PaulaFB-1Widow. The word conjures up images of frail little old ladies in long black dresses, adjusting veiled black hats with bony crooked fingers, red-rimmed eyes imploring the heavens above. I like to think of myself as the updated version, Widow 2.0. There’s no such thing as a typical widow. We arrived at different times in our lives with unique stories to tell, but the common denominator of widowhood is strong. Although you may feel alone – you’re not. 

After you’ve had your fill of widow casseroles – So sorry your husband’s gone, here eat this – feed your soul here on my blog, and join the journey. You’ll find the best books to read, other widow sites to visit, and helpful links. You’ll get support enduring widow angst and gut-wrenching grief, surviving survivor guilt and dealing with the bullshit barometer. After experiencing tragedy, you may find yourself incapable of bullshit and diplomacy – that’s OK, we get a free pass.

106 Responses to “WELCOME”

  1. Lee

    Hello Paula,
    Tears welled up as I read about your journey with an alcoholic husband. I am sorry for your loss- your many losses. I couldn’t see where to post a comment and not sure if appropriate, however, there doesn’t seem to be ‘a place’ for spouses/partners that go through many of the same harsh realities as spouses coping with alcoholism. It probably doesn’t interest you but at least I can share some of same feelings I’ve gone through as you (and others). My husband did not die, but after a 34 yr marriage, I divorced him because of his sex addiction. For the first 17 years of our marriage I was totally clueless about any of it (in fact I didn’t know anything about SA). For the next 7 years there were odd things that happened and only a feeling that ‘something wasn’t right’. I watched and finally put the pieces to the puzzle together and figured it out. I confronted him, he admitted he had a problem and immediately got help. Little did I know at that time how severe his SA was. He begged me not to leave him and since I saw from the outside that he was working hard toward recovery and I loved him and honored our wedding vows, and couldn’t imagine breaking up our family, I chose to stay and support him. Unbeknownst to me, my intelligent, likable, witty, career successful husband gradually slipped away into the fantasy life of disturbing pornography, prostitutes during business trips and lunch hours. A very easy addiction to hide and keep secret. When the self medicating with alcohol and various drugs took hold, I was ready to end our marriage. Like you, I scoured for the receipts, evidence, hiding places , playing detective, and knew I didn’t want to spend my retirement years doing that (I had just retired from teaching and my H retired as well). After a drinking, cough syrup binge, I told him to leave. It was during this time away I found out he had crossed my boundary I set years ago and had been with many hookers. Even more devastating, during the divorce process, and packing up his belongings, I came across a journal of his sexual history he had written during a treatment stay. It was then for the first time I learned that his SA has been his secret life since he was a young teen. I was physically sick as I read through the details of what his sick, deviant behavior involved. Over. the. top. I realized then that all those years when I’d second guess myself or thought he wasn’t being truthful all made sense – he was a total fake. Our marriage was a sham. He led me to believe he was a different person- totally. He indeed was a Jekyll & Hyde. I’ve only scratched the surface of this trauma and I thank you for reading this. I have learned though that there are many other women suffering silently after learning about their SA partner- they don’t know where to turn. Counslors steer them to 12 step programs, tell them ‘they had a part in this too’, label them co-dependent, etc. When one has no clue about their SA partner – that is being blindsided and lied to- NOT a co-dep! The trauma spouses go through is gut wrenching. I know what you mean about what do you tell others who thought we had a nice marriage? I covered for him when he led me to believe he was in recovery (NOT enabling him)- had a sponser, went to SA meetings, treatment programs, read many books, etc. ALL a cover. All a fake recovery. But now, my integrity and self respect point to telling the truth. No one wants to hear about this topic- it’s too disturbing and if a spouse had no idea about such a secret life her husband was leading.. Then maybe it could happen to them? We call it a SA, but in reality, it’s NOT! It isn’t listed in the DSM. Sadly, there isn’t a cure- and they simply move on to their next trusting, unsuspecting ‘victim’ to act as a good cover while they engage in their secret life. Best wishes to you Paula.
    Sincerely, Lee

    • Elisa Fernandez

      My husband died 8 months ago,he was a gambler and a heavy smoker he over ate and had a bad heart ,but it did not stop him from smoking and eating himself to death.he was very angry all the time.

  2. Lou hodges

    Good article. I was married to a couple of high functioning alcoholics. One of them lied his way into a senior executive office at the NSA and became a Dir of Operations at the FBI. He leads the AA group at the NSA. Turns out he isn’t the only alcoholic in national security. Despite the fact that he claims 20 years of sobriety, he has yet to apologize to me or our daughter who he abandoned in 1976. He still owes 12 years of unpaid support. Every time we go to court the NSA shows up to make a claim his identity is classified and he can’t possibly pay the back support. They can keep their clearance as long as they attend AA meetings. They don’t have to actually adhere to the 12 steps. I have absolutely no respect for AA or the NSA. I know exactly what you mean by abuse. They never change. He still drinks and does pot and God knows what else. That’s why you see the Secret Service acting up. It’s a game with them. Good luck with your book.

  3. Tiny Hewins

    Just read your article, “Surviving An Alcoholic”.
    I look forward to your memoir.
    Thank you for sharing your experience and your insights.
    Tiny Hewins

  4. Keith Rashall

    I love your writing style, your wit and honesty. You illustrate the universal nature of being a surviving spouse whether alcoholism is a factor or not.

  5. Jane

    Finally, 28 years after my first husband’s death from “acute & chronic alcoholic intoxication”, three days after his 37th birthday, some one has told my story, or a pretty close approximation. Happily remarried for 21 years, I still don’t know what to say if someone asks the cause of such a young death.

  6. leslie427

    Thank you for your article in the NYT today.I believe your words will help many people. I am so sorry for your loss and the losses of the other commenters here,

  7. Janine

    My husband died two years ago and I still grieve. Although his lifestyle did not kill him it certainly led to his ill health. Instead of a wife I had become the mother. They say losing a child is the most difficult.

  8. Barbara Kelly

    As someone who only knew Robert in his professional life, I was saddened to read about his alter ego. Belatedly, I send you my deepest sympathy for the struggle you lived with, and wish I had been able to help both of you. I believe the writing you are doing will do much for others who are walking a similar path, both as widows and as widows-in-waiting. Namaste. BMK

  9. pat mayfield

    Thank u so much for your story about your husband. I’ve been battling my husband’s addictions for 35 years now. He just had a renal cancer removed yet he still bought booze last week. But I can’t afford for him to die on me so I always find out where he hid it and throw it down the drain and then fill back up with colored water.

  10. Bill Taylor

    Good for you! Nicely done! My dad was an alcoholic and committed suicide at 52 and left my mom a widow at 49 – and get this – with 9 kids, the younger aged 9. That was 1978. Mom is now 85. She never even dated after that. I was 17 and the shame was comprehensive. Punk rock got me through the anger. But my mom started a widow and widower club and still plays bridge like 3 times a week. You should interview her. She is awesome. All the best! Bill

  11. Brian Fitzpatrick

    Paula I am a recovering alcoholic with 44 years sober. You did your best and more in trying to help Robert. Your article is going to help many spouses and friends of alcoholics to realize the alcoholic can get and stay sober only if she/he wants it. Brian

  12. Virginia Foy

    Thank you. THANK YOU. Seven years since and an addict son to deal with now. You have given me hope there might be a light out there, even if I don’t see it at present.
    You are a courageous woman and I know for certain that there are many more of us out there.

  13. Jack Walker

    Your NYT essay was both very moving and thought-provoking. I look forward to your memoir

  14. Jah

    Thanks for your NYT article. I’m not a widow yet, but I could be on the path. My husband is addicted to painkillers on and off for the last 8 or so years. He thinks nothing of drinking alcohol with them- he is in denial there is a problem. I’m trying to get as much support as I can now. Thank you for sharing your story, it really hit home.

  15. J L Wilson

    I just finished your article surviving an alcoholic. I just want to say thank you. I haven’t lost him yet but I know I will and it will be due to his drinking. It’s good to know that my conflicting feelings that leave me full of horrid guilt are ones that others have had.

    Thank you

  16. Leanne Nurse

    Thank you for sharing! My diabetic husband died a day after his Medicaid waiver was OKd in 2009. I separated after nine years to save my life but continued case management & advocacy. He was wheelchair-bound, had severe narccisistic borderline traits and verbally terrorized everyone. Last year I earned my master’s degree and got a new job. My life is just starting again at 65.

  17. R.M. James

    I just read the article on your first husband Robert’s death from alcohol induced hepatitis and am so glad I did. It will be ten years this June that I lost a man I loved, also named Robert (“Rob”), to alcoholism as well the day before my 28th birthday. He was 33. The jaundice had appeared around Easter and I talked him into going to the E.R. the first week of April. And you know how quickly it goes after that excepting his parents flew him to Monterrey for a hastily arranged liver transplant the first of June but they tell me he never really gained consciousness again. We weren’t married you see, I didn’t understand why it was so important – the power it would have given me to make decisions for him, in regards to his medical and end of life care. As Robert admonished you to be right back in those last 19 days so Rob would phone me whenever I was away from the hospital wanting to know how soon I’d be back. Once he was taken to Mexico, his family closed around him. I asked the same questions of myself: why did I stay? Would leaving have finally forced his hand to stop? You can imagine the questions his family was asking. We are estranged. They did not return to the states to help pack the household Rob and I shared. This made me even more isolated in my grief. So, thank you again for having the courage to share your story. I could relate. And others out there can do the same. Sorry to have written so much here but it is not often I find the opportunity or willingness to share my own.

  18. Caroline

    Thank you for sharing your story in the NY Times. Everything you said resonated with me and I admire your honesty. You felt guilty for not leaving. I feel guilty for making him leave just before he died. They are two sides of the same coin aren’t they? Glad you found love again.

  19. Geraldine

    Perspective is only 9 tents of truth. The lingering revelations awaiting exposure are usually and unfortunately ignored, for who wants to believe their choices create their reality. Alcoholism is a family disease, not one that solely afflicts the alcoholic. As a survivor on dual fronts I would recommend in depth reading about codependency. It helped me understand and forgive my dependency upon abuse and allowed for incredible growth and happiness. Being widowed is a socialized victimization and if not confronted can perpetuate denial and repetition of patterns that were in part your contributions to the disease

  20. Christina

    Thank you so much. Words can’t express what it was like for me to read this. It is a healing, shining light to know you have great hope in your future. My husband is winding his way down from alcoholism after years of abuse. It took us a OMVI to get him there but we are finally on our way and I have hope again at last. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you peace and happiness.

  21. Eduviges

    Thank you so much for what you have shared in NYT. I am not a widow, but a recent “runaway” wife of an alcoholic. Many issues are the same, guilt, shame, BS, and much more. I hope that this, your writing, helps “the general public” to understand us better as well as other widows or “runaways” to get out of the emotional mess. So, thank you again.

    • Janet

      Ah, so that’s what I was, huh? A runaway? Took me 9 1/2 years, but it finally happened. We divorced in 1972 and I don’t honestly think I’ll ever trust enough to live with a man again. However, I’m living a life that I like .. it’s calm, quiet and peaceful. I’m happy and grateful every day.

  22. dflylover

    A friend shared a post of yours on my Facebook page tonight. My 37-yr-old husband died last week of an apparent heroin overdose. I didn’t know he was using. I found him. I’m 41 and have a toddler. I feel relief amongst the sadness. I’m glad someone else understands.

    • Michele

      Please believe your life will get better. And so will you. I promise you. Peace be with you and now you can give your child wonderful attention.

  23. JJ

    My mom is exactly like your husband (i.e. NYT article). I might not be a widow, but I will lose my mom in the next few years if she doesn’t change. For years my mom drank and drinks, at least a double bottle of woodbridge wine a night. In high school, I started to notice her drinking, even though it had been a problem for at least 2 years, talk about naiveté. I spoke to her about it, asked her to go to AA meetings, poured out her wine, and she seemed to get better for a little bit. She knows she is hurting her family, but she still finds her way back to the bottle. Because of that, she has pushed away all of her family, except for me (I just finished college, give me a break)

    I know people say that I shouldn’t feel responsible for her drinking, but sometimes i can’t help but think its my fault that she keeps digging herself into a deep alcoholic pit. I don’t want to lose my mom. She might be selfish, reckless, and verbally abusive to my dad (her recent ex), but she is still my mom.

    I know i can’t save her, but I desperately don’t want to lose her. I guess a support group is what really matters, but when I start to see the same signs of addiction in myself….. I just don’t want to become her, lose my beautiful lady in 20 years, and die from complications.

  24. Shano

    Wow what a story. Hind site is always 20/20. What would you have done different not only to save yourself but Robert as well.
    Do you have regets about what you didnt do. Now you are in a good place and much stronger. What would you have done
    Thank you friend in Ky

  25. Kathy Turgeon

    Thank you! I sit here under the patio umbrella with my husband of 46 years, watching him drink more small batch highly rated alcohol coupled with craft beer, (does this make it better?). My heart breaks and your blog helps!

  26. Cindy

    Thank you for sharing in your NYT article. It was moving and helpful. I’m glad you are happy! You deserve it!

  27. Anna

    Thank you. It helps to know that there is someone who understands. I just lost my husband to alcohol and drug addiction. He was 37 and I am 32. Thank you.

  28. vonstipatz

    Maybe you’ve finished “moving on” and don’t need the stories or confessions of those of similar circumstances, or maybe you take some additional comfort in hearing other’s travails, but either way I was glad to find your recent NYTimes column which brought me here. I lost my girlfriend–and then wife–to cancer two years ago this May. The cancer came after 11 years of hard core alcoholism that manifested from the beginning of our relationship. She was a college professor. I had lost my mother at age 79 to MS less than a year before. In the beginning, her drinking was a huge red flag, but I was no stranger to drinking myself, so I joined in and we “celebrated” together, until I found I couldn’t keep up with her episodes of unconsciousness, arrest by the police for DUI, rehabs, visits to the ER every few months and in between the frequent Jeckyl/Hyde episodes of irrational anger when she was tanked. I am still not over her, and I miss her terribly. I did not feel “relief” when she died, at home with me, under hospice. I do have survivor’s guilt. While I know I do not have the emotional or physical strength for another relationship with an alcoholic, at 57, I have mostly abandoned the possibility of even a healthy relationship to the universe. Maybe if it were to happen, it would help me put things, finally, in a perspective in which happiness is doable. I was told by my counselors many times to walk away. I couldn’t or wouldn’t, but it was my choice and I have no regrets about remaining until the very end. Funny, although I was often livid with anger towards her and fought with her while she was alive, I have felt no anger since she died. Two years later the hall closet is still full of her coats, and our bedroom closet half full of her other clothing. just can’t deal with it…yet. I’m still working on the premise that it’s OK for me to be happy again.

  29. Angela Glasoe

    Dear Paula, don’t want to be too forward, but what you’ve shared here is so intimate and so real and so raw, and TRUTH. I am sober in AA for 32 years, my dear husband for 30. I was so connected to your words as you described your efforts to help, cure, love. Though I am sober my family is not. My 80 year old mother walks to the mini mart and buys pints of Vodka very late at night, in her pajamas! My 40 year son sleeps in urine and vomit. He is angry and abusive. Oh God! If I could only…I am limited to the practices which will do no harm to those I love but, I can not help. I understand what needs to happen in the mind and spirit of an alcoholic to achieve sobriety, but I can not help. I don’t know you but if I did, I would hug you, and love you, and thank you for the courageous act of sharing the TRUTH.
    Ever, Angelag83

  30. Kathy

    I just read your article in the NY Times, I am the child and grandchild of an alcoholic. I am pretty much a tea totaler.When I was 18, I was blessed to find the love of my life, a non alcoholic, We married when I was 20 and were married for 24 years. My husband’s drinking was limited to a beer on warm summer evenings while tending the grill. On a cold winter night in 1987 his life was ended when an intoxicated semi driver crossed the highway median and crashed into his car.,severing his aorta. For years I worked for MADD speaking at Victim Impact Panels, working with the local board and helping other victims walk thru the legal process. Now, 28 years later, I find myself the mother of a 49 year old who is “drinking too much” and in denial about the potential of alcohol abuse. I think his drinking is partially genetic and partly from unresolved grief. My words of concern and advice fall on deaf ears. The fear that he will hurt himself or someone else never leaves. I find myself wondering which would be more painful to loose my son or have him take the life of another. Either of these outcomes would be unbearable. Although I have remarried a wonderful man. My grief is still very much a part of who I am and what my family has become.

  31. louise

    Thank you so much… I lost my partner to heroin in 1999. It’s even hard to write, but true. I felt similarly, though I also felt there were people who thought I had used drugs as well. Middle class, upstanding, the whole thing…. thank you for your honesty.

  32. Ron Jagodinski

    My current wife is a surviving widow of an alcoholic. She married me ten years ago when I was 18 years sober. My own ex died from the same stuff years ago. Alcoholics who are 50 years old are lucky if they aren’t dead or have not killed someone else along the way. The wife and I consider ourselves to be among the lucky ones and so should you, Paula. —The best of everything.

  33. catalin

    I read with a lot of interest every word you wrote in this article, and is very thatching. I mean it is/it was a lot of pain, in your heart, and in fact your tried permanently to help Robert. Giving up smoking and/or drinking it’s something very, very difficult for those addicted. It was basically impossible to try, to force him to give up. I know many cases, especially young persons (under 40 years) who can’t give up….

  34. Lisa

    Paula I am so glad for this blog. I wish I had known about it 2 years ago when my husband died. He left me with over $350,000 in debt and now I have to review thousands of pages of credit cards showing hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on a girlfriend. Unless you have lost a spouse to an uncomplicated situation you cannot even know the true pain left to the widow. I even hate the title of “widow” I feel abused wife is more true.

  35. Elly g.k.

    I was married to an alcoholic for 30 years. Initially I thought I could rationally point out to him how destructive his drinkng was as a husband and father. Eventually we established a terrible cycle of behavior: his drinking led to my seething anger which continued his drinking. When he told me he wasn’t happy (really?) and wanted out, I almost jumped for joy. I had gone to Al Anon for a long time so frankly my guilt had been erased by the Program.
    He remarried. We stay in touch. When he calls, I am very happy when the call ends. Ah. Peace.

  36. Richard Smith

    I read your op-ed in the Times and i have one important comment. You mentioned “exacerbated by Tylenol”.
    Although they never tell you this (possibly to maintain market share of tylenol), a small amount of alcohol along with a small amount of tylenol can be lethal to the liver. I understand that there was a member of the Reagan White House who took two tylenol and had two glasses of wine and had to have a liver transplant. This combination could have been the cause of your husband’s demise. My father was a raging alcoholic all his life,starting at age 10, and lived well into his eighties. Helping to inform people of this could go a long way to save lives.

  37. Berta

    It’s been four years….have not dated…miss the companionship… 45 years of marriage and adjusting takes adjusting!

  38. Ellen

    What a great idea, especially for you. You get to write about your personal journey, help others along the way, and entertain your friends, both near and far. Congratulations! Love you

  39. Dianne Bennett

    More Awesomeness! I just love reading “you” Paula. God Bless.
    and Rest in Peace Sweet Robert ❤

  40. Keith Warhola

    Honest and quite creative. Kudos, Paula! I hope this becomes all you’re hoping for… and MORE!


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