When Jim and I first met, I was aware that in social situations he would often drink more than I liked, but I knew that being the child of an alcoholic made me acutely aware of the drinking habits of people in my life. This sensitivity was something that I didn't choose to verbalize very often since I understood it was simply an issue that was rooted in my past experiences with my dad. It was an issue,though, that didn't disappear when my dad began his work with AA, on his path toward becoming a recovering alcoholic. Each time Jim would over-indulge I would get a huge knot in my stomach along with a fear that someday down the road he would lose his ability to control his alcohol consumption and eventually turn into an alcoholic. The mere thought of that future would make the hair on the back of my neck quiver.
It's hard for me to admit the ways I tried to control his drinking over the early years of our relationship, but I think it's important to be open and honest so that you can begin to realize the deep fear and eventual anger I felt toward this third party in our marriage. I remember feeling that I never wanted to go through what our family had experienced over the years of living with a practicing alcoholic. I needed to do everything in my power to prevent this from happening! I know now how ridiculously desperate that sounds, but that is exactly how desperate I was feeling during that time!
Jim was a wedding photographer when we met, so this meant that he would regularly work at a wedding on the weekends. Every wedding has a reception, and almost every reception has some type of alcohol...you can probably tell where I'm heading with this, right? That's correct...after the photographs were finished and all the obligations had been met, Jim would often be invited to stay for the end of the reception festivities, and usually that would include drinking. Oh yea, I believed that if I went to the weddings with him, then I would be able to control his alcohol intake. How silly was that? Sad but true. (Yes, Thom, that's how I ended up in your wedding photographs about ten years before even meeting you.) There were many weddings that I didn't attend with Jim, and on one of those occasions Jim called, inviting me to come and listen to the great band at the reception. Of course I went because then I could control, control, control...but by the time I appeared, Jim was already beyond any control I could offer. I arrived to see him dancing with one of the bridesmaids. I wish there was a word that could begin to describe how I sick I felt as I stood there in the darkened room, because using the words hurt and angry only describe the tip of my emotional response. Would I have had the same emotional response if he had not been drinking? I truly didn't know the answer to that question, but I gradually began to understand that his drinking was concerning me to the point of causing a problem in our relationship. I don't want to give the impression that he drank all the time because that is not true, but each time he did over-indulge, I had the same fear-based response. Eventually when Jessica was in college and Jim and I spent more time going to social events together, I knew that I had a decision to make. I either had to seek a solution for dealing with this third party in our marriage or I had to find a way of living with that reality...without letting it consume me and our relationship.