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Addiction :: The Family Disease

I knew my husband was an addict when I married him. But the thing is, I thought he was cured. He was an addict, but surely now he’s not. He did a week of detox from alcohol while we were dating, and seemed happily sober. We got engaged, we got married. He didn’t need AA or anything like that. All of those problems were over.

Spoiler alert: I was wrong. Addiction is for life.

I discovered this when he was diagnosed with a painful, progressive bone disease only a year into our marriage. Guess what he was prescribed to manage it? Opioids. The same drugs whose abuse has become a national epidemic. My husband was prescribed insane amounts of these pills by a pain specialist, and his love affair with his drug of choice was born.

In the seven years that have passed between then and now, we have been through a lot. Withdrawal from opioids {over and over}, surgery to cure his disease, infertility and miscarriage, depression, management of withdrawal with a different substance that was still addictive, the birth of our two children, and some relatively stable, even good, years. The one thing I never expected was a return to alcohol.

It was inevitable, I suppose. All of those years he still had an addict’s mindset. And last year, when he became anxious over a health scare with our daughter, he felt that he couldn’t operate without substances anymore. 

Still being oblivious to the signs, being consumed by life as a working mom {and essentially a single mom}, I didn’t confront him. I covered for him. I made excuses to myself. I told the children that Daddy’s tummy hurt; Daddy was sick; Daddy was tired. I had long, worried discussions with his mother about the state of his health and his “anxiety.” I enabled.

It wasn’t until he stopped going to work that something clicked. In shock, I finally asked him if he had been drinking, and after about a twelve second denial, it was all out on the table. To his credit, he then agreed to every form of treatment. 

The next day, he entered a rehab facility that would do more than just detox: it was a comprehensive program … and I will sing its praises until I die. And the first weekend, when I attended a family orientation, I heard the phrase “a family disease” for the first time and thus encountered a turning point in my life.

I left the orientation in tears. I had been told a few things:

  1. Addiction is for life. This is never going away. This is my life now whether I like it or not.
  2. My husband would not be very present in our lives for months while he got intensive treatment.
  3. There were going to be meetings – for me! Oh, so many meetings. Meetings that I would have to find babysitters for, drive miles and miles to, and schedule around.
  4. I was part of the disease too.

A deep depression settled on me. Wasn’t this his problem to take care of? Why was so much being demanded of me? I had a life to live that didn’t include group therapy and Sundays spent at rehab and substance abuse education and an absent partner. And on top of this, they highly encouraged me to go to MORE meetings at a local Al-Anon.

Although I didn’t like it and cried after every one, I went to the meetings. I love my husband, even if I didn’t feel very loving toward him for awhile. Even when it was obvious that he was all in on his recovery, I remained depressed. Even when he came home and was acting like a different {way better, happier} person, I was resentful. But I did the things, and I listened. I even began seeing a counselor. I bought a book and tried to change MY behavior. And slowly, it all sunk in. The fog lifted.

Now, I know more things:

  1. Addiction is a literal disease. It’s not a mental disorder, a moral failing, or a lack of willpower.
  2. I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it. But I can contribute to it.
  3. If a + b = c, and a is the addict and b is me, if I change myself then I change the relationship.
  4. After all these years and with so many medical advances, still the only method that has been proven to “cure” addiction is the twelve steps which begin with admitting powerlessness and giving control to a higher power {for us, that’s God}.
  5. We can live a happy life with addiction as part of it. In fact, we may be better off because of it.

These days, we are still living the recovery life. My husband goes to an AA meeting almost daily. He calls his sponsor every day without fail, and I’m incredibly proud of him for being committed to this process that is in no way easy. Our kids, at ages 3 and 5, know what alcohol is and what it does, and we will continue to have an open conversation about it. Every Saturday morning for a year, we go to group therapy process meetings at the rehab. Although I started out going to support him, I find that now I go for me. 

Despite these obligations, we now have a better relationship than ever. We have learned to confront the deepest parts of ourselves and get them into the light. Our relationship with God has grown immensely and we know what it means to live through suffering. We have hope. I used to feel ashamed of this part of our lives, but now we want to share what we’ve been through to help others.

Addiction IS a family disease, but it’s one that has made us stronger.

Addiction :: The Family Disease | Houston Moms Blog

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6 Responses to Addiction :: The Family Disease

  1. Sarah July 5, 2017 at 7:10 am #

    Hey!! I’m a 9 too- I am at what feels like the very beginning of the road on this journey of dealing with addiction and changing things for our family. Thank you for you honesty and a peek of what this process has been like for you…

    • Kathleen F
      Kathleen F July 11, 2017 at 8:34 am #

      Hi Sarah! 9’s unite! 🙂

      Please let me know if you want to talk more about the process. It was really helpful to me to have someone to talk to who had been there before, and recently.

  2. Karen July 10, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    Thank you very much for sharing your story. It brings me so much joy to hear that your family is slowly healing. As a child I watched my father drink on a weekend basis. As the years progressed so did his drinking. Being from an immigrant family we did not understand why he could not stop drinking. I watched my father go through multiple detoxes in the hospital and many horrible things happened in our house because he was always drunk. The only time he was sober for more than a month in his life after 15-20 years of drinking was the month before my mother passed away. She was a leukemia patient. She needed him more than ever, but I had to step in and be her advocate and be that one person who needed to remind her how strong she was. Unfortunately, my mother lost the battle to AML in 2013 and 6 months later my father passed because he could not handle the pain and began to drink a bottle of vodka a day. Today I am left behind without parents because cancer took one parent and addiction took the other. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if my father would have never been an addict. Today I fight with the painful emotions and memories left behind, but it is through God’s work, a lot of counseling, and spending time with myself that I am learning to forgive all that has happened. I have learned that resent and pain will be there until you chose to let it go. Thank you for sharing your story because it gives so many people hope. It through hope that we know anything is possible. Thank you.

    • Kathleen F
      Kathleen F July 11, 2017 at 8:35 am #

      Hi Karen! Wow, what a story you have. God is going to use you in a big way to bring redemption to this, I can tell. I can only imagine what you and your family went through. Thank you for your comment, it means a lot!

  3. Amy July 12, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your story! My husband just celebrated 2 years of sobriety! I will also be getting my 2 year chip at alanon this month! I never saw it coming we were high school sweethearts, active in our church and didn’t keep alcohol in our home….and then the nasty disease enter our home! There are so many people out there suffering from this disease! I believe the more we tell our stories it will give hope to others! Thanks agree with your statement too “we now have a better relationship than ever.” My sponsor told them this at the beginning and I thought it wouldn’t ever happen…but that’s the beauty of BOTH of us working our own programs!

  4. Veronica B July 14, 2017 at 5:21 am #

    I have traveled this journey for 10 years first with my daughter, than my son and the one I never would have expected my husband of 31 years. When my husband started I was defeated and empty. The roller coaster ride I have been on with all 3 gets harder and harder with each relapse. I resent my husband most days but can’t imagine walking away. I have read and educated myself on the disease, attended groups meetings and counseling sessions but always quit because it’s not my disease why do I have give up my lifestyle. Today my husband is in his second treatment stay within one year and I’m still in shock that this is my life forever. I’m rambling now but this story hit home I hope one day I will let go and let God.

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