Monday, May 7, 2007

Story From Another New Friend!

I got this email from another lovely new friend this weekend, and I thought many of you might relate. One real wonderful thing (there are a few) about this whole experience with my husband's addiction is that I've met some really interesting people who are all struggling with the same kinds of things I'm struggling with. It's great to hear folks' stories, especially when the overlap with mine in so many ways. Here it is:

When we met, I had been through a couple years of doing life pretty damn straight for me. I wanted something (or someone) to remind me I could cut loose and be spontaneous. He was so charismatic, so romantic. We fell instantly for one another.

I noticed he drank more than I did, but I didn't think much of it since he still held down a job and called me everyday.

A few months in, we got pregnant. He'd recently quit his job, and when he found out we were preggers, he started doing coke, mushrooms, whatever. He was staying out a lot until odd hours of the morning when the sun was already up and arriving at home wasted ass drunk. Although I wanted the baby, I didn't know how to have one with him in that state. An abortion, a break up, and a nervous breakdown later, we were back together and I broke a year plus of no drug use to spend one night with him while he was on a coke binge. His binge kept going. I felt horrible enough fafter that one night. The lies started. He had another job. He started skipping days of work to get drunk or stay drunk, sometimes because of a hangover. Soon that job was gone too.

We were living together at that point. My jobs were steady. I covered his ass and thought little of it since I still hadn't caught on to how much it was a pattern or how long the pattern would last. Then, the fighting started. It would usually start when I'd ask him a reasonable question about some responsibility he was shirking. But when we'd fight, he would call me a murderer because of the abortion even though we'd agreed on it. He'd break things. The words out of his mouth would get harsher and harsher. I didn't know what was happening. He would call me a bitch, a cunt, crazy, psycho, and manipulative. He would tell me everyone thought I was that way, but that he was nice enough to tell me to my face. I got paranoid. Did everyone really think about me like that? It started what would be a massive dependence on him as I trusted others less and less, however I've no idea how I thought this guy that was screaming at me all the time was my best ally. Apparently it's got something to do with the concept of traumatic bonding (the person that hurts you is the same person soothing you after you've been shot down).

He would get wasted and attack me for having an education, which he didn't have. He'd attack me for my past indiscretions, which I'd shared with him in moments of closeness and love. Everything was becoming fair game. I'd developed a sharp tongue from fighting with my mom during my teenage years, but mine was nothing next to his. I'd never encountered verbal cruelty of that eschalon. I was at a loss.

In some ways, at that point, I think I still thought he was a problem to solve, a case to crack, a puzzle to unravel. I could do it. Sure I could. I could figure out what was wrong where, and then I could make it right. I could win. He would love me more than anyone he'd ever known. The odds were stacked against us. All of our friends said we were destined to fail, and that just made me even more driven not to. Some days I stayed because I loved him. Other days I stayed out of a stubborn refusal to throw in the towel.

A close friend told me I wasn't the first he'd screamed at that way. That conversation could have saved me if the close friend hadn't turned it into a sneaky way of trying to hit on me. Once I realized what it was, everything else he'd said was null and void. We moved away to escape the drama of a town convinced that we couldn't make it, a town that spit forth too much dirt about both of our pasts. It didn't help, of course. Instead, since we moved to the town where he was raised, a lot of his deep childhood issues rose up, and he started the true beginning of his suicide drinking. Whiskey, tequilla, gin, cheap beer, more whiskey. Day in and day out. All day long, all night long. At work, at home.

The fights were more frequent, and after one of them when he, per usual, conveniently passed the fuck out and left me in a puddle of my own pain, I had my first of what would be many suicidal nights. Our downstairs neighbor saved me. As I was preparing and fighting with my own mind, she unexpectedly knocked on our door at 3:30am. I went down to her place and started crying. She took me in, tried to care. Unfortunately, she was just as much of a drunk as he was. I started drinking more and more since they were the only people I really knew in that god-awful town. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em kind of thing.

But that wasn't working either. I was too much of a "feminist" to bend over and take it. I couldn't keep my mouth shut well sober, and really couldn't do so drunk. We fought even more and even more dramatically. One night, he went too far. I was used to him throwing shit, but this time, he threw shit at me. He wrestled me for something I had in my hand. He accidentally cut me with his nails. IThey were tiny cuts, but they meant the world to me. I bled, and that night after he went out to drink more, I left him for the first time.

He didn't sober up much. In fact, he drank more, but I hadn't any idea yet that maybe he was an alcoholic. I thought we were just young. Drinking and drugging permeated the lives of most of the people I knew and had ever known- even my family. So, when he called and called with apologies and promises, I chose to believe him and went back.

Now we were homeless. We wandered around. We drank, we fucked, we scrounged for floors to sleep on and food. We started fighting again and broke up again. Back and forth and back and forth. I sought out God to get me through it, but I was unfortunately seeking God for God to do for me what I wanted- which was him back with me forever. When he came back and proposed, I thought my prayers were answered. I accepted, and we were married shortly thereafter.

We started off good. We went to church, we were loving, we weren't drinking much if at all, but that only lasted a short while. He started drinking a lot, more than ever before. Blackouts, he was puking multiple times a day from wearing his stomach and esophageal lingings thin, more fights, but now the fights were getting physical. He would get black out drunk and shove me, toss me across the room, hold his hands around my throat while screaming at me 3 inches from my face. His spit would splatter on me as he his screams echoed in my ears. He'd tell me how badly he wanted to fucking kill me and how he would if I didn't "shut the fuck up" or shape up or whatever he wanted from me at that moment. He'd break bigger things and chase me around the house trying to make sure I knew what abuse really was since I was calling this abuse and he was sure I didn't know what the fuck I was talking about. (On one night in particular, I told him he was abusing me just like his stepdad had abused him- I got hell for that comment -but in my twisted mind I was just trying to make him see what was so obvious to me).

I went from drinking with him, to sobriety, from fighting with him, to silence, from praying for him outloud in his presence, to praying for him silently and constantly, and for a short time, I went back to smoking pot just in an attempt to endure his screaming at me. I tried to stay focused on God to save us. I tried not complaining. Nothing was changing. Every so many days or weeks, he'd leave me and throw his wedding band across the room. I was sure he was only doing that to sleep around and have a clean conscience about it. I found out years later that I was right about that part.

The lies were thick. They varied from lies about where he was and who he was with to lies about bills paid and how much his paychecks were. Lies about money, feelings, drinks, drugs, sex, everything. The whole while long, he went back and forth from being a loving, kind husband one minute to a demon in men's clothing the next. Thus came the next suicidal night. That time I started, but stopped myself. I didn't want to be dead! I wanted my life to be different, but once married and not believing in divorce, I didn't think anything could change unless he changed. I blamed it all on him in one sense, and all on me in the sense that I "should" have been able to silently, quietly endure, to stand by my man no matter what, to never show pain- hell, to never feel pain.

Then he left again. This time he went all the way across the country. But a few months later, the calls started again. The reconciling. I had moved to yet another town. He flew back to live with me. It was fine, at first, he worked, he helped with bills, we were a team. He drank, but only about a 40oz. a day (maintenance), and there were no drugs.

Then he slipped. He lost control again. In one night's heavy whiskey drinking, he managed to decorate our home with food, make a false 911 call, hang up, answer when they called back, and lie and tell them I was trying to kill myself. Given, I'd almost/kind of tried before, but I really wasn't doing shit that night. Come cops, come ambulance. We both are taken to the hospital. I have to prove my sanity. He leaves AMA while flipping off the whole ER staff - it did help them all believe my side of the story, but I was so, so, so pissed off. Still I stayed with him.

I made excuses for him to others sometimes- mostly my family, but sometimes friends. It was his bad childhood, being abused. It was an untreated mental illness, and he would get help eventually. It was a phase. It was just a hard month. On and on and on. Other times, with close friends, I sought allies and validation. He was abusing me. He was an addict. I was the victim. Was he treating me badly or not? Was it my fault? All his fault? Our fault? What should I do? I lost friends. A lot of them. Some because they were tired of me putting up with it, others because they were sick of hearing about it. Some friends I think I lost because they thought I was making it all up. A few friends had eventually seen some of how he could be. They ran for the hills because they were just as or more afraid of him than I was.

I got numb to it. He could yell and threaten and push and shove. It no longer rose my adrenaline levels. I was like a dead fish just taking it. That made him more angry, he'd get more drunk, he'd get more volatile. At major low points when he'd just yell, I'd beg him to just fucking shut up and hit me since it would hurt less than his verbal assaults. He turned that into: "you're making me do this, see. you just want something to write about. you want to be hit so you can be the 'abused wife' writing about it later."

He didn't get it. The almost schizoprhenic nature of the addiction, the near multiple personalities of his sober and drunk selves was splitting my mind into bits.

His best friend died. Heroin OD. The drinking reached levels I never thought it could. He threatened suicide almost daily. Then, after months like that, he asked for help. I got him into detox, but when the Dr. said he needed inpatient rehab, he refused. He even refused IOP (outpatient). He was sober for 12 days. Then, when he went to drink again, I told him to leave until he could be sober because I was too afraid of him when he was drinking.

A year and a half later, after he'd slept with two of my best female friends in the universe repeatedly and finally hit some kind of bottom after waking in a bathtub of his own blood, he checked himself into a year long rehab. He called just before he left to ask if I still loved him. I did. I couldn't help it.

The rehab lasted a whole 8 days, but once out, he stayed sober. He had some spiritual experiences and came knocking. A month and a half sober, and I let him back in the door. I quit drinking with him. We seemed happy. I had everything I'd wanted for what seemed like so many years. But after 3 and a half months of sobriety, he relapsed. Somedays he refused to get help or go to meetings. Others all he could talk about was getting help. But his actions spoke the loudest. He wasn't actively pursuing any help or support.

The relapse started slow. A couple drinks here or there. Maybe I could live like that with him, I thought. Then a few 3 day benders. After a bender, he'd slow down again, but it would start up soon enough. Cycles. I was obsessed with how much and when he was drinking. He was lying about it alot. I caught him in a lot of lies, usually without meaning to. I watched the alcohol steal the man I knew and loved that was beneath all of that bullshit. It stole him again, and again, and again. I left him as soon as it started. I was so terrified of the drinking making him mean again that I was having panic attacks. But soon thereafter, due to other circumstances, we were together again.

He would demean me into drinking with him. He would force it on me- literally hold it up to my mouth and hound me to drink with him. I caved. I was too weak. He might leave if I didn't. He might leave if I did. I realized eventually that he only wanted me to do it so he could always say, "you're as bad as I am."

When I'd stay sober, he'd use whatever was my last misstep against me, even if it was months before and he'd been out ever since drunk at least 4 nights a week and not coming home until stupid hours in the morning.

Once he started the whiskey again, he hurt me once more physically. Threatening me with his size, shaking me violently, breaking shit, and telling me I made him do it. I was struggling with intense depression and in therapy trying to hang onto sanity. We discussed divorce. But when I found out he'd slept with another woman again, there was no discussing. It was a done deal.

I left.

That long winded tale is the abridged version. I'm sure you can understand that. I couldn't tell the whole thing in one sitting. I've worked on telling its parts in short-story-esque form, but when I do it too often, I end up missing him again even though I know it's too far gone to save.

Maybe your addict isn't abusive too. For far too long, I blamed the abuse on the alcohol and drugs alone. I've realized since that it is a totally separate problem. Maybe your addict hasn't cheated on you. That too, is really a separate issue. When we got back together the last time after his month and a half of sobriety, I actually let him tell me that he couldn't combat his drug and alcohol addictions (he'd been really bad off on pills and meth too) at the same time he was combatting his sex addiction. I let him tell me and convince me that the only way he could succeed at sobriety from substances was to have me there to ease the pains of his sexual and relationship needs. Bwa hahaha. I'm a dumb shit. Maybe too, you've never had any of your own substance issues to face like I have. I really don't know.

Regardless of of all of the unique portions of our stories, we both have faced the hard sounds of life being the wife of an addict. I went to my first Al-Anon meeting yesterday, and although I cried through most of it because I was struggling with the falsity that if I'd gone earlier I might have saved our marriage, it felt good to be there.

It's not easy to leave. Trust me. I know. I wasn't even sure I would leave after he shoved me around again in December. I was, in a way, blessed to find out in January that he'd slept around again. That was what got me out the door. If not for both of those things happening, I'd likely still be in that apartment, hating my life most days, and struggling to make myself seem like a stable person to the outside world while I worked towards a real career.

It's been just shy of 4 months since we split up. My divorce date is on June 1st. Not a day goes by that I don't wish for a magical cure, a fairy tale ending. Not a day goes by that I don't want him to be in recovery. But there is nothing I can do about it.

Once I started reading about detachment a few years ago, I tried to let it go. I would tell myself intellectually that I knew I couldn't help or change him. My heart still hadn't learned the lesson. In moments of crisis, I would still say all the things a detatched wife wouldn't say to her addicted husband. So now I get to try and learn it with my heart - away from the daily chaos of trying to focus on my own recovery at his side and on his rollercoaster.

There is hope for both of us- you and I- but if you aren't safe there- physically, mentally, or emotionally -then I hope you'll find some path to get out, no matter how much you love him. I realized eventually (that means it happened for real and totally just yesterday, even though the basic ideas have milled around in my head for much longer) that he would never start recovery with me there. My love, my presence, and my existence had become far too enmeshed in his reasons for getting fucked up no matter how I reacted or didn't react. Just breathing in the same room with him was enabling him. He could and would twist it all up and use it as an excuse.

The most love I can have for him now is to stay the hell away, to work on myself, and to pray for us both.

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