I was unloading the trunk of my husband’s car packed with party supplies. It was a day full of preparation as we were celebrating the dedication of our third child at our home church with a reception immediately following the ceremony the very next day. Its been a jam packed week as I prepped for this celebration with three kids under the age of five in tow. After I unloaded the last grocery bag, something told me to lift the cover of the spare tire. In the center of the spare tire was a container that I’d never seen before. It didn’t look like anything car related so I opened it – there in plain sight was my husband’s drug stash and paraphernalia.
The world stopped.
Standing in the light
This wasn’t the first time my husband has been caught with a drug stash. In our 20+ years together, he has relapsed a few times. I am sharing my side of this recovery journey because of the spotlight on Dax Shepard’s relapse after 16 years of sobriety. More importantly because of Kristen Bell’s honest statement about supporting her husband through his recovery. I appreciate the transparency they have with the public surrounding their marital and mental health struggles. Their vulnerability urged me to stand in my truth as a fellow wife of a recovery addict. This emotional road of ongoing recovery isn’t easy. It is an evolving process that is held up by our faith in Christ, an enormous amount of grace, compassion, and healthy boundaries.
Our story is important to share because of the stigma surrounding the inability to process feelings and generational cycles of addiction especially in the Filipino community. I have seen far too many drunk Titos (uncles) and absolving Titas (aunts). I’ve experienced first hand the wrath of an emotionally unavailable and alcoholic parent. This destructive behavior has been acceptable for far too long in our culture. The only way we will be able to break this generational mental enslavement is to begin to heal ourselves, address our feelings, slay our inner demons, and live an authentic life with a higher purpose.
My first boundary
On that day pre-celebration almost 14 years ago, I vividly remember storming into our home and pushing that container into Chris’ face. We argued for what seemed like hours and deciding to put this fight aside to prioritize one of the most special days of our lives as a parent – dedicating our daughter to the Lord. I can still relive the shame I felt during that time. Ashamed of not realizing what was going on right in front of my face. Mortified of the fact that the father of my children is an addict. All of my dreams and expectation of what my life should be were annulated the moment I found that container. It felt like my life was over.
I remember calling my Mom and asking her for advice. She told me to do what was best for the children and myself. The only solution I could come up with was to leave. So I asked my Mom if I could live with her and my dad while we figured out our next steps. She immediately agreed. I took as much of our belonging as I could fit in my van and strapped the kids into their car seats. Chris was at work. So he would come home to an empty house. My parents welcomed us with forced smiles and played with the girls while I unloaded our clothes, the kids toys, and got my bearings of an unknown future. That evening I received a call from Chris asking why I left. We fought for what seemed like hours. The next phone call I received was from my In Laws. They were distraught and beside themselves that I was being a terrible wife and mother; ruining our family by leaving my husband because of my husband’s secret drug habit.
I was the problem.
I was the person bringing shame to the family.
The girls and I lived with my parents for almost a week before I moved back into our home to begin to reconcile our marriage with the conditions that we would go to counseling and Chris would get help with his addiction. The same day I returned home, we went to a church service. I asked for help from church staff member. I remember her handing me a flyer and showing it to Chris. I could feel in my gut that this was the answer.
I couldn’t say ‘No’
The very first recovery meeting was filled with shame. I was given a crash course in addiction, Christ-centered recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous / Narcotics Anonymous. I was overwhelmed with this new information when I was also told that I was an enabler. I have a codependency issue.
Codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs.Psych Central
I was shocked!
How dare they say that I was part of the problem!
The facilitator handed me ‘One Day at a Time Al Anon’ and told me to read it everyday. I came to the realization by the second day of reading the devotionals that I was part of the problem. I learned my inability of saying ‘no’ enabled Chris to do a he pleased. I had to learn how to set my boundaries. More importantly, be ok with how he reacted to my boundaries and stand firm – no matter what. Holding myself accountable for something I had never done before was extremely daunting and uncomfortable.
On this first meeting, I also heard the ‘Serenity Prayer’ for the very first time. It was something everyone recited joyfully. I recall thinking this prayer was ‘just another thing’ I had to do to fix my husband. After attending a months worth of meetings, this prayer was my saving grace. It helped me realize that I wasn’t in control of anyone but myself. My recovery did not was not dependent on Chris’ recovery.
We attended this recovery meeting for a few years, it was the main reason we were still married. It also solidified our individual relationships with Christ. We became a family with our recovery group. This group of brave, unconditionally supportive individuals encouraged us through the 12 steps. We loved on them hard and checked in on each other when times were tough. They helped us welcome our youngest daughter into the world. They also saw us through our first relapse.
Join me as I share how I handled our first relapse. It was our very first hard fall back to the beginning of recovery.
Have you experienced recovery? I’d love to hear about it. Comment below and what has helped you.
And remember…. It is ok to NOT be ok.