was.
Rob Says: You’re a snob and you hate my friends!
Lizzy Says: I didn’t “hate” his friends.
But didn’t feel like hanging around people he drank with. Because Rob’s a fun drunk when he’s got an audience but when he gets home, he’s a monster and I get to pick up the pieces.
Rob Says: You’re not “fun”!
Liz Says: True as charged.
It’s pretty dang hard to be “fun” when “fun” means somehow being happy and ok with being terrorized by a drunk husband all too often. I lived in fear, dread, sadness and desperation. It’s also pretty dang hard to be “fun” when the entire household responsibilities rested on my shoulders. I was so overwhelmed by everything I had to do, that my life and world were incredibly “un-fun.”
Rob Says: You’re a terrible mother!
Liz Says: I’m as great a mother as I know how to be.
I sincerely do my best every single day to be a good mom. It is my top priority. Shame Rob can’t say the same (his top priority is the pursuit of fun, which is pretty much drinking, diving, fishing, watching movies, naps and going on vacation). I work so hard and sincerely don’t know how to do better or more. Interestingly enough, Rob said the same things about his ex-wife. Really, his ridiculous insults are just stupid and tiring (and incredibly inaccurate). Truth is, Rob is just simply a liar and will say anything to inflict pain on anyone who dare get in the way of his pursuit of pleasure.
So why would Rob say our marriage failed? In addition to the reasons listed above, I, according to Rob, didn’t appreciate his amazingness and the fabulous things he brought into the relationship (I scratch my head over this one– he brought in loads of debt, an addiction, and the coping skills of a 13 year old child), I just wanted to go live with my mommy so she could take care of me (true that– I was required to have a fulltime caregiver during chemo and my two stem cell transplants), I was lazy, and worthless.
I fled Rob for these reasons:
- To fight for my health. I was just diagnosed with cancer and the thought of trying to get well in the midst of evil was overwhelming. I knew that if I stayed with Rob, I would probably succumb to my disease because there is no healing when living with alcoholism
- For the emotional health of the younger children (it got increasingly difficult to tell the girls that they should never allow any man to treat them the way Daddy treated me)
- For the health of Rob. I truly hoped and prayed that he would find himself in a place where he would finally fight to get well of his alcoholism. Two families destroyed by his illness would, I thought, be enough for him to finally try to get well. Nope, not Rob. Counseling and AA meetings are, simply put, not “fun”
When I started dating again, I was really interested to see how my relationship with Rob would affect future relationships. Would I try to communicate with my next boyfriend in the same way I did with Rob? I was so relieved to know that my relationships bare no similarities to my former marriage. There is no screaming, belittling, hateful emails and texts, or disrespect. I definitely “survived” my marriage and, these days, I’m thriving. Yes, there is hope for escape, recovery, and a better life on the other side.
Lisa Thomson says
What disgusting, hateful words he hit you with, Liz! As if you have to justify anything to a monster like that. Being a good mother? They like to attack where it hurts and where we are most sensitive. This is an important share Liz, to show women in similar situations just how untrue and ridiculous the projected accusations are. I’m so happy for you that you’re out and having healthy relationships now, to make up for the lost time.
Lizzy Smith says
Thank you, Lisa! That is what abusers do– they try to blame and make their victims feel worthless. It’s the only hope the abuser has that their victim will stay put. My ex told me that I would be nothing without him. I wouldn’t be able to find a job (which is so funny– I met him at age 38 and my entire life had a great, solid career with no gaps), couldn’t manage the kids, have a home, or manage my life at all. I hope that others in abusive situations GET OUT. That’s why I write so openly and honestly. It’s raw. Sometimes it’s really hard for me to write. But I want others to know the craziness and insanity of what it’s like to live with an addict. It is hell but there is hope– and the hope means escaping. I appreciate your encouragement 🙂 Lizzy
Julie Boyd Cole says
Good for you Lizzy. Leaving while battling a life threatening disease couldn’t have been easy, but you saved your life. Bravo. You are an inspiration for other women. Keep posting!
Leah Brown says
Reading this article was like reading my life, except for the horrible cancer part……..so glad you got through that. My health issues that came of my horrificcally abusive marriage to an alcoholic, severe PTSD sufferer, narcissistic sociopathic psycho……gave me a herniated disc in my neck due to physical abuse, high blood pressure for which I need to be on daily meds……and I suffer anxiety every time my ex’s name even comes up or he contacts me or the kids…….I have been separated from him since May 2014 and life has started to get so much better, more peace, more happiness, more everything…….less money but in time I hope financial stability will come. I know how tough it is to leave, people still ask me why I didn’t leave in those 12 plus years……fear………fear and having four kids and being scared of everything…..I still have fear of my ex….he is just that kinda crazy……..and I fear my daughter eventually having interactions with him in person…….but at least we are in different towns now, I have hired a lawyer and things are startly to look so much better now……no dating of course yet but I hope one day I will meet a nice peaceful man who doesnt have a mean bone in his body…….and someone who will love my kids……..life was hell, just like yours Lizzy and it took me a long time to get the courage up to leave but it was the best thing I ever did, I probably saved my own life by doing it……
Lizzy Smith says
Leah, Wow, oh wow. I’m so happy you escaped. It’s had to imagine that live gets better so much better, but it does. At some point, he healing begins. And some day, there is a point of, dare I say, forgiveness. May that day for you and your children happen sooner than later. There are good men out there. The beauty of divorce is that, when you are ready, you can start finding him.