I was once the most important person in my spouses life, now I’m called worthless by the alcoholic. There was a time when I could do no wrong in my wife’s eyes; now the addict tells me I’m good for nothing all of the time. My husband used to acknowledge all the little things that I do around the house, like the cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and making sure that the bills get paid on time; now the drunk is constantly battering me down making me feel as though I never do enough. Can you identify with a few of those experiences?
Where can my sense of worth be found? Self-worth certainly is not discovered in other peoples opinions of me!
Feelings are neither wrong nor right, they just are what they are… feelings. Claudia and David Arp have made this statement: “feelings are fragile and we must handle them with care.” When I think of how the alcoholic handles my feelings, it’s far from treating them with care. Most of the time they are trampled under foot. For this reason, I’ve learned how to stuff my feelings and not express them to the alcoholic. Still, I can handle my feelings with care by being kind to myself even when others are not so kind to me.
When I think back to interacting with a family member who has a drinking problem, I can identify situations where I shared my feelings with him and then he went into an angry rage. That pretty much put an end to ever sharing my thoughts or experiences with him when he was drunk. I am now very careful to make sure that he is totally sober before sharing how I feel about things.
I don’t know about you, but it’s taken me years of interacting in support groups to get to the point of knowing I am valuable even when an alcoholic willingly or unwillingly tries to make me feel worthless. For me the victory was won when I started loving myself apart from the alcoholic’s opinions of me. The simple word that describes how I did it is “detachment.” Somehow I reached the point where the opinions that the addict directed toward me were just that, their opinions. I moved from believing that their opinions of me were truth to seeing the real truth of who I am. I am a wonderful person. I was created to be exactly who I am.
It took a lot of work and a considerable amount of time to move from moping in reaction to my thoughts to coping with them in a healthy way. The battle of moving from worthlessness to worthiness was won in my mind. It’s all about my own opinion of myself.
The problem with being in a co-dependant relationship with an alcoholic is that we are constantly seeking their approval. When they praise us we are up; when they shut us out we are down. When I finally started enjoying my life apart from the alcoholic that’s when my self-worth was realized. I had to find the things in life that contributed to building self-esteem. Once I had a clearer view of who I was apart from who the alcoholic made me out to be, I was a much stronger person.
Here’s one key that really helped me transition from feeling like a low life to living in the high life. . Not everything the alcoholic says about me is true. Think about that for a while in light of how you are treated by your alcoholic spouse, friend, coworker or loved one. When I realized that there were many things that just were not true that the problem drinker in my life was constantly lavishing on me, I was able to just say to them; “that’s your opinion,” and then walk away without being devastated by their negativity.
Brenda – get out now. And to all the others – stay strong, but don’t put your life on hold hoping that someone else will change. It’s not up to you if they change or not. You have NO control over the behavior of the alcoholic, no matter how “good” you are at being kind, strong, detached, etc. The only control you have is how you, yourself, behave. Would you rather be a) miserable, yelled at, degraded, emotionally broke, hit, abused, etc., and living day by day with someone who tears you down ~or~ b) alone, healing, perhaps financially broke, peaceful, growing, on the road to happiness? Only you can make yourself happy. Only you have control over what you feel. I’m right there with most of you and working my way through to finding a peaceful place. Much love and strength to you all.
I’m finding great comfort in reading these comments and feel less alone than I have done recently.
I’ve got such respect for all of you trying to help the alcoholic in your life.
still for some of us the shame is unbearable. you constantly ask yourself how could i let this happen