A Man Is Tortured By Alcoholic Wife
The second of three installments offered a touch more substantive insights into my client, Mason. He’s a retired nurse practitioner. He has siblings, children and grandchildren, and a few friends and acquaintances. He states that his energy is drained. He otherwise appears healthy. Nevertheless, he signed a consent form to allow me access to information sharing with both his PCP and good friend, Christian.
Prior to the third visit, I made contact with Mason’s PCP. She shared some vital information. She’d been encouraging Mason to seek therapy. His BP was high, though not dangerously. His sleep was inadequate, 4-5 hours reportedly a night. His blood work was all, thankfully, in therapeutic range. The eye opener was the description of Mason as a man tortured by his alcoholic wife. She wondered aloud if Mason’s wife was narcissistic. The combination, she added, could “eat someone like Mason alive.” She was glad he’d begun treatment.
I sensed an incongruent experience for my client. Mason was a nurse practitioner for decades. I am curious to know more about his values, outlook, and commitment in the medical field. I imagined Mason as a skilled and caring practitioner. I wondered about his ego strength. How might he offer multitudes of people his best and yet nearly succumb to the “tortuous” element at home. Questions posed to him about his wife were quickly dismissed.
Today, Christian joins us. We cover the HIPPA component and began to delve into this matter of concern. Thank you for joining us, Christian. “Glad to be here with my friend, Mason.” Good to see you again, Mason. How are you today? “I’m okay to be here. Christian picked me up. My sleep was restless. Anticipating this meeting got me anxious. He made me join him for breakfast. I ate some of my food but not all.” Mason, I spoke yesterday with your PCP. She’s concerned for yourwell-being. Physically, she offered concern for your BP; otherwise, your blood work was in normal limits. She used the word “tortured” to define her characterization of your wife’s behavior towards you. She offered no details. I looked at Mason who slumped in his seat. “Oh s—.
Does the whole world know?” Christian interjected, “I know my friend. You are a good person. She draws out the worst in you. She has beaten you down and you take it. I’ve seen her in action. It’s ugly and vile. She’s intelligent and functional yet mean spirited. She bitches a lot. I think she takes out her own problems on you, Mason.” Mason shook his head.
“Guess I’m a lowly inadequate husband. I don’t seem to be able to give much to her. Actually, I’m really afraid of her. She comes on strong with her opinions. If others disagree, they catch hell. Guess I’m the receiver of her own hell. She won’t back down. I try to be nonconfrontational. Nothing works. She’s vindictive. She’s angry a lot. When I ask her, no plead with her to stop, she ramps up. I get in her face and grab her to get her to stop. What a futile effort. Most people stop when asked to stop. She goes to a higher gear. I worry about her health. I learned in medical school that years of heavy drinking can lead to major organ problems and shut-downs. She acts like she’s invincible. I saw lots of unwholesome alcoholics suffer greatly in my tenure as a nurse practitioner. I sent many an individual to rehab. My wife dismisses any plea to get help. She says I’m the problem. Sometimes I think I am but not entirely.” Mason, what can we all do for you? Sounds like your wife is firmly invested in her alcoholism. Do you feel safe? We want you to feel healthy.
“Sometimes I get scared and feel helpless. I don’t know. I thought about Al Anon I drag my heels about going. I feel so alone. I know others have the same problems. I’m glad you’re my friend, Christian.” “I’m your lifetime friend, Mason. I’m glad you agreed to see this man. Do you think … do you feel he can help you? “Yes, I know I need the help. I need to feel less anxious. I need to sleep more restfully. I need to be more social. I’m embarrassed to be around folks, especially when they ask about my wife. How do I answer? What can I say?”
Mason, in situations as you describe, I subscribe to she’s being herself, or why don’t you call her if the inquiry comes from friends. “Hey, that’s worth a try. When I do go out, I want to feel free. I want to cheer my baseball team. I want to joke around and laugh with others.” “You know, Mason, Christian chimed in, you used to be funny. I haven’t seen that side of you in ages. Please find it, Mason.” Mason, what do you want? Are you interested in continuing therapy? Do you suppose this can help? To cope to improve your self-worth? If she expresses doubts about you, perhaps you can explain visions of the best of Mason. “I’d like to continue.” We made another appointment. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.