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
This is all too fresh for me, my husband and I broke up tuesday. He had been on a 5 day non stop spree. Our 3yrs together I get angrier and angrier every day. I’m always angry. I’m angry at him, I’m angry at his kids, I’m angry at our dogs. I’m angry! I’m angry that alcohol took the love of my life that I waited years for! I’m angry I couldn’t change him! But I hold it in, I say nothing because I don’t want him to hurt by me being angry because he may not love me if… Read more »
Thank you for sharing, I used to sit quiet never mentioned my husbands drinking until i got pregnant. Then he became out of control with his drinking and kept telling me he just had to get it out of his system before our son was born well our son was born 4 months early so my alcoholic husband responded by sinking further into the bottle as I stayed with my baby in the NICU for 4 months. He became increasingly violent, started lying to me, gets drunk and drives, and I had caught him this fall passed out drunk while… Read more »
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… Read more »
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.
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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.
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!
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,… Read more »
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)
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.
You can look up meetings at https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings.
Where’s the meeting?