to the wife of an addict

My husband recently shared my blog with a few wives of the men that he works with at the ministry. I was encouraged to hear that something I wrote here resonated with them. Maybe they saw themselves in what I wrote. Maybe they felt less alone and realized that what they are going through isn’t new and has been going down from generation to generation. As women we are faced with a challenging role as “helper” and not confusing that role by becoming a Co-Dependent. When the Lord created women as the “helper” He didn’t mean to help protect your husband from consequences. We start to believe that we were sent to help them through this and while there is an element of truth to it, we can easily slip into a very toxic cycle of helping. We end up needing to be needed. We have no sense of healthy boundaries anymore and what really happens is we end up standing in the way of God doing something amazing in their life.

I was scared of the bottom. I was scared of what that meant for myself and my daughter. Looking back on it now I realize that that was incredibly selfish of me. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my dreams for our family and our future. I thought if I kept helping, controlling, intervening, protecting, serving, covering, fixing and all the other action verbs with “ing” that I could control the outcome and somehow go back to normal and being a family again. What is normal anyway when you are married to an addict? I had a dependency on what he was feeling, how he was doing, how he would react to things, making sure I said the right thing so he wouldn’t spiral. This became my normal. I had more anxiety than peace but I felt it was “my cross to bear”. To the wife, this is NOT our cross to bear. This is NOT what Gods asks us to do. Denying ourselves in this circumstance is NOT showing someone Love. It is perputating a cycle and increasing their journey time to hit bottom. If you have children, do they learn better when you rescue them or when they actually (safely) do something to hurt themselves. My daughter was tempted to touch the curling iron I was using on her hair. I kept telling her No don’t do that, you will hurt yourself. She kept getting close, getting tempted. So finally I stopped saying no and of course she touched it! She quickly jerked her hand back in pain and cried her little eyes out. I didn’t want to see her do that but I knew she needed to do that in order to trust me I when I said “it will hurt”. Inexplicably (wink wink) she wont get close to anything I say is hot because I remind her of the curling iron incident and she immediately gets it. I had to stop controlling what she was doing so she could learn the hard lesson. And with my husband, it wasn’t easy to watch. In fact, it was darn right frustrating because I knew the man he could be and he continually made horrible choices. He chose a liquid over his family!?  But when I finally lifted my hands up to the Lord and said “here…he’s yours. I can’t help him anymore. I won’t stand in the way Lord but I can’t stand by to watch” and did what I had to do: I left. That’s when the Lord got to work on him. I prayed for him daily but I had to distance myself from him and the situation. I had no idea what the outcome would be but you have to come to terms with the fact that this could end in badly. All the worst case scenarios. Whether it be him or him grabbing the keys and driving and taking a life. That will be his decision to make and his burden to bear. This is why I had to leave because I knew I would keep trying to control. I couldn’t be responsible for hiding the keys, I couldn’t stash the bank card, I wouldn’t be tempted to search the house for the bottles to dump out and throw away. You can’t stand in between the addict and what they want to do because they will always choose the pill, the bottle or the drug. And it hurts. It hurts so bad that they are rejecting us so blatantly. But until that moment of clarity happens (and I hope you aren’t there when it does) then this cycle of dependency will never end.

We aren’t the rescuers. Only God can rescue us from ourselves. Your spouse has to make his own decision to get well again. If you want to really love your husbands, let them fall on their face. Put your dreams for your future in God’s hands. He has done exceedingly and abundantly more for my marriage when I entrusted Him with my dreams for our future. We hold onto our dreams of the future with white knuckles and when we release them we have to mourn them. You will be sad because it is the death of dream you have in your heart. But the Lord promises to redeem these years of the locust (Joel 2:25).

And the Lord promises that any anger that your husband may inflict will be dealt with because if we are honest, most of us can agree that these men who are going through this are just plain ole pains in the ……neck. They say horrible things, they lash out, they deflect to your perceived faults and chip away at your self- esteem.

A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again. Proverbs 19:19

So to the wife, if you are staying because you are embarrassed and fearful, I encourage you to consider the end result. This will get more embarrassing, more exhausting and more frustrating. They might clean up for a few weeks but the cycle will start again. Another trigger, more pain, an accident, an argument.  It will always be something. You are dealing with darkness. It will be the hardest day of your life to have the courage to do this. Friends and family who have NEVER been on your side of it will have their own opinions. But they don’t understand the heartache, the exhaustion, the pain, the anger that you are experiencing. Your decision will not be popular with many people in church. But I have heard it on good authority that you have the right to leave when you believe that you can no longer be responsible for their actions and they have made every effort to choose the drug over the family. If you are at this point, then quietly and discreetly make your move. When I was going through this time in my life, I stayed away from going to church and participating in anything much really because I hated the questions. “Where is your husband?” I tried to make it sound good. “He went to go see his grandmother” or “he is sick today”…(I think overused the sick excuse a few too many times because it felt less like lying….in my mind, he WAS sick). It’s ok to retreat and become somewhat reclusive during this time. It’s ok if you aren’t up for meeting friends out or going out into public situations. You are in a process. You will have to figure out who you really are WITHOUT your spouse. But this time away gives you the freedom to figure that out without the worry and distraction their chaos brings. In time, you will start to admit your feelings and what you have been through to people. You are in a raw and vunerable place. It’s ok to not be ok.

Lastly, hold onto Faith. My love for my daughter and my faith. That’s what got me through. I finally stepped out of the darkness with an overwhelming sense of peace. I realized I was going to be Ok because the God of Abraham, the God of David and the God of the Apostles cared about me and my well being. If He was for me, then who could be against me? I wasn’t scared anymore. I was still sad but I wasn’t scared. My fear of loss was replaced with His all sufficient love. That was enough for me. I didn’t know the end of the story but I knew He held me through the storm and He would continue to lead me out. He has promised the same for you, my friend. Sometimes leaving is loving. It goes against your nature but its time to start thinking about your own future and not their bad choices. You have your own recovering to do. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first. No more selfless martyr roles. We don’t love them less, we just love them differently…and from a distance until they make some real strides in the right direction. AND that my friends is a letter for another time. I am willing to say I have rambled through this one, but hopefully you might hear something that gives you the resolve you needed.

I will pray for you. Hold on. Hang in there.

hands praying

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