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Co-Dependency: Sitting in the Suck and Gratitude

Co-Dependency: Sitting in the Suck and Gratitude

What a difference a year can make. One year ago today, I was living with my husband of 10 years and our two children in a nice house. We had great neighbors, good careers and while our marriage was struggling, I thought we’d see it through. The first five years of our marriage were great, but the second five – things started spiraling. Addiction and alcoholism… he always said he wanted to get help. He’d go to counseling for awhile, but eventually, things would get busy and it would get pushed to the back burner, and then *shocking*, another relapse. I thought we could get back to where we were the first five years of our marriage. I always hoped that we would.

Until one day in the spring of 2018. Everything changed in an instant, and there was no fixing it – no more hope. I’d always said that domestic violence was my no-go. You don’t come back from that – put your hands on me once, and it’ll be the last time. I meant it.

Fast forward to today. The kids and I moved. I don’t think he knows where we are. I hope not, anyway. Through some investigations, I found out that he told some of his coworkers that he was going to put a tracking device on my car. I found pictures of other women on a flash drive. Did I mention that I was really sick for months, requiring hospitalization, a home health care nurse, specialists… and three specialists now believe that he was poisoning me? POISONING ME.  After countless tests they all told me, “there’s no medical reason why you were so sick”, and have all come to the same conclusion. Looking back, it makes sense but boy, is that a bitter pill to swallow. (If The Lifetime Channel would like rights to my story, have them give me a call).

I’ve come to realize that I had no idea who he really was, or rather, who he became. Ten years of marriage. TEN YEARS.

At the time, I didn’t realize how bad things were. I didn’t realize how much I was walking on eggshells for fear of “triggering” him to drink. I took on all the responsibility of the household – bills, cooking, cleaning, shopping, working two jobs, pick up and drop off of the kids… all so he wasn’t stressed. I put my needs on the backburner. As though it was my fault when he drank… my responsibility to maintain his sobriety.

Amazingly, it’s actually easier being a single mom of two kids than being a single mom of two kids and one grown man-child. I don’t worry about holes being punched in the wall when he’s drunk, I don’t worry about having to clean up a bathroom floor covered in pee because he was too wasted to hit the toilet. I don’t have a near panic-attack when he doesn’t answer his phone and has the kids. It was so bad, but it got bad slowly, and like a frog in boiling water, I just hung in there. I trusted that if he just got to the right therapist… if he just got the right treatment, it would be okay. We’d be okay. The thing is though, that I wanted it more than him. He never wanted it. Our insurance would have covered treatment – inpatient and outpatient – 100%. I made the calls, the referrals. He never really wanted it… he’d go for a bit to appease me… I just didn’t see it.

Regardless, I have so much to be thankful for.  I have a solid, amazing support system -my friends rushed from their workplaces to the scene that spring day, and have never left my side. They’ve attended court dates and hearings, they’ve cried with me and have sworn like sailors with me. They’ve given gift cards and wine and took my kids when I was exhausted. My extended and immediate family is incredible. The kids and I are in an apartment and the bills are a challenge, but I can pay them. I’m not getting child support and I don’t ever expect to, but for now – we’re safe. We’ve been protected, I’m sure of that. I had an incredible divorce attorney who kept me focused from his attacks against my integrity and character.  The prosecutor and victim advocate in the criminal case were both phenomenal. I am so thankful.

Sitting in the suck is so important. Probably not the most eloquent term, but that’s sure what it felt like. Many nights I would literally sit on my couch and allow the waves of grief and loneliness to settle in. Grief over the loss of my marriage, the loss of my (our) future plans, the loss of my children growing up in a home with two parents. Grief over the loss of their innocence – they were so young, and they saw and heard way too much. In those moments, it would have been easier to just sit and scroll mindlessly on my phone, to drink a bunch of wine or to somehow occupy and distract myself. But… I knew I had to feel it. In order to get past it, I had to sit in the suck and feel the grief and pain, and allow processing to happen. This will not control my future, and the only way through the pain is the hard way – to feel it.

The kids and I have all benefitted enormously from counseling. EMDR therapy is incredible – I’ve been able to break through the co-dependency and see it for what it really is. I can relive the events that happened that awful spring day without the physiological symptoms welling up. The importance of a support system and the importance of therapy cannot be underscored. If you’ve been through trauma, if your kids have been through trauma – get to a good therapist. It might not be the first one you meet – my first therapist said I was “fine”… I just had “hope”, even though I told her I don’t feel “fine”. It wasn’t “fine” for someone to allow themselves to be controlled and shoulder every responsibility for the household. The second therapist agreed with me, and we delved deeper, and EMDR was a good option. It’s cliché, but truly, there is no shame in seeking help.

The past year has been incredibly hard, but I can see light now. The kids are doing great. I love our new town and the people. The divorce and criminal cases are both resolved, the protection order case will be soon. And while I don’t know if I’ll ever be with anyone again, I’m doing my best to heal, move forward, and set a good example for my kids. We’re going to thrive… there is no other option.

-Elaine

I Knew Then

I knew. I knew a thousand times over.

I promise myself that I will write this once. I will write and I will leave it. I won’t retouch it or second guess it. I will not apologize for it.

I won’t forget it but I will not live in it. I will not bathe in the sadness of it. The anguish of the emptiness that defines this part of my life.

This hollow part in my center.

I have not allowed myself to really feel despair to this point. The literal mourning to my core that makes me question, can I do this today? Can I do this life?

I spent years, ten of them married, making sure that someone else was OK. I lived for it. I lived to take care of someone else. I felt responsible. I never felt trapped or obligated. I never felt stuck or unsure.

If anything, I was sure. I was certain. I was certain that if I tirelessly loved this man without end I could make him better. I could make him love me the way that I loved him.

I could make him love being a father. I could make him love being a husband. I could make him love his life. I could wait him out. He would return to me.

I really did believe that.

But underneath, I knew.  If I replayed all the things he’s said or done to me that he’s long forgotten, or buried in shame, I knew a thousand times.

We stood outside all that.

I loved him relentlessly through everything.

I loved him through addiction. Recovery. Relapse. Unemployment. Bankruptcy. Home loss. Mental illness. Lying. Betrayal. Loneliness. I had such an uncompromising determination to believe that so much was out of his control to the point that no matter the amount of hurt it caused me, it suddenly occurred to me that it would never actually end.

I clung to small moments of happiness like a child clings to their lovey in their sleep. I carried them around like fragile pieces of glass, and they got me from minute to minute, month to month…year to year.

I know what it feels like to love someone so loyally and unconditionally that I overlooked and compartmentalized so much and so well that I literally drowned in my own care giving. I drowned out everything I ever wanted, everything I ever thought it would be, everything it should have been because I believed that somewhere, deep down, the man I married was inside.

But when the divide between two people in a queen bed is so wide that being in the same room literally gave me panic attacks, or when reaching for your lover’s hand and they don’t respond, or worse, pull away, you know. When they lie in the dark and whisper “You deserve better than I can give you” and roll over to the other side. When you glance in their direction across the room, and they look away…every time. When you send the kids for a sleepover so you can eat a meal that consists of something other than fish sticks or pancakes and make love all over the house, or dance in the kitchen, or get silly drunk on the deck or go for a walk and be quiet…and none of that actually happens and instead you end up on two different couches, in the dark, dying inside.

That is what the part before the end feels like.

I remember following him out to his car one morning before work. I didn’t have shoes on and the driveway needs repaving. The gravel hurt my feet. My insides hurt more.

I said “I just want you to see me. I just want to be seen. You look right past me.”

He said nothing. And left.

This is how countless conversations went. Words came out of my mouth and into the air and disappeared.

I disappeared. Figuratively, then literally.

I left him at a wedding.

I could not bear the thought of sitting quietly with a smile plastered to my face congratulating hopeful, joyful newlyweds, while my marriage made its final descent.

I wanted to scream my vows in his face until my voice was hoarse:

“Today I am certain.  I am certain that you are the man that I was meant to live my life beside.  I stand here and I see our lives before me.  I see lazy Sunday’s and crazy work weeks, love notes taped to doors and good night kisses, stolen covers, and missing socks.  I see family, and children, and laughter and a love between us that is too big to measure.  I look forward to a life full of the planned, but mostly the unexpected. My love for you finally leaves me speechless.  Undoubtedly, from this point forward, I give you my hand to hold, and my heart to keep.”

I left the hotel room and looked back only once. The space where I wished he was standing was empty.

And I knew. It was the final time that I knew.

I took a $93 taxi and an hour drive back to what was once our home and slipped my wedding rings into my purse. As many times as I had thought about that moment before, when it finally came, it hit me like a thousand violent waves.

It was the most freeing heartache of my life.

Jessica-Awesome Single Mama