What it looked like back then is much different than now. Sometimes I have to stop myself in even the littlest of things, just to remind myself to pause, soak it in, and be grateful. 

It’s the simple things, the smallest changes, that have created the greatest impact on our lives.

So as you read what it was like back then when he was drinking, to now when he is over five years sober, I hope this gives you a glimpse of hope, whatever stage you and your loved one are experiencing.

My past memories and current moments may look nothing like yours, or you might find some similarities. Either way, I hope you see the time when I had lost all hope, confidence, and happiness. And now, I can genuinely share with you the good stuff. 

My goal is that this provides you with some peace, understanding, and support that the stuff you’re seeing and experiencing is tough, and it is real. 

You can, however, get to the other side.

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What it looked like back then:

Lightbulbs would go out and would take months, sometimes years, to fix. There was too much chaos to pay attention to lightbulbs.

What it looks like now:

Ladders are being taken out to change lightbulbs. In all the rooms that need it, even the outside.

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What it looked like back then:

Pee-stained carpets from our puppy covered the upstairs. I would clean up and walk around in shame that we didn’t have enough money to change the carpets.

What it looks like now:

The carpets are replaced with new, fresh smelling, plush carpets. There is no shame, only pride.

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What it looked like back then:

Couches were torn and ripped, their springs bouncing everytime we sat down. There was dread coming to sit to watch movies. 

We were uncomfortable, and just dealing with it, grateful we still had our home.

What it looks like now:

There are two beautiful new sets of couches for our living room and family room. There are no rips, no tears, no sounds when we sit down. We seek out movie nights and fight over throw blankets. There are accent pillows to brighten the rooms. There’s even special Christmas throw pillows for the season. 

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What it looked like back then:

The Christmas tree, stored at the top of a shelf in our garage, fell down on my head when I was trying to get it down by myself. He was in rehab. All the lights were broken. It took me hours to put just the base of the tree with lights up. Only the children and I decorated the tree that year, quietly. 

There was no Christmas cheer that year.

What it looks like now:

My husband and I both get the tree down from the garage. There are two sets of hands carrying the tree, and my husband puts the tree together with our son, and then we all decorate it. Now there’s appetizers, Christmas music, and actual Christmas cheer. The only fighting is which Christmas movie we get to watch first.

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What it looked like back then:

When he was drinking, he would come home from “work,” and pretend he hadn’t been drinking. If I attempted to question him, accuse him, or look the wrong way, blame would be placed on me. “What is wrong with you?” he would ask. We wouldn’t have our family dinner together.

What it looks like now:

He comes home from his office after a full day’s work. He is sober. He is tired. But he is engaged. He is ready to contribute to the family- whether helping with dinner, homework, or parenting. He is present.

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What it looked like back then:

Bills were not paid. He would collect the mail when I wasn’t looking, stash bills away, and ignore them. Some were even thrown away. On the days when I could intercept the mail, my heart would sink.

Pink and yellow late notices were spread throughout the pile.

What it looks like now:

Most, if not all, bills are paid by him on time online now. If there is one that falls through the cracks, which is rare, we handle it right away. There is no “putting if off” allowed like he used to do. This is a boundary I set, and followed through with, before he came back into the home after rehab.

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What it looked like back then:

I was lonely and isolated. I didn’t speak much to people. I began to shut everyone out, because I was so ashamed and felt so guilty. I was also very afraid and angry. I was afraid people would find out, and what his reaction would be if they did. 

I was angry he had put me in such a neglectful, isolating, horrifying state.

What it looks like now:

I recognize I have absolute control and power over who I speak to and what I say. No disease has the right to take that from anyone. I’m still quite the introvert out of habit. I still get lonely often, but I know it’s up to me to change that. Sometimes he struggles with a variety of different things- stress, anxiety, etc. and I have to move into my own lane when that happens for self-preservation. 

Sometimes I wish this disease had a magic pill that would take it all away, but that’s not how alcoholism and addiction work. 

This is a lifelong disease. So making the decision to stick with him is a choice, not a requirement. I have to be conscientious in choosing myself as a priority, and my health and wellness comes first over this disease that attempts to suck me back in.

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What it looked like back then:

I couldn't watch NFL Sundays. I hated them. I hated the drinking. I hated the yelling. I hated the bad moods. I hated the blaming. I hated the way he made me feel on those days.

What it looks like now:

I’ve had my parents join us for the Patriot games for the last few years. Slowly I was able to integrate back into old family traditions of appetizers and libations. There is conversation and cheering, laughter and yelling. This time the yelling is at the TV, at fumbles and interceptions, not at people. 

It’s a passtime I missed that I’m glad I had the courage to allow myself to have back in my life. 

If he appears to be getting in bad moods, he simply must remove himself. That doesn’t happen all the time, but it can happen, so we just separate and let the mood pass.

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What it looked like back then:

He wouldn’t talk to our dog. He wouldn’t hold her. He would ignore her and find everything wrong with her.

What it looks like now:

He invites the dog to cuddle into his lap. He seeks her out, and puts up with her puppy behavior. He can still lose his shit, don’t get me wrong, when she messes in the house. He does realize how much the puppy is loved by us all, and he almost has no choice but to love her.

Our kids make a point every time they see the dog on my husband’s lap to make him aware that he loves this puppy. He still won’t admit it, but we all know.

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What it looked like back then:

I walked on eggshells constantly. 

I never knew what mood I would find him in. I dreaded coming home, and I ached for the days when there was nothing but love and happiness. I was blamed for most things- events, happenings, and moods.

What it looks like now:

I am not going to pretend all is perfect now. This is a disease that is ever present, that affects our daily lives. 

I wish I had never met this disease. 

There are still moments when I have to walk on eggshells. There are still moments of dread. 

But with time, work, dedication, and open hearts and minds, the good days outweigh the bad. There is improvement. There is conversation, openness, and healthy boundaries that I set, and of which I follow through. There is a genuine confidence I hold of self worth, and an unwillingness for him to place blame on me when things aren’t going right. That ship has sailed. And I make that known. I stand firm in my boundaries.

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What it looked like back then:

Mornings were chaotic. 

Permission slips weren’t signed. Kids running trying to find school uniforms in piles of clothes. I wasn’t home, leaving for work at 4:30 am. Calls would be made to me at work about things that were missing. Lunches were sometimes forgotten, early dismissal and non-routine pick up times were missed as well.

What it looks like now:

I can wake up early and do my writing, as I’m doing now. Permission slips are already signed and sealed ready to go to school. Lunches are made, uniforms ironed by me. Breakfast is always hot, pancakes and bacon. I wake them up lovingly every morning with hugs and kisses instead of being at work. I drive them casually and happily, without rushing, to school. My husband is on his way to work right now to close a deal. We are at peace.

Voices InCourage is a community designed with you in mind to help you move from then to now. To help you move from being stuck to living happily in the present. Launching Fall 2021.