My Marriage Story

There were red flags all along, but I chose to ignore them until the summer of 2012, when I could ignore them no longer.

I’d known my husband–we’ll call him Zach– a long time before we were married. We had friends in common, were from the same area, and had similar interests.

One night we reconnected at a party and within a year we were married.

I trusted him like I’ve never trusted anyone. Zach is a gentle, kind person. He makes me laugh and is wickedly smart.

During our second year of marriage, I noticed that he drank a lot. Every night he consumed multiple beers. It didn’t bother me at first. I enjoy wine or beer myself, and sometimes a mixed drink on a special occasion.

But then I noticed that he needed to drink, that he couldn’t wait to drink. He told me he planned his next drink throughout the day.

I couldn’t believe this. I’m the child of two alcoholic parents. My brother is an alcoholic. There are numerous addicts in my family.

How could this be? Hadn’t I worked through this shit during four years of amazing, life-changing therapy?

Apparently not.

But not to worry! All on his own, Zach decided to “cut down.” Two nights of drinking a week, that would be it. I breathed a sigh of relief. I could live with that.

And we did. For some time. I had a great job and was doing well at work. Zach was earning an advanced degree with the distant promise of a secure, decent job in his field.

One wintry day I found out that I was pregnant–unexpectedly, but joyously–and we bought a home. We were on our way to a wonderful future.

But along the way, husband always… struggled. He was tired, a lot. He had trouble focusing, and getting things done. He had chronic pain, and fought depression. Antidepressants worked, sometimes. I tried everything: being sympathetic, being hard on him, offering numerous suggestions, finding jobs for him, earning 90% of the money so he could focus just on graduate school, organizing his social activities so he wouldn’t lose touch with friends, etc. This was before I learned the definition of codependency, of course.

Slowly, and without realizing it, I took on most of the work of our marriage. I earned most of the money. I planned our weekly menus. I took over all of the bill paying because Zach would forget or I was afraid he would forget. I invited his mother for regular dinners, because he didn’t stay in touch with her. I invited the neighbors and friends over for barbeques, and begged Zach to be a little more social. Didn’t he want to join the neighborhood guys in playing soccer? Didn’t he want to pursue his hobbies? Didn’t he want a job?

No, he did not.

The summer before our oldest was born I found Zach shivering on the couch, sick with fever. He was sick for days. He admitted to me that he’d found himself hooked on the drugs he’d been taking to ease his back pain. I was aghast. I had no idea the stuff was addictive. But oh, it was. He told me he needed to stop taking the drugs, and could get himself clean.

I was out of my league. I trusted him.

Then, a week before my son was born, we were sitting outside, eating dinner. He was nervous as we discussed the next day’s plans: a visit from a nurse to secure life insurance. We had to cancel the visit, he said, as he’d test positive for drugs.


He’d weaned himself off of the pain medicine by moving onto something stronger, and we couldn’t get drug tested as he’d test positive.

I was very, very angry. But what could I do? I was as big as a house. So I did what a good codependent wife does. I told the nurse that I was having early labor pains and couldn’t bear an examination, could we please reschedule? I also lied to our church. He wasn’t sick when I attended the new member orientation alone. He was going through painful drug withdrawal.

After the cancelled nurse visit, he admitted he had a substance abuse problem. He would stop all substances. He’d wean off the drugs on his own, even stop drinking. He was remorseful, and so very sad.

I couldn’t believe the lengths he’d gone to to deceive me. Addiction is wicked, indeed.

When our son, Big Brother, was born, I knew a joy and love I didn’t know existed. From the start, I was in love with him, with mothering, with the universe. I was paranoid about Zach, and as he held our newborn son, I made him swear he was clean. He was. I thought that was it.

Fast forward a year.

I smell alcohol, all the time. Zach’s speech is slurry, often, after we put our son to bed. I’m so confused, and so tired from working full-time and nursing our baby throughout the night. I ask him, a zillion times, are you drinking? No, of course not, but I do enjoy an O’Doul’s once in awhile, he tells me. He scoffs at my accusations, makes me think I’m crazy for doubting his self-made sobriety.

They’re so refreshing, he says of his non-alcoholic beer. Slurred speech? It’s just my sleep deprivation, honey. Stupid me, trusting and believing.

Until I found the bottles. Four of them, tucked into a dusty corner of the basement. My mind leaped to conclusions, not a one of them implicating Zach. They’ve been here for years! The previous owners left them! Zach bought them before he quit drinking, and forgot about them! Denial is a powerful tool.

So I watched and waited. An hour later, half of that alcohol was gone.

I held my baby, screamed at him, broke a plate.

We’re through, I told him, unless you get serious help. Now. You cannot do this alone, any longer.

So off Zach went, at my command, to outpatient rehab. It was grueling. He was gone many nights a week, for many hours a night, while I worked and cared for our child. He slept in the guest room for a full month while I nursed my wounds, tended to my anger, and hoped for the best.

I thought that rehab would really help. When he came back to our bedroom, I told him if he ever used again, we were over. I wasn’t going through this shit again. I spent 18 years with alcoholics, and I wouldn’t do it again. I missed him terribly, and it was then, fresh out of rehab and on the mend that we conceived our second son. Again, we were surprised, but so pleased with our many blessings.

Mostly we were alright. We fought, and I was overly suspicious, always on the lookout for signs of drugs or alcohol.

Zach went to some AA meetings, but never met anyone. He never got a sponsor. I kept asking about that, but he shrugged and said he was looking for the right one. Two years later, he’s still looking.

I went to one Al-Anon meeting, but didn’t see what those pathetic losers had to do with me. I didn’t need help, Zach did.

Then I found out about a secret bank account, even though our finances were so tight. It was irresponsible and deceitful. We started marriage counseling, which didn’t go far because the counselor insisted Zach attend private counseling for his substance problems. Zach went, lying all the while, as he was actually using again.

The final straw was when I found the drugs, in his bag, right after he’d picked up our son.

Within an hour I’d changed the locks, and he’s been living in an apartment ever since.

When I discovered that he’d intensified his drug usage, we went to see a lawyer. I set some boundaries, legal and emotional. He cannot come to my house. He can see the kids, under supervision by a family member or friend. He can’t text me late at night, telling me he misses me. I told him to save it all for his 9th step, when he gets there.

After 54 weeks of separation, and no changes in him, I initiated the divorce process. I have no regrets and am working on rebuilding a peaceful, happy life, one day at a time.

Finally, after 18 months of separation, I am divorced. I am still grieving and rebuilding my life. Most days are pretty good but I still haven’t learned how to mow my own lawn. Sometimes I feel very overwhelmed with running a house and a family on my own.

I started this blog to help heal and to vent my frustrations. I’ve come a long way since that summer day but still have a lot to learn.


17 thoughts on “My Marriage Story

  1. Thank you for creating this blog. I too Google all to frequently when to divorce my addict husband. We have been married 6 years and no.children. I want a family so badly but know.I cannot with a drug addict. I am on a work trip but planning on aplitting when I return. Just before I left I found more New evidence of drug use. Love your babies, stay strong, and keep writing! Thank you!

  2. I believe you did the right thing by ending your marriage. I know from my own experience with the death of my own first marriage that divorce is tremendously difficult. (Thank you for checking out my new blog on the same topic, BTW. Hopefully we can be a support for each other using this medium).

    I know what you’re going through right now is like walking through a dark tunnel and you cannot see the light on the other side just yet. As I read through my old journals, I see how differently I felt each day of the journey, from sad to angry to worried to stressed to even relieved. Some days I just pretended my husband was off on a business trip and other days I wondered if I’d even be able to get out of bed in the morning.

    Just keep walking forward each day. Walk through the pain and the sorrow and the worry and the grief. Sit down and rest when you need to. You’re in no hurry. And even though this journey is probably the hardest one you’ll ever walk, you are not walking in vain.

    You are teaching yourself and your children that strength and character and health require pain and sacrifice, and that you will do what it takes to achieve that strength and character and health for yourself and for your children. You are breaking the generational curse of addiction and divorce for your children and for yourself. Don’t turn back. You and your children are worth this dark walk. And when you emerge into the light of your new life, you will be proud of yourself for doing it, and you will be proud of the new woman you will become. And your children will be proud that you are their mother and that you showed them, by example, how to rule in their own lives.

  3. I’m so glad I found your web page. I feel relieved that I’m not crazy for feeling guilty that I want to leave my alcoholic/drug addicted husband. I’m 28, and been married for 10 years. We have 3 wonderful kids. I don’t want them to think this is how life is spouse to be. Not all men are horrible and mean. He drinks, smokes weed takes all kinds of pills and recently doing cocaine. Ugh I hate being married but I live him abs wished he would change. We might have one or two good days. I filled for divorce hoping that would open his eyes. I need a job so I can leave. Thanks for listening

  4. Pingback: Do Jerks Get Second Chances? | Broken American Dream Diaries

  5. Slowly reading through your archives. I just read this through, and my heart aches for you. I feel so sad as I read through your moments of sadness, your feelings of betrayal and disappointment. You’re an awesome writer for getting this across, but more importantly, I’m in awe of your insight and your courage in finally ending the cycle. You are amazing.

  6. Our stories are so similar, it’s scary. I tried to let my now ex-husband “do it on his own” to stop taking of oxys, but then he just went on to lie and hide his worsening addiction while pileing up secret debt. I stuck by for rehab and sooo many relapses. Kicked him out for a second time, waited a few months, then filed. He got sober right before divorce was final. He has been sober two months. Visitation with our daughter is hard because he seems like his old self. We have been spending more time together as a “family,” meeting up twice a week or so, and it’s so hard not to want the good times back. Why couldn’t he get sober when he could have saved our marriage??? It’s so horrible.

  7. THANK YOU for sharing. I have been divorced from my ex (alcohol and gambling were/are his addictions) for some time now and we have a young child. Reading this has really hit home. You are braver than I am to be able to share. …..thank you.

  8. OMG your stury and mine are so similar, except my kids are adults. I could have written most of the rest. I have just found out for the last time he was using again. He is looking for an apartment and sleeping on the couch until he moves out. 😦
    Good luck to you

  9. we fell in love at first sight. i was a flight attendant and he was in first class, gorgeous in a fine blue suit, and he worked on his computer diligently and asked me for my number. i remember serving him dinner on the airplane and pouring him several glasses of white wine, and being glad that he didn’t seem square. I now wish he would have been a square.

    we went out on our first date to a beautiful lounge in a fine hotel and he ordered me the fanciest lavender martini i have ever seen. he handed it to me and said “i like drinking…” and i thought, “red flag???” but i just laughed it off. never knew any alcoholics in my life before him. we had a great time, dating and partying all over the world and it was a glamorous life we had- me the young, carefree world traveling flight attendant and he the rich and handsome businessman. he took me to all the finest places and we lived it up. I married him knowing things about him that he did when he was drunk (he flirted with MEN- which was such a turn-off, and he did so quite boldly at times, he passes out, he neglects me, he gets erectile dysfunction, he tries to criticize and control me) were going to be a challenge, but i loved him so much and I really wanted to have kids and be married.

    after 4 years we married and i had two sons back to back. in 2011, we took a family vacation to Mexico and my husband had 4 cabo wabo HUGE margaritas with no food in the hot sun and went into the waves with my 3 year old and got knocked over by a huge wave. i left my 2 yr old in diapers playing in the sand to run and save my child from drowning. we were all rescued by a lifeguard who came out of nowhere!! i think he could have been an angel, he was so big and so strong and saved us all three. that same night we screamed and fought and he forced me to have dinner with him at a fine restaurant way the hell out on the shore of Cabo, where we had another fight and he left me in the restaurant without a way to get home– in Mexico.

    he came back after 30 minutes he turned his cab around. i thought about killing him that night. our relationship has never been the same after he endangered my baby son like that. and he never admitted to endangering him and never got help. you see, he’s a very successful rich man who went to Berkeley and Harvard and everyone on the outside thinks he’s the perfect man. he keeps up the image and has terrorized me and disappointed me for years. i had to turn into a watchdog. some days i’m acting like his mom, checking up on him and how many drinks have you had and I really don’t find this very sexy and i just think i LOVE him but I am NOT the type of woman who wants to go thru this alcoholism nightmare and the kids will learn it from him and we have two boys who deserve better. we went to marriage counseling and one on one counseling but he’s never been truthful about his problem, the ROOT and the source of our unhappiness- until now. i left him on the 17th, on our 8 year wedding anniversary. I actually forgot the anniversary this year, because i was so busy trying to get away from him. we have a beautiful condo in nyc and we have a home in the country upstate New York. i moved myself and my kids up here to our country home and we live here now. i don’t want to take him back. his image has been blown up- and he agreed to go to rehab but this is just round one and who knows if it will work? knowing him, he’s probably going to think his problem isn’t as bad as the person next to him or whatever. and his father was a terrible alchoholic and he should have known better, but that’s what this “dis-ease” does to people.

    i am going to free myself with a divorce. if my husband changes, for REAL?? we’ll see. in the meantime i will be living on my own terms, for my CHILDREN. i know God loves me and wants me to live a life of joy and love and peace. my husband has a great education, good friends who love him, lots of money, and he still has two beautiful boys to live for, which I gave to him. he needs to be a better man and fight this problem on his own. i forgive him. I got him into rehab and pulled off this move with my kids to get away from him. we’re safe and comfortable now. and his life? it’s up to HIM to put it back together…

    be strong, be brave, be full of love and be blessed~


    • Good for you. It is not easy to leave. I am just starting the financial aspect of the divorce. It is scary and we have some assets but still very scary lots of unknows.

  10. I am so sorry to hear that you had to endure this pain. Life goes on, you will find someone willing to be truthful and honest. I’m currently thinking about divorcee. The funny thing is, I’m the addict. The more I step away and try to be me, sober and accountable, the more I see his addiction. What you went thought sounds horrible. I can relate, the pain is like no other. People ask me to put it into words and I can’’s almost like dying, but slightly worse, because they are still here. A fragment of the past t hat you hold on to. Stay strong, I will pray for you.

  11. Wow, this blog is exactly what I need to be reading right now. 45-year-old male, married 20 years, together 6 years before that. 2 kids, 13 and 17. Ups and downs, but lots of good times and good memories. My wife was never a heavy drinker, until she was, starting about 5 years ago. It’s like the person I married died, and was replaced by someone I never would have married in a million years. Sleeps all day in front of the TV, neglects chores and personal hygiene, put on 50 pounds, neglects previously beloved hobbies and activities, no sex, little involvement in family activities and outings. I earn 90% of the income, I do most of the chores and errands and housework and taking care of the kids. I used to resent this, but now I’m resigned. We’ve had the talks, the apologies, the promises, the broken promises. She hides it from me, not very well. I used to confront her about the drinking and the finding of secret stashes; now I’m just observing her latest hiding spot so I can monitor the activity and know exactly what I’m dealing with. I have gone through so many emotional stages I think I could write the standard list, although I have yet to attend an Al-Anon meeting. And now my stage is finally full acceptance – she abuses alcohol and I can’t do anything about that. That’s 100% on her. I can stay, or I can leave (well, make her leave). And so I’m at this crossroads right now, and I’ve been Googling everything I can, and this blog is exactly what I need to read.

    We have some nice plans this holiday (no involvement from her necessary). My plan is to wait until the holidays are over, and then tell her it’s over sometime in January. I’m going to ask her to move out, tell her I still love her and care about her and encourage her to seek treatment, but that I’m done and want to move on and rebuild my life. I believe I will go through with it – I feel strong and confident about this, even knowing this will be the most awkward and horrible discussion I’m likely to ever have in my life. But it needs to happen, or I may as well start digging my own grave and get busy dying. I love myself way too much for that. I’m way past my own denial, excuse-making, enabling type behavior; past the understanding and sympathy, the futile attempts at helping her. She can sense something’s off, I’m sure of it, because now I’m taking care of myself and my kids, and I don’t enable her behavior any more. If she sleeps through dinner, so be it. If she smells bad or slurs her words, I ignore her and do something productive. I still do the housework and errands, but not with resentment – I do it with purpose, knowing I will be doing it full time when she leaves. I don’t do anything she should be doing for herself, like her chores or errands. I only do what’s essential to keeping the house and what’s important to me and the kids. She used to garden; I don’t garden. So if her garden goes to pot (and it is), I’m not helping with that.

    More than anything, I intend to be strong for my children. I won’t lie to them, or anyone else – that’s enabling too. And I think I’m ready for Al-Anon. I think I’ve come a long way by myself (I have kept this secret from everyone all this time), but now I’m ready to meet others who have been there and done that, or who are going through it themselves right now.

    Reading your blog has been like reading about myself in so many ways. It is helping me sort through my feelings and recognize things I still haven’t recognized yet. I’m strong, and I will get through this and help my children get through this. I hope she gets help and that she stays in recovery if she does. But that’s up to her. In the meantime I have decided it’s time to let go, and although I have thought I’ve felt that before, this time it’s different. I have an absolute acceptance of the end that I’ve never had before; it’s almost serene. I find myself thinking of the future and the ways in which me and the kids will be better off, with clarity I could never imagine before, when I used to fantasize about “fixing things”. The fix is to get out. I know this, and I’m going to do this. And I’ve now written far, far more than I intended to. It feels good to get this out. You are my first “coming out”. 🙂 I know there will be more, and that I have my own recovery to do. Thank you for writing so plainly and honestly, you are helping others. You are helping me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Bookmarking now. I need to see that others have been through this and come out the other end intact.

    (And now I’m crying. And it feels good.)

    • Hi Mike. I’m sorry for you and your situation. My only regret, really, is that I didn’t go to Al-Anon for a few months before kicking my addict out, which led to separation, which led to divorce. And now it’s 2 years 4 months later. I think if I’d had the al-anon program first I would’ve ended up in the same place but with more compassion, less drama, and more support during that really difficult time. You are welcome, I’m glad you found some peace and comfort during this rough time. Hugs!

  12. Everything you write speaks straight to my wicked soul. Seriously. My husband hides empty cans of beer all over the house. He hides them and when his speech is slurred and he can barely stand–he will deny that he’s had anything to drink. Then, on most nights, he’s drunk and calling me all sorts of names. I’ve tried everything. To being nice, dealing with it, denying it, confronting, begging, pouring out his beer….negotiating. When I first noticed that he was an alcoholic, I just tried drinking right along with him. I thought getting three of his six pack–would make his drink less. Oh no, that just meant he would go and buy more beer.

    The best thing I have done was move my daughter (his step-daughter) out of the house, almost 3 years ago. I was raised with an alcoholic Father and I know the damage it has done.

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