Here it goes. I didn’t know if I would ever write this. I didn’t know if my husband would be comfortable with me posting it. But here we are. If this helps just one person to feel less alone, that’s all I want. You can tell from the title what we’re about to talk about. And loving an addict is one of the loneliest places.
In the summer of 2018, I found out that my husband had been addicted to heroin for a little over 9 months. And I had no idea. I know what you’re thinking… how did she not know? Believe me, I’ve asked myself that same question on repeat. But I didn’t. Finding this out changed my life, my marriage, and my future. It changed everything. In a moment. It started with prescription meds and it went to a dark place I never thought I would have to visit.
It didn’t help that I found out while he was in the hospital with a ventilator breathing for him. Because what I thought was an allergic reaction to a portion of food was actually a reaction to fentanyl… a bad batch of heroin. It’s whats killing people. Killing over 200 people a day actually. And no one talks about it. When this first started I searched and searched for someone, anyone to have common ground with. And I found nothing. The stigma surrounding the opioid crisis in our country is what is helping these humans die. I want to share our story. Because heroin addiction especially is a family disease. It doesn’t just break down the addict. It hurts and breaks the people closest to them. So I felt compelled to share this. So that someone out there knows they aren’t alone. Being the spouse of someone with an addiction is one of the loneliest places I have ever found myself. If his story, my story, our story helps just one person we’re ok with that.
- Addiction is a disease: If you had asked me pre-August 2018 I would have said addiction is a choice. It’s not a disease. “Saying it’s a disease is just an addicts excuse to get high and not be blamed.” I was judgmental as fuck. But I’ve learned SO much on this journey. I’ve talked to doctors. Therapists. Addicts. Family of addicts. I’ve sat through meetings with addicts and family of addicts. They all taught me so much. Most addicts don’t want to be addicts. It’s a disease and it’s killing our friends, siblings, children, and spouses. I didn’t even know we had an opioid crisis in this country until I started researching heroin addiction while my husband was completing a 28-day treatment program 2 hours away. And I was all alone. Alone with all of my thoughts and questions. It is though. It’s a terrible disease that doesn’t care who it takes. It’s a family disease. It doesn’t just harm the addict it beats the family down until there’s almost no one left.
- In sickness and health doesn’t just mean a man cold: When I took my marriage vows, I never really thought about this one playing a part in my life. I was happy. In love. We have been together for over half of my life and we’ve been married for almost 10 of those years. To me, sickness meant a man cold. I was so naive. I never under any circumstance would have thought this would be where I was. This marriage vow has been what’s grounded me though. Because if I’m being honest, I always thought I’d be the girl who left. If a friend had come to me with my story my first response would have been “Girl, leave. He lied. He betrayed you. Screw sickness. Boy bye.” But that’s not what I did. Most spouses of heroin addicts do leave though. The only people left in the meetings are the parents. The wives and husbands have had enough. But I did the opposite. And I’m not saying that to get props. I’m saying that so if you STAY as the spouse of an addict. I’m here with you. You’re not alone. And if you leave. I’m still here. I still don’t know how I did it. Even though it was the worst time of my entire life I knew that I wanted to fight for my marriage. With the condition that he was going to fight just as hard, of course. This played a huge part the night he was released from the hospital. I looked at him and said I won’t tell you what to do. You are a grown man who has made these choices. And this is still your choice. But I will tell you what my choice is. You either go to rehab tonight or I’m filing for divorce tomorrow. He chose rehab. He chose to fight. Fight for his life. And we’re both here. Still fighting. As I’m writing this he’s just about 5 months clean and I’m sure we have a long way to go. I’m not saying everything is ok. Or that everything is better. But we’re fighting. I learned that I was willing to fight for it. I’m sure some people who know our story and who will read this will judge me for not leaving. And that’s ok. I would have too. Until it was me.
- It’s not my fault: If you’re reading this and you’re in a similar situation. It’s not your fault. I know that you might blame yourself. I did. For definitely the first 28 days when he was gone. I cried myself to sleep every single night. Blaming myself. And sometimes I still I catch myself wondering what I could have done differently. But there was nothing. We didn’t do anything wrong. We didn’t know because they didn’t want us to know. We couldn’t have stopped it. We couldn’t have fixed it. We can’t control it.
- I am stronger than I know: There were days when I dropped to my knees and sobbed. There were days when I couldn’t get out of bed. Days when I thought about leaving this world. I thought I would be broken forever. His addiction broke me. And I didn’t think it would ever get better. That’s the only way I can describe it. Broken. I didn’t think I would make it. I didn’t think my marriage would make it. But somewhere, deep deep down in my soul I found a little bit of strength. The strength to fight. The strength to love. The strength to forgive. And the strength to live. Loving an addict forced me to dig deep, to depths I had never been and find a strength I didn’t know I had. I’m stronger now.
- It takes a village: You have to lean into your people. You have to let them lift you up. I had a small group of friends and family who were my rocks. They put me back together piece by piece. They helped me financially. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. They saved me. They saved us. Without these people, I would not be here. Of that, I am 100% sure.
It also taught me what an incredible person I am married to. You can be extremely fucking angry at the actions. I was. I still am. The lies. The betrayal. And you won’t get over that immediately. I’m still angry that it happened and I didn’t find even a little peace until recently. It’s going to follow you for awhile. But at the same time, you can still be incredibly proud. Proud that he chose rehab for himself. Proud that he chose to fight for your marriage with you. Proud that he chose to stay even when the insurance wanted to stop paying. Proud that since leaving he has taken all the steps to beat this disease. To stay healthy. To save his life. I am forever grateful that this is the man I am married to. A man who has spent every single day since that day in August working to put my heart back together. Some people won’t understand that and that’s ok they don’t have to. We fought for our lives and we are still fighting to come out the other side.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this. My marriage wouldn’t be as strong as it is right now in this moment. Me and him against the world, if this didn’t happen. I wish it didn’t happen, because fuck heroin. But I’ve come to peace with it, as much as I possibly can. This will be something we continue to fight for what I’m sure is the rest of our lives.
I don’t know what the future holds but I am happy that I have my husband back even if I never realized he was gone. I can’t tell you that it will be easy. I can’t tell you that if you’re in this situation there won’t be constant struggles or feelings that bring you to your knees but I can tell you that you are worth it. You’re enough. It’s not your fault. And you have the strength to handle it. The strength to leave or the strength to stay, whatever it looks like for you, I promise you that you’re strong enough.
For everyone else, who maybe hasn’t been touched by the opioid crisis or the disease that is addiction I just want to say to you … please be careful with your words. You never know what someone is dealing with. And you never know who this disease has a hold on. And you won’t know how you’ll handle it unless it’s happening to you. Be kind.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.