Being married to an addict
Shame tells me I’m not supposed to tell you I’m married to an alcoholic.
Shame tells me I’m not supposed to tell you I’m married to a drug addict.
But I am.
I am married to a drug addict and an alcoholic.
When the secret of my husband’s addiction came out, I felt more alone than I had in my whole entire life. That’s what addiction does, it thrives on isolation and loneliness, both for the addict and those who love him or her.
It took months to not be knocked over fresh every time I remembered the lies my husband had been living, the actions that now made sense, the horrible choices he made, and the destruction he has brought to our life.
And it wasn’t until after his 90-day AA sobriety chip arrived on my desk silently one morning that I realized how absolutely lonely this whole thing was.
Being married to an addict is so, so lonely.
The one person who is supposed to be your support when the wheels fall off is the person who is causing all the pain and suffering. The person you’re supposed to trust, respect, and rely on more than anyone else is the exact opposite of those traits.
Being married to an addict is lonely.
I’m not lacking people. That’s not what is lonely. I have friends. I have family. I have social engagements, parties, dinners, invitations. I have texts to respond to, emails to read, phone calls to return.
But my existence right now is still very isolating.
I am surrounded by people and noise, but I am alone.
I’m not a shiny Christian. I can’t pull that off. I’m more of a sharp-edges, mostly black-and-blue, covered-in-bruises Jesus follower. I believe with my whole heart the Scripture and promise parts, but LORD, CAN YOU JUST TAKE THIS AWAY, PLEASE?
I am tired. I would like a break, and I’m pretty angry I can’t get one.
When Chris went through rehab the first time seven years ago, one evening a week was family night. The addict’s kids, spouse, parents, or significant other would sit in a circle with the group and we’d do group family counseling. I refused to talk because I’m an introvert and also because I was insanely angry at every person in that room.
As they told stories, answered questions, and shared encouragement, all I could scream in my head was, “SO YOU KNEW YOU WERE LIVING WITH AN ADDICT?! GOOD FOR YOU.”
Because I didn’t and that felt worse than the addiction part. The betrayal is the worst part.
Every single time.
I was betrayed and betrayed and betrayed.
In one of the first few appointments with my new counselor, I tried to explain the humiliation and shame I felt in not realizing what my husband was doing all these years. Why couldn’t I put all the pieces together? Why couldn’t I connect the dots of slurred speech, erratic driving, and inability to recall conversations? What was wrong with me? How dumb was I? How dumb am I?
I’d already had this conversation with multiple friends who had tried to convince me it wasn’t my fault, and I hadn’t done anything wrong. They too were there–moments that sometimes felt off, conversations that didn’t make complete sense–and didn’t realize it either. But for them it was just a moment here and there, for me it was enough to be on high-alert all the time but I never put all the puzzle pieces together.
I was just so, so dumb.
That’s what addiction does. Addiction thrives on isolation, but it also brings along its good buddy, manipulation. Talking you out of the things you know, making you doubt what you’re seeing and who you are; twisting reality and truth.
Until suddenly nothing makes sense and I don’t know who or what to believe.
Is this what crazy feels like? I can’t even rely on my own thoughts and reasoning because they fail me.
That’s why I feel so alone. That’s why it’s so lonely here. I can’t trust my husband. I can’t trust my reality. I can’t trust the things my eyes see because what if my brain isn’t letting me see all the parts?
Being married to an addict is lonely.
Here’s what I would tell you if you’re feeling isolated and alone because of addiction in your life or in the life of someone you love:
You are not alone.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8.
Feeling alone doesn’t make it true. God says He’ll never leave us and His promises are true. Memorize this scripture. Tape it to your bathroom mirror. Set it as your screensaver on your computer and your cell phone. Repeat it until you believe it and then keep repeating it as a reminder that you are not alone, you were not made to do life alone, and you do not have to.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2
Most of us don’t want to be a burden. We don’t want to impose or take up too much space or admit we need help. What a powerful tool of the devil that allows us to suffer in silence when asking for help will lead to freedom. If you don’t know where to go or who to speak up to, I’d highly recommend making a Care appointment and speaking to someone equipped to handle big, scary secrets with love, discretion, and grace. When everything fell apart for me last year, a friend grabbed her phone, scheduled a Care appointment for me, and told me I wasn’t allowed to cancel. It was the bossiest and most helpful thing anyone did for me in a season of confusion and drowning. (And when I got to that Care appointment and was referred to a counselor, I went. Godly, wise counseling in the midst of chaos at home saved me in ways I can’t describe.)
You cannot handle this by yourself.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
At AA meetings, they like to say, “If you could stop by yourself, you would have done it by now.” And it’s true. If you could have handled your addiction on your own, you would have stopped it already. Simple and concise. Admitting you have a problem and then surrendering that problem to the Lord and crying out for help, both in prayer and to those we love is the bravest thing addicts can do.
Shame wants to steal your freedom.
Shame wants to steal your joy.
Shame wants you to feel isolated and alone.
But Jesus. Jesus wants to shower you with freedom and joy and grace and community. Let’s be people who stop letting shame run the show. Let’s do it today.