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tales of something simple - tales of an addict’s wife

i believe

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.

all types of chaos

tales of an addict's wife

That was going to be the title of my book.  Middle of last year I was driving to work one morning and it hit me: I will title my book Tales of an Addict’s Wife.  Tales of Something Simple, this blog, originated from the fact that over the course of some time, my life changed.  I went from being the wife of an addict…to being a person who appreciates, lives, breathes and loves a life of simplicity.  Hence the title, obviously.  I very well could still pull a book out of my ass someday, and I’m sure it would be damn good.  But for now I appreciate that my mind wanderings while on my commute to work or anywhere else for that matter takes me to a place where who I am and what my life is, is much more than that of a wife with a husband who is…addicted.

We watch Intervention on A & E religiously (which is a funny choice of words because if you are new to NA, you might find the 12 steps a bit religious with all the GOD in there…).  We started watching early in Brian’s recovery–we might have even watched it before he got clean but I obviously got nothing out of it and neither did he because the same old boring, reckless habits continued.  He used, I enabled.  He used, I enabled.  We watched Monday’s episode tonight (because we live in the land of DVR and like it there), and while I held much, much, much empathy, compassion and understanding for the addict and his family, I wasn’t a mush ball.  Rewind 9 months ago and I would be sitting there sobbing–tears, snot, wimpering animal noises and all.  I like that I can now watch the show and not be…in the moment as closely.  This is not to say that I am so far removed from remembering that part of our lives that it doesn’t effect me because it does.  It rocks me to my core every single week we watch it.  However, the difference is that before when I watched these addicts struggling, sick, powerless, in denial, angry, hurt, lying, stealing, you name it, I hurt the same way a glass vase that just had a baseball bat swing at it and succeed.  I was the glass on the floor, more broken than you could ever imagine a person.  I would watch these families, how affected they were and I couldn’t even feel for them, understand for them, offer compassion for them because I was so stuck, literally, in how watching their life unravel so beautifully and messily paralleled my own.  When you live in hell, and then you watch it through someone elses eyes, the hell intensifies and you are no longer watching a reality documentary, you are watching you in someone else. It’s raw and painful and emotional and vivid.  To the point where you can’t really benefit from it because the only thing I would take away is the release of my own pain.  This is a good thing, but now what I can take away is so much more.

Tonight I watched a 21 year-old Oxycontin addict destroy his family and I watched his family destroy themselves over the addict.  I don’t cry for these people or hurt for them, as much as I can understand, literally, their use, their enabling and their denial.  And rather than feel sorry for them or throw things at the TV, I can seperate the difference between my own history and theirs.  Their life isn’t mine, and their experience isn’t mine.  What is the same is the human condition of the addict and the people that love the addict.  The reason it was so intense for me to watch this show previously was because my husband was the addict.  I was the enabler.  He was the source of a chaotic life.  I was the source of continuing to accept it, put up with it, live with it, hope for the best, wish for it to change.  I now see these people for being them, and not that they mirror my life.  Not just because my life is so different now and so is my husband, but because I have learned so much and discovered so deeply that I see that although their storyline might be different one thing remains the same: we hurt (addict and loved ones) and we are looking to heal (be it with drugs or enabling or otherwise).

I remember sitting in one of my first Nar-Anon meetings.  We watched a video on enabling.  I clearly remember thinking and potentially even sharing out loud with the group that I was no such thing.  Enabler?  Nope!  Not me!  I was so full of shit I smelled.  Just as being an addict of any kind comes with a certain stigma (however inappropriate I find it), there is a stigma of an enabler as well.  The stigma (I thought) was that enablers are to blame.  They are full of fault and guilt and believing that you are the reason someone uses or continues to use is too much weight.  I though enabling meant saying, yes, please use drugs meant enabling.  Really, it’s much less than that.  It’s giving money, it’s keeping quiet when you have something to say, it’s putting someone before you even when it hurts, it’s settling, it’s making excuses, it’s the inability to take any action of change and stand by it.  I was so busy doing everything I could to keep him close because I truly believed with everything that I was that it would keep him alive.  That’s all I was focused on, as many loved one’s of addicts are, especially the enablers.  We don’t care if they are using, sober, a saint or a crimminal.  We don’t care if they are sick, healthy, hungry or jobless.  We care that they are breathing.  Because if they are breathing we have done our job.

My favorite interventionist on A & E is famous for the lines “You have been the rehab.  You suck at it.  You are fired.”  I wish he would have said that to me.  I can’t promise I would have listened.  I think for a beat I believed I was God.  When you love someone, and when you enable them (they often go together), you truly and fully believe that you can love them through it.  You can love them through withdrawal, depression, shakes, sweats, fever, mood swings, headaches, hallucinations, anxiety, panic attacks, vomiting.  You can love them into recovery.  You think that if you are the pillar of steel strength and they beat you and beat you and beat you (not literally of course) that they will come out of their haze and go, wait a second.  I’m a moron.  You are my ray of sunshine worth living for, I kiss the ground you walk on, let’s flush these Oxy’s down the toilet.  Not so fast.  Not possible.  It has nothing to do with conscious or who you are as a person.  An addict is an addict and yes, they are all the same.  They are powerless, and the more you love them sometimes, the more powerless they become.  I thought I could be the rehab, I could do the work.  NO!  The addict does the work.  We just watch.  We’re just there to cheer them on, and as Jeff Van Nostron says…”We’re here today to give you an ultimatum.  There’s nothing we won’t do to get you the help you need, but there is nothing we will do to let you continue this way.”  It’s so true.  It’s the hardest thing for a family to ever hear because what we do to enable, to allow the addict to continue on in their own reckless path to an early death is what keeps us comfortable.  It keeps us feeling like we are in control over something we literally, yes literally, have absolutely no control over.  Not even an ounce.

I fully believe in medical assisted recovery and withdrawal.  If you put down the bottle and never picked it back up you weren’t an alcoholic.  If you flushed your cocaine down the toilet and took a nap and never cut it again, you weren’t a crack addict.  If you are able to stop, cold turkey, with no medical assistance whatsoever, than you can’t call yourself an addict.  An addict has complete inability to just stop.  So when I took the Oxycontin or Percocet or whatever it was and flushed it down the toilet on May 21, 2009, I thought it would be the first and last time.  We’ll put that in the chapter called “Tales of a wife new to drug addiction!”  I learned a lot over the next six months before he went to rehab, got clean, stayed clean and literally started a new way of life.

I watch this show and I think to myself, I get them.  I get this whole thing.  I get that they can’t stop using, and I get that no matter what they say they know deep down that it is a problem.  I also get that their mom, sister, best friend, husband or whomever, wants them back to the person they used to be and they think that loving them out of it might work.  Giving them money, a place to stay, keeping them off the street will make it work.  It will bring them back.  I know it’s hard, but it doesn’t work.  I get that the whole thing is hard.  It’s messy and gut wrenching and heart breaking and sometimes it hurt so bad for me I wondered what my own life was worth.  It gets dark.

But recovery for an addict, and recovery for the wife of an addict is a journey. It’s possible.  It’s even fun.  It’s been a growing experience in so many ways.  Brian went through his own recovery and I go through mine.  It’s the kind of recovery that can’t be shared with others unless they have gone through it, really.  No one will ever understand, not even close unless they have been there.  You have to go to the depths of hell in order to describe and feel what the fire felt like.  My family and friends have watched us both transform.  They might not know exactly how it’s happening or what’s going on behind the scenes, but it’s an experience you can’t really share.  It’s lived alone, singularly, on your own path and your own healing and no one can help you with it.  It’s peaceful and rewarding and surprising.

It’s simple.  That’s the start of my tale and how this all started.

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