Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Beware the Clown

Yesterday's Courage to Change passage (Mar 24) began the same way my initial encounter with alcoholism did – logically and with a complete lack of understanding.  I was 100% convinced that every time my husband picked up a bottle, it was a choice, a willful act of defiance.  I thought it was simple: If you love me, stop drinking, and when he didn’t, I concluded that he must not love me. Then, when I was fully engaged and locked in for the ride, my mind took me to the next place it goes when untethered, “He must drink because of me”. But it was never all about me.  That isn't how the disease of alcoholism works. There’s nothing logical about it.

For a long time, I looked at the alcoholic like a bit of a kid, always wanting to escape responsibilities and hangout in the funhouse with the carnival clowns.   It wasn’t until I started going to open Alcoholic’s Anonymous meetings and listening to other alcoholics speak that I began to understand the disease from a different perspective. Turns out, there is a clown that lures those alcoholics to the funhouse, enticing them a temporary escape from reality and the thrill of a fun ride, but as they step through the doors, that clown turns into a demon and duct tapes them to their seat.  Their disease takes an entertaining ride in the funhouse and turns it into an endless loop in the house of horrors.  Eventually, the alcoholic can’t find their way back out of the maze. Sound the dramatic trumpets and enter the Al-Anoners (that would be me!), who rush in after their loved ones and pick a fistfight with the clown.  One small problem.  Sometimes we forget that there’s a hostage involved, the one still duct taped to his seat by a disease.

In my case, I know that many of the punches I threw at the disease bounced off and hit its hostage square in the face.  The more I scrambled to control the situation, the more chaos I created, and the more I could hear the maniacal laughter of that demon clown.  I was angry, fighting back, and getting nowhere, and I definitely left some bruises behind.

It wasn’t until I got off the ride and stopped fighting that anything started to get better.  I knew that if my husband were to ever come out of that funhouse, he would have to deal with the demon himself, and he has.  And it had to have been a lot easier without me flailing about and adding to the chaos around him.   I have learned to see my husband as the hostage in the situation, not the clown, and it has helped me to let go of much of my resentment over what went on in the funhouse.  That’s not to say that he doesn’t have any responsibility for it, because he does, and he certainly has a responsibility to run from that clown every time it holds up a free ticket back to the funhouse.

Fortunately,  Al-Anon has helped me  to think of the man as separate from the demon, someone who is at times still held hostage by his disease.   It has allowed me to forgive,  and continue to love a man who admittedly has a very dangerous playmate.   And above all,  it has allowed me to take a good hard look at my own dance with that clown, because I have some responsibility for what went on in that funhouse as well.

© Copyright 2013 al-anon journal
Photo credit:  www.iStockphoto.com/ 07-16-10 © fergregory


  1. Beautifully expressed thank you.

  2. It is hard to accept that when someone is acting out that it isn't about us. Even when alcohol isn't involved we want to make it personal. We all struggle everyday to do our best and lots of times we fall shot of our best intentions. Loving someone from a distance is sometimes all we can do and hope they find there way. Great post.

  3. I think every day that if only I do this or that..or don't do this or that..that he wil change.:(and the more I can't control what his addictions by at least one of these crazy ways I feel more angry,hurt,unloved,rejected,worried,afraid he will cheat again,emotionally abuse me or verbally abuse those I love. I feel soo sad and hopeless and am soo angry iam stuck in this marriage with no money and fear of what he would do hurt me if I left him.not physically I don't think but emotionally...ect.with the kids..but the feeling of powerlessness is soooo scary!:/