Monday, November 5, 2012

Hating the disease: a story from a reader

Occasionally, I'll get an email that resonates with me because the writer shares such an honest part of herself.  I can identify with hating the disease while I desperately love the person who has it.  The following was sent to me a couple of weeks ago.  I have the writer's permission to include it here.

Dear Syd - 

I stumbled upon your blog a few weeks ago, and it has become a permanent "go to" site on my phone. I often pick topics that are relevant to me that day, and your writing has provided me with a lot of peace and hope. 

I have been in a ten year relationship with an addict (not alcohol) who I love deeply. It has been both my greatest joy and my deepest heartbreak. 

If you'll allow me to share, here's the background on our story: 

I was a good two years in the relationship before I realized there was an actual drug problem and the full extent of it. He was highly functioning and ambitious and although there were signs, I chose to believe him that everything was "fine".

Following the admission were three solid years of him trying to "beat it" on his own. The sixth year was a stint in rehab, from which he came back in full recovery. For that year he stayed clean and worked with his sponsor. In year seven, we were happy and hopeful and got engaged. We were finally putting all the plans and dreams we had put on hold so many years into effect. Things seemed promising until year eight. 

We visited his family with whom he has a complicated relationship (they are all active alcoholics), his sponsor passed away, and he stopped working the program. Almost immediately he relapsed. It started as once every few months he'd use. All the while saying he'd get it under control again. Of course it slowly escalated, as I feared it would, as he wasn't working a program. 

By year nine, the wedding had been put on hold, and his finances were in a mess. Year ten came this july. He went back to meetings. Found a temporary sponsor. And started seeing a psychiatrist in the genuine and high hopes that he would help him further. The psychiatrist, to my utter amazement, prescribed him about 4 different types of pills, two of which are highly addictive. His personality has changed to the point where he is a dull shadow of his former self. The pill intake has steadily gone up. And the drug use persists. 

I am in Al-Anon. I have a sponsor. I do three meetings a week. And I am determined to find my sanity one way or another. 

That said, there are many dark days and heartbreak as the happy (albeit imperfect) ending I whole-heartedly believed in has not ever come. 

I am now 39 years old. I pretty much may have lost my chance to have children because I decided to stay in this relationship. I have accepted that, but sometimes it makes me incredibly sad. 

I can honestly say I don't blame him. I know he has a disease. I know I chose to stay. But I feel I am realizing I can't stay much longer. I simply don't know how to co-exist and find serenity with active addiction. Last night he relapsed, after a month sober. He said he was going to the gym, and didn't come home until 6 in the morning. 

During that endless night, of which I've had many, I tried to use the tools I've learned in the program. I tried to take care of myself, read some literature, prayed, took a bath, tried to sleep... but it's too much. I just can't do it. Not knowing if the person you love is okay or if this is the time that they don't make it home is too much to bear anymore. As the morning hours creep in, the feeling of despair and panic rise to almost unbearable levels, and I start to prepare myself for the worst. Would the police come to our door? Would I have to go to the morgue? How could I stand it? How could I bear it? 

Tonight I think he may have used again. He should have been home by now. The feeling in my stomach is familiar. I want off this merry go round. And yet he is the great love of my life. What a pickle, is it not? 

I hate this disease. I hate what it's done to him. And to me. And to the life we both dreamt of so many years ago. 

I don't know how this story will end. But I know I am powerless over his disease. And I know I need to get better somehow, whether he does or not, because as utterly hopeless as I feel right now, I have not forgotten that this life is a gift. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my words. Thank you for sharing your journey with me and so many. I am so glad your wife is sober today and I wish you continued peace and recovery. 

42 comments:

  1. I wish that writer peace. Whatever that takes.

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    1. Peace is elusive living with the disease.

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  2. Hey Syd, how you doin?

    Me if i was going to say anything to this young woman would be better off alone than waiting for a ringing phone. If you are not dependent on his money then get the hell out and let it go. Love may never come again but your sanity will return.

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    1. Doing well, Mark. Busy as a beaver in a saw mill. But I guess that's good.

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  3. smiles....pretty cool when you are touching lives like that...and hearing peoples stories...they all come together you know...i hope she finds her own strength in this...

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    1. Thanks, Brian. I'm wish that more people would tell their stories on the blog. Mine has been rehashed over and over here.

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  4. Here's something I heard in an Alanon meeting- LETTING GO IS HARD BUT SOMETIMES HOLDING ON IS HARDER. I too wish for that woman to find peace and serenity. Alanon saved my life and my sanity, hopefully it does the same for her.

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  5. ...Strange ..how all our stories are different but yet still the same ....my relationship failed after 23 years ....I still have feelings that somehow I failed my addictive (alcohol)spouse ...I was always the strong one ..then I just got tired of all the "hanging on by my fingernails"....I got out ..but we have 3 children together so I am never really OUT...his disease has continued on to destroy his relationship with our children ..and now they carry problems of guilt blame anger..etc .. that I carried for years.They Do thank me continuously for being the "sane " parent ... (which is questionable over the years)...there is never an easy solution for addictive personalities...it's a never ending daily battle....oh btw...I came from a happy childhood ..both parents in the home ....I don't drink ....never smoked ...definitely don't do drugs ....but I married an alcoholic ...strange how that seems to be the same in a lot of the life stories.

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    1. The stories are the same, with maybe minor differences depending on our family of origin. Yet, the relationship with an alcoholic and continually being attracted to them remains consistent.

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  6. So many of us could have written this letter with a few minor changes to accommodate who our qualifier is. What struck me was coming to a place of saying, "I can't do it anymore." Yeah. I understand that and I think that its ok to come to that place and make decisions accordingly. Sometimes *working* our program is just too much work to keep something that is so diseased going. But she loves him...such a quandary.

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    1. I can identify with the "I can't do it anymore" statement. I could not either, and that's when things began to change for both of us.

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  7. I think I have to agree with the Walking Man. Life is too short to try to catch a runaway train. There may be some serious enabling going on and she needs to put distance between them in order to get healthy. My heart breaks that she hasn't been able to have kids. I pray for her hopeful future.

    Thank you for posting this.

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    1. I hope for her as well, and for her qualifier who suffers.

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  8. 4 months ago I left a 17-year marriage to a man who had been sober (but not in recovery) for 8 years when we met, and this posting is a powerful reminder of the misery I felt for so many years, trying to have a relationship with the emotionally unavailable. I lived on hope until I finally learned in Al-Anon that hope projects a future, living "in the now", I had to leave.

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    1. The emotionally unavailable--such a lonely thing. It's such a one sided relationship with those who don't know how to be available. And then gradually, the love just dies.

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  9. letting go is easier than holding on. i had to let another addict in my family go (a brother) and i will not let him back into my life under any circumstances, ever. i do not talk about him on my blog because after my daughter's death, it is too much for me to bear. please, no one mention this.

    it is why i have slowed down my blogging. the things i do not say.

    she can be free, she should be free. her mind will be at peace, given time. do not let the addict rent space in your head. i do not, anymore. love does not mean keeping him in your life. it means loving you more to live yours in a healthy manner.

    how do you want your life story to end? i hope with someone who loves you enough to want to be happy himself, too.

    again, please do not talk about this at my blog - read between the lines all you want but no comments about my brother. i do not talk about him because i do not want to. he reads my blog and i do not want to deal with him, AT ALL.

    sorry for my long response but i do care how you end your story... and hope it ends well. =)

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    1. I understand. There is much that goes unsaid on every blog.

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  10. Wow. I feel for this woman. I'm also a little outraged at the psychiatrist. I've never seen a psychiatrist without also seeing a psychologist, but my perspective is that together can be helpful (although I never found drugs to make any difference, but also didn't hurt me further), but that it was the talk therapy that did me the most good and helped me understand my own limitations better. Life doesn't have quick fixes and lots of temporary relief, like drugs & alcohol, only hold off the real healing.

    Obviously I'm speaking as an alcoholic rather than from the perspective of an AlAnon. I wish this writer much healing, however the path turns out.

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    1. I didn't find my answers in therapy. I simply wasn't ready, I guess. But when I went to my first Al-Anon meeting, I was in such bad shape and was ready to give up. I listened then.

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  11. some times we have to admit that we are opowerless over some thing.I hope she finds peace.thank you for sharing this powerful story.Yours in soberity.Mike

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  12. I can relate to the blogger. Showing up and working a program more will be revealed in life. I am right where I need to be at this moment and so is my spouse when I keep the focus on my own life.

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    1. Yes, I can relate to so much of what she writes.

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  13. It is easier to write this than to live it. I got out of a relationship after years of watching somebody fall apart. The pain of leaving the relationship passes and you move on. The pain this woman goes through year after year after year is never ending. Not to mention she will live the rest of her life in fear of "What if...?" Love yourself enough to get out.

    Thirty is nothing. She can have children after forty even. She needs to do it - turn her life around. This is NOT the love of her life. The love of her life is out there waiting for her and she has plenty of time left to heal, find him and have children and live the beautiful meaningful life that awaits her.

    Nobody wants to hear this when they are still "in love" with the addict. I certainly didn't. I certainly did not believe I would love again.

    She is at a crossroads. We know she is strong. She put up with this for years. We know she is tolerant. We know she is full of good things. We know she has a future. Does she?

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    1. The crossroads--making the decision to move on and have your own life takes courage. I'm thinking that she will make a decision that gives her that future and a life of peace and happiness.

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  14. I feel the person's pain. I am desperately in love with my alcoholic. He has been in recovery for eight years, but I can never forget to take our life one day at a time.

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    1. I don't[ forget that either--one day at a time is all I have.

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  15. Thank you for telling her story. Keeps me grounded. I'm an alcoholic who needs to be reminded occasionally how much damage we addicts spread amongst those we love. I'm not perfect, but I'm in recovery and everyone was so glad when I got there. God's grace keeps me there.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. We all do damage from alcohol, not just the alcoholic.

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  16. Wow, how honest. I'm so amazed at this program, and so grateful. She is doing everything "right", and yet there is so much out of our control. Deciding whether to leave a relationship is damn hard. I can not leave my sons, my qualifiers, but I can limit my contact with them, though it breaks my heart. Thank god for my program. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. Yes, I am grateful for my program as well.

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  17. Syd I'm saving a copy of this to show to those who live with active or recovering alcoholics because so often there are unrealistic hopes for overnight change. Progress is slow but healing does happen over time.

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    1. Yes, healing does happen. I know that we are still healing in some ways. But we have come back to a closeness that I thought would not return.

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  18. Great post that really resonates: especially about being clueless at first, about psychiatrists that will just switch the types of the same old basic drugs that mess people up, and the way this dear woman is addicted to her man. For my own two cents, she would be so much better off to stay in Al-Anon, ditch the man, grieve a while, and go on to embrace a better life. It's one thing to be married to an addict and wrestling with the "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health" vow, not to mention financial and familial entanglements. It's another thing to realize that her man has made and kept no vows to her, and she is losing the life she is meant to have. It's possible that unless he loses her, he may never hit bottom. Unless she leaves him, she may not either, and will just limp along like this miserably for a lifetime. I hope she stays with her program and gets to a place of clarity.

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    1. I think that she knows what decision to make. She will be okay. I agree that the disease keeps us entangled for a long time. And then one day, we rise to the surface and gasp for air, like a drowning person.

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  19. Ugh. That brought back a rush of familiar feelings and stomach ache that I would prefer to forget even though I was there less than one year ago. My heart goes out tho her.
    Thanks for posting it, Syd.

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  20. Ms S
    Same story different house. Had a sleepless night because of my alcoholics antics and my anger about it. Good job theres an early morning al anon meeting! Someone said to me recently at a meeting that maybe being with the crazy behaviour has been necessary so that its out in the open and I can begin to heal it. Because I am furious with myself for getting into this my second disruptive crazy relationship. bless the woman in your post and bless us all dealing with this complex and grievious disease

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    1. Such a difficult thing to live with active alcoholism. I am hoping that you too find some peace.

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  21. I just wrote a comment and it vanished! Please don't publish if I am writing two. Thanks Syd.

    This letter breaks my heart and brings back so many terrible memories of living with an alcoholic or drug addict. This is one of the rare circumstances where I am grateful to be an alcoholic. I am much too selfish to endure this agony for long.

    I hope the letter writer finds some peace.

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    1. Me too, MC. I hope for her peace as well.

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