I’m a fighter, always have been. It takes a lot to get me down on my knees. An addiction therapist, that we were once seeing for my husband, told me that I was either an addict/alcoholic myself or codependent to stay in this relationship with my husband. I thought she was crazy and I, of course, was neither.
There was that stupid “codependent” word again, and rather than listening to what she had to say, my walls went up, my defenses came out and I went back into fighting mode. “I’m just a good person in love with another good person (who just happens to be an addict/alcoholic) and if I could just find a way for his goodness to come out and stay out, we’d be fine.” I just wanted her to tell me if she knew of a way to do that and if not, to keep her two-cents to herself because I wasn’t giving up until I found the answer. Well, she said some other mumbo jumbo and basically said I couldn’t fix my husband. Pffft!
Years ago there was an outspoken talk-show host by the name of Morton Downey, Jr. When someone said something he didn’t like, he’d make a sound like the flashing “X” from the game show “Family Feud” and say, “Ehhntt – wrong answer!” Well, I “X”ed that therapist’s comments out almost as soon as she opened her mouth – “Ehhntt – wrong answer, lady!” I let her talk, but couldn’t hear what she was saying. I was young and my ears were still welded shut.
But, as the years wore on, our family disease (read that as dis-ease) got worse. The more my husband used drugs, the more I nagged. The more I nagged, the more he used. It wasn’t that my nagging caused him to use, it only caused him to feel bad, which was just another excuse for him to use. If he wanted to use, he would use. Nothing I could say or not say, or do or not do, would stop him – for long. There were times in our lives where everything was going right, we were headed down the right road, we were destined for happiness. And then…boom…he’d go out and screw it all up.
And boy did that hurt. I just couldn’t understand why he would screw up, right when everything was going good. I think I understand now, that he didn’t love himself enough. Somewhere along the line, he got the distorted message that he wasn’t supposed to have anything too good in his life. If it was going too good, he had to screw it up because he felt unworthy of happiness. And if things weren’t going good at all, then the easier it was to go out and use to reinforce his reality of those labels that he wasn’t good enough to deserve happiness. There was no win for me in this situation. But I didn’t love myself enough either to hop off this merry-go-round because I loved my husband more than myself. (More on this topic later).
But I loved our child more than both of us put together. And, I didn’t want him to come from a broken home. That is so funny because our home was already broken beyond repair although everyone remained under one roof. The crack in the foundation just kept growing deeper and deeper through the years and shot off into new fractures each day. I was ashamed of the life I was living behind my façade of a normal, happy home. Behind those picket fences were three desperate people crying for help. But, we had gotten to the point where we couldn’t even cry anymore because the hot tears had done us no good and we now held them back through clenched teeth.
What came up instead and replaced the tears were vile, disgusting words. I would use them to make my husband feel “less than” and he would sit there and take it because the drugs made him vulnerable by the time he had found his way home and was ready to sleep it off. The next morning, however, he would wake up in a terrible funk – and “the monster” would come stomping out of the bedroom with a disheveled, “grrrrr” about him.
And my son and I would try to run and hide. We would perch ourselves in a corner atop a huge pile of proverbial eggshells and hold our breath. “Fee, Fie, Foe, Fum”, around the corner he’d come. And we’d shake with fear and the eggshells would shatter beneath our feet. We never knew which one of us would try and take on the monster that morning and we learned to never, ever show our fear or hurt or it would be used against us in the end. My husband wasn’t physically abusive, although he threatened to be. But he was verbally abusive beyond belief. And those words hurt as much, if not more, than any physical blow.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. Whoever came up with that saying was a moron. I don’t know of any children who are enlightened enough to understand that concept. And I didn’t understand it well into my thirties.
But rather than stand there in a war zone with my hands held high in resignation, I went into battle and brought our child into the foxhole with me. He wasn’t allowed to use the “Big Guns” (foul language) in the arsenal, as neither his father nor I wanted him to turn out like us when he grew up. (Crazy that we didn’t understand the hurt and damage we were already doing). But he managed to find his own weapons and I began to realize that his sword and shield were more powerful than any I had in my arsenal.
One morning, I was in the laundry room folding clothes. My son was at the kitchen table eating his breakfast when I heard the monster rear its ugly head. “You and your mother think life’s gonna be just great with me out of this house. Well, watch how you turn out when you grow up without a father, like I did. You’re gonna be just like me or worse!” I stopped folding clothes and headed for battle. But a still voice inside of me whispered, “Wait.” And in the next moment, I heard my son’s reply. “You don’t know me and you don’t know what’s in my HEART!” And I silently rejoiced at his words, “You tell him son. You tell him you have Jesus in your heart!”
Well, that monster shrunk down to the size of a pea and mumbled under his breath, “No, I don’t know what you have in your heart, but I know what I have in mine and it’s a lot of hate.” And around the corner he slinked away.
I am filled with sadness as I recall many accounts of days like that. None of us knew how to get what we needed. We all wanted the same thing in the end – love – but we were unsure of how to express it and what came out instead was fear-driven anger. And we resigned ourselves to living in what seemed like a never-ending darkness, until that soon-to-be, small ray of sunshine came bursting through my heart. Things were about to change, I was about to change, and God was about to lead me/us in a new direction altogether.
To read next post click here: Choosing Your Path
To read from the beginning click here: Picket Fences