Recovery: When You Can’t Just Leave by Erin Hill

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It’s a special kind of lonely hell when you love an addict.

Your relationship is teetering on disaster – you’re barely surviving – you’re in a hole so deep the sky looks like a pinhole – you’re ashamed of what you and your life has become. You are afraid that if you let go, the world as you know it will crumble around you. Those around you encourage you to leave. But they don’t understand that you can’t “Just Leave”.

It’s complicated. It’s messy. It hurts.

They don’t understand that just like an addict starts with their drug – we are addicted to our addict. We didn’t get into these relationships thinking “Gee, I think I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to control someone else’s crap” – just like they didn’t wake up one day deciding to be an addict. It evolves.

The dark, sticky, snake-like fingers of the disease constricts every aspect of our lives.

The finances, the employment, the physical health and the mental well-being of everyone in the home is compromised. Before you know it – you’re so entwined in the madness that getting out feels like death. Because it would be. You had hopes and dreams of a happily ever after, and if you leave, that dies.
But just as addiction can wrap itself around your relationship, so too can recovery.

My husband and I have been together 12 years, married for 10 – and he recently celebrated 5 years clean and sober. It’s still not perfect – it’s like that illusive “normal” you hear about – or unicorns and leprechauns. But it’s definitely better than it was.

It takes both of you to work on it.

I thought for sure that if he just quit the drug, things would get better. That if he would just quit drinking. Or get a job. Or spend more time with me and the kids… that it would be OK. I didn’t have the problem – he did. I could run the household, raise the kids, go to work, AND deal with him and his crap –

I was superwoman – right?! Wrong.

I brought a few suitcases worth of my own crap to this party.

It wasn’t until I was willing to take a hard look at my part in our relationship that I was ready to get really honest with myself. I was attracted to him because I thought I could fix him. That if I fixed him, he’d owe me – and never leave. And most of all – because I thought that was the kind of man I deserved – I wasn’t going to do any better. It was disguised as a noble attempt at fixing his problems, saving him from himself, and making everything alright with the world. It was just a thin cloak over the ability to distract myself from my own problems.

When you start looking at your stuff – unpacking those suitcases of stuff from your own history, and tossing what you don’t use or love (The Art of Tidying Up style) and repacking in a loving way what you want to keep, you make room for the stuff you really want. Like recovery. For you.

They don’t have to get sober for you to be happy.

Once you start seeing what it is you want for your own life, you can detach and work on YOU. I found that in our relationship it comes in spurts. He’ll work on himself, then I’ll work on my stuff. It’s a partnership like it’s never been before.

As we know better, we do better.

Getting clean and sober was just the beginning for us. There’s been times that have been more difficult in the last 5 years in recovery that were harder than the drunken rages or nights of fear, tears and despair. It doesn’t get easier, but you get stronger. And just like any other muscle, the more you use it, the stronger you get.

Start small.

Go for a walk, sit in silence with your breath for a few moments every day. Journal, write, sing, speak, or scream. Do something that’s just for YOU. As you come back to yourself, you develop your sense of strength and hope. You know that regardless, you’re going to be OK. And OK is good enough. YOU are good enough.

A Beautiful Mess was created by Erin Hill to educate and inspire women to Care for themselves, Communicate their needs, and Connect with their tribe of women who “get it”. Erin is a coach for women and blogger about life. She lives in Cambridge Maryland with her husband and 3 children. More information can be found at www.beautifulmesslife.com

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