The Secret Keepers


My ex husband came from an alcoholic family. And if there is one thing alcoholic families excel at, it’s keeping secrets.

My ex learned his role from a young age. He didn’t discuss his parents with others. He didn’t invite his friends over to his house. He learned how to keep a low profile and stay out of the line of fire. He learned not to have expectations of his parents and how to survive on his own. He learned to shut his door and shut his mouth.

I thought he could overcome his family.

I was brought into the inner folds of the family within a few short months of dating. He told me the stories of his dad passed out on the couch or drunk at his birthday party. I received a call when his dad was taken by ambulance to the emergency room due to excessive alcohol consumption. He relayed the tales of his mom, weeping and emotional, turning to her son for support in the middle of the night. I saw the endless rum and cokes. I witnessed the change in his parents as they drank to hide their pain. I perceived the unsaid behind the silences.

I still thought he could overcome his family.

When I helped his mom rearrange the living room, she showed me his baby pictures which we had unearthed. I learned some of the family secrets. I discovered that his father had been married before and had technically committed bigamy, since the divorce from wife number one was not yet final. I learned of his father’s disgraceful exit from the military and equally disgraceful exit from what was a very prestigious career. I heard about the mismanagement of money and how they went from earning six figures to living in a crumbling house in a undesirable area.

I still thought he could overcome his family.

My ex husband strove to separate himself from his parents. He was determined not to make their mistakes. He looked to the Boy Scouts to be his surrogate parents. He made friends and joined their families. He was driven to succeed and to escape his lineage. He lived in fear of turning into his father.

I still thought he could overcome his family.

He may not have kept the family secrets from me, but he still applied those lessons to other areas. There was an incident at scout camp shortly before we started dating. An incident that left several long ropey parallel scars across his lower back. He never did reveal what happened. I actually looked for familiar names and locations on the recently released list of scout leaders that had been convicted of sexual crimes. Nothing stood out. But I wonder…

I still thought he could overcome his family.

But apparently those lessons of silence and secrets were too embedded. The skill set just waiting in the wings until the right moment came along. When he began to struggle during our marriage (with money, alcohol, depression, employment…who knows?), his reflexes kicked in and he covered it up. He kept silent and he kept secrets. And through those secrets, he turned his biggest fear into reality. He became his father.

I wish that he had been able to overcome his family. And I hope that it is not too late for him. I hope that he is able to see the truth and no longer be compelled to keep it a secret.


Thank you for sharing!

34 thoughts on “The Secret Keepers

  1. Thanks for writing about this. The amount of denial in some families with alcoholics is astonishing. They are characterized by very high levels of compartmentalization. It’s frustrating and sad. All you can do is let go with love.

  2. Ah yes, the bottle. It’s amazing how in North America we have become so obsessed with smoking that one can barely do so in their own homes and yet, alcohol is so accepted. Of the two, which do you think has destroyed more people and their families, through the generations?

    My ex-father in law is an alcoholic (recovering) and the effect it as had on my ex wife and even my daughters, is incredibly profound. The effects of his drinking will be felt for years.

  3. kimberlyharding – Colorado – College professor- Colorado Mountain College PhD - Indiana University School of Medicine Master's degree- Atlantic University Interests: Art, Women, Spirituality
    kimberlyharding says:

    It’s so sad and true- whatever we try to bury and hide manages to re-emerge, revealing our pain and what needs to heal. I wish you luck.

  4. I marvel at the compassion you have for your ex. You say at the end of your book that you haven’t looked him up, and you don’t want to. But doesn’t part of you wonder? Sometimes? And if you did want to find out what happened to him, could you?

    Maybe it just wouldn’t be worth it, though. I never wanted to find out what happened with my abusive ex-boyfriend. I was happier to just go forward with my own life. But then later, when I found out because someone told me (without me asking), it shook the ground beneath my feet. I found out that my abusive ex-boyfriend, who’d raped me, had become a cop. I was furious and terrified all at once. But it became the axis for positive change: because of this, a few weeks later, I started taking MMA classes. I’m no expert (yet 😉 ) but the training helps me feel more confident about myself and the fact that I now have some ability to prevent being attacked in the future.

    1. What a great reaction to the news that shook you:) I think it’s important to do things that make us feel powerful in cases like that.

      I really have no interest in keeping up with him or even looking him up. I’d rather live my life than waste my time trying to follow his. I did find out from Jeff Probst that there is a warrant out for his arrest. That was interesting, but not enough for me to get involved with his life in any way.

      1. Yeah, I totally get that. I haven’t had any contact with ex, either. And I wouldn’t have found out about him becoming a cop w/o being told that info. I didn’t go looking to find out.

        What were the arrest charges for? Money laundering? 😉

        1. Lol. Nope, it’s the bigamy. He never completed the terms of the diversion. So, now he has a felony warrant. Plus the IRS on his tail… I wouldn’t want to be in his position:).

  5. WOW, this story just becomes more amazing by the day. Please please please make sure your divorce is legal and legit because WOW that is a head ache you don’t need. <3

  6. i LOVE this post. My husband, who I am separated from, but we are working at becoming a whole marriage again, comes from an alcoholic family. We have been together over three years now, and our relationship began when I was only 16. I was introduced into their family quickly, and I was accepted as someone for his mom to rant to for hours in her drunken rage. Even now, she calls me if she wants to complain about him or whatever else is going wrong in his family.. The similarities in your story and mine shocked me, and I’m starting to realize that truly is the case in most alcoholic homes.. I’m only hoping my story doesn’t end with divorce, and through God, I know he can overcome his family… Anyways, I’m done with my rant. Your post really spoke to me. love it ♥

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you can relate, but I’m glad you found some understanding about your situation. I was 16 as well when we started dating. We were together for 16 years. As far as I can tell, the ugliness of his past didn’t rear its head until the last few years of the relationship. I hope you and your husband can avoid divorce and can work together to find healing. Please, don’t be as complacent as I was and assume that his family only exists safely in the past. Be watchful for signs.

      1. Most definitely. I’m hoping he can find healing from his past and his family. My mom was shocked when she read this blog and found out I didn’t write it, as it’s so similar.

  7. My husband is an adult child of an alcoholic…it’s SO tough. Especially when my in-laws are so close knit, immediate and extended. They are pros at keeping secrets, pretending like nothing’s wrong. You are lucky to be free. Thank you so much for this post.

    1. The closeness would make it difficult. My ex’s family wasn’t close at all which I think made it easier to expose the secrets.

      And, yes, I am lucky:)

      Wishing you the best…

  8. Powerful story. He can overcome what happened in his family. The first step is getting clear on what actually happened. There’ll be so much he doesn’t know, and so much of what he thinks he knows that will turn out to be otherwise. It starts with conversations with his family. It won’t be easy, they’ll respond by attempting to shame him again and it will take an ongoing commitment to finally breaking the cycle.

    Congratulations on standing for him in the face of the pain and hurt you suffered. Takes a big human being.

    1. I’d like to think that he will do that. Unfortunately, the little I know about his current situation speaks to the contrary. He caused some horrific damage to those around him, including his parents, through his deceptions. I’m not sure that either side is willing or able to do the work to heal. But I still think that it would be the best possible outcome.

  9. having grown up with an alcoholic father, I can relate to this…i am happy to say that my brother and I have not continued the cycle of alcoholism. I’m not sure why, but we’ve managed to steer clear of it. Hyper aware I suppose….i know that we have both taken some of the behaviours and secretive ways..though we also both strive to truly be ourselves, free of secrets and open to love. Thanks for this post. x

    1. I think awareness is key – not only so that you can be be watchful of alcohol but also so that you can change the embedded and associated patterns. So happy to hear that you and brother have changed the pattern!

  10. Heather – Nashville, TN – I'm an almost 30 something divorcee attempting to survive the worst crisis of my life with the help of God.
    Heather says:

    My ex’s dad is an alcoholic, and I honestly did not realize how much it had impacted my ex and his family until I was sitting in a group therapy session and another member started discussing how being raised in a family with an alcoholic had taught her to be secretive. It was an aha moment for me, and helped me understand why he is the way he is a little better. It amazes me how similar our experiences have been. Thanks again for writing such great posts! You have no idea how much you have helped me. 🙂

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