Married to Addiction By: Anonymous
"Erin, I think what you are doing is great and I as an ex-spouse of an addict still struggle with the feelings, so reading the thing that HOPE has put out is inspiring. This attached was my story 4 yrs ago. The only thing that has changed is that our son is now 15yrs and his dad was released from prison and has moved to Florida so there is still the absence felt with our son. This was just my story and what I wanted him to see through my eyes. This was sent to him in prison (while clean) and I never received a response which was ok with me…..I was able to speak (that’s what counted)." -Anonymus
Married to Addiction
As all relationships start out you find yourself completely taken over by emotion and excitement. In my case, meeting him was a surprise, just a chance meeting. It did not come without apprehension. I had been alone a year and raising a child after a 3 year relationship with a man that was emotionally and physically abusive. I had decided at that time to find peace and move forward, enrolling in college classes, work and raising my 5 year old daughter.
I never discussed his past, other than the usual questions such as “where do you live?” and “where do you work?”. He did offer that he was just recently released from prison after completing 6 years for drug distribution. He seemed genuine and forthcoming with anything I was interested in knowing so with that said, we moved forward and started dating. Right away he introduced me to his family and invited me to any gathering. I developed a relationship with his sisters and spent much time together. After a few months of dating I felt it time to tell my family. I was raised in a middle to upper class home, never needed anything. Two hard working parents that moved me through catholic school and hoped for a college education, husband and family. At 22 yrs, I gave birth to my first child, and after living away from home for 4 yrs, quickly realized that I was not able to raise her alone. I moved home and was in the process of sorting out my life and options and along he came. At first there was hesitation, my last relationship was toxic and my parents watched as I was being controlled and I was not doing anything about it. They wanted to make sure that this new guy was going to show me respect and that he was genuine. I assured them and asked that they meet. He won them over, very pleasant, again forthcoming in conversation and put them at ease.
In January 1999, I attended a New Year’s Eve party at the home of his Aunt. At midnight the ball dropped and after a year of dating, he proposed. It was a shock, however, I was excited. I was 28 yrs old with a child and he accepted me and wanted to make a life with me. After 5 months of planning and a simple ceremony, we were married.
After seven months of married life, it all changed. I found a bag of heroin that was dropped and asked where it came from. At the time he realized that I may not tolerate it so begged to stay if he committed to attending counseling and receive daily doses of Methadone to fight the addiction. He assured me that losing me was not an option and was determined to get the help. As I looked back on the past few months, I had noticed he was coming home slightly later and was not consistent with his work schedule. After a long discussion, I agreed to stay and support him. This changed my life.
Life seemed to be moving forward and in February of 2000, we found out that we were pregnant. I focused on working, raising my 7 year old and the changes my body was going through. He was beside himself with joy and could not wait to see his first child. As months went on, I noticed that although he was making trips to get his methadone every morning, he was becoming inconsistent again with being home, this soon turned into not returning for days at a time. I was fearful of what would happen to him, asking myself “is he unhappy or did he leave me for good”, not thinking once that he had relapsed, why would he? Silly to think that now since I assumed the methadone was helping him yet was only for the heroin. He has now become addicted to crack cocaine. As the days and weeks went on, he was inconsistently home. I never slept, made daily calls to the police station or hospitals to see if he was there. I drove the city looking for him. My days and nights were consumed with chasing him and when I wasn’t I was home pacing the house. At times, I would, beg him to come home; I would help him, saying he is risking his health and freedom. Every time it was an excuse, he was waiting on someone or he would walk home. He would send me on my way and tell me to get off the street. I felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness, anxiety, fear, stress. How could a man who wanted a family be leaving that family behind to get high? Why can’t he just ask for help? Aren’t we worth it to him?
I would reach out to his family and they would just say, he will be back and didn’t you know? They told me the real reason for his prison stay, they also advised me that he was on probation and that he is going to end up back there. In the end I realized that they were so used to his life style that this did not affect them as it did me. I refused to turn to my family out of embarrassment and shame. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or tell me to leave him. He was my husband and I wanted to help him. After 5 more months of his erratic behavior and spending time alone and pregnant, the day came that I gave birth.
October 2000, normal day for me, the typical “nesting”, cleaning the house and cooking dinner for my family. I picked my daughter up from school and was waiting for him to get home. He promised to drive me to the grocery store. This time he did show up and off we went. After returning home my water broke and the excitement and reality of the baby was intense. We called family to alert them and off to the hospital we went. I was admitted and comfortably watching TV with him sitting next to me. The next morning our son was born healthy and his father was able to experience it. Later he drove my daughter home to get changed and do some things around the house. When he returned I noticed his behavior was unusual and sensed that he had used again. Really? In the hospital with you son only hours old and you can’t even keep your eyes open for a picture. Then my concern turned to my daughter, was he high and driving her? How did this happen? She later explained that he left her in his truck and walked to a friend’s house. I assume to cop his drugs. Three days later and a day after his son was home, he left and didn’t come back for 4 days. This is the first in a series of life events that he either missed because he was not around or because he was not mentally coherent at the time. I promised myself that I would “fix” this for the sake of our family. Two months later, he was ordered to do 6 months in house drug treatment by the state. So I am again a single mother and will have to take control of every aspect of my life. We no longer had his income and I knew it was going to be a difficult road. I went to the state to receive assistance and did what I could to pay my bills. After 3 months, I was backed up on rent and utilities and could not survive. Moving in with a friend was my only option.
After 7 months with my friend, he was released and had found new employment and was able to find us a home. This home was in a bad part of town but I figured, I will make it ours and this is all I can do. I knew the area we moved had the potential to cause “triggers” and that he could potentially relapse. He assured me that he needed to be with his family and his son and the drug issue was no longer an option. He started going to N.A. Meetings and I would often attend with him. I wanted to show as much support as possible. All the while, no one in my family suspected anything; my daughter was instructed not to discuss anything. So between probation appointments, mandatory urine tests and his meetings 4 days a week, I felt comfortable again. I have him back, the person I first knew. This did not last long. He began missing work, was leaving in the morning and not going to work. They would call often and ask where he was. He would make trips to the emergency room on days that he was to report to probation to avoid having to be considered “violating”; you see his urines were always positive so avoidance was the route to take. I began to receive visits from people that knew us that told me that he is bad off and that he needs help. Help? How can I help a person that is not ready to help themselves? How many trips to prison will it take? How many times will I have to deal with his absence? By this time it is 2005 and he had not spent one full year out of prison, he was violating terms of probations. I was left to run the household and when he was around, he used what money he did earn to feed an addiction that shifted between heroin and crack cocaine. At his worst, he went from a 244lb man to a man that was 170lbs. He was visibly sick and his health was detioriating. To witness this and to realize there was no control over this broke my heart. In weeks and months to come, it became the same routine. He would steal, lie, cheat people to get what he wanted and when he needed a break he would show up to eat and sleep. I resented him at this point, how dare he put me through all of these emotions, leave me to raise his son, and leave the financial burden on me. I lived a literal hell. Eating out of food closets, getting all of the free clothes and school supplies I need. Receiving visits from kind families offering me a complete thanksgiving meal and even Christmas gifts for my children. I alienated myself from my family as much as possible, my physical health was challenged and I was spiraling into a depression. Then the breakdown came.
He came in the house asking to visit with his son. He knew that I wouldn’t allow him to visit outside. In typical behavior, he started asking for money. I explained that I had nothing, everything went to rent. I politely asked him to leave, he refused. I then demanded he leave. I had washed my hands of the situation and reached my breaking point. Standing in our kitchen in front of the children, he sobbed and said just give me the money and I will go. I couldn’t, didn’t have it, he had taken so much from us that there was nothing left at this point. At that moment, he picked up a kitchen knife and stabbed himself. Shock was all I can remember and faintly remembering my daughter’s screams. He left the knife in his stomach and left the house. I immediately called 911, advising them the direction he was heading and what had just occurred. After sometime, I received a visit from an officer explaining that I needed to go to the hospital. In the hospital a doctor advised me that after stitches they were going to transport him to Meadowood for evaluation. He remained there 5 days. I said to myself that I can not deal with the emotional torment anymore and was moving on. However, remained when he returned, detoxed, and ready to get back to recovery again. This did not happen, I realized that although he was home more, I could tell that he was still using.
I asked myself everyday “why me, how could he keep allowing himself and family to live this way” “doesn’t he know that he could die from this?” I had no answers, other to find it in myself to detach my pain from what he was doing and realize that his addiction can only be fixed by him at his time. A family, wife, son, stepdaughter were not his reasons to get clean even though I wanted them to be. I wanted to live as a married couple does. I was tired of the act and hiding from my parents. I needed to allow him to do what he was doing and to continue to try to focus solely on myself and the children. He again returned to prison, for three months this time. Sadly, the only time our home felt normal, happy, loving and functional was in his absence. I could sleep at night, I could go to work and not be afraid that the house was broken into and what little we had was gone. I didn’t have to talk about him, answer questions. He was released in May 2006. By July 2006, he was so bad that his mental capacity and ability to reason or understand was completely gone. He was swinging between days of crack use and after being awake for up to 2 weeks sometimes, he would use heroin to bring himself down. He was not permitted to come back home after his release so he often would try to stop by to see our son.
It was a Sunday, it was hot and I was sitting on the porch while my son rode his bike up and down the street. There was a garage across the street and the owner was friendly and knew the issues at home so always made a point to speak and see how we were. This particular day he had just returned from church with his family. As I sat on the porch, he approached me, very obvious he was high as he stated that he had some games to give our son and that was all. I walked down to the community center steps where they were. Although his behavior was erratic, he was keeping the conversation short with our son. He asked if I would take the bag of games to the porch. I did and as I returned my 5 year old son said “daddy is asleep”, as I came around the stairwell he was flat on his back and his lips were blue. I asked my son if he put anything in his mouth, he said yes. I immediately started CPR and screaming for someone to call 911. A passer by that knew us called from his cell phone. When the ambulance arrived they refused to transport me. At that moment, I knew he would be dead. Panic and sick were the only two feeling I could use to describe those moments. After arriving at the hospital and being told he overdosed on heroin I was informed that the first 24 hours are critical. At this moment I knew I had to tell my family, I needed to release the pain that had been eating at me for years. I needed someone to understand that I had done everything to be a wife, mother, friend, support system. It was 11:30pm that night, all I could manage to verbalize to my mother was that he is in the hospital and it was an overdose. They were there and standing beside him within a half hour of the call. He laid there hooked up to machines, sedated. My mother turned to me and asked “at 36 years old, are you prepared to bury your husband?’ I knew what she meant, all the support in the world is not support unless the addict wants to support themselves. My mother was receiving treatment for breast cancer at the time of the overdose and still put him first, staying there until they moved him to ICU. I sat on a hallway floor in the dark for 3 hours watching him lay there. It was then I knew, I had to let go.
I let go of the demons that a person’s addiction affects their loved ones, everyday. I had to come to grips with the realization that he does have a disease yet his disease does not have to be a life sentence, he can over come it. I wanted better for my children and myself. In upcoming months I filed for divorce and moved my children as far away from the environment that held us down for so many years. In 2010 (almost 3 yrs after our) in the midst of another relapse he made a choice to burglarize my parents home and is now serving an 8 year sentence. He took from the two people that never turned their back on him and treated him like a son.
People can say “you could have left a long time ago” but when you truly love a person and see the condition that they are in, the fear of leaving them to work this out alone is a scary thought. Truth is all of these horrible things that happened to him in the midst of his addiction, happened while I was there and trying to offer support. I have carried guilt for years and hold on to the words he always used “I wouldn’t be getting high if….” And it was always followed by something it did or said that “made” him go use. Honestly, he would have used regardless. His addiction took over every being of his mind and body. He was trapped in a void and he saw no way out.
After countless trips to state mandated in patient programs, detox facilities, out of state rehab, his weekly meeting to stay sober, looking to God and church. He found himself back where he was just months before that chance meeting with me. Addiction is about the addict, I understand that, however, there are so many stories like mine of family and loved ones that are left broken from this disease. As a result of his addiction, I live with consent moments of depression and worthlessness, my daughter cries when remembering since she was old enough to see what I was subjected to, our son was small by is currently in therapy and has been diagnosed with depression and PTSD. All he can recall of his past with his father are the traumatic events. As an 11 yr old boy he cries often and carries guilt of not being able to convince his dad to spend time with him and to keep him out of trouble. He also lives with the embarrassment of not having a “father” to speak of when he is with friends, someone to attend school or sport events, someone to discuss things with or go fishing. This has all been stripped from him. Our son will be 17 yrs old when his father is released. A father who writes once a month to see how he is and to make promises for the future. Promises are something that he was not good at keeping.
Everyday my heart breaks for my son, he is stoic and on the outside looks to be a normal child. He has his demons. I have allowed our lives without his dad to run its course. There is no discussion of him unless our son chooses to bring him up. It’s as if he doesn’t exist. The sad part is that my son knows no different since even though he may have been out of prison, he was not around due to his addict. How to you love a person you don’t know? How do you promise them that they will be a family when they never were? How to express to the addict the extreme pain that they have caused and the lives that they affected? When will they realize that it isn’t about just them? We often see the treatment being mostly for the addict and no real option for those who have lived with the addicts to find the resources to cope with the emotional damage. I wrote this as a release for me, to be able to say it without crying about it and to understand that after looking back I was not wrong, I did what I had to do to survive and to protect my children. Leaving was not defeating myself, it was freeing myself. :