Being in a relationship with someone in recovery isn’t perfect. But I dare you to show me a perfect relationship. I’ve never been a fan of perfection anyway. I prefer real. I prefer someone who has the courage to confront their imperfections. As a society we ignore the elephant in the room. Addiction is a silent sickness. Every day the silence destroys families. So, I’m going to talk about it. I’m going to write about it. I’m going to make people uncomfortable because that is how change happens. People who are in love with a recovering alocoholic or an addict of any kind need to know they are not alone. Anyone facing the demons of addiction need to know people are in their corner.
Addiction has played many roles in my life. Family and friends have let this disease destroy their lives and hurt the ones they care about. As I sit here watching my two healthy children play I can’t help but reminisce about how I got here, and all the things I’ve learned along the way. I’m humbled by the universe and how it teaches us. I have never been under addictions fire, but I have loved (and love) someone who is. I say “is” because addiction never goes away.
Addiction stole the life of my first born’s biological father. Before addiction took his life, it took his soul. We were young, and it certainly wasn’t a forvever type of love, but without the cloud of addiction hanging over him I am confident things would have been much different. For a long time I resented him. I blamed him for walking away from his gorgeous little girl.
It’s been two and a half years since his death. I still see his face when I look at her, and that’s okay. I’ve learned to not be ashamed of the ways addiction has shaped me. We need to stop pushing this illness under the rug and pretending it doesnt surround us. It doesn’t go away if you ignore it. Addiction is everywhere. Addiction does not discriminate. We all need to know how to support those we love, and ourselves when it comes to this nasty disease. Let’s stop treating people like it’s the plague. The more people feel shunned the less likely it is they will seek the guidance they need. And who does that help? Nobody.
For the past four years I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster. It’s been both the best and most challenging time of my life. With Jake’s blessing I’ve decided to share my side of the story. I want you to know the ups (yes, UPS) and downs of loving someone in recovery.
It is so crucial for love ones to realize an addict has to want their sobriety as bad as you do. Until they choose to become sober nothing will change. You can preach it until you’re blue in the face, but they have to want it. Be there to encourage them. Help them try to see the light, but remember to love yourself during the process. My every thought used to surround Jake’s drinking. What can I do? Why us? Can’t he just stop? Doesn’t he love his family more than alcohol? Certainly all of these are logical questions, but addiction has NOTHING to do with logic. These worrisome thoughts will consume you if you allow it. Be supportive, show love, do not make excuses, do not enable, and take care of you!
I remember looking into his eyes some nights and thinking “Who are you?”. He would be standing right in front of me, but yet totally absent. The morning would bring tears, apologies, and promises I know wouldn’t be kept. I could spill our stories on to the page, but they are not important. What’s important is how Jake took control of his life, and chose to face his addiction head on.
October 21st, 2016 is the day that gave me hope. A switch flipped in Jake and he suddenly saw himself with the eyes of an outsider. He saw the illness for the first time. He saw his excuses, the damage and a way out of the madness. He had to come to terms with his alcoholism on his own, and once he did our reality changed.
Together, we have learned to take sobriety one day at a time. This journey has taught us to see the beauty in the small things. It has reminded us of what’s important in life. We have learned to talk about the darkness, and in turn lessens its power over us. We acknowledge addictions power, but also the strength that lies within us to fight it. Sobriety has brought new people into our lives. It has strengthened old bonds, and it has set us free from relationships that don’t help us grow. Jake’s sobriety has taught us both how to live life on purpose. It has opened our minds to the endless possibilities around us, and to be present in the moment.
Although relapse is a very real part of recovery, it too is a learning experience for all involved. Don’t think of relapse as failing, but as a tool to help you succeed. You only fail if you quit. You must stand up after you’ve been knocked down.
My relationship with Jake has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Not only is he an amazing father to both of my children, he teaches me every day to love myself and to be grateful for the life we have. The bad days are just as important as the good. You can’t have a rainbow without the rain, right?!
Don’t get me wrong, the challenges are real. Sometimes it’s a total mind fuck. Sometimes I question myself, him, and our love. At the end of the day loving someone in recovery is a choice. It may not be right for you, and that’s okay! However, we are proof that there is hope. There is a way out. I am so grateful I stayed. I’m so happy I realized Jake is more than his addiction. I would have been the one to miss out on an amazing man, father, and friend had I walked away.
Addiction and recovery will be a part of our daily life, and I’m okay with that. I know there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. We are all fighting our own battles.
Every day I choose to love a man in recovery. I’d scream it from the rooftops if I could. I’m so damn proud of him. I know I’m not marrying a perfect man. I also know I’m marrying a man who fights a battle I know little about every day because he loves me and our kids. I know I’m marrying a man who is loving and kind. I know I’m marrying a man who works his ass off for us. I’m marrying a man who brings me ice cream in bed and doesn’t let me pump my own gas. I am marrying a good man who happens to be a recovering alcoholic.
You can choose to see the bad, or you can choose to see the good. I’d choose him, and our life a million times over.
If you, or someone you love, is fighting addiction talk about it. Write about it. Let your voice be heard. Make people uncomfortable. Silence helps nobody.
photo credit: Silverbell Photography