AnnaZed sent me this article from the Daily Mail, written by a journalist whose passionate relationship with her journalist husband survived many years, many wars, tragedies, terror, and long separations, but seems to have met its match with Alcoholics Anonymous.
His drinking got worse and worse, but there were glimmers of hope. The same courage that kept him alive in war zones all those years sent him to Alcoholic Anonymous and he began doing their famous 12-step programme.
It was not easy — and I knew how much he suffered. It was also painful for me not to be able to help and to know he didn’t want my help.
I went to an AA Christmas party, and while everyone was friendly and welcoming, it was clear they set a wall between ‘us and them’.
Like many wives living with alcoholic husbands, I was not an addict or an alcoholic and, therefore, I was an outsider. I could never understand their suffering, their pain. Bruno changed, too. While he stayed sober, he stopped seeing our friends and he stopped socialising with the world that was not AA.
People were either ‘my cult’ as he jokingly called them or ‘not my cult’.
By that he meant non-alcoholics – meaning me.
It was a no-win situation – I wanted desperately for my husband to survive and be sober, but I did not want to lose him to the smelly hall of The American Church on Quai d’Orsay where he seemed to enter another world. The world of AA.
I met a lovely woman at an AA party who spelt it out for me. ‘It’s amazing that you guys are still together,’ she said. ‘Most people who get sober find it impossible to carry on with the relationship they had while they were drinking.’
A light bulb went on as I realised we were barely hanging on.
In some ways I hate AA, because it stole my husband from me. I bought every book I could find on alcoholism and spouses of alcoholics. I went to Al Anon, the support group for loved ones of alcoholics, and hated it.
It met in a church on a Saturday afternoon. The people argued about who made the tea and who cleaned up. When I tried to talk, a stern woman kept interrupting me.
‘You have to say, hello, my name is Janine and I am the spouse of an alcoholic,’ she kept repeating in a robotic voice.
So I said it, and every time, the group would say, ‘Welcome Janine!’ like happy morons, and it was too weird. I fled in tears halfway through.