It’s late and the kids are finally asleep. My husband and I are on opposite edges of the couch, a candle flickers on the windowsill, rain drips down the windows. We’re both looking at our phones. Beside me, I have turmeric tea with honey, beside him, whiskey on the rocks.
“Hey,” I say into the stillness, reading from my favorite astrology page, “Next week’s a lunar eclipse. It says, ‘Lunar eclipses bring culminations and emotional endings.'”
I don’t really think he’s listening, but I don’t care because I love this stuff.
He’s quiet for a minute. He says, “Perfect. I think I’m going to quit drinking next week.”
What? I try not to look as surprised as I feel. Where did this come from? The last time we talked (fought) about his drinking, he said he didn’t have a problem and that I was the problem for being upset about it.
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I keep my voice slow, “Wow, that’s awesome, babe. What made you decide to do it now?”
I think back to the months he’s gone without alcohol before, only to fall back into the same patterns. I feel sad, preemptively.
“Well, it’s not really a problem yet,” he says (yes it is), “But I can see how it could be. One day.”
“You are pretty high functioning,” I joke (but not joking).
We don’t use the word “alcoholism” but it is everywhere. We live it.
He says, “I saw some photos from the beach today and my face looks puffy. I look red. I don’t want this to get worse.”
I laugh a little because it would be the superficial signs of drinking that spur him to change, not the deep way it affects our marriage and his life.
“I love this and I love you. How can I support you?” I ask.
“Will you stock the fridge with La Croix and maybe some of that infused water with the lime and mint?” he asks.
“Sure, babe, yes. I can do that.”
I can do anything. But I remember the last time I stocked the fridge with expensive spritzers only to see them used as mixers for more alcohol. I don’t say it out loud, and I try to push the memory from my mind.
He’s failed so many times before, I’m afraid of getting my hopes up. I hate the disappointment.
I stare at the rain running rivulets down the window. Maybe failure isn’t the point. He’s showing me he wants to change. This is hard.
He’s pushing against the wall of his own family history, his past choices, and the daily stress of the job he works to support our family. The stress makes him reach for a quick fix even when he knows it isn’t serving him.
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“What are you going to do to manage your stress now without alcohol?” I ask.
“I don’t need anything,” he says. “I just need to quit. It isn’t that hard.”
“Yes it is hard,” I say quietly.
“No, it’s not.”
He’s being so hard on himself, I can practically hear him thinking he should be better by now. I reach over and hug him.
I don’t need to be part of that critical voice, he already has one.
If he fails again, it’s part of his story. I see us moving closer to the life we both know is waiting, and the more I hold that vision of us sacred, the more he sees it too. It’s not linear.
I know he can do it, and I know he has to do it on his own. But he doesn’t have to be alone.
I lean into him and add La Croix to our grocery order.