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?
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.