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The Other Side of Intimacy – A Guest Infact.

3 May 2013

After I wrote my post on intimacy, I received a lot of feedback on twitter. I have been, though perhaps I shouldn’t have been, surprised by just how many people in the scientific community have had their lives affected by alcoholism. Below is a Guest Infact from a female scientist, describing her marriage and the impact alcohol has had on it.

I do need to put a trigger warning up front for potentially distressing sexual situations.

I was deeply moved by the post on alcoholism and intimacy that @Dr24hours wrote. As with many of his posts, it offered me the chance to understand the other side of a problem I’ve experienced. I’m so thankful he is sober and able to blog with honesty and openness so other can learn from his experiences. I’m going to attempt to approach this subject with the same openness and honesty as Dr24hours, but I’m not sure I can. My wounds are still fresh, but I’ll see how this goes…

I have to admit that I don’t know that much about alcoholism. I’m not sure what comes first, the alcohol or the alcoholic. So many of the personality traits that Dr24hours describes sound like my husband. The thought patterns, the self-esteem issues, just about everything. But, he was not an alcoholic when we met. He enjoyed alcohol in the causal way that most people do. We’ve gotten drunk a few times, and had fun doing so, but it wasn’t something that happened regularly. The longer we were together, the more he drank. I don’t think it was cause and effect, but a byproduct of our circumstances. We got married right before I started a PhD program, he got a masters degree, and we had a kid. Lots of life happened has happened in the last 10 years. When kiddo was 3, I defended and we moved for my postdoc. He has never been particularly motivated to find jobs and when we moved, he had even less motivation. We used the excuse that he would be a stay at home dad. But, he didn’t want to stay at home. He didn’t really enjoy it and neither him, nor the kiddo, were thriving. I was stressed and felt guilty for moving the family. He started using alcohol as an escape. He finally got a job that he liked, but then it ended after 4 months when funding fell through (yay soft money science!). That sent him to alcohol even more.

 He had little motivation to even look for jobs. He would fall into the thought pattern of not wanting to apply because nobody would want him anyway. He would count himself out of the running before even applying. I ended up writing several cover letters for him and helping him apply to a few jobs. He had interviews, but nothing came through. Then he got a few months of work on the soft money research position again, but he his tasks had shifted and he didn’t enjoy what he was doing, or the commute. Every day he would come home and have a beer in his hand before he sat down his work bag. He would pick up a beer and check out. He didn’t drink till he passed out, but he had a beer in his hand from the time he came home to the time he got ready for bed. If I tried to talk to him about it, he became defensive. At one point I had asked him to cut back on the beer and he replied, “it’s the only thing I have to look forward to at the end of the day.” It made me so sad that he felt this way. Even if he wasn’t excited to see me at the end of the day, how could he put beer above our daughter? My dad had said something similar to my mom not long before their divorce. I remember her telling me how much it hurt. I remember going for a walk and calling her to tell her. We both cried.

 As Dr24hours describes, our intimacy started to fade as the drinking increased. He drank as a way to emotionally check out. I felt like it was my duty to “be a good wife and give him want he needs” but his low self-esteem meant that I had to initiate any intimate activities. And, well… as Dr24hours describes, alcoholism is associated with sexual dysfunction. This made intimacy harder for both of us, eventually all aspects of intimacy faded away. There was no kissing, no hugging, no handholding. Alcohol combined with his insecurity and inability to connect on an emotional level also led him to make some very bad decisions. I became an object to him and little more. I felt like shit and I feared him. If anyone else had done it to me, I would have called the police, or left immediately and never returned. But I couldn’t, I had to see him the next day. I had to continue to live with him and my shame. He was not someone I wanted to be with and I didn’t give a shit about being “a good wife” any more, I just went into survival mode. I did what I could to keep it from happening, but it didn’t always work.

 I was working my ass off trying to do my postdoc and keep us financially afloat, but I didn’t even have my friend, my partner, at home. I couldn’t talk to him about my good or bad days at work because he didn’t want to talk. He had nothing to say so he just watched TV and drank beer. I felt emotionally abandoned. Conversations about alcohol went nowhere. He’d get defensive and walk away. I knew there was no way I could talk to him about our intimacy problems. I knew he was hurting and would be ashamed, if he was even aware of his actions (I have since learned that he was aware of what he was doing, but at the time I didn’t know if he was too drunk to remember). I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about what was happening. I felt ashamed. I felt like it was my fault.

 While all this was going on, we also hit the wall financially. We couldn’t make ends meet on my salary alone, but he couldn’t find a job (in his field) and he didn’t really want to work. I had a few interviews for TT positions, but it wasn’t looking like anything would come through. I had another year of funding, but started looking at other postdocs to see if there was one that paid better or was in a location where he might be happier.

 I ended up getting a postdoc that did pay better. I really hoped that moving would get him out of his rut. The next place had a smaller kitchen and no garage, so there was no place for the “beer fridge.” He liked the our location and was much happier. But he still drank and his actions continued. He was having fun staying at home. He went for bike rides, he hiked, he cataloged his record collection. The kiddo had entered school and was gone 6 hours a day. He had plenty of time to do his own thing and really enjoyed himself. I was glad that he was happy again, but it also showed me that his depression and our previous location wasn’t the root of our problem. I was paid more, but it still wasn’t enough to make ends meet. Once again, the credit card was piling up. He deferred his student loans (without discussing it with me). I was stressed about applying for TT jobs, learning new things at work, and working till 1 or 2 am every day. I was frustrated with my work and frustrated with home. I would tell him that I was very worried about my ability to support us. He didn’t think he should apply to jobs till after I got a permanent position. I told him I was worried that it wouldn’t happen for a while, if at all (like many people I’m seriously worried about the current state of scientific funding). I felt crushed by the responsibility of being the breadwinner and having all the financial pressure fall on me. I also felt so emotionally abandoned. I was alone. I was trapped. I hit the wall. I was crying every morning and every night. He would see me crying and say nothing. There are so many different kinds of intimacy, and I had none of them. I can’t say it was all because of alcohol, but alcohol played a role.

I have since entered counseling. My getting help has led to marriage counseling, and now individual counseling for him as well. He is no longer drinking, but our marriage is over. We have not had intimacy for nearly two years. It is hard to imagine it ever coming back. For now, we are working on moving forward and parents and friends.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. anon permalink
    3 May 2013 23:21

    Thank you for your courage in sharing your story. I relate to a lot of the feelings you described. For me, in regard to things that happened a very long time ago, and alcohol didn’t enter the picture until the very late stages, after the damage was done. Someone back then said “instant alcoholic, just add alcohol.” I think that describes it well. I am an alcoholic in recovery. I could claim a seat in alanon, though I haven’t yet. Others reading here might have suggestions along those lines. In my own experience, and that of at least some others, counseling can be very helpful…but not every counselor is good with the specific issues related to alcohol and substance abuse, and that help does exist and is available.

    I felt isolated, as if I was the only one who had ever had life unravel in such a baffling way. It helped to find people who were willing to share what they had been through. Seeing others strong and on the other side gave me hope and strength. You haven’t invented anything new here. I hope you can find more people to share their experience. It makes a big difference.

    There is support for domestic abuse, emotional as well as physical. I personally recommend martial arts training as a great place to start. Please keep yourself safe. Please know that you don’t need to carry things alone. Gather the people who understand close to you, people you may not even know yet. I wish you well, and if there’s anything I can do, doc24 knows how to reach me.

  2. Syd permalink
    4 May 2013 06:42

    I feel as if this was my story that you were writing —Except for the fact that my wife was drinking in graduate school and was the “party” girl then. I knew that she had a problem with drinking too much, but thought that I could “fix” her through love. It doesn’t happen. And then I had to really work on myself and the emotional problems I had as a result of living with active alcoholism. I didn’t get to Al-Anon until seven years ago. I wish that I had gone sooner. I did go to counseling but didn’t really relate to what was being said because none of the counselors understood about alcoholism and the effects it has on the family. But in recovery, I hear stories of other family members and how they are affected by a relative or friend’s drinking.

    I can tell you that my wife did join AA and through the steps and her sponsors, she learned to love herself and me again. I made amends to her and continue to do so through changing my behavior of being angry and resentful because of her drinking. We are still married and love each other very much. I hope that you and your husband will consider a 12 step program such as AA and Al-Anon to work on recovery from alcoholism and its effects. It is a disease that can destroy intimacy, love, and the self.

    Thanks for posting your story. I know the feelings you describe so well.

  3. 5 May 2013 15:20

    Incredibly honest post. I was/am the alcoholic and I read stuff like this and I know a bit of the pain I’ve caused. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  4. Kaff permalink
    15 February 2016 21:50

    I read this with tears in my eyes. It’s so similar to my situation in so many ways. I feel so painfully alone with this man who seemed to be my best friend 15 years ago. I find myself wondering how he takes care of natural sexual urges or if he even has them any more. To me, a man who almost never has interest is sick or getting it elsewhere. Or, it’s me. Imagine my feelings on that.

    I have to admit to my own hangups, I’ve never been an “aggressor” and I don’t know why. I like a good romp, but being the initiator never felt like the real me. My prior husband complained about it, so I worked on it with some success but complications (don’t ask).

    My current husband complained, but I admit to not working on it as I perhaps should. At our age, I felt he knew me when he proposed and that trying to make me different isn’t fair. I have always been responsive, active, but he has mostly been a Quickdraw Mcgraw, which feels like selfishness yet I excused it. Can’t a guy get a handle on that? I wouldn’t fake what didn’t happen, but the few times it did he accused me of faking and so began the drift.

    I struggle with bitterness. He and his alcoholic ways put us through bankruptcy and tax problems. I worked two jobs even as my mother was dying because even then he wouldn’t deign to be regularly employed or a committed sole proprietor. Bitterness does not give rise to any desire to try to be something I’m not for a selfish guy.

    I’m 54 and cry thinking I may have met the end of my sex life unless I make a life change. However, weight gain and a battered self esteem cause my mind to cast me as alone and lonely if I do. At a loss…

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