Stopping the chaos with the alcoholic - at least to me - was really what the subject and focus of the past two weekends topics on Detachment and Boundaries were about.
The problem that I face is when a child is involved.
I struggle with both of these (detachment and boundaries) because my wife, who is my qualifier, likes to run around with no responsibilities. She takes my daughter from place to place, no prioritization, not understanding she has studies and tests for school and she needs some sort of "routine." Unfortunately, my daughter sees this running around as normal. I am trying to break this pattern by exerting and interrupting the cycle of chaos.
Of course, as soon as I write the word "exerting" I know that I have fallen into the trap of controlling. I know, I know. There are some who are reading this and they are smiling, nicely of course, perhaps saying to themselves, "Dear Joseph, don't you learn anything?"
But my daughter is not doing well in school. And anytime I try to sit and study with her, my wife has created "other plans" - like meeting friends, going shopping, etc. My wife can't sit down and study with my daughter - she functions sober with a huge IQ, but very, very little EQ (emotional quotient). My wife has very little ability to sit on the side of the other person and try to figure out what is going on and therefore try and be empathetic or try to "teach" from how others see things. She is very, self-centered. Or self-absorbed. She does not want to or can't - look at things from the other person's perspective. She cannot empathize - sit in the other person's shoes - to feel or try to feel how others may be feeling.
In fact, talking about this self-centeredness or self-absorbtion, when I ask my daughter how her day went, my wife answers! I have gotten to the point to where I even ask specifically by my daughter's name and my wife STILL answers!! It's enough to drive one to - I was going to say "drink" to be comical - but that may be inappropriate.
But back to trying to "fix" things for my daughter and give some sort of routine.
It is hard to set boundaries, especially when your children, where there is this natural bonding between mother and child. When I do start to try to change things by trying to realign the house by trying to focus everyone on the important things (such as school work), and stop the running around which adds to the chaos, I look like the ogre - the big guy who looks like he is being a jerk. My wife does the fun stuff and dad, well dad, is the meany.
One little story about dinner in our house. This is not what I expected from a mother. So, my viewpoint is being shattered. I was a little shocked, because I thought mothers were supposed to be very children centered.
My wife would bring home food, from the mall, you know the food court. She would buy a plate of food from one of those country cooking places. She would get vegetables, because they are "healthy". Of course these vegetables are cooked with sugar, salt and fat to make the food taste good. But never the less, they are vegetables, according to her.
Well, she would bring home a plate just for herself. No other food. I would ask, probably in a little bit of pissy voice, "Where is our food?" Her reply, "Well, you and our daughter [her name here] don't like this." I would reply, "So there is nothing for us?" And of course, there wasn't.
On other occasions, my wife would go to the store and buy already made chicken. She would fix her plate and sit down and start eating. My daughter who was 8 or 9 at the time would come in and say, "Where's my food mommy?" I would come from the office and see this and just stare in disbelief. Of course this is when she was drinking every day - full bore.
Now what she does, is she shops all day. She will hit Target 3 times in one day. Hit Target 3 days back to back. I think this is her way to drink in the car.
I have detached and set boundaries to minimize the chaos - so I am thankful for this. I will admit my boundaries and detachment were not always so great as to the fact I judged and provided my evaluation of the situation at times. And in those times I went toe to toe with alcoholism, and eventually was thwarted at every turn and lost. But over time I have come to use them, the tools of detachment and boundaries, and I would give myself a grade of "fair" today. And, by the way, my wife says that I am setting rules, not boundaries.
Now I am dealing with her (my wife's) inability to tell me what time she is taking my daughter somewhere and what time she will be back. And - is this going somewhere - more important than studying, going to bed at a set time, waking up at a set time, eating at a set time thing. I am trying to set "rules" - and maybe these are rules, for when my daighter should go to bed, eat dinner, what to eat, and when to study. So, not only am I controlling - and trying to exert influence, my wife thwarts it - undermines it - because of her power of being the fun one. And my child suffers. And I feel guilt and yet I know I must try to help.
But I also realize I cannot be the husband, dad, and wage earner AND be the mother. I cannot be the parent for both my wife and my daughter. And frankly, I realize that now more than ever.
So, this past weekend - while there was no out and out chaos - there were missed times when we were to study for a make-up test my daughter is to take today. The times were missed because my wife had friends in town. Then I had to become no longer "detached" - which means I had to intervene on my daughter's behalf to study. Of course my daughter didn't understand - she wanted to hang out with my wife's friends' children at the house where they were all staying. And of course, my wife painted me with the brush that I am a "control freak." But I do not care about the painting or labeling - although in truth it does hurt because I want a partner, not an enemy. And not at the cost of my daughter's education and self-esteem and seeing me as the bad dad - not fun dad - not the loving dad. Because as we all know, children's schooling is important to their self-esteem. My big concern is my daughter failing a grade. So I am forced to get my daughter extra tutoring. And here my wife tries to thwart this, starting off by saying she doesn't need it. Or saying, my daughter is not "getting it" (meaning understanding the school work) not realizing that what she is not getting is because of not studying a little more and that why should she when her mom, a big figure in her life, says it's OK to play all day.
So today, my wife's mother comes to town. She is smart lady. But still my wife's mother. I am going to explain what happened this weekend in detail so she can understand the chaos and the problems we are facing in the midst of alcoholism. This weekend is an example of the chaos and turmoil underway. And the chaos has become normal.
In the end, alcoholism is not just drinking and being drunk. It is a self-centered disease and it sucks the life out of everyone to make the focus on the alcoholic. And the cycle - the cycle of self- centeredness - makes everyone feel they are not fulfilling the role they are supposed to fill if we take the eyes off the alcoholic. And because our eyes and focus have been on the alcoholic for so long it seems normal. We (I) have to break this pattern.
I have started to try to break the pattern. I do not know if I can complete the breaking of the pattern in the current situation without looking like I am the bad guy here. I am in a dilemma. A dilemma is a place where there are just choices of bad alternatives.
I seek a solution. And I pray for serenity this week. And I pray for my daughter to understand as well, that I am not the ogre.