It’s a beautiful day, but only for some. Not for all.

an·he·do·ni·a /ˌanhēˈdōnēə/ noun. Inability to feel pleasure.

dys·pho·ri·a /disˈfôrēə/ noun. A state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life.

In the context of addiction recovery anhedonia and dysphoria are wretched and miserable states of being that contribute to complacent behavior and likely relapse. Opiate abusers have it especially difficult since prolonged and ever increasing usage contributes to diminished or depleted levels of naturally occurring dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins in the brain that can take years, or even an entire lifetime, to recover from.

Imagine a life devoid of joy or pleasure, coupled with feelings of anxiety, depression, and constant dissatisfaction. Food, music, art, conversation with friends, the touch of a lover, the laugh of a child: no response or little response. Then imagine that there is something you can do that will give you back the feelings and emotions that you no longer have. Could you resist the pill, the needle, the drink, that would make you feel?

That is my husband’s life experience every day, all day.

That makes me sad.

Anhedonia is a major contributing factor to Mr. D’s general complacency about his recovery. Although there are prescription drugs he could take to combat the damaging effects that Vicodin had on his brain, he is then only prolonging the time his brain desperately needs to learn to function typically again. Vicodin robbed him of the ability to have true emotions, but substituting yet another drug to artificially produce dopamine, serration, and endorphins will continue to rob him of the ability to experience life on genuine terms.

That makes me angry. I’m married to a man who cannot FEEL, or has a limited range of sincere emotions at best. Do I want a partner who says, “I love you”, but may have no capacity at this time to actually MEAN it?

Some days I do not know if I can continue to support Mr. D’s recovery. Some days I want a simpler life, without an opiate addict. THIS IS HARD. Is it too hard? I don’t know.

Intellectually I can accept that it wasn’t his fault he got addicted. In all actuality, his brain was hardwired to be addicted before he ever used or abused any substance ever in his life. But emotionally, knowing now that he is an ADDICT, I wonder how to reconcile my intellectual knowledge with my idea of an emotional partnership. Can I do this?

Can I do this? Do I want to do this? If I walk away am I a failure or am I a realist? Every person has their shortcomings, and those can include illness or disease that will manifest at some point in a partnership. Do I take my chances with what I have, since I know now what I am up against? Or do I cut my losses and run?

Nobody can answer these questions for me. I have to figure this out for myself, I know.

Gah! I realize how limited my understanding of addiction was when I asked myself just last month if I would consider leaving my husband if he had a brain tumor. No way! That would be cruel and I am not cruel or heartless. But a husband with a brain tumor  wouldn’t  (presumably) have spent the better part of a year lying to me about it or slacking off on doctor appointments to treat it. That’s where I get hung up on the “Do I stay or do I go?” question.

What do I do, what do I do? What do I want? I do not know. Yet.

I do know that I experience pleasure and happiness and joy and fun and excitement and sensuality and gratitude and enjoyment and delight and satisfaction and so many more positive feelings every day of my life and I wish Mr. D could.

On the way to San Diego, or not.

The IOP (intensive outpatient program) that Mr. D is enrolled in seeks to actively involve a patient’s primary support person(s) and I appreciate that aspect of the program very much. It is a continuation of the sessions begun during his inpatient treatment and I find them incredibly helpful in learning to understand my husband’s disease. As a part of his outpatient intake I was contacted by his primary counselor to have a discussion where I was asked to share my thoughts on Mr. D’s frame of mind, goals for recovery, and obstacles or hindrances to his treatment.  Additionally, each week family members may (and are strongly encouraged to) accompany the patient to the three hour family-focused session, there are regularly scheduled SO (significant other) check-ins with the counselor, and Mr. D’s counselors even made an after hours appointment with us to discuss the issue of marital separation.

When Dr. D and I met with his counselor for the SO check in I was able to give my impression of his recovery efforts to date and talk about how his progress, or lack of, was affecting me. I think it is important to note that I didn’t say anything to the counselor that I hadn’t already shared with Mr. D in the days since his homecoming. I told the counselor that I believed it was only a matter of time before he began abusing prescription drugs if he continued on his current path and I felt that he was complacent, almost lazy, in his approach to outpatient recovery. It made me sad to say that, but it’s how I saw things at that point.

For instance, prior to Mr. D’s inpatient discharge we met with his residential counselor to discuss his goals for outpatient and one was that he wanted was to attend a Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every day of the week. I thought it was unrealistic given our hectic daily household schedule so after some discussion Mr. D decided to set the goal at five meetings per week. However, in the first nine days home he only attended two meetings on his own and one for his group session (which was mandatory).

Another example is that we agreed that for a while I am going to be handling all of the household money,including having Mr. D save his receipts for his cash purchases. He had $40 in his pocket and when he mentioned something about only having a dollar, I asked him where his receipts were. Well, when he spent the money he “didn’t think about” asking for the receipts. This final response was given after making about four other excuses why he didn’t have them.

I visualize his addiction as having a mean ass hungry monkey sitting on his shoulder: the moment he stops thinking about that monkey it’s going to EAT HIS BRAIN. I learned during his stint as an inpatient that an addict not thinking, a comfortable addict, is not far away from a using addict. I can’t believe that Mr. D forgot about that mean ass monkey, that he would be willing to forget about that mean ass monkey long enough to not follow through on his own goals and agreed upon commitments.

It’s not just about numbers of meeting and forgotten receipts; it’s the principal of the thing. He has to mean what he says and follow through on his commitments. He lied to me for so very, very long that even he recognizes how difficult it is for me to trust him about ANYTHING now. If he says rebuilding trust is one of his most important desires right now, why is it not the first thing on his mind? Why isn’t he *thinking about it*??

Also, I feel that his denial behaviors like rationalization, distraction and diversion, minimizing, and blaming are still in full force despite not using drugs anymore. I find it frustrating that in the course of every day events he is  using these types of behaviors instead of admitting his poor decisions, and then getting angry or defensive when I call him out on it, despite his prior assertions that he wants me to call him out on these types of things.

I expressed that I don’t understand why he isn’t jumping out of bed every day, excited to continue his recovery and going after his healing full throttle; here is a man who still has his wife, his children, his job, no problems with the law, or many of the other problems an addict has after going willingly or being forced into rehab. Why isn’t he motivated?

The counselor shared an analogy he said he used with many addicts, and I am going to try to paraphrase it as best as I can:

san diego2

If I told you that all of your challenges and difficulties could be resolved simply by going to San Diego, what would you do? Would you run, drive, fly, or hitchhike to get there as fast as you can? A non-addict would jump up and run as fast as they could to do what they needed to get the hell to San Diego; straight shot, no delays. Conversely, many addicts say they would, but instead they find excuses: no car; no money for gas, or a plane ticket, or a bus ticket; can’t find a ride or the car needs an oil change first; I need to be well rested before I set out, so I’m going to take a nap. Then, if they finally DO set out for San Diego they are continually delayed by distractions: they decide to head over to the coast for one last look, or have a bowl of chowder at Mo’s, or take the scenic route, or take an exit when they see a billboard for the world’s largest ball of yarn.

Despite knowing for certain that once they reach San Diego everything in life will be well and healthy, they delay and procrastinate.

Then he asked Mr. D, “Why aren’t you on your way to San Diego?” It’s something to think about moving forward. If he can determine for himself what is holding him back, perhaps he can finally, finally, finally, get his ass on the way to San Diego. Hell, he may even make it all the way there if he wants to get there badly enough.

I don’t know why Mr. D isn’t headed to San Diego. I do know that I already tried to book a non-stop flight, but when I found it was out of my price range I gassed up the car and headed out. I’m already on I-5 driving south with one destination in mind. You can bet I won’t be making any unnecessary stops. By necessity I have to pull over and eat, and rest, and use the facilities, but then I am going to be right back on the road.

That’s what the Al-Anon meetings are for me: the road to San Diego. I’m already on my way. Mr. D can gas up his own car and start driving, or he can sit out on the Oregon coastline by himself, making excuses about why he can’t head south.

I’ll meet him in San Diego, or he can stay where he is, alone. I can’t nag him into the trip. I can’t convince him to go somewhere he isn’t willing to go. If I tied him up and threw him in the trunk, he would just keep trying to escape. I can’t MAKE him go. He’s either on the way to San Diego, or not.

In the end, it’s only my responsibility to get myself there.

san diego

The Good Left Undone

I haven’t posted a blog for 14 days. Mr. D came home two weeks ago today and it’s been, ummm, interesting. I decided to postpone the blogs I have been working on and simply give a recap of the time since his homecoming.

The first weekend was full of family activities since we had all of our kids home. We didn’t have a lot of time to talk but it was pleasant enough.

The next week was full of work for me and it was crazy because I am behind due to missing so much work from being ill with influenza and then pneumonia. We still didn’t have much time to talk but I got to observe Mr. D adjusting to being home and starting intensive outpatient treatment (IOP).

I started attending Al-Anon meetings and found one I really, really like. It’s an all-women’s group and what a group! It’s an amazing bunch of ladies. I met “Patsy” there, and a few days ago she offered to be my sponsor. I accepted because I was going to ask her, anyway. She’s a non-believer, as well, so I am hopeful this will work. My goal is to get in front of things instead of being behind them (more on that another time).

Mr. D and I took a weekend away at the Oregon Coast to reconnect and make a plan for the future. We had a lovely time and enjoyed ourselves immensely, but we didn’t come any closer to planning than to agree to start the younger kids’ 529s (college savings plans) so we can have another, more substantial, tax deduction (we have five children between us; the youngest four will be 5, 7, 7, and 9 this year).

We waited out an amazing rain storm at the coast and were rewarded with the bluest blue sky, calm waters, rolling waves, and a rainbow spanning the horizon at the end. I thought even then, in those moments, that there is a metaphor for my life in that experience that I intend to write about. Did I say it was AMAZING? It was.

After the rain, the skies cleared.

After the rain, the skies cleared.

Monday evening we met with Mr. D’s counselor for the SO check in; that’s me, the SO (significant other, or primary support person). I shared my concern about Mr. D’s general complacency about his recovery and that I felt it was only a matter of time before he abused prescription drugs again if he continued on his current course. Sadly, the counselor shared a “red flag” with me: the previous Wednesday Mr. D was inattentive during the group session and fell asleep (although his version disputed the actual sleeping part. He was just “tired”).  His counselor had to ask him to stand up and rouse himself. This only confirmed my fear that Mr. D isn’t actively seeking recovery; he is comfortable “not using” and seems to me to be at a standstill.

He isn’t driving to San Diego. It’s an analogy his counselor used that I will expand on another time, but it pretty much sums up what is going on with Mr. D. He isn’t driven or motivated for himself, and as a result he will, in all likelihood, fail.

On Tuesday morning before work and getting the kids to school I had a total emotional breakdown. I scared myself. It made me sad to get so out of control, crying and yelling and what not. Fortunately, the only witness was Mr. D. I said some terrible things, I admit, and my final act of frustration was to leave my wedding ring atop the locked safe I keep in the kitchen that holds my medications.

Tuesday afternoon I told Mr. D I wanted a separation. I can’t be the wife of an addict. I can’t let him guilt me into being his “everything”. And on Monday night, as we were falling asleep, I asked him what he wanted from me and that’s what he said: everything. It’s too much. Whether he is an addict or not, “everything” is too much to ask for from another person. That kind of need is pure manipulation, plain and simple.

We agreed to let the topic rest until the next day. I agreed to meet again with both of his counselors for the discussion if he felt safer that way. He made an appointment for Wednesday evening.

The counselors agreed that Mr. D hasn’t owned his own recovery. He needs me too much, his focus is too concentrated on salvaging the marriage or pleasing me and meeting the expectations he THINKS I have for him instead of making himself into the person he wants to be, solely for his own benefit. As far as I am concerned, if he grabbed his recovery by the neck and fought for it tooth and nail, as if his very life depended on it (which, in all honesty, it does) the marriage will take care of itself.

On Tuesday night at an Al-Anon meeting someone shared a reading from the Courage to Change daily meditation book. In brief, it talked about waiting. On Wednesday evening at the outpatient center, I purchased a book  by Melody Beattie because as I flipped through the pages the following reading for April 21 jumped out:

“Wait. If the time is not right, the way not clear, the answer or decision not consistent, wait. We may feel a sense of urgency. We may want to resolve the issue by doing something – anything now, but that action is not in our best interest. Living with confusion or unresolved conflict is difficult. It is easier to resolve things. But making a decision too soon, doing something before its time, means we may have to go back and redo it. If the time is not right, wait. If the way is not clear, do not plunge forward. If the answer or decision feels muddy, wait”.

On Thursday I told Mr. D I can wait. Not for long, though, and I am predicating my decision on his actions in the coming days; basically, I reserve the right to change my mind if I feel there is no improvement or he uses manipulation on me to make me stay or any other reason that I think is valid or feels right for ME. I want to be healthy, and if that means a separation then so be it.

I also need to explore my own worry that staying with him is somehow impeding his recovery. He has to recover whether we live together or not. If he believes I (or our marriage) am the reason he is going to stay clean, perhaps not having me will force him to confront his own self, and his fears, and either get motivated to save himself…or not. His circumstances can’t dictate his motivation to recover, only his internal desire to be healthy can.

Thursday he also gave me my anniversary gift early (it’s Feb 29, so we don’t technically have an anniversary this year anyway). It’s a beautiful new wedding band set and it matches me perfectly. I am not a fancy person.* I love it. I also believe it wasn’t given to me as a bribe (if you will) but as a genuine gesture of affection and thoughtfulness, and as a symbol of hope.

Yes, I took this photo as I was typing this blog.

Yes, I took this photo as I was typing this blog.

Whew. That’s two weeks in a blog. Everything I touched on I intend to post about in more depth. I have already started writing on these topics so they are coming. I know some of my personal friends are waiting for this update, but some things just can’t be condensed into a Facebook  status.

Tonight I sent Mr. D the link to my blog. Maybe he’s reading it, maybe he’s not.

Lastly, I leave you with the music I stole my title from. Rise Against is a band I like to listen to when I am feeling overwhelmed and the past two weeks I’ve been listening to them a LOT.

*Are you laughing, my lovely girl? That was for you. 🙂

Homecoming

Mr. D comes home from rehab tomorrow.

I had to pause after writing that, because every time I think of it I pause mentally and emotionally.

What will it feel like to have him home again? I don’t know. I can’t even say that I am happy, because when I think, “Oh it will be so nice to have another adult home helping out again”, I remember that towards the end he wasn’t actually helping out. He was another mouth to feed, another mess maker, someone who complained if I asked for help, or assisted me resentfully if he actually gave in to my requests.

He was also emotionally vacant, tuned in to his own needs and wants, spotty on personal hygiene, cranky, withdrawn, sulky, and disengaged from me and the kids; a specter in our home of an uncertain future.

Mr. D comes home from rehab tomorrow.

He is off work for eight more weeks as his employer granted FMLA for the duration of his inpatient treatment and will likely grant further time for his outpatient. Although he self-identified, his chosen career isn’t a good fit for a drug addict. He never once called in sick, not even after my surgery when he took two scheduled days off and then went right back. But, he is in management for a nationwide pharmacy/drug store. HA! He will never realize his hope now of getting his own store; he was so close and threw it all away at the almighty alter of Vicodin and sleeping pills.

He’ll be monitored by his employer and the National Board of Pharmacy for 2-5 years, depending on certain markers. They say if you identify and ask for help that it’s confidential, but the reality is that it is a mark on his permanent record. It’s a mark written in invisible ink, but the people who make the decisions about placement have special eyeglasses for that. They know; it doesn’t bode well for his prospects there any longer.

How will he fill his hours between outpatient treatment and NA meetings? I can make a list of things that need to be done around the house, but is that helpful or too controlling? Clean the garage, weed the flower beds, and build the bean trellis and the raised garden beds you’ve been promising me. Deep clean the carpets, clean out the junk drawer in the kitchen, clean out the backyard shed. Go to the gym. I’ll add you back to the family membership you never once used. I think sitting around with idle hands is a recipe for disaster.

Mr. D is coming home from rehab tomorrow.

He’s committed to not using, he says. He’s determined to move forward and make a better life for himself and our family, he says. He says the time in rehab was life changing and life affirming, and he won’t fail. He says, but how can I know? One day at a time not using is the only way I can know. Words mean nothing to me at this point because he said too many for too long. Actions, baby. That’s what I’m looking for.

Mr. D is coming home from rehab tomorrow.

He lied to our marriage counselor the entire time we were going. What was the point of going, I wonder? I believe he only went to appease me. We were working on communication, but he was getting high every day and lying to me. Bah! It was a waste of time. Now he wants to go again, he says. I see the necessity, but I am scared. More time wasted?

He says he wants to build closer relationships with our kids, and be present for them in a way he hasn’t been for a while. But, before Christmas I baked the no eat cookies for the kids to make tree ornaments from, and we had a family day of glue, sharpies, glitter, and paint. Fun times! But Mr. D was high. Is he going to be there for the kids? Does he have the emotional mettle to follow through? He missed so much.

Some of ornaments my super creative kiddos made.

Some of ornaments my super creative kiddos made.

Mr. D is coming home from rehab tomorrow.

I want to be happy. I want to be excited and full of hope and love and eagerness. But what I really am is scared and nervous and anxious. The problems we had before he went away aren’t gone; they have simply been waiting, patiently, for his return. Communication? Physical intimacy? Gah! I can’t even think about it. How can I? I don’t trust him.

This weekend is family focused: rock climbing wall at the gym, the local hand’s on children’s museum we have membership to, a board game marathon. I’m glad I am off for the holiday Monday; his outpatient sessions begin that evening and Mondays are family sessions so I’ll be attending his first one with him.

Next weekend he and I are going away to a B&B that we enjoy. Well, did WE enjoy it or has it only been me? In any event, we have put aside some time without the kids, without the usual distractions of meal prep and laundry and phone calls so we can talk and figure out our future. We need a new plan of action that includes NA and thrice weekly outpatient sessions, and Al-Anon, and the countless individual, family, and marriage counseling sessions. Thinking about it makes me tired.

What kind of a future is it? Is it short term or long term? It’s hard to feel how I feel but also be trying to map out the coming months together. I get it, I get it: one day at a time. But, there also needs to be a plan. We can’t just wing it every day. And how callous of me is it to also be making my own backup plan? The plan I need if Mr. D uses and I leave him. It’s a necessary step, because I am not going to let his addiction ruin my life, but it makes me feel sad.  Fuck this addiction disease, that’s how I feel.

Mr. D is coming home from rehab tomorrow.

I am so conflicted. I am scared. I am cautiously hopeful. I am kind of sick to my stomach.

These are not the droids you’re looking for.

line in sand

A wavy line in the sand, but a line none the less.

I don’t know Dan over at Beyond the Blue Fog Bank , but I was excited to come across this post last night after I posted about the most important boundary I set for myself during my husband’s early recovery.

I only took the quote and “Today’s Reminder” from him, but you can read his “Alleged Insight” over there (Hi Dan! Thanks!)

ODAT- Day 13 – January 13, 2013 – Hold Fast

Quoted from Page #13 in One Day At A Time (the little blue book)

When will I realize that I need not permit the alcoholic’s behaviour to confuse my life and destroy my peace of mind?  When will I learn that there is no compulsion, in law or ethics, that forces me to accept humiliation, uncertainty and despair.  Have I perhaps accepted it because I have a subconscious desire for martyrdom?  Do I secretly relish feeling sorry for myself and want sympathy from others?

Today’s Reminder

I have a right to reel myself from any situation that interferes with my having a decent life and pleasant experiences.  Every human being is entitled to live without fear, uncertainty, discomfort.  I should take a firm stand and hold fast to whatever decision I make, to help not only myself and my family, but the suffering alcoholic as well.  Constant wavering can only hinder me from breaking out of my present thinking pattern.

I love this passage!

I have spoken with too many people with family members who are addicts that pretty much refuse to give themselves permission to take care of themselves. It may be a symptom of early recovery and residential rehab folks, since many of us are new to this entire experience. Although, I have met some repeaters and they don’t take care of themselves, either. Hmmmm. I don’t know…I haven’t broadened my circle far and wide (yet) but it seems to be a super common issue.

I love me as much as I love my husband. I value my health and well-being as much as I value my husband’s. Pretty much the only people who can claim more from me than me are my kiddos, and that’s because they can’t really take care of themselves yet.

Boundaries and self-respect is are important and I try to teach those principals to my kids. With my oldest I have to continually reinforce the idea that if she doesn’t want to do something, SHE CAN SAY NO. She doesn’t have to explain herself or offer excuses. Heck, she doesn’t even have to apologize, really. She can Just. Say. No.

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Unless it’s something like cleaning her room hahahaa I’m not talking about basic responsibilities and chores; I’m speaking of being pulled by friends, family members, and others past her comfort zone, and not wanting her to be emotionally bullied into doing something she really doesn’t want to do.

Anyway…I only have a passing familiarity to the little blue book since I am so new to this, but I love, love, love that there is a reminder in there to family that they have a RIGHT to hold fast to their boundaries. I wish more people would learn this, or remember this, or believe this. Addicts can’t take everything from us just because we love them. That’s not even love; that’s taking advantage, which is the opposite of love.

Hold fast. Be firm. Be strong. Love yourself and then your addict. It doesn’t make you mean, or a crazy capital B. It makes you kind and wise and someone who truly cares.

Nobody else should get to determine your emotional well-being. No guilt trips, no mind control, no manipulation. It’s NOT ok.

If you’re fairly certain those ARE the droids you are looking for, check it out again. Go with your gut. Not everybody uses the force for good.

storm trooper

I couldn’t resist. Star Wars and healthy boundaries are two of my favorite things 🙂

(Thanks again, Dan!)

I love you, unless…

I love my husband. He is gentle, and kind, and affectionate, and funny, and uncomplicated. He brings out the best in me and I find deep comfort in times of trouble in his arms. With him, I can be my true self without fear of judgment or rejection. He is my best friend, my lover, and the one I chose to open up to more than anyone in my life. He is outwardly quiet and thoughtful, but full of passion and depth of spirit inside. He is my Thunder Egg.

The thunderegg is the Oregon official state rock. When you find them, they look plain and unassuming, like any other rock. But when you crack them open, they are filled with vibrant, reflective colors and unique patterns. They are beautiful, and highly sought after as a result. Polished, they are amazing and almost jewel-like. But if you aren’t paying attention, you would walk right by a geode and never know the splendor it held inside.

Looks like a boring rock, eh?

Looks like a boring rock, eh? Then look inside.

I love my husband for so many reasons. For so many good reasons.

Until the Vicodin.

It was confusing for me when he started pulling away. It didn’t happen in a day, and it happened slowly so that it didn’t cut like a knife all at once. He stopped holding my hand when we walked side by side. He stopped sitting next to me on the couch. He started staying up late, by himself, after I went to bed. He stopped randomly texting me during the day. He stopped asking about my day. He stopped sharing or volunteering any information about himself, his day, his feelings. He started staring at his tablet or his phone more than he looked at me. He stopped making eye contact. All we shared was a house and some exchanges about bills and kids’ needs. He pulled away from me completely physically.

I felt so alone. I kept asking what was wrong, what happened, what was going on. It was always nothing, nothing, everything is fine, I’m tired, the new management is horrid, my work schedule sucks, I’m tired, it’s nothing.

Then I found out he was being deceitful about money. Then he was dishonest about, well, practically everything. He was lying about things that didn’t even matter. It got to the point I couldn’t trust him to tell me the weather outside without looking out the window myself.

There was so much more, but I don’t want to dwell. It makes me sad. I just wanted to explain enough to show that I was hurt, and confused, and angry, and scared without really knowing why.

I suggested, and then demanded, that we go to marriage counseling. We went for over two months before the addiction and subsequent intervention took center stage. We reconnected physically, but I felt something was missing. I think he thought if he could give me back that one thing I would be distracted enough not to keep digging into the real problem. The counselor dismissed my concerns about a “problem” with Vicodin and sleeping pills. He was so convincing. He had denial by distraction, manipulation, blaming, and minimizing down to an art.

Mr. D was depressed and as a result, the counselor and I agreed that I would take on some things to ease his “burden”: paying all the bills, making all the medical and counseling appointments, giving Mr. D reminders. I see very clearly now why all of this made me agitated and distressed: it was putting me into the position of enabler and co-dependent and I am not a natural fit for that arrangement.

Why was I able to quickly agree to things beyond my comfort level when I thought it was depression and then get so mad when I discovered it was addiction? It occurs to me now that it was because I felt addiction was a choice, a character flaw, something Mr. D was doing to himself, me, and our family ON PURPOSE. I was able to accept depression as a mental health issue and do what I had to in order to help him heal, but I never saw addiction that way.

I do now. I have learned so much through self-study, research, classes at his rehab facility, and reading until the wee hours of the night. I accept addiction as a disease. However, just as I would expect Mr. D to seek therapy and medication to resolve his depression, I expect him to “work the program” to hold his addiction disease at bay.

I love you, unless …

Mr. D knows my stance. I have set very clear boundaries for my good health and emotional stability during his early recovery. If he uses, our marriage is over. If he uses, he has to move out of our home and I am done.

I have learned that relapse is a common occurrence with addicts; recovery more than likely includes relapse. But, relapse begins far sooner than when the addict takes a pill or a drink; it begins in the mind and eventually manifests itself as usage if the addict has not prepared himself for the destructive thought processes that lead to picking up.

If Mr. D cannot humble himself to ask for help from me, his sponsor, his counselor, his doctor, or somebody, ANYBODY, before he picks up, that is on him. I am here for him until that happens.

I love you, unless you use.

I love you, unless you give up.

I love you, unless you quit trying.

I love you, unless you let addiction disease rule your mind.

I love you, unless you ask more of me than I can give or that is healthy. Because I love you, I love you unless.

I told my husband I am writing a blog and that I may or may not share it with him. Since it’s on the World Wide Web, he’s on the honor system once he returns home and has internet access again.

Dear, if you read this know that I love you. Everything I have done since I started to recognize there was a problem and especially since I found out you are an addict is because I love you. Since I do love you, I am committed to supporting you through recovery. I just can’t commit to watching you destroy yourself with addiction.

I love you, unless.

Ahhhh, but I love you.

Broken Promises and Making Apologies

“There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.”  ~ Carl Jung

I’ve put off writing about the Family Communication weekend for some time. It isn’t that I don’t want to share what happened; it’s that every time I try I feel too overwhelmed. How can I possibly explain how an exercise in responding to prompts and reading them out loud to a group of addicts and family members was so healing? It had a profound effect on me, and I expect to carry the experience with me for a lifetime, regardless of how my circumstances play out in regard to my husband’s addiction.

Going in to the weekend, I was unaware that family members (ME!) would also be writing to our addicts. I knew that my husband had a letter to read aloud to me, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I also didn’t realize the reading would occur in a group setting, facilitated by a counselor.

In the Saturday afternoon session addicts and family members met together to talk about what would occur at the Sunday session. Our addicts would be addressing how they believed their addiction impacted whoever was present from their support system, but there would be ground rules for the process. Rules included paying attention, not leaving the room when someone was speaking, keeping your lap and hands free from things that could be distracting, no “helping” (prodding someone with words if they lost train of thought or reaching out to soothe someone physically if they were struggling), and no interrupting.

There were also rules for feedback. Each addict would select two other addicts and each family member would select a family member from the room to provide very specific feedback. That is: “I hear _____”, “I see_____”, and “I feel_____”. No giving advice, no speculating, no questions. Our counselor would even provide a limited list of feeling words on the white board to give people options for expressing themselves. This is how the addicts’ group meetings are always conducted, so they were used to the process; the explanation was for the benefit of family members.

Then, each family member was given a list of prompts to use to prepare a written statement for their addict:

1)      The way your alcohol/drug use has affected my relationship with you is _____.

2)      In your recovery I will _____.

3)      For me to be able to support you, I need you to _____.

4)      These are the things I don’t want you to do_____.

5)      In order to improve our relationship I am willing to _____.

The counselor had numbered the dry erase board from 1-10 and asked the addicts when they would like to speak. Half would be in the morning session and half would be after the lunch break, but everyone was asked to participate for the entire day as a matter of respect and courtesy. It would not be polite or helpful to have your turn and then leave.

I asked my husband to volunteer to be first. I didn’t want our letters to be clouded by what other people were saying, or have second thoughts about what I could or could not have written. He agreed, and we were listed in slot number one (at the end of the day, he and I agreed it was a good idea to go first for the reasons I had given, and also because then we were able to focus on the other families and not be caught up in our own anxiety about sharing and the other person’s reaction).

I spent the evening in my hotel room drafting my responses. It was late, but I let the kids go swimming and I wrote my final version on an indoor patio table splattered with chlorine saturated water. I felt good about what I wrote, and my kids were so busy splashing they didn’t notice my tension. Also, they slept great while I laid awake for much of the night. Figures!

I won’t go into detail about what my husband said to me, or I to him. It is enough to say that it was moving and I felt he was sincere and genuinely repentant for the things he had done in the grip of his addiction. One thing: after he read his letter I remarked that it was almost as if we had written them together since I addressed many of the same things he did. The counselor then asked us if we *had* spoken and written them together and we assured her we had not. I guess we just know each other pretty well (at least I know my non-using spouse well…the using Mr. D had me all kinds of confused).

I also cannot go into detail about what the other addicts and family members said to one another, but I can share how much it impacted me to be a part of some truly emotional and intimate moments between spouses, partners, parents, siblings, and adult children.

I cried a lot. Sometimes the exchanges left me feeling hopeful for the family, and other times I felt sad and discouraged. I wanted to hug strength into others, to fill them with optimism that things might be ok; but it was clear that in some instances it would not be ok. In those moments, I wanted to fill family members with comfort and peace as they made difficult decisions to remain involved with their addict or to cut ties.

It was abundantly clear that the room was filled with love, despite the hurt feelings and heavy sorrow that draped itself in the room for the day. But more than that, there were so many other feelings present in varying degrees: sadness, despair, courage, expectation, anticipation, yearning, caution, anguish, dejection, resolution, fear, eagerness, inexperience, and resignation.

Broken and unfulfilled promises were the theme of the day, and I wondered if eventually that would be me and my addict. Yet, I resolved to remain committed to supporting his recovery through inpatient and intensive outpatient treatment this time. I know there cannot be another time for me, or our marriage. I do not want to be the wife of am actively using addict. I think – I hope – that I can be the wife of a recovering addict, after all I have learned. However, I will not follow him down the rabbit hole of active addiction. If he picks up, my marriage is over.

One powerful lesson I learned in that group meeting was that no matter the relationships, the circumstances that brought the addict to rehab, the drug of choice, or the many other clearly apparent or imperceptible differences among us in the room: I am exactly the same as every other family member there. We had all been propelled down the road of addiction and now were halted at a stop sign: recovery through rehab. Some people were farther down the road and some people were only getting started, but every story told could have been mine from the last year, or mine from the next year-or decade.

I am grateful for every person who shared that day, and amazed at the bravery it took to tell their stories and share their sufferings to a room full of strangers. It was a beautiful experience and I cherish it. I was able to hug some of the participants when the day concluded, and I was comforted.

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