Healing a Marriage Through Recovery
I thought my husband had the drinking problem. But it was I who needed help.
I stood outside the bedroom door and said a quick prayer for courage. Then I walked in. My husband Jim lay in bed reading. He glanced up with uncharacteristically sober eyes. Jim sometimes took a night off from drinking after an all-out bender. Tonight was one of those rare nights.
“I’m going to a twelve-step meeting,” I said, trying to sound more resolute than I felt. I didn’t have to explain that the meeting was for loved ones of alcoholics. The look that crossed Jim’s face told me he knew full well what I was talking about.
An emergency room doctor recalls over 25 years of inspiring true stories of everyday “angels.”
We had discussed his drinking problem many times, but I’d never actually done anything about it. Jim kept his eyes fixed on his book. He didn’t say a word. I walked out.
You might think such a negative scene would never happen to the daughter of Zig Ziglar, world-famous motivational speaker and champion of positive thinking. You might think Zig Ziglar’s daughter was a model person who always made good choices and did not end up at age 30 on her second marriage, this time to a total drunk.
Well, if you thought that you would be wrong.
My mom and dad were wonderful, loving parents and all my life I wanted to follow their example. Instead, I fell in with a bad crowd in junior high and before I knew it I was married at age 18 to a man twice my age.
I got out of that marriage when his hot temper crossed the line from verbal to physical abuse five weeks after our daughter was born. For seven years I prayed for a husband who would love me like my dad loved my mom. A stable provider, a good influence on my daughter, Amey.
Then I met Jim Norman, a successful businessman on the rebound from a divorce.
Jim had three kids of his own, a college-age daughter and 12-year-old twins. They were great kids. A good sign, I thought. Jim and I had a lot in common and I got along with his friends. We all liked to drink socially.
“My ex-wife said I’m an alcoholic,” Jim said when we were dating. “You don’t think so, do you?”
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“No,” I said. Jim didn’t seem to drink much more than I did. I drank with clients sometimes (I was in sales) and I might have an occasional drink or two after putting Amey to bed. But that was it.
I thought so for Jim too—for the first three months of our marriage. Then for no apparent reason Jim’s drinking escalated. He’d come home from work and fix himself a scotch and water, then another and another.
“I love you guys,” he’d gush to me and the kids at the dinner table, his words slurring. When he finished eating he’d pour himself a large snifter of cognac and disappear into our bedroom, where he kept his easy chair facing the TV.
By the time the kids were ready for bed Jim was passed out in his chair, the TV blaring.
“What’s going on with you?” I asked one morning.
“What do you mean?” Jim answered defensively.
“Your drinking is out of control.”
Jim looked at me. “I like a few cocktails in the evening but I’m no drunk. My dad was an alcoholic. He drank from sunrise to sunset. I never drink before five o’clock.”
That evening, when I saw the scotch and water come out yet again, I defiantly poured myself a bourbon and Diet Coke. Not enough to get drunk, just enough to take the edge off my gathering fear. What if Jim did this every night?
Jim did do it every night. Weeks became months and Jim’s drinking became part of our family routine. So did my bourbon and Diet Cokes—the kids called it “dirty Coke”—but of course I didn’t get drunk like Jim.
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I had to keep up with the kids’ homework and activities. A cocktail or two helped me cope with Jim’s nightly disappearance to his easy chair in the bedroom.