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I WENT BACK TO A DRUNK
black night she even thought of murder. Read the dramatic
of this Canadian woman's victory over liquor for her husbands
years ago I wouldn't have given a plug nickel for my chances
at happiness with the man I married more than 25 years ago,
the man whom I had loved, and whom I finally despised, hated
and sometimes thought of murdering. But here I am, back
again, living a normal, happy married life in a Canadian
town, loving and respecting that same man.
average married woman, whose life has been free from the
curse of alcohol, can never understand the humiliation,
degradation and utter hopelessness of living with an alcoholic.
It is a disease that isn't recognized until it has the victim
so firmly in its grip that the chances for recovery, until
recently, have been about hopeless.
only does this disease affect the physical health of the
individual, but, worse still, it affects the brain to such
an extent that everything becomes warped and the truth is
not in him. It is pathetic and frustrating to see the man
you love and whom your children adore gradually fall victim
to an insidious disease which society considers only a weakness.
of pleading, of tears, of threats, were of no avail in the
losing battle I waged against alcoholism, and it slowly
destroyed everything I held dear.
all began away back in the early 2Os, in prohibition. Perhaps
because "forbidden fruits are sweetest" many of
our friends and my husband considered it was smart and clever
to produce a bottle.
At first I didn't drink because I didn't like the taste
of liquor, but when I began objecting to some of the silly
antics it was suggested that I was narrow-minded, a prude,
and so on. So, I, too, drank a little and found that when
I did I was much more tolerant. I never drank much because
it made me ill, and deep down I really hated it.
wasn't long before occasional drinking parties in mixed
company appeared to pall on my husband and some of his buddies.
They found that they could drink much more without wives
around to scold if they drank in their offices.
My husband had a very good position for a young man - manager
of a branch business - and had a comfortable office in which
he and his buddies would drink in comfort.
It was at this time I began to realize that liquor was beginning
to rule my husband’s life. Foolishly I scolded, resorted
to tears, which only infuriated my husband when he was drunk.
Then horrible words were flung at each other, unkind thoughtless
things were said, and our love became a bit tattered around
Like all alcoholics, when my husband sobered up after a
bad bout he would promise never to touch the stuff again,
and really meant it, for he hated himself and the things
he did when under the influence.
those in-between periods we'd be so happy doing the things
we enjoyed; hunting trips, picnics, driving over the countryside
with the children. In that period of happiness I would begin
to forget the humiliation of the past. But he was in the
grip of something he could not control.
Strange as it may seem I never thought my husband would
become involved with another woman. Perhaps it was because
he never seemed to be interested in women, and I was often
teased about this by his friends. They said, "You need
never worry about Bill, he is not interested in any woman
but you. " This was flattering, but small comfort when
I realized that, although he wasn't interested in other
women, he had a mistress in a bottle who held first place
in his life.
am sure that if there had been no children I would have
left my husband in those early days, but when you have small
children you think twice about giving up a home and security.
though my husband drank to excess he still managed to do
his work. His boss who visited our city periodically, were
heavy drinkers too.
came the depression of the 30s. My husband’s heavy
drinking bills, the repairs to cars he wrecked and fines
used up any spare money we could have saved. When our salary
cut came it meant retrenching, but fast. At first it was
a bitter blow, but somehow I thought, foolishly, this would
mean that there would be nothing left over for alcohol.
But the setback acted as a stimulant and he drank more than
ever to forget the depression. I found myself avoiding the
butcher, the grocer and the landlord, as we soon owed money
to them all.
During this period our six year old son had to have an appendix
operation. I shall never forget rushing him to the hospital
late at night, and the kind neighbours who drove us, refusing
my husband’s request to get a bottle and bring it
to the hospital for him. The doctor finally persuaded him
that he could do no more good there and he was driven home
where he proceeded to get drunk.
I stayed at the hospital, and it wasn't until 10 o'clock
the next morning that my husband had sobered up enough to
know whether the operation had been successful of not.
on Saturday, we agreed to meet at the hospital around 2:30
P.M. and have a long visit with our son. I got there at
the appointed time and said that daddy would be along soon.
Each time footsteps were heard in the corridor, our son
would sit up and say, "I bet that's daddy now."
Then the look of disappointment on his white little face
was a knife twist in my heart. His dad didn't arrive and
by 5:30 I had to return home, living in terror that my husband
would visit the hospital drunk.
I arrived home worried and weary, and after getting dinner
for the rest of the family began to feel a knot inside get
tighter as the hours went by. Finally around 10:30 a neighbour
phoned and asked me to come and take my husband home, as
he was very drunk and was disrupting their party, which
he had crashed earlier. After persuading him to return home
I found I hated him and wished him dead.
I had long since learned it was useless to remonstrate with
him when he was drunk and I tried to be calm and cool, but
he would have none of this as he was in an ugly mood and
spoiling for a fight. For several hours I listened to his
drunken jargon and, finally, in disgust, I started to go
to bed. This infuriated him, and he tried to prevent me
from going upstairs. Then I struck him. He is a big man
and could have crushed me with one blow, but he had never
struck me in his life. This night he was a different person.
He followed me upstairs, threatening with each step to strangle
me for striking him. He yelled, "No one can hit me
and get away with it. I'm going to wring your neck."
we reached the top step I turned and faced him, saying,
"There's my neck, strangle me if you wish, it will
be one way of getting rid of you for the children's sake."
He stared at me drunkenly, his eyes bloodshot and full of
hate. Then he spat in my face, turned, and went downstairs.
He was still asleep in his clothes on the couch in the living
room after he got up. Then he asked me if he had been obnoxious
the night before as he couldn't remember anything from the
time he had crashed the party next door.
He wouldn't believe the things I told him and accused me
of making it up. Then he became contrite and asked forgiveness
and a chance to prove that he could be a decent husband
and father again.
I remember when I first realized that the respect in which
I held my husband had been supplanted by contempt. He had
been drinking very heavily and brought home some strangers
late at night. He walked into our bedroom with them, introduced
me as I lay blinking at the bright light, and cursed because
I refused to get up and get them food. Following this, he
went on the wagon, or so he said, for a week or so. Then
we were invited to a party by friends who could throw business
in my husband’s direction.
Before we left home I asked him to watch his step and he
agreed. I remember so well what he said: "You keep
an eye on me dear, and when you think I have had enough
just pinch my arm and I’ll not have another drink."
After about an hour I noticed the usual signs: my husband
tossing off large drinks too quickly, making repeated trips
to the kitchen, our host eyeing him with suspicion. I quietly
slipped to his side and gave him the warning pinch, looking
into his eyes and silently pleading with him to go easy.
pinch seemed to act with the suddenness of a match set to
gasoline. My husband strolled over to the buffet where several
bottles of whisky were open, calmly poured himself half
a tumbler of straight whisky, then turning to catch my eye
he tossed it off with an air of bravado.
I shall never forget the feeling of humiliation about half
an hour and six drinks later when my hostess took me aside
and asked me if I would take my husband home as he was spoiling
of such instances occurred during the next few years. Perhaps
one of the reasons I stuck on was that deep down underneath
I felt some miracle would happen, that basically he was
a wonderful husband and father.
last I got a position in a department store, working from
8:30 to 5:30. Our youngest child was now in school and I
felt free to work. My husband lost his job and got another
selling on commission.
bitter experience occurred during the summer holidays when
the children were home. My husband had been absent on a
drinking bout for i about two days and nights. I had told
him after the previous bout that if he repeated it again
I would visit a lawyer and arrange a legal separation. He
agreed. Yet he arrived home in the middle of the night so
drunk that he fell into a stupor as soon as he hit the bed.
As I lay there listening to his mutterings and snores, I
hated him and actually wondered if I could press a pillow
over his face and strangle him. It was such a temptation
that I found myself trembling with fear.... and I got up
and walked the floor the rest of the night.
He finally got a job in a factory at a low but steady salary,
most of which went to pay the back rent. But the heavy drinking
continued, partly, I think, to drown his humiliation and
he lost the job in the factory after a few months, he decided
that he would have to go away to battle it out himself.
My health was suffering, not from the work I was doing but
from the worry he was causing. The children avoided him,
and when he was sober he realized this and was more depressed.
So the break was made.
one can know the relief it was to be free of worry and the
thought of him coming home drunk. A cloud had been lifted
from our life; the children felt free to bring their friends
around; and by watching every penny I was able, with some
money my husband sent to me at odd intervals, to pay off
some of the pressing debts.
We corresponded regularly and although his letters mentioned
his private battle I knew he was trying. The cheques became
more frequent and a little larger each time, so that we
were able to face our creditors. However, I was gaining
a feeling of independence; and the children were older,
one of them working. My heart was numb as far as any feeling
of affection for my husband was concerned.
began hearing of his drunken exploits again, and it was
then that I wrote and asked him for a legal separation.
He knew I meant it this time. He wrote and asked for a little
time to prove he could win his battle against alcohol. I
agreed to three months, and the following week he wrote
and said he had joined Alcoholics Anonymous. I had heard
of this organization but didn't know very much about it,
so I was quite skeptical. He wrote glowing letters of the
work of A.A. and how he was endeavoring to learn more about
he wrote, after six months, that he was coming home for
Christmas I kept my fingers crossed and hoped.
were delighted in the change in his appearance when he 1
got down from the train. He was much thinner, had lost that
alcoholic puffiness, his skin was clear and fresh. We talked
for hours that evening about the therapy of A.A. and how
it worked and I found my respect slowly returning. But I
still had a deep fear I couldn't overcome.
a few days, just a day or so before Christmas, he asked
me if I had any wine or scotch in the house to serve friends.
When I said I hadn't he remarked, "Don't worry about
me, dear, those bottles are marked poison as far as I am
concerned. Because I am allergic to alcohol, doesn't mean
that normal drinkers can't handle it."
and trembling, I saw him come home the next day with a couple
of bottles. It was with a sick heart that I saw him pour
and serve it to our guests. But he didn't touch it, just
quietly sipped a Coke. I couldn't believe it, and still
had reservations. I knew he had fought a bitter battle,
one of the hardest any man ever had to fight, and yet I
wasn't convinced the victory wasn't permanent.
returned to his job in another city and I carried on with
my work. The children were happy with the change in their
dad, but when his letters came suggesting we might become
a family unit again, I rebelled. The children, now in their
teens with the oldest faith in their father. But because
I had lived my own life for so long I didn't want to give
husband had established himself in his own business by this
time and was doing well, and working hard to help other
alcoholics. If we were to live together again I would have
to give up my job, my freedom, and set up a home in another
It wasn't an easy decision to make, but after listening
to my husband, who had never been a religious man, tell
me that he would never have won the battle had it not been
for a Power Greater Than Himself. I knew he had won and
a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, my husband would strike
out those last two words, "for keeps." It is against
the principles of A.A. to say, "I'll never take another
drink." They say instead, "I shall try not to
take a drink TODAY."
I shall never forget the thrill of knowing that respect
and love for my husband were slowly returning. I will never
forget the night when he said, "Each morning before
I get out of bed I ask for guidance and help through this
day, and each night as I return to bed I say a grateful
honesty, utter humility and a desire to help others is the
foundation of a life of happy and contented sobriety, which
I am now privileged to share.
love and respect which I had thought lost forever have returned
with a greater intensity and deeper meaning. Our children
again love their father. I have no cause to regret that
I came back to live with an alcoholic.
Maclean’s Magazine, June 1, 1949)