LC - Lisa Corduff Rebrand 2023-06

CwL Ep 158 – The story of an extreme response

LC - Lisa Corduff Rebrand 2023-19

How is Lisa’s life ongoingly affected from the years of living with an alcoholic? 

Recently she had an encounter with a man that revealed that even though she was never abused physically, verbally, emotionally by her husband, there was underlying damage done over the years.

This is the story of an extreme response to a very ‘normal’ situation and how she loves herself through it.

Not long now until the next round of What’s the Story? kicks off. Would you like to build connection and trust  with an audience? Clients? Colleagues? Students? Would the ability to tell more stories, including your personal story, benefit your work? If so – now is the time to jump in! All the details are here.

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Prefer to read? Access the transcript here.

My husband was an alcoholic, but he was never abusive, never violent, never reckless, never stayed in bed all day or didn’t come home at night. He was not what I thought an addict was, and so it took a long time to figure out that that’s actually what was going on. He knew before I knew, but even he found it really hard to admit. In fact, it was part of the reason why he never fully recovered because it’s a really hard thing to own that you can literally never, ever touch alcohol again anyway, because life was, it was hard and there were definitely moments that did not feel good at all.

I didn’t feel like it had damaged me in ways that I know these well. I have heard lots of stories over the years, and I know that you don’t have to feel physical abuse in order to be damaged by something and have it really change internally how you respond in situations that if you hadn’t experienced what you had would be considered normal. And I had one of those recently and it was a reminder to me that I guess being with him for all of those years, I’m still going to have the outcome of that wrong word revealed to me over time. So when he died, I was actually with someone new. I was in a new relationship and he obviously fully understood what was going on and a sensitivity that I had around alcohol. I mean, I hated it. To me, alcohol was the poison that was taking my husband away, and so I wasn’t really drinking very much. I felt no desire to, and he fully respected all the way through our relationship that if he’d been out for a few drinks, I wouldn’t really want to be around that.

There were times we would go out together and have a few drinks and that was always fine, but being surprised by something or being even kissing after a few beers, I had a physical response to that, it would shut me down and I’ve done lots of therapy and I’ve done lots of work. He was amazingly patient and understanding. Never ever did I feel uncomfortable. He wasn’t a huge drinker anyway, to be honest. And so I’ve spent the last, well, however many months, single since maybe this time last year, and I, so I haven’t been in relationship around this until recently and getting back on the scene and there was a situation that I was in where I realised, oh God, I’ve still got so much stuff around this. So this is a person who I’d seen a few times and we’re having a really nice time.

He fully understands my situation, heard some stories and we’re in that getting to know you phase and I was in his local area because I’d been out with a friend. I’d dropped her home and he lives quite close, and so I called him to just say, Hey, I’m in your area. Maybe I swing past. And as soon as I heard him talk, I realised he’d been drinking, which I knew he was. He gets one night a week without his children guaranteed, and it was nine 30, so it wasn’t even dramatic. It wasn’t much at all, but there was just a change in the tone of his voice and I didn’t like it, and I started, my palms got sweaty and I felt sick in my tummy and I said, oh, I am not actually going to be able to. He goes, I think I can actually see your car.

You are right there. I’m just walking back now. Oh yeah, keep driving, just keep driving. And I thought, wow, I can’t get out of this. I have to see him. And I knew I was having a very excessive response to what was a very normal situation, and so I picked him up and I just said, I’m so sorry. I am not feeling okay, and I’m just going to drop you at home. He’s like, okay, tell me why. He wasn’t even, I mean when I say it wasn’t an extreme situation, it really was an extreme. My reaction was, and I knew it was coming from somewhere, and I knew I needed to just be gentle with myself and just explain also, and trying to explain these things in real time when it’s happening is hard, and I didn’t want to seem irrational, but I was just honest.

I mean, this is where I think this is the best thing about meeting people in your mid forties is you don’t actually have to pretend to be anything except for exactly who you are. It’s so freeing and he fully understood and was really gracious, and it gave him an extra bit of information about me, and we actually just sat in the car and talked for a while and he was great. Everything was fine. My nervous system completely calmed down. I realised I was safe, and that’s when I realised is that even although there wasn’t, I never feared for my safety. It wasn’t a safe relationship to be in. It was very unpredictable and it was not safe for my nervous system that was always on edge about what it was that I was dealing with. I was hyper aware to changes in his tone, in his eye movements because by the end, there was a lot of secrecy.

There was a lot of hiding, and he thought he could hide the fact he was drinking from me, but he never could because it was like my radar was on. I knew every single change to him and what it meant, and I realised that I needed to just take myself off the edge of worry. There is nothing about this particular person that gives me cause for concern about his drinking behaviours, and I need to allow a level of trust and also just safety within my own body. Like, okay, we’re having a reaction here and now we get to just be conscious to what’s going on. Just know that this is okay. Of course you’re going to have these moments and let the people around what’s going on love yourself even although you feel like a crazy person right now, this is a result of having lived with an addict and being married to an addict for longer than knew how serious the problem was.

And there was a freedom then that I felt in that moment that I can manage myself, that I can understand it more, that all the therapy, all of the work that I’ve been doing over these last few years to heal eel, it was like the rubber hitting the road, right? It didn’t stop the reaction from happening. It just helped me manage it. I was really proud of myself because the impacts of that relationship will continue to reveal itself. I think often about what’s going to happen for the children when they come to an age where they’re experimenting with drinking, what will that look like for them? How will we normalise it? They see me drinking alcohol these days and they’re very conscious to it, and I try to model, well, I don’t drink that much to be honest, but when I do, it’s just always talking about how great it is to be someone who can enjoy one or two, and that’s all I’d really need. But for sure if it’s in me, if’s in them, they were really little and they didn’t fully understand what was going on, and they were never hurt or damaged in ways that were obvious. And so I look for the signs of it revealing itself, just like I notice signs in me and we have to allow it all to be okay because it is and it isn’t.

Just love ourselves through it all. I worked really hard that night afterwards to just really sit with myself and honour what I’ve come through where I am now, and lean into trusting myself to know when we are in an extreme situation as opposed to someone who you’re getting to know, having a few pints at the pub with his friends and walking home at nine 30 on a Thursday night. That story was inspired by a prompt from one of you about the impacts on the kids and I from living with Nick, living with an alcoholic, and it was one of the first things that came to my mind, only because it’s a very recent thing, but there’s lots more where that came from. Most certainly, I want to encourage you, if you find yourself in a situation like me to reach out for support, Alanon groups would be one of the first places that you could go, and it’s totally free where you can start to get a sense of what it is that you’re dealing with amongst a community of people who understand. I definitely encourage anyone who is experiencing something that I did to reach out to the people in their lives who can love and support them and see them and start being honest with yourself and with others about what you’re going through. Silence is enabling, and you need support on this journey. You really do. If you can find and afford professional help for you to unravel some of it, it’s definitely worth it.

I hope you’re enjoying this story series. That one was a little bit more serious, and we’re getting down to the wire in terms of your opportunity to join the next round of what’s the Story, which is a four-week programme that helps you find and craft great compelling stories that help you connect with people better, maybe teach better. I have found it phenomenal to go back to my roots of journalism and start telling better stories and the impact that this can have on the world. It’s the most honest thing I feel like I can do in the world, and it’s a gift to be able to share my stories with you. So thanks for listening. If you have any topics that you want me to cover on this story series, shoot me an email anytime. I love hearing from you. If you want to tell better stories, then join me in, what’s a story? It’s four weeks. That could change a lot for you. Past participants have loved it. You can see their comments on the link that’s provided in the show notes. Go check it out. I’d love to see you inside.

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