Thursday, March 29, 2007

Breaking news: the wedding is off!

Wow, it's been ages since I wrote anything on here. I'm only writing today because I am getting all talked out, but still feel the need to get my feelings out.
SL & I broke up on Sunday. Our wedding was set for April 7th, so we called it off less than two weeks prior. I had actually just had my bridal shower the previous day (which, on a side note, was a wonderful day with lots of friends there). Never thought I'd do something like this, but I just couldn't go through with the wedding.
SL drinks. Sometimes a lot. More than the fact that he drinks to excess, I have been disturbed by the pattern of his drinking: seldom in social situations, usually alone; hiding or minimizing the amount that he drinks; rarely being able to stop at just one or two drinks; forbidding from even mentioning to his parents that he drinks. He has never been abusive or hateful when he drinks--just annoying, as any drunk person is to a sober person--and it has never affected his job. So he seems to think that makes his drinking OK. I couldn't disagree more.
His drinking has significantly affected our sex life, embarrassed me, disgusted me, and just generally made me extremely concerned about the future. My background as hospital nurse, my own experience with a previous alcoholic boyfriend, my friends' experiences, and my mom's experiences with her own alcoholic husband of 25+ years perhaps make me a little more aware of this issue than the average person. As I once told him calmly days after a fight, someone who chooses to use alcohol as his primary coping mechanism cannot be the kind of life partner I want. I'd rather have no husband at all than a husband who can't or won't support me in every way.
Though it wasn't obvious from the blog entry itself, I actually wrote about my concerns on this issue back on January 19th ( We'd started seeing a couples counselor in November because of his drinking (though he would tell you it's because of my temper). After a drinking-related big blow-up in October, I gave SL an ultimatum: start counseling with me, or move out. I half-expected to end it then, but to my surprise, he was willing to go to counseling.
At the January 19th appointment--our third--I told the counselor I wanted to call off the wedding because SL had made little to no effort in counseling: continued to drink, hadn't gone to see a psychiatrist to regulate/evaluate his anti-anxiety meds (which he genuinely needs; no shame in that), hadn't gotten a substance abuse evaluation as the counselor had suggested.
At that point on January 19th, when he realized I was actually ready to walk out of his life, he finally made an appointment with a psychiatrist and a commitment not to drink for at least 30 days. To his credit, he followed through and did both; in fact, he didn't drink at all for 6 weeks. After 3 weeks of sobriety and two psychiatrist visits (with changes in medications), I had real hope that this issue was being resolved. I've never been 100% convinced that he has a true drinking problem, rather than just making poor choices in regard to alcohol. I went ahead and mailed the invitations to our wedding the following week.
However, on March 20th--the day before my birthday--he came home with a 1.75 liter bottle of vodka (think: Costco-sized with a handle). I have asked him before (a) not to bring liquor into the house at all, and (b) if he must, not to buy in bulk, and I called him on it. As per his usual, he said I was overreacting and pointed out that the big bottle was "on sale." He poured himself two drinks, after which I marked the bottle with a line at the alcohol level and the dat--right in front of him.
No drinking Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, to my knowledge: each night we were out late, and I saw no signs in the mornings that he'd been drinking the night before. And after two years of putting up with his drinking, I've gotten pretty good at spotting those signs.
Saturday night was his bachelor party. The ironic thing is, he didn't even get drunk that night. . . though I'd told him before that, in my view, that was the one night when I would have found it acceptable for a man to get obliterated and would've said nothing. Instead, he was home by 11:30 with a slight buzz and nothing more.
Sunday morning/early afternoon, I went out and when I returned home around 2, I had a migraine. SL was solicitous: he brought me medicine, heated up a hot pack for my neck. I went to sleep for a couple of hours. It was when I woke up that the sh!t hit the fan.
Immediately I could tell that SL had been drinking. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon at this point. I should note that SL is a big guy--about 5'11", close to 300 lbs--with quite a tolerance, so for me to be able to tell he has been drinking. . . he has already had more than one or two. Know what I mean?
I asked him point-blank if he had been drinking. Yes. How much? Three or four drinks. Don't bullsh!t me, I said. How many STANDARD drinks have you had? (Yes, we are both lawyers, and he spent 18 months prosecuting DUIs. . . so he knows damn well what is meant by a "standard" drink.) "Only 3 or 4."
I went to the cupboard where I know he keeps his vodka and pulled out the bottle. That Costco-sized bottle now had about 3 shots left in it. In other words, he had consumed the better part of 1.5 liters of vodka!
I can't even describe my feelings when I saw this. Anger, sure. Hurt. Sick to my stomach. That feeling of "oh no, not again." For one brief moment, I thought "I'll just put this bottle back and say nothing." Because I knew if I called bullsh!t, it would be a fight. Maybe I even sensed what the outcome would be.
Well, by the title of this post, you've likely already guessed that I didn't put the bottle back and say nothing. I confronted him; things escalated to yelling. The usual from him: I need to lighten up, it's not a big deal, I need to control my temper. At one point, as I was standing less than a foot from him, screaming at him, he turned away & tried to ignore me; I punched him in the shoulder to get his attention.
That finally did get his attention, though not in the way I'd hoped. He looked at me, stunned & hurt, and said "you don't hit me." To which I replied that he was lucky I didn't belt him across the face to get his attention. . . or words to the effect. (No, I didn't state it that calmly, and profanity was definitely included.) No excuses for my behavior: it was wrong of me to resort to even a punch on the arm. No question about it.
This time, when I said, as I had so many times before, "if you're gonna keep this sh1t up, then we're done," he said "OK, then we're done." I have to admit that for a moment, I was stunned. . . only because I've said this to him probably 15-20 times over the last two years, and that has never been his response. He usually either says nothing or promises to quit drinking or at least cut back.
I left the house to cool off for an hour; when I returned, he'd gone to a party with a friend. (A going-away party for a couple we are friends with--the husband was to be his best man. We were supposed to have attended together.) I went to the party to say goodbye to our friends, then found SL by himself. Predictably, at that point, he had had even more to drink than during our prior confrontation.
I asked if he was sure this was what he wanted. "Absolutely." I told him that I was going to go home, call all my friends & family and tell them the wedding was off, and cancel what I could the next day. And he told me to go ahead.
So here we are. In a matter of days, I have gone from being an object of envy to an object of pity. The hardest part has been the mutual friends & acquaintances to whom I cannot tell the real reason for our break-up. My own friends and family have been super-supportive. I have been deeply touched to know the depth of their love for me, and though it doesn't make this any easier, it helps a little.
Monday I cancelled our chapel package, returned my wedding ring to the jewelry store, cancelled the tuxedos, and cancelled the private room at the restaurant for our reception. I left my engagement ring on his bathroom vanity. The one fortunate thing--if there is one, in this whole mess--is that we were getting married in Vegas. So even though it was now less than 2 weeks before our scheduled wedding date, I was still able to cancel some things and get some money back. I actually saved SL $1500+ of his money by making the calls I did on Monday.

He has already found a new apartment and is moving out on Sunday. I have been staying elsewhere in the interim to give him space to pack and to avoid contact with him. We have communicated a few times via email or text message when it's been necessary to work out logistics. Other than that, we've barely spoken 50 words to each other since Sunday.
Oh, and I should note: I overheard his call to his mother late Sunday night, letting her know that the wedding was off. He told her he broke up with me because I hit him in the face. When I first heard it, I was angry that he would lie. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought "what else was he going to do?" He certainly wouldn't have told her the truth. And frankly, at the end of day, what the hell do I care what his parents think of me? I will likely never see or speak to them again. They would've taken his side regardless. . . just as my parents and sister have taken mine.
At this point, I am just so sad that things turned out this way. In a way, I wish I had walked away in October, when I knew this was a definite, deal-breaking issue that was not going away on its own. But as my best friend says, at least now I will never wonder if things could've been worked out if I'd only been willing to put in more effort and go to counseling. Now I know, without a doubt, that his drinking would've continued to be an issue throughout our marriage. I probably would've ended up miserable.
The knowledge that I have done the right thing for me doesn't make this much easier, though. I still love SL, and I am mourning so many things. The loss of the relationship we had--which, despite his drinking, was 95% good--and the loss of all the plans we had made together. Our wedding itself, the life we'd hoped to have after we were married, the children we'd hoped to have. And he has been one of my closest friends for the past 2+ years.
I'm sad for him, too, because I believe in many ways that this break-up must be harder on him than on me. I am his first real girlfriend, so he has no prior experiences of a like nature to draw on for reference or for coping skills. I know that he has no one with whom he will talk about his feelings; he has often told me that I was the only person he'd ever opened up to. And he is still going to have to live with his own self-destructive behaviors when all is said and done.
Well, if you've gotten this far, I'm surprised & commend your attention. :) Though tears are streaming down my face as I finish this entry--and I am at the office!--I feel a little better for having put it all down in type.