Even in the Face of Anger

When the Chairperson announced that the topic at the Saturday morning Al‑Anon meeting was control, I sat back in my chair and told myself that I didn’t need to share or even pay attention because control wasn’t my problem. Hadn’t I always acquiesced to my husband’s every wish? I never tried to control him. Whatever he wanted was all right with me. I had quit wanting anything years ago. It just wasn’t worth the effort in my marriage because anytime I tried to ask for what I wanted or even talked about a book I was reading or a funny story at work, my husband would either start screaming at me, or he would belittle and ridicule me for my feelings.

But for a reason I couldn’t understand, early in that meeting—the meeting I didn’t have to pay any attention to—I started crying uncontrollably. A friend was sitting next to me and kept putting tissues in my hand because I was crying so hard. In the last few minutes before the meeting ended, I finally shared. Through tears, I said that I didn’t understand. I said that I never tried to control my husband. He could always do whatever he wanted. I never tried to make him do anything. I was so confused!

After the meeting, another friend came over to hug me and said something that finally helped me clarify my confusion. She said that she used to try to quiet everybody in her house so that her adult alcoholic son wouldn’t drink. In Al‑Anon she realized how futile this was. Her son was going to drink no matter how peaceful the house was because he was an alcoholic. I finally came to understand that I had been doing the same thing in my marriage—trying to control my husband’s anger by always agreeing with him and never wanting anything for myself. I continued to do this, even though his drinking and his anger had gotten worse as the years went by. I slowly began to stop living in fear of how my husband would react. I couldn’t control my husband’s anger any more than I could control his drinking. I learned to do what was right for me.

By Mary M., Idaho

The Forum, October 2018

2018-09-24T16:36:45+00:00September 24, 2018|Categories: Alcoholic Spouse or Partner, The Forum|

11 Comments

  1. Deb December 2018 at 8:33 pm

    Thank-you for sharing this. Someone read part of it at a meeting, and I had to look for the whole piece. This is so similar to my experience. I got to the point where I almost never even expressed an opinion about anything. It didn’t seem worth the effort. I think it started in the beginning of our relationship–he would ask me where I wanted to eat. I always said it didn’t matter because I knew that if he didn’t like my choice, his irritation would ruin my night. I’d have rather eaten somewhere I didn’t like than deal with his frustration. When I started Al-Anon, someone asked me, as a way of trying to pull me in to a conversation, what my favorite food was. I told them I didn’t know. In Al-Anon, I’m starting to find my voice. I had been trying to make everything perfect, exactly how he wanted it. No matter what I did, I couldn’t stop him from getting angry. Interestingly, when I started setting boundaries and stating my opinions, my relationship improved. There’s still a long way to go, but the progress is undeniable.

  2. OSM December 2018 at 12:27 pm

    It might be helpful to talk with local Al-Anon members who understand what you’re going through. You can look up meetings at https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/find-an-al-anon-meeting.

  3. Chelsey December 2018 at 9:18 am

    I want to destroy everything dear to him, just like he does to me when he drinks. So far my resentment has come out in dumping his precious alcohol down the drain and writing scathing comments on anything he’ll see beside the sink of empties. It disgusts me to see him drunk and sloppy. I left him at the theatre when I saw him buying a beer at the bar before we walked into our already late movie, after he’d been drinking all day anyway. I yell at him for any thing now because I’m so tired of saying it kindly and being ignored. There’s no point, no respect. I often think if just he or I could die then it would be the easy way out of this marriage for one of us. I’m only holding on to the hope that his alcoholism kills him first, and soon, so our kids don’t have to grow up to learn about their father falling from grace. He can just be selectively remembered as who he used to be and not the zombie of booze he turned into. I just don’t know if I get to return to who I once was ever?

  4. Gina P. November 2018 at 7:25 pm

    Thank you for the writing and comments. I also have been confused for so long about why I feel no control or power for myself, always put others priorities first, hoping to have some small pieces of acceptance and recognition that I am ok, and often feel hurt and angry. My mother was the alcoholic, yet she had no voice until the alcohol took her to rage. It was my father who was the very fiery, angry man. It wasn’t me.

    Alcoholism affected my family. I felt the impact by becoming acquiescent, where my being by definition had “reluctant acceptance of something without protest”, “agreement or consent by silence or without objection”. I understand better how I came to lose myself in my alcoholism affected family. Now through my Al-Anon support groups, I am finding my voice, putting myself first, learning to love myself unconditionally and realizing that is not selfish but the well-spring of a greater love for those who I care about, and those who I will forgive.

  5. Kathy D. October 2018 at 3:34 pm

    When I pass kleenex to someone it is never in my mind to get them to stop crying. In my group we’ve all cried, we encourage it, and we let newcomers know how accepted it is. I pass the keenex because I know that although I cry, I don’t want the tears and snot on my face. Also blowing my nose can make it easier for me to continue speaking. The kleenex is for physical comfort only in my mind. I sure hope no one has ever gotten a different message from it.

  6. Margie October 2018 at 12:48 pm

    My comment is a little different. When we give Kleenex to a crying person, the message is “stop crying”. That’s not the message that we want to give. It’s OK to cry!

  7. Nancy D. October 2018 at 9:40 pm

    Thank you for helping me realize that I have been trying to protect my husband from getting hurt feelings by not standing up for myself. I thought I’d been detaching with love. I have put my needs on hold to keep him happy. I now see that I learned this behavior with my mother. She would always cry to me about my father’s abusive behavior when I was a child and after I’d grown up, moved out, and married an alcoholic myself. My emotions were secondary to her perpetually hurt feelings. If I confronted her about this she would cry, which stopped from standing up for me. Long learned behavior is as firm and unyielding as fire-hardened pottery. But topics like control presented in a new way like this put small fractures in the integrity of my hard outer shell.

  8. Lesley October 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I do exactly the same things but nothing seems to help. I am going to my very first meeting tonight …. I have no other options left to try. The stories i have read this morning have given me hope.
    Lesley H. (Auckland, New Zealand)

  9. Denise October 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Love the perspective you shared. It reminded me of the work I still have to do. I still “let sleeping dogs lie” and “walk on eggshells”, try to be invisible and avoid confrontation. But I do it less and have learned that confrontation is part of life. The difference is whether I react or respond and that I don’t forget who my HP is.

  10. OSM September 2018 at 9:00 am

    You can look up meetings at https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings.

  11. Lu Anne September 2018 at 4:18 am

    Where’s the meeting?

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