Sometimes we just refuse to see the truth about those we love the most.
Growing up as a police officer’s daughter, I was sheltered from much of the adult world. The only thing I ever knew about addiction went in one ear and right out the other in my fifth grade D.A.R.E. lessons. I literally thought, my daddy was a cop and would never let those kind of criminals come around me, for as long as I lived. (Ten year old logic—pretty sound shit, emmIright?!?)
Then, I married an addict. At the time of our wedding, I was completely unaware of the severity of these issues—the severity of addiction, in and of itself, and the severity of my husband-to-be’s addictions. It has certainly been the hardest nine plus years of my life, but it has been worth every lost dream and broken tangible along the way.
The beginning of our relationship was more like living in a made-for-television Lifetime Network movie than any sort of reality.
Alcohol binges plagued his waking existence. My husband was practically leading a double life as he balanced his responsibility to our partnership with his desire to live irresponsibly. This stumbling, slurring, wretched shadow of a man became a stranger to me in the blink of an eye. His recklessness escalated at full tilt—hospitalizations for alcohol poisoning (his blood alcohol level was actually 0.37 once!), minor injuries from drunken stupors, more serious injuries from blackout periods (where he even stabbed himself in the lung once!), and increasingly irrational and incorrigible mood swings became the norm. He ended up wrecking his vehicle and being arrested for a DUI, finally forcing him to get the help he denied needing.
I blamed myself the whole way.
I also believed in him—in the man I saw looking into his heart and soul. I believed in our marriage and in the family I had dropped into his lap when I brought two children under two and a half with me into the relationship.
My husband’s sobriety seemed to come with such relative ease, I naively ignored the doubts ringing loudly in my ears. Doubts trying to warn it was too good to be true. Instead, I reveled in the transformed man standing by my side once more; as a husband rightfully should. Full of renewed positivity, he seemed to enjoy life once again and wanted to take his responsibility to our family, seriously. He returned to the care of the family physician with whom he had built a trusting rapport with in his late adolescence and early adulthood. I wholeheartedly and ignorantly trusted his intentions and motives to take care of his health were pure.
Sometimes, you just refuse to see the truth, because you think you are too emotionally incapable of accepting the facts and holding yourself accountable. I had really convinced myself addiction was just a falsely pinned label on my husband’s lapel, a boogey man to blame. Everyone was out to get him, to knock him down and keep him from succeeding, to make life so much more difficult, because they simply weren’t satisfied that the stupidity of youth was the culprit behind his imprudent acts. Alas, the truth always finds a way to make itself known. To be told. It will not simply go away and remain hidden in secrecy.
The clock will always strike midnight.
Six months after the birth of our first daughter, the pumpkin charade finally shattered like glass. The ugly verity his enchanting spell once cast away from the limelight was revealed. The lies surfaced vehemently—instantly crushing my naivety beneath the weight of their impact. The excuses came to rest. I could no longer play the ignorant card. My husband was arrested for writing a forged prescription. He was given more than just a slap on the wrist this time- four months in jail, thirty days of rehab, and two years of continued probation. All of which, came with more fines and fees than we could ever dream of saving for our family. Yet, before we ever had a chance to taste that dream, he had given them away to others.
And he kept on giving away our dreams, like he had become the Sandman.
What would the kids and I ever want with such things as college funds, mortgages, or car loans? We were above such normalcy, it seemed. Destined to be a Married With Children meets Breaking Bad dysfunctional family.
The next couple years are a gigantic blur of here one day and gone the next unpredictability. We never knew what was coming next. Moving up to higher doses, stronger pharmaceuticals, and harder street drugs when prescriptions no longer would suffice, his actions became more desperate to match. Jail and rehab became familiar extensions of our home and topic of conversation.
I refused to be the parent who lied and said Daddy was away for work and his work was too dangerous for contact visits. We had had enough lies to last a lifetime. I was brutally honest each and every time: Daddy made a grown-up mistake by breaking grown-up rules, so just like a timeout when our house rules get broken, daddy has to have a grown-up timeout, too. And grown-up timeout last a very, very long time.
Never once did it dawn on me to ease my burden by leaving my husband. You don’t walk away from someone who’s sick – someone you vowed to take care of
You don’t walk away from someone who’s sick—someone you vowed to take care of for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. You support them. Stick by their side. Lay down the strength they lack and pick up the burden they are struggling to carry alone. A marriage is a partnership, and whether I wanted to admit anything to myself, or not, my husband was an addict.
His addiction was also mine; I was his greatest enabler, after all.
So we did something about it. Together, on the same side of the struggle, for the first time since we had married. We made one helluvah team, too. With knowledge on my side and sheer willpower on his, and the commitment to one another empowering us both, we took hold of his addiction, as partners do, and put it back in its place. My husband was sober for the first time since he was fifteen years old, I came to realize. That, in itself, was worth all the pain and suffering it took to get him there.
Six years and three months later, my husband has put his addiction to drugs and alcohol far behind him. He has come full circle, embracing the man he had once held captive behind the reinforced steel walls of his soul. He is the man I always believed in, the man I fell in love with, and the man our children needed as their father. Gone are the days of volatile instability and exasperating unpredictability; my husband no longer plays the Sandman for the neighbors.
Our dreams have never tasted sweeter on our lips.
Addiction. It was nothing more than a make-believe villain from the fairy tales I had read as a child, like the Big Bad Wolf or The Huntsman, before I met my husband. It changed my life forever. It wrote the opening chapters of my own personal fairy tale.
My dad may not have been able to save me from the clutches of evil, but my faithful, tender, loving kiss surrendered the villain to me and replaced him with the King of my Heart.
Photo: Randen Pederson/Flickr