The line, "Progress, not perfection," means a lot to me these days. I know I've come a long way in two years, and I have a lot more to learn about alcoholism and how it affects those close to the alcoholic.
The mood in the house has been strange since my wife wrote me a letter with a list of demands after regaining sobriety for a few days following a month-long binge-drinking session. She's still sober and working hard on her steps with her AA sponsor. This is a good thing for her and I wish her well. She'd been sober since February 2010 (with one "relapse" in August 2010). The December 2011 relapse was a tailspin of epic proportions.
I've done a lot of writing as suggested by my Al-Anon sponsor. For those who don't know about Al-Anon, it's a support group for the families and friends of alcoholics. We rely on each other's experience, strength and hope to help us deal with our own problems. That's about it in a nutshell. It is also a 12-step program, with the first step admitting we are powerless over alcohol. Basically, I'm powerless over my wife's behaviors, actions and moods -- I didn't cause her to drink, can't control her drinking and sure as hell can't cure it. In Al-Anon, I'm supposed to find serenity whether the alcoholic is drinking or not.
Boy, was I put to the test on that one. Overall, I think I handled things fairly well, given the circumstances.
Now I'm just trying to focus on me and the kids. I told my wife that I can't fix our marriage by myself and I need her help if we want to make this work. "I understand, really I do," she said. But that was it. There was no offer of help.
Last night, as we were in bed watching a TV show, I asked if I could give her a kiss. She agreed. There were maybe five smooches, and each one I had to ask permission. After the last one, she turned her head to watch the TV. OK.
I reached over and brushed her arm. She didn't react. I reached under the covers, took her hand in mine, held it and kissed her fingers. She cut me a "playful" look (or so I thought) and I kissed her fingers again. She said something about being sleepy, pulled her hand away and rolled over.
That's really when a lot of my own behaviors (such as that one night's attempt at displays of affection on my part) came into sharp focus. I'm needy. I need to feel something from my wife. A kiss. A hug. A touch. I keep going to the well, finding it's dry, and returning each day expecting to find water. What the hell am I doing? This isn't new. I started to think back and can't recall the last time my wife took the initiative and offered me a kiss or a hug. When we do hug, it's at my urging and she doesn't even put her arms around me. She holds them against her chest.
It was suddenly so obvious to me. My emotional needs have been neglected -- abandoned -- for years and I'm reduced to acting like a puppy seeking affection from its master. That is so not me. I'm not the "victim" here, because I've allowed it to happen for so long and it was enough for me at one time, I suppose.
I asked her about it today and her response, after she shook the shocked look off her face, was, "I don't know why. I'm just not feeling very touchy feely right now."
"But this isn't just right now, this has been going on for years," I said. "Why won't you offer a kiss or a hug? Why am I the one who has to ask for it? I feel like I'm the only one trying to work on our marriage and have been for a long time."
She said it wasn't fair for me to bring it up to her right as she was leaving for work (a noon to 9 p.m. shift). "You're done for the day," she said. "I have to go in and deal with the public."
"When am I going to talk to you about it? This morning at 4 a.m. when I was up and getting ready for work? Tonight after 9 when you come home? I'll be asleep. This needs to be aired. This is how I'm feeling," I said.
Well. There's that. I was home early today to take care of two sick little kids. Each are running fevers and now it's time for me to sign off and get some shuteye.
Tomorrow is another day.