ASK ABDI: HOW DO I HEAL MYSELF FROM AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP?

QUESTION: Last weekend, I left my husband of five years. We were in a relationship for 11 years that began when we were both married to other people and while my mother was dying of breast cancer. He is 19 years my senior, and I just gave myself over to him. He is a heavy drinker and smoker, and over the years I have become one as well. Soon after moving in with him, I felt unhappy with the relationship. I allowed him to isolate me from my family, and I have no friends of my own. He is very jealous and controlling, and became more so after I lost the weight I gained during those first unhappy years of the relationship. I started coming home from work and drinking wine every evening until I pretty much blacked out. I have stopped for a while, but then something happens and I go out and buy some wine. I have spent the past six days drinking every night, even though I am at my brother’s house, and last night I passed out sitting upright on the couch. I am humiliated by my own behavior! I have been seeing a therapist, but am not getting anything out of it. What can I do to shed these awful habits and heal myself from this abusive relationship?

ANSWER: It is a big step you took to leave a situation that seems so harmful. Give yourself a pat on the back for that. That, however, was just the first step. Our ability to be in and sustain an abusive relationship is a sign of deep internal wounds. We can use all kinds of addictions, like food and alcohol, to numb ourselves to the pain and anxiety such relationships both mask as well as cause. When we do leave these relationships, there can be a massive void inside of us. After the separation, we need to face the demons inside instead of having someone, like a damaged partner, carry it for us.

Your drinking to a point of blacking out is serious and needs to be addressed. You have to examine to see if there is a history of addiction/alcoholism in your family, and even if not, you have to look at this issue. Therapy alone will most likely not address this, if you are an alcoholic. You will need help in this area, and addictions are best healed in group settings, not one-on-one therapy. Therapy can be a helpful adjunct, and it would be best to work with someone who is well versed in addictive issues. I would strongly suggest going to some AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings and putting the bottle down, first and foremost. This is nothing to be ashamed or feel humiliated about. Addictions are a disease and, as such, can no more be controlled by willpower than diabetes can. All else I say here would be a waste of our time until you face this issue.