“There are all kinds of addicts, I guess. We all have pain. And we all look for ways to make the pain go away.”
― Sherman Alexie,
Addiction touches, or has touched, so many lives that you’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t know someone who has a problem with drugs and/or alcohol. Substance abuse is widespread, prevalent, and devastating. Neither race nor gender, age nor economic class, religious beliefs or sexuality are safe; addiction does not discriminate.
Often, though, we forget that addiction doesn’t just affect the addict. There are family members, friends, spouses, and other loved ones that must fight their own battles, due to the addict’s substance abuse issues. I had the opportunity to interview S today, whose husband, J, is battling his own drug-induced demons. *S and J are now separated, due to his abuse and related behaviors.*
HerWar: Tell me about how you met your husband.
S: I met my husband online through a mutual friend in a chatroom and on Facebook. We hit it off instantly.
Me: Do you have children? If so, how old are they?
S: Yes. I have two sons. One is 20, and one is 17.
HW: What is your husband’s drug(s) of choice?
S: My husband’s drugs of choice are Percocet, marijuana, and computer duster. Keep in mind, I had no idea the extent of his Percocet use, meaning the amount of pills he was taking daily, until around six months of living with him. I noticed that they gave him a LOT of energy, and I tried to logically figure out why, but once I looked at his pinpoint pupils, I knew that he was taking them to the point of almost overdosing. I once counted his pills about two days after he got them. Out of 150 Percocet, 10/325mg, there were over half gone. The marijuana, I didn’t have an issue with, at all. The duster, I was told that he USED to use this in high school, but had “let it go” years ago.
HW: When did you suspect that there was a problem? How, and when, did you confirm it?
S: We worked together. At first, there were small clues. He would answer the phone at work and sound “drunk”, but be perfectly fine when I arrived back in the office after my day out of the office. In May of this year, I found him passed out at work, with a can of duster by his feet. I thought he was dead. He also did this at home while I worked on the weekends, I later came to realize.
HW: What steps did you take to try to get him help, before you separated from him?
S: I begged him to get help, for months. Simply begged him. I took him to the ER twice over the duster because he was experiencing neurological affects (dizziness, problems with depth perception, etcetera) from using. I found a counselor for him, and he went once, prior to the day that I found him on the couch.
HW: Describe how you felt when you left/made him leave. And what was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back?
S: I was heartbroken. It felt that my heart was being ripped out of my chest. The straw was coming home, unexpectedly, to find him passed out on the couch with two cans of duster in his lap. He then had an altercation with my boss, in our home, on the same day. He was arrested and taken to jail. I felt like the breath had been taken out of my body.
HW: Was there more to what led up to the break of your relationship than the drugs? If so, what?
S: His lack of empathy/sympathy towards my feelings and concerns. He often would tell me that my feelings were “overreacting, overthinking, and over exaggerated.” I felt that I did a lot on my own that should have been done equally, such as housework and yard work, especially because I was working two jobs most of our marriage.
HW: You mentioned the altercation with your boss. Were there any other legal situations that happened as a result of his drug use?
S: Yes. He was arrested for illegal inhalation of a harmful chemical.
HW: Was he working during all of this? If so, did his addiction affect his job, and how?
S: He was working when I first realized he had an issue with duster. His addiction affected his job greatly. His performance deteriorated, to the point that our boss’s wife found him passed out with a can of computer duster on his desk. I called his mother to come and get him immediately.
HW: During the worst of his addiction, what was a day in your life like?
S: Constant worry that I would find him dead, or my son would come home and find him dead. I lived in a state high anxiety and depression, because I felt like no one could help me.
HW: How have your respective families responded and reacted to his addictive behaviors? Have they been supportive of you?
S: With my family, it has been a toss up. My mother and sister were very scared for me and my son. My sister has been the most supportive. I have a network of friends that have been extremely supportive and there for me during this time. His mother has, to a point. She has become increasingly involved at this time. She has been calling counselors and Department of Children and Families to help him, but, unfortunately, he has not contacted the numbers that she has given him.
HW: How does it feel to try so desperately to help someone that doesn’t want to help themselves?
S: Very frustrating. You feel like you are fighting an uphill battle that you just can’t win. An addict has to come to terms with his addiction. Unfortunately, my husband has not come to those terms.
HW: How have your children responded to this situation, and how are they coping?
S: My oldest child lives in another state, and he is asking me to come back there. My youngest son lives with me, and he is very nervous and anxious when J is around.
HW: Have you had to seek professional help, such as therapy and/or 12-step meetings, for yourself? If so, have they been helpful?
S: I have attended Nar-Anon meetings that have been a tremendous help to me.They are a great support system for families that are going through what I am going through.
HW:What/who has been the strongest support for you, and helped you through the hardest times?
S: My friends, Mary and Sam. These ladies have been a wealth of support and help for me. Mary helped me from another state to do a wellness check on my husband, when I first suspected he was having issues. She has been there for me through thick and thin, tears and laughter, and everything in between. Sam has been here for me when I didn’t think I could be alone. She opened her home to me to stay on nights I didn’t feel I could be by myself. My church family has been supportive, but those two friends in particular, really stand out.
HW: Knowing what you know now, would you change anything?
S: Absolutely. I would have confronted him much sooner, and pending that outcome, would have either left or asked him to leave.
HW: If you could pick one word to describe these events and circumstances, what would it be?
HW: If you could say anything to your husband right now, what would you say?
S: I would say that I still love him, but I cannot be a part of his life. He needs help that I cannot give. Trust is a very fragile thing and it has definitely been broken.
HW: Last, but definitely not least, if you could get a message out to people who are in a romantic relationship with a drug addict/abuser, what would you say? What advice, if any, would you give?
S: If you suspect that your partner is an addict/abuser, please try to get help, for yourself, to get out of the situation. You may think that you can change them, but an addict/abuser can only change if he/she is willing to accept that they have a problem and are willing to get the proper help. You are not alone. There are times that I feel very alone, even now, but I have to remind myself it could be so much worse, and I am most definitely not alone. Not only do I have my family and friends, but I have my faith. Also, remember that no matter how bad your significant other makes you feel, always… ALWAYS remember: it is NOT them talking to you, it is their addiction. YOU matter, YOUR opinion matters, YOU are worthy of the love that you give. If you feel unsafe or feel that things just seem off, trust your gut. Sometimes, we tend to forget that the universe, and our souls, are trying to tell us something, whether we want to listen is up to us.
**Blog title taken from “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott and The Scott Family.