Last night I tweeted about an incident that occurred during my marriage – the Incident of The Pishy Passport In The Nighttime. I am glad that the feedback I received was so positive; I seem to have struck a chord with a few people. One person asked me if perhaps I now regret being so frank about sharing the other parts (the abuse) but I have to say no. I wasn’t being maudlin or attention-seeking or anything like that. In fact I had a wry smile on my face while I posted them.
The passport story was funny though, even then. I was terrified I was going to get put straight back on the plane to Manchester because of my whiffy, pish-stained passport. The look on the Customs guy’s face was one I will never forget in a hurry (nor will he, I presume!) It’s up there with the time my Darling Beloved phoned Fife’s Finest on me at 2a.m. one Sunday morning because he thought I’d locked him out of the house (when in fact he was just too wellied to get the key in the lock).
But being married to an alcoholic isn’t really funny. They’re not all wild-eyed tramps living in skips, so if they’re clever about it they can hide their drinking very well – they’re called functioning alcoholics. That’s what my ex was at first. He had a really decent job (corporal in the RAF – but no more details as the Forces are a small world and I don’t want him to be identifiable). He was smart, funny and kind. He liked a drink, but as I was working in a pub at the time he didn’t stand out, drinking-wise. As I said, he was covering his tracks.
After we married the mask started to slip and his drinking became worse. I couldn’t work him out at all. He didn’t seem to have a “stop” button” and would drink and drink and drink….. and his behaviour got worse and worse. I would lie awake at night waiting for him to come home, my stomach knotting and churning. I wanted him home, because that would mean he wasn’t in A&E or in a police cell; I didn’t want him home because of his foul temper and the abuse, both physical and psychological. He got worse and worse, culminating in his being arrested on a serious assault charge (not on me). The Fife police were brilliant with me and one of the officers had a fair idea of what was happening (his mother-in-law lived in the same area as us). He told me to get out, pack my bags and leave before things got even worse (I would love to find this guy and buy him a pint!). I thought about it and thought about it, I was scared and had few places to go. But one night I just snapped and told my ex to get out.
That was the best and most frightening thing I ever did. I discovered I did have the courage to stand up to him and throw him out. I was terrified too, and ashamed of what he had turned me into – a cowering, terrified, underweight, stressed out shadow of a human being. When you’re trapped in an abusive relationship any confidence you had vanishes. Your entire existence revolves around your partner. You try to anticipate their mood swings and steel yourself for their kicks and punches. You hunker down, stay quiet, hide away from your family and friends, anything to stop that fuse from being lit. You hide his drink, you stash your money, you hide your self.
It’s called survival. It’s not your fault, none of it is. To those who say “Just leave” it really isn’t that simple. If only it was. It broke my heart to hear from a few tweeters who said they were glad to know it wasn’t just *them*. It’s happening to women – and men – all over the world. This post is dedicated to them.
PS – not all alcoholics are violent. But their addiction and their behaviour still mess with your head. If somebody’s drinking is affecting your life, why not look up alanon.org ? They saved my sanity. Give them a try.