This is part of a series: Wife of a Recovering Addict. If you haven’t read the introduction, click here to catch up!
Chris and I were your typical 1st generation Filipino American couple in the late 90s to early 2000’s. He was bald, listened to Bay Area hip hop, lived in Daly City, and drove an old Toyota Corolla. I wore tube tops or something that showed my mid-section, mastered the black cat eye liner look, lived in Milpitas, listened to Wu-Tang and DMX; and drove an old Toyota Corolla. If you know anything about the Bay Area during that time, you know that basically all the Filipinos lived in two cities – Daly City and Milpitas. Our matchmaking was conceived on an AOL chat room by one of Chris’ friend, Jeff. He had a ‘friend’ who was going to San Jose State and pitched that he needed someone to hangout with. As a newly graduated high schooler, I was open to anything especially meeting a guy from ‘DC’. So we met in my parents’ driveway and went to the every mall in The Bay. From that point on we were inseparable.
At 22 years old, we got married at our home church in San Bruno, California surrounded by our family, friends, and the church congregation. We also dedicated our daughter to the Lord the same day. It was a day full of commitment, hope, and love. Our lives were on the fast track to a large family, we had four kids in a six year span. At one point we had three kids in diapers. I basically breastfed babies for nearly 4 years. I was in the depths of child rearing while Chris worked full time and completed the rest of his bachelor’s degree online. We were both pushing towards a better life for ourselves and our family.
While we looked like everyone else, our lives were anything but ‘normal.’ What people didn’t see was the torment of real life emotions as young adults who were just overwhelmed by life, work, and constant relationship dynamic changes. My day to day was engulfed in keeping tiny humans alive and providing some type of structure. During these formative years, Chris was shouldering the burden of financially providing for six people on a meager salary. We only really saw him for a couple hours on weeknights and a few hours on the weekends. Most nights after work, he looked exhausted but tried his best to spend time with the girls before he sat behind his laptop for the evening to finish his latest course. It was an exhausting season where we didn’t connect on a deeper level of communication.
It was right there
Looking back, there were red flags that indicated Chris was using. Obviously during those early years, I was focused on the four people that depended on me. Chris never really drank alcohol on a normal basis and drugs were something that I never really thought about but the signs were there right in front of my face. There were times when ‘money was missing’ from our joint bank account or somehow we would ‘miscalculated’ our expenses and we were short for the month. It never dawned on me that our money was going to anything else but to our family’s needs. There were also times when I would ask Chris to go to the store. It would take him a long time to find the product at the grocery store and get back home. He used the excuse that the grocery store was overwhelming and it took ‘a long time’ to find the specific thing I was asking for. I chalked this as a ‘normal’ occurrence since he didn’t do the groceries. I was the main grocery runner – ‘of course he would get confused or overwhelmed.’ Why would it be anything else.
We look just like you
An addict isn’t always someone who is homeless, looks grungy or couch surfs from house to house. Most of the time, addicts are people who can carry on a normal life while using on a consistent basis. These individuals are dubbed “high functioning addicts.” These addicts “don’t fit the standard definition of an addict. They may not drink or use drugs every day; they may drink only the finest wines and liquors; and they may have avoided the serious consequences that befall other addicts and their families. Because they don’t fit the stereotype, high-functioning addicts can spend years, even decades, in denial. If they manage a family and career and fulfill their daily responsibilities, they reason, there’s no way they could have a drug or alcohol problem. Even if they acknowledge that they drink or use drugs more than they should, they may feel entitled to indulge as a reward for their hard work.” – Psych Central
While it may be hard to accept a loved one is a high-functioning addict, here are some symptoms of a high-functioning addict:
- they make excuses for their behavior
- using more than intended
- their friends also have an addiction problem
- appearing ill in the morning
- losing interests in hobbies
As per the advice of American Addiction Center, “if you want the high-functioning addict in your life to get help, discuss your concerns at an appropriate time. Wait until they appear remorseful over bad behavior…not while they are inebriated or recovering from a hangover. If you think it will help, you can also stage an organized intervention where a small group of loved ones can let the addict know how their behavior makes them feel. This should be done calmly, but firmly. Although it is up to the individual to admit they have a problem and seek help, your influence can help steer them in the right direction. Knowing they have people who care about them could be all the motivation they need to seek appropriate treatment.”
Through the years I have had many hard conversations with wives and girlfriends about their significant others’ bad habits. The first question they ask me is always the same – “Are you sure he’s an addict?” My answer is always the same – “You wouldn’t be asking me these questions if you thought otherwise.”
Trust your gut.
Lean into the uncomfortable truth that they need help. Lean into the hard feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment. Reach out to those who have walked this road before because you can’t go through this alone. Just as substance abuse is [usually] a group activity, recovery must be a group effort because we cannot be left to ones’ own will to stay sober. I have added resources to help you support yourself or someone you care about.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
AA Meetings in your area
Celebrate Recovery meetings in your area
Remember…It’s ok to NOT be ok. Tomorrow is a new day!
What resonated with you the most in this post? What other information can I provide you to help you?
Join me next time, I will share what Celebrate Recovery looks like for a codependent and how I supported my husband during his relapse.