In rehab, one rite of passage was called "Letters of the Heart." When you were a little over halfway through the program, someone close to you (usually a spouse or family member), drove up to the facility to sit down with you and your counselor to share aloud a letter the two of us had written to the other. It was a scary prospect. Sometimes people emerged from the room crying, laughing, and hugging, and healing had taken place. Sometimes people emerged from the room red-faced, angry, terse and distant. Rifts, frustration, unresolved conflicts had been finally voiced. It could be rough. Sometimes relationships ended.
Chelle and I are housecleaning today in anticipation of a little Preakness get-together we're hosting next weekend, so I came across the letter Chelle had written to me. I read it aloud to her, then asked her if it was okay if I shared it here. So, to all of you who are dealing with an alcoholic, take heart. Maybe some of this will ring true for you.
"My Dear, Sweet Tiger--
Let me start this letter off by telling you how proud I am of you and how much I love you. Making the decision to get help wasn't easy but you did it and I am so thankful for that--things can only get better from here. I love you for doing this...but I love you for so many other things as well--your sweetness...the way you care for me...your intellect...our shared love of horses...most importantly, you accept and love me for me--thank you for that.
I thought that loving you meant accepting that you were a drunk, along with all of those other wonderful traits you possess--one bad thing with all the good things wasn't that bad, was it? Yeah, it was. Drunk became normal--it was just something you did...but I hated it. You attacked me when you were under the influence--mostly verbal, but sometimes physically. I was always your target--I could do nothing right--and you could only tell me your list of grievances when you got up your courage after a few drinks--the problem is you bitched me out for the same thing almost every time--even when they weren't a problem. You said a lot of mean and hateful things to me that I didn't deserve. It always pissed me off in the morning when I confronted you about the night before and you couldn't remember what you said or did so therefore, it wasn't a problem to you. I learned how to protect myself by choosing not to remember the hateful things you said-you know that's what I'm good at--letting go of the past and living in the now--but that didn't solve the problem; it only allowed it to continue.
I accept some responsibility for your drinking getting to the point it's gotten to--I know the move to Spokane didn't help, you being isolated from friends gave you an excuse to drink and I certainly haven't helped--drinking became a part of our daily life and I honestly kept thinking that the last time you drank to the point of blacking out, that truly would be the last time you would do something that foolish. I let myself be in denial to your problem--I know now that you're not just a drunk. You are an alcoholic, and we have to live with that each and every day.
I want to be clear with you on a few things--and PLEASE read these words if you ever feel like having a drink again:
--You are not a lovable drunk
--You are not cute and funny when you're drunk
--You fall down
--You say inappropriate things
--You embarrass me
Drinking alcohol brings out the worst in you and I will no longer condone or encourage your drinking. Ultimately it is your choice. It is your problem. Only you can decide if you use again. I hope you don't. I believe that sobriety will allow you to be the person you want to be, as opposed to drinking to hide from who you have been. You cannot change or rid yourself of your past--accept it, and move on--today is good; tomorrow can be even better.
I am ready for the next step in our lives together. Let's create new traditions and daily habits that don't include alcohol--I'm fine with that--I just want a happy and healthy partner that loves being with me. I believe that without alcohol in our lives that we will communicate better and be more content with each other than we have been. I will provide you with whatever support you need: Just tell me.
I love you...never forget that simple statement...
I LOVE YOU
Always and forever, Your Tomboy, Chelle"
(Notes: today I am 246 days sober (a little over 8 months);
we have not fought even once since I got sober; when we disagree, we are able to talk it out rationally; and I admit it, I sometimes pushed or punched Chelle in the chest when I was drunk and enraged. It is a truth I am not proud of at all. I feel very blessed to have her forgiveness for that horrid behavior.)