Once a month, I get an Aridia infusion to keep my bones strong, which means a four hour appointment via IV. This is part of my maintenance therapy for multiple myeloma (a blood cancer). I am in remission but my indefinite treatment is time consuming. So if I’m not writing and blogging, I will watch TV. During one of these appointments, I caught up on a past Dr Phil episode on the OWN channel and, I swear, I think the couple was talking about my relationship. It nearly knocked my socks off. I soon was reaching into my bag for my trusty notebook and pen and started furiously taking notes as I was literally spellbound by this chilling story. The couple was Michael and Maggie and here are my notes along with my observations:
- Stunted maturity of the alcoholic: Alcoholics (even highly functioning alcoholics) have stunted maturity. They stopped maturing years prior and they act like children. They are unable to handle stress. Oh.My.Gosh: So true. Rob’s (my ex-husband) screaming fits and temper tantrums are strikingly like that of a young child.
- Stunted maturity of the victim spouse (and children): Because the victim(s) live in a world of uncertainty, chaos and emotional abuse, victims stop maturing, too. Such behavior often causes the victim to get ill (emotionally and physically). Wow- if this isn’t me, I don’t know what is. Thanks, Rob the Great (Alcoholic).
- Alcoholics are driven by the pleasurable principle and pretty much nothing else: So true. Rob lives for the moment and seeks pleasure above all else. Vacations, drinking, naps, movies, vacations, drinking, diving, fishing, sleeping, drinking, naps, diving, fishing. That’s pretty much it. Anything (besides his job) that isn’t FUN is an annoyance. Somehow, when he stopped emotionally developing, got it into his sick head that anything that got in the way of his “fun” (like true parenting, or helping around the home, or going to therapy, or paying bills, or managing a vacation rental) deserved his anger. After all, how dare anyone expect anything of him but to seek out fun?
- Blame anyone (and everyone) for taking away his pleasure and stressing him out: He blamed everyone, anyone, any thing for getting in the way of his pleasure. It was me, his kids, money, his job, me, me, ME for expecting anything from him. He said I was his trigger. Then it was his work project. He even went to far as to tell me that pretty much everyone on his team was getting divorces so it was the company’s fault. See? Nothing, none of it at all, was his.
- The alcoholic promises to get well as soon as this one last stress is off his plate: Hmmm… wow, how many millions of times did Rob tell me that he would be a better man as soon as (fill in the blank), he… finished a work project, went on VACATION, finished up a court battle with his ex-wife, moved his oldest daughter out of the house… You name it, the promises to get well in just a few more days or weeks were ENDLESS (and all lies).
- A restless mind: Rob told me his alcohol therapist told him that he had a restless mind. That Rob was unable to clear his mind and rest, which made him self medicate with alcohol. Except Rob never went to therapy past more than a session or two, because, sheesh, that wasn’t fun. So, well, getting better just never happened. It was far better that he continue victimizing his family because, really, his pleasure was the only thing that matters.
- An inflated sense of self worth: Wow, how many times did Rob tell me that he had so much to offer and, my gosh, it was all my fault that I failed to recognize his greatness. And, who the FUCK was I to try and change any part of his greatness because he was just so fucking amazing?
This is what Maggie, Dr Phil’s guest, had to say. Sounds like my experience to a T:
In the beginning, Michael (her alcoholic husband) was so nice. Since then, she was afraid of his screaming and verbal abuse. He had never hit her yet but it would almost be easier if he just did. She says she feels disrespected, degraded and unappreciated. She has self loathing at times. He has made fun of her in front of their daughter, and she feels stupid. He once slammed the door so hard he put a hole in it (wow– Rob did this, too!). He has frightening amounts of rage. The verbal abuse is endless. Maggie said that the more Michael behaved this way, her tolerance for it grew smaller and smaller and she was living in a nightmare from which there was no escape.
This is what Michael, the abuser, said on Dr Phil’s show:
Michael blamed Maggie for much of his behavior. He blamed her for being controlling, for being his trigger. He was starting therapy to get well but she deserves some of the blame because she knows how to push all his buttons. She knew he drank before they married. She knows he has stress so it’s not just alcoholism. He takes blame for about 95% but, really, she is to blame, too, for not recognizing his stresses and her controlling behavior that just “made him” drink and be abusive.
By the way, when Michael was speaking, Dr Phil was disgusted and incredulous. Dr Phil said that abusers always blame their victims and that Michael needed serious therapy. Dr Phil said that abusers nearly ALWAYS call their victims CONTROLLING.
And that’s where I stopped taking notes.
The fact is that in my own sad story, I took Rob’s alcoholism far more seriously than he did. I can honestly say I gave of myself 200% while Rob drank, went fishing, went to bed, watched movies, made fun of me, and SCREAMED at me. I read books, went to therapy, Alanon, AA, I read books, went to support groups. Tried tried tried. Worked worked worked worked WORKED and NOTHING helped. At the end of the day, Rob was just a mean abusive alcoholic and his behavior was HIS fault. My fault was sticking around too long.
While a victim is never perfect, let’s make one thing PERFECTLY CLEAR: NOTHING I could have said or done would have stopped Rob’s behavior. You can’t even work on a relationship when one doesn’t deal with their substance abuse.
Word of advice: If any of you out there are married to or in a relationship with an alcoholic or substance abuser, RUN LIKE HELL AND DON’T LOOK BACK. Any promises that they’ll change and get better for you is a LIE. Unless they are in long term therapy and have a track record of improvement, the abuser is just a manipulative liar. Oh they can sound incredibly convincing but it is a LIE.