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My Story

Anniversaries are important - good or bad.  They commemorate life-changing moments and should be honored.  I'm coming up on a two year anniversary of some sort.  It has been looming on the horizon like a bad storm waiting to strike and I find my heart filled with fear and dread. But, this morning when I got out of work, I smelled the rain in the air and it was thick and heavy, and sweet.  Maybe there's nothing to fear.  Maybe those storm clouds I fear will just bring a sweet cleansing rain; I hope so.

I don't know what to call it or the even the exact date, but it was almost two years ago in May 2010 that something inside me stirred.  My husband and I had been living with his addiction for twelve years, both knowingly and unknowingly on many different levels.  I don't think either of us would have labeled it as an "addiction" at the time.  We were so busy trying to manage life with three young kids and it was easier to pretend that it was just this problem that would eventually sort itself out or disappear.  But instead, it kept getting worse; not so shocking in retrospect.

I can remember the exact moment when I realized nothing was ever going to change if we kept the same course.  It was this moment of complete clarity and truth.  A divine gift I think, because we were so shrouded in denial and chaos, I couldn't make much sense of anything.  But I remember having this realization, and knowing for the first time in twelve years, that it was the absolute truth.  It was the first time that I knew and admitted that there was nothing we could do to control these addictive behaviors.  And I felt an urgency, a sort of now-or-never type of feeling.  And something inside me that I didn't know was still somewhere within me, stood up brave and strong that day and said, no more.  It was driven by fear and anger at the time.  But beneath that was a desire for something different for me and my children.

I was getting ready for work and I called my husband into the room.  I told him just what I had realized.  Things were out of control; there was nothing more I was willing to do to try and fix it; he needed to get help - and if it happened again, I would take my children and leave.  I dropped this bomb on his lap and walked out the door, shaking.  I can still remember the look in his eyes and all the blood literally draining out of his face.  To this day, I don't know where that courage and conviction came from.

When I got home from work, my husband told me he thought he had an addiction and had looked up some places online to get help.  He started getting some help and they very quickly recommended inpatient treatment.  The next month was pretty hellacious as our two worlds collided, the addiction and everyday life.  In that month of May I graduated from nursing school and my husband's work had reassigned him to a different community.  We had to balance the addiction, moving, and throwing a huge retirement party for his dad... all these big life events at once.  It was stressful.

I didn't understand how he could possibly need inpatient treatment. I knew I had had enough, but was it that bad?  Yes, it was.  The day before my birthday in June, my husband told me a little more about some of his secret addictive behaviors and I snapped.  I realized the little that I had known about his addiction - the part that was enough to drive me to say no more - was just a tiny piece of the puzzle; the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  The crazy thing was, I already knew on some level, some of things he told me.  They were things I had always feared were happening, but deluded myself - despite all the signs - into believing they weren't.  Maybe that was more devastating than the actual behaviors, knowing that he was capable of doing those things when I had thought and hoped he wasn't.  Needless to say, I didn't handle it very well and I left.  I left him and the kids and went to my brother's house for a week.  I think I was just in shock at that time.  I remember feeling like I should cry because my life was falling apart - but I just felt so empty and hollow and lost.  The question, "What do I do?" kept running through my head, and I was so stymied by it - I just sat in this shocked stupor not knowing what to do.

I eventually returned home and we packed up our house. On June 23rd the movers brought all our belongings to our new house and I took my husband to the airport where he left for six weeks of inpatient treatment for his addiction.  That was probably one of the loneliest nights of my life; alone in a new house with three confused children surrounded by unpacked boxes in a new community.  It was the perfect chaotic metaphor for my life.

Those six weeks were really hard.  On one hand, life just kept marching on and even though it felt like my world had stopped spinning, it hadn't.  That was a tough lesson to learn, but a good one.  So every day I would get the kids fed, showered, distract them with one thing or another, and then off to bed - honestly, that was about all I could manage.  I busied myself unpacking and organizing the house.  At the end of 4 weeks, every box was unpacked and every drawer and closet of the house was organized.  It's really not that impressive; that's one of my obsessive coping skills (she said with a sheepish grin!).

The nights were really lonely.  I had all this time to just think.  It was like I was looking at my life through a stranger's eyes and I can remember thinking, "I can't believe this is my life".  It was so incongruous in some ways.  We had moved from a rural community to the suburbs, we had a beautiful 2000 square foot house with vaulted ceilings - on paper we were living the suburban fairy tale, moving upward and onward.  And yet at the same time, everything was so screwed up and falling apart at the seams.

What was most distressing about those six weeks was having this realization that I had lost myself somewhere along the way in the past twelve years.  I was so disappointed with myself that this was the life I had built for myself and my children.  The blinders had been ripped off and I could see plainly for the first time all the crazy things I had done to try and manage living with addiction.  And I was mortified.  I had done things that I would have thought I would never do.  They seemed to make sense at the time.  It was this slow, insidious transformation.  Little by little, I gave in a little more and a little more, each time knowing that this one time would be different... if I just do this, it will fix this; I can compromise on this, it's for the better.  Until one day, twelve years later, I realized that I had pushed my line so far, so many times, that I couldn't even see it anymore.  I would literally look in the mirror and see this perplexed woman looking back at me as I tried to figure out just who I was, who had I become, and where was the woman I thought I was.  It was a really terrible feeling.  That was my rock bottom.

But we spent the six weeks getting to know our new community, claiming some favorite hangouts to show Dad when he came back and got the kids set up in their new schools.  On August 8th my husband returned from treatment.  It seemed as if we were finally getting some order to all the chaos.  Not so.  On August 18th we learned that he had been put on leave from his job because of his addictive behaviors.  We would have to move once again because our housing was one of the benefits of his job.  So we had no house, no income, no insurance and two kids ready to start school in two weeks.  I took my boards and got a job in one week, another divine gift.  We moved once again and with the help of our families, rented a house.  I started my job working contingent as a pool nurse and within the year worked my way into a part-time, then full-time position on a unit.  My husband appealed the decision to go on a voluntary leave and got medical leave for a year with some compensation and benefits.  In that year, we saved enough to buy a house in our community, again with the help of our family.  In 2011, we found out that my husband would not be reinstated to his job as we had hoped, and his medical leave had not been approved for another year.  But by then, we were prepared and it was just another one of those punches you roll with.

It was tough, but not as tough as it could have been.  Those first six weeks of the summer taught me a lot about myself.  It wasn't a moment that I can recall, but somewhere in those six weeks, I got up off the floor and started picking up the pieces.  I knew that I would never again be so lost - no matter what the cost, I would never lose myself to anything like that again.  And that determination has carried me through the last two years.

I guess when I write it all down like that - it's not such a bad anniversary to remember.  I think it scares me because I don't really like to revisit that summer.  It was such a painful time.  There was so much loss, fear, confusion, disappointment...  But I've lived through it once, and I can surely survive the memory of it.  It's painful for sure, but there's a resurrection story in there too filled with courage, strength and hope.


  1. Your ability to reflect on all you have been through is remarkable... and your honesty is courageous. I'm glad to have you as a friend! Love you sister!


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