Today we celebrate one year that my husband has been sober. It’s truly like a new birthday for him and the anniversary of when we got a new lease on life. We mostly try not to think too much about what life was like leading up to that day. It actually gives me a lump in my throat to even recall so many memories surrounding those days to share the story.
I’ve sat down many times and started to write about these events with intentions to share a story of hope. Rare is it that an addict gets the chance to recover, and even more rare that they embrace it. Someone struggling with drug addiction is likely someone who has blown through tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars and just as many chances to requite the love of their family.
When my husband was finally caught and cornered in his addiction (after I secretly dipped his urine) I was on an unpaid maternity leave with a 2.5 year old and 2.5 month old at home to take care of. One of my best friends was helping me call facilities that might be able to help us and a 28 day stay at most facilities was shaping up to cost over $30,000. I don’t know many people, let alone drug addicts, who can front that kind of money on the fly. I share our story to normalize this epidemic and try and raise some money to give back to another family suffering through this heartache.
On the outside my husband had everything. To look at him you’d probably think he was handsome, drove a nice car, and had beautiful children. Oh, did I mention his sweet, funny, amazing wifey 😉 Our marriage was tanking. We had been in marriage therapy for almost 2 years at the time he went to rehab. I would bring up my suspicions in therapy and our therapist had suggested on several occasions that I drug test my husband. I had ordered the tests on Amazon but it’s a difficult thing to ask your spouse to pee in a cup….especially someone who can switch to angry and defensive so easily.
By the time my second son was born I had fallen out of love with my husband. I wanted to stick by him because we had a family together but we were completely disconnected. He had no interest in my friends, family, or activities. I would beg him to take me on a date but every night he would zone out in front of the television and start asking me by 9:30 pm if I was going to bed soon. I went to bed alone every single night for years. I would go out with friends when my older son went to sleep as often as I could to forget how lonely I was at home.
There were so many things that made me suspicious of him. They wouldn’t all be happen at once and when I list them now you’ll think “boy, she’s an idiot for waiting so long to confirm that”. Some things that made me suspicious included:
urinary hesitancy, pupils dilated and constricted, vomiting and abdominal complaints, constant sniffling and tissue use beyond allergy season, difficulty sleeping while on vacations, extreme sweating at odd times, always wanting to go to bed after me, always needing to go out to his car first if I needed to borrow it for some reason, finding a straw in his pants pocket, nodding off at random times (like reading to my son mid-day), periods of apnea and sudden/extreme snoring at night.
Put in a list like that it seems so clear, but he was pretty functional, considering. I had actually mentioned to my older brother as well as Chris’ that I questioned whether drugs were involved in some of his behaviors and they both seemed to think I was crazy.
Personality wise he was becoming uglier and uglier. He was so jealous and insecure that he was unhappy when others would succeed. He resented all my friends and family because we enjoyed each other’s company which was more than could be said for his. I went to most social events alone. Weddings, parties, family events – if I brought Chris it was unpredictable who was coming with me. If he was high he might be nice and upbeat but even then he was often so quick to flip the switch and say something totally nasty and out of line to someone I loved.
His problem started with dabbling recreationally with pills with two friends from high school. I remember catching him when we were dating and I was working on my Master’s Degree. Several times I almost left him but we were young and at that age people I respected would dabble in substances so I let it go and thought he would “grow up”. I was concerned that being a nurse practitioner I could somehow become wrongfully accused of how he accessed narcotics.
So fast forward a bunch of years Chris stopped using with a friend and disconnected from pretty much everyone but a drug dealer. When his funds got short he was introduced by this dealer to heroin to try and maintain his addiction at a lower cost. What a bargain, huh? After the fact I found out this drug dealer used to drop off drugs at my home and my husband would drive my baby to the dealer’s house while I was at work to keep his habit going. Really it’s sickening memories but I know there are so many who can relate. I tear up to even think that my child met this person or drove in the car with Chris when he was at risk to nod off behind the wheel. Chris was snorting heroin at the end and only stopped there because he had no one to show him how to proceed to a stronger or faster high. It was only a matter of time before he got there.
I can’t tell you how many times I voice recorded him at night. He had suddenly started with a snoring problem that would wake me from sleep at night. He would stop breathing for 10 second intervals as I listened. I would record the episodes on my phone and play them for him. That is how most addicts die – they stop breathing in their sleep. Unfortunately that didn’t scare him and I thank God I never woke up a widow.
I share these details because I’m sure there are thousands of wives, friends, children like me fighting to save an addict. I would get so angry with Chris because I was hurt that he didn’t want to spend time with me and wouldn’t get out of bed to help me with Mac in the morning. I was pushing him away which only pushed him further into his habit. When he was high he was not lonely. He did not have to face that his family was questioning what kind of husband and father he was becoming.
I know this problem is common because I happen to have a close friend whose husband can tell almost the exact same story as Chris. He was the one who referred us to The Plymouth House. It was mid September last year that Chris’ brother drove him 3.5 hours away to focus on getting better for that next month. I would wait every day for a phone call that didn’t always come because sober Chris had to realize if he was even someone who wanted a wife and kids. I sent him cards and drawings from Mac and I every single day so he would know we were standing in his corner. I suddenly had hope that we might be a couple again.
While he was in rehab my best friend’s hubby sent me a Ted talk about addiction. Johann Hari talks about loving an addict. It’s worth watching if you’re interested in the topic of addiction. It was sort of thrown into my lap and it’s still a really overwhelming concept for me but I feel very passionate about it.
Addicts are usually very kind hearted people who at some point started allowing themselves to make really bad decisions. Isn’t it difficult for all of us to own up to the bad decisions we regret making? There is so much self loathing – mostly hating a lot of bad decisions one has made. Addicts are depressed because they are doing depressing things. Drugs help mask or numb these negative emotions. This is extremely over simplified because I am only starting to understand the magnitude of addiction.
The 12 steps of recovery, which is the only focus of the Plymouth House, provide tools for drug addicts/alcoholics to embrace life. Accepting exactly who they are and what they have done is where it starts. They deal with resentments in a systematic fashion, make amends, build a relationship with a higher power, and move forward to help other drug addicts/alcoholics. The 12 steps are the key to managing a new sober life from my experience.
I don’t want to make this too long or about me. I wanted to share how much The Plymouth House has helped Chris and given my family back a loving husband and father. A lot of addicts don’t have the funds to get through a 28 day stay. Insurance companies have very much medicalized recovery programs which is why the Plymouth House does not accept insurance. So I am hoping to raise the funds for a scholarship to save the life of another son, father, brother (or daughter, mother, sister, etc) so that their family can find the blessings that were handed to my family.
Chris and I have been working hard to make this stamped jewelry to bring awareness to the cause. This is not just a problem of bums in urban areas. This is a suburban crisis. Working in the medical field I see so many people legally addicted to prescription painkillers on a weekly basis. If that prescriber retires what will these patients do for their next fix?
So this jewelry is nothing fancy. Really – don’t send a check if you’re thinking this will be stylish. I am just a mom….not a jewelry designer! They say the message “Love An Addict” which is the message of Johann Hari’s talk. If people actually wear them hopefully it will spark conversation and get people talking about how tragically ordinary my story is becoming. This is a problem killing very diverse people and tearing so many families apart. My hope is to spare one family this sorrow with your help.
So the aim of the fundraiser is to cover a scholarship for someone’s stay at the Plymouth House. Unlike many places we looked into a stay at the Plymouth House is closer to $8,000 because the accommodations are not aimed at luxury living or medical care. The staff at the facility are themselves recovered addicts. As a thank you for a $25 donation to the Plymouth House scholarship fund I will send you a bracelet or choker. We are covering the costs of all the supplies and shipping. Please mail a check directly to the Plymouth House. Once you do, please email me (email@example.com) your shipping info and whether you want a small or large bracelet or choker. We are making these by hand and have a few dozen done, but please be understanding, if the response is positive, it might take a few weeks (or even a couple months, depending) to ship all of these. We are working parents with a house and kids to take care of.
The Plymouth House Scholarship Fund
446 Main Street
Plymouth, NH 03264
Here is what they look like:
This was much longer than I intended so I really thank you for reading all the way through. I’d love for you to share with anyone else who is struggling and I encourage you to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Chris if we can be a resource for you. Social share buttons are at the bottom of the page. The last step of the 12 steps of addiction recovery emphasizes the importance of giving back the gift of sobriety to others as it was once given to you. So here goes…