Let me start by saying: I love my husband and we are working our butts off to make our marriage work to “break the cycle” of addiction for our kids. But we aren’t out of the woods. We are in a storm. But we are working on it. It is not my intention to put my husband down in any way. In fact, I chose to remain anonymous to respect his addiction journey. But there is still a pain that is fresh and may be evident in this post.
So now, here we go. Marrying an addict was the absolute opposite “plan” I had in mind when I envisioned marriage, kids, family.
Being the daughter of an alcoholic/addict father, who went to jail when I was only two years old and caused an absolutely broken home, I always thought I’d marry someone on the opposite end of the spectrum. Someone who would have my best interest at heart. Who would ask me about my feelings. Provide. Always make me feel cared for.
But if you didn’t know… children of addicts are most likely to be attracted to those with similar traits of the addict parent. We are used to being neglected, we are forced into suppressing our feelings because the addicts’ feelings were more “important”, and become enablers because it’s the survival tactic we had to employ as children to keep the addict happy. This is “TRAUMA”. (Adult Children of Alcoholics is an amazing book to reference if you happen to be in the same shoes as me)
When I met my husband, I had actually just ended a relationship with an addict. I knew it was unhealthy from the get-go but still had been sucked in. I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere (like marriage), but the chaos was comfortable. (It took me a long time to realize how comfortable I am in chaos) When that relationship ended, I was broken and swore I would not get involved with anyone unless it was a sign from God. It was more trauma in my life and I had recently rededicated my life to Christ because I knew He was the only one to heal my brokenness. I’d tried too hard on my own to only fall down over and over again.
Well, I met my husband at bible study – so what more of a sign from God could there be, right?!
Our dating experience was absolutely honeymoon-esque. I would not say there were any “warning signs” of addiction when we met. One thing that always stood out to me, though, as he didn’t have many friends. I was someone who always surrounded myself with friends, but he wasn’t from the area so I assumed it was just due to life transitions. But did you know addicts often isolate due to their shame? It’s not true in all cases, but it is in many.
He did all the wonderful things you expect when you’re dating, that I had never had – picked me up for our first date, made me LAUGH constantly, was excited for me to meet his family, told me he loved me first.
About a year into our dating life, I found out about the gambling debt. I knew he liked to go to the casino (what mid-20s guy doesn’t?) but discovered he was several thousand dollars in debt and using his mom’s credit card to gamble online. I was at a loss… especially since I had worked since I was 14 and had to pay for every single thing I had, all on my own. I remember calling his mom in disbelief. “He needs to figure it out on his own,” she said. I was enraged she didn’t cut him off from the credit card or back me up on my anger.
We worked through it. He told me he stopped gambling. We got engaged. Got pregnant (before marriage). Got married. Had a couple of babies. Got some promotions. “Things were good.” FOR YEARS, I thought things were good.
When our third child was about 6 months old, he got a certified letter in the mail. We’d never had qualms about opening each other’s mail so I opened it. My jaw dropped to the floor as I read that he was in credit card debt for over $150,000. More than we paid for our house. When I confronted him, he admitted that he’d never quit gambling. He kept trying to “‘make it big” to pay off other debt.
Like a good enabler (after all, it’s what I was trained to be), I sat down and tried to help him solve it. We put a plan in place to pay off the debt. But he’d never admit that he had a gambling addiction. The word “addiction” was “beneath” him. He could “control it”.
But did you know – it’s extremely common for an addict to jump from one addiction to another?
Despite all my experience growing up with an addict, I’d never heard of that concept. I figured you solve one addiction, you’re fixed!
I was so wrong.
Fast forward to a year and a half later. This is where the cliches start.
First of all: He worked a lot. I was also working full time, and caring for our children, and he was always distracted with work. Did you know work can become an addiction?
Second: we had a nanny who watched our kids. I never, ever suspected my husband of any sort of inappropriate behavior because after all, he always said men who look outside their marriage are broken, and he’s not, and, “he’s a Christian!”
Guess who was proven wrong. Me. We turned into the ultimate cliche.
I won’t go into detail, but there were several inappropriate interactions between our nanny and my husband. Finally, she called me and told me everything and quit. And that’s when it all completely came crashing down. I asked him to leave. Told him I couldn’t do this anymore. He broke down, saying he didn’t know what was wrong with him. That night, my best friends came to the house to make sure he left like I was asking him to. But I told him the next day, he’d better come home in the morning as soon as I called him because I was telling the kids he went for donuts and would be home soon. (Remember how I’m good in chaos?) If our kids were older my reaction may have been different, but I was not going to allow my 3 kids under the age of 5 to think that daddy left them. So the next day he came home. We carved pumpkins for Halloween. And somehow managed to get an appointment with a God-send marriage counselor who specialized in addiction (again, I’m good in chaos and went into “fix-it mode”). We were with that counselor for over 2 hours that day. And finally, FINALLY, my husband accepted he was an addict. So many tears. In a weird way, relief. But also fear for what was to come.
We agreed that day to work to break the cycle for our children. We prayed and talked more than we had in years. I had hope for our future.
That was about 8 months ago. Like I said at the beginning, we are still in the midst of the storm. Because even though we agreed to break the cycle and I had hoped at the time, the hope comes and goes. He is now in recovery with a 12 step program, SAA, where they identify their “inner circles” of addiction. I’ve seen tremendous growth from him.
But what people don’t always talk about is how RECOVERY is all-consuming – not only for the addict but for the family, too. We see a marriage counselor. I see my own counselor. I attend Al-Anon meetings. I have a mentor from church who has been through this journey too. I now take Zoloft for depression. He meets his sponsor twice a week and attends his 12 step meetings. We have lost friends that we shared our reality with, that didn’t understand or were judgmental. And this will be our reality forever. On top of raising three children. Some days it is bone-achingly exhausting.
Being married to an addict is not what I envisioned. But it is my reality because I am committed to working through my own trauma to better my family. And if it is yours, it is my deepest prayer that you will find support at this time. People who haven’t been there don’t understand.
But there are those of us who do… and if you need that support, please contact Toledo Moms and we will help you find it- firstname.lastname@example.org
I remind myself daily that these are the things that make me stronger than I ever thought possible. And the same is for you, too.