Monday, December 17, 2007

The Third Sunday of Advent was a mostly enjoyable day. The music was glorious, fellowship full of fun, food extraordinary, overall, a spiritually uplifting day. Closer to home, not so much.

Mike pulled another bender, but I absented myself until he had gone to bed and passed out. For that reason, I'm beginning to dread the Sunday of Lessons and Carols. After I got home from last night's service, I went back to the December 2006 archives to refresh my memory of last year's disaster on the Lessons and Carols Sunday when he was too drunk to stand up and walk. I also read about all the empty promises that were made and the foolishness of my optimism for his sobriety. It's been one hellacious year with him.

It was a good year for me, though, because I started taking better care of myself in many ways. Just as Mike, as a financial consultant advised his clients, "Diversify, diversify, diversify!" I've applied that principal to my non-financial investments. I gave myself permission to diversify, to enjoy the company of other people who have offered me intellectual stimulation, emotional and spiritual support, social opportunities, and friendship, rather than depending on "HUSBAND" to meet all those needs. I've never believed that a spouse should be expected to meet all the needs of their partner. It's the unrealistic expectations that lead to most of our disappointments.

The man I'm married to is limited, moreso than he used to be. Legally, we are still married, but the marital bond has been significantly weakened, not so much by the stroke as by the drinking; not much glue holding it all together - history, duty, joint finances, some affection and appreciation. The returns on my investment in him, of late, have been minimal. Had he been a bank CD, I would have moved the funds elsewhere, but the advantages of being married still outweigh the disadvantages, and as long as that is true, I'll stay with him. It's a precarious balance, however, and wouldn't take much to tip it the other way.

Finding satisfaction with friends has allowed me to get beyond the contempt I've felt, and to recover the compassion I feel for anyone who is disabled as he is and controlled by an addiction that has robbed him of his best self. As long as I can nurture the best in me in my associations with others, I'll stay with Mike and care for him. He needs a nurse and I will do that for him. It's one of the ways I nurture the best in me. He needs an assistant to manage the adult responsibilites that go along with maintaining any household. Again, that's something I can do, and will do. I will not do for him the things he can and should do for himself.

Al-Anon folks call this enabling, and if it were not for the stroke he had, I would agree, but since the stroke took so much from him, I can't blame his diminished capacity on just alcohol. I am compelled to give him the benefit of the doubt. He deserves kindness and mercy like everybody else. Again, that's something I'm good at, so I'll do it.

My own dignity and self-respect are less compromised when I take care of myself. Wasn't it Shakespeare who said, ”This above all: to thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

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