My husband is a good man.
He and I met at a concert on New Year's Eve, and little did I know it at the time, but my life was about to dramatically change. We were married and I relocated to New York with my then four-year-old son. For the most part, the change was slow and went mostly unnoticed. With moving and the excitement of the city, I was too preoccupied to see anything out of the ordinary about my marriage. It wasn't until I became pregnant that I noticed my husband's facade of lies start to crumble.
One year into our marriage, I discovered my husband's struggle with addiction. It was an ever-present solution to his pain. His addiction to self-medicating came in many forms: work, pornography, overeating, drugs and alcohol, but nothing soothed his soul like cocaine.
With cocaine, he was invincible.
Our Instincts Say, "Run"
The first time my husband disappeared, I left him. I packed up my son, told him we were going on an "adventure" and drove to a nearby hotel in the middle of a snowstorm. When my husband finally returned home and awoke from his drunken, drug-induced stupor, he saw that we were gone.
The wintery storm raged on.
While my husband became increasingly worried, I practiced my somersaults on the bed with my son. I didn't answer his persistent phone calls or tell anyone where I was in fear they might let him know that we were okay. I wanted him to feel my pain. I wanted him to believe we were dead and it was his fault. I wanted him to be overwrought with guilt and condemnation...
Who was I, to inflict that kind of pain on someone who's already hurting?
There's a popular message that "leaving an addict" is the ultimate way to freedom... but that's just not true. Leaving only gives a temporary relief from our problem, and it never leads to complete peace. We gave our hearts to broken people. It will always hurt, if even it's just a painful memory.
It isn't leaving that leads to freedom, healing does.
It's About You
Whether we choose to stay in our relationships or not, we need to heal from them before we'll ever truly be free. I went through a period of deep anger and hurt toward my husband. I didn't think I would ever forgive him, but I stayed because I refused to give up on my marriage. I stopped trying to change him and instead, changed my perspective.
That began the turning point.
Taking my own happiness back under my control freed me from bitterness. All of a sudden, my anger turned into empathy, compassion and mercy. I stopped seeing my husband as "an addict" and started seeing him as a good man with unbearable pain.
Our society views people who struggle with addiction as some of the lowest of its members but our loved ones are not evil or lost causes, and they're definitely not hopeless. I didn't think highly of addicts in the past, but through my husband's struggle, my point of view has dramatically changed.
Now, I see addiction as the darkness it is. Once we're in it, we can't see the way out. Then, someone comes along and shines a light on the way that we should go. After being in the darkness for so long, that light can be blinding. Which is why we need to offer a helping hand to those who want a way out but can't see the way.
Healing is the real freedom because it will free both you and them.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.