Days Sober: 73
This is a recent piece I wrote for Stigma Fighters, a mental health non-profit organization dedicated to helping real people living with mental illness. I wrote it on my husband’s 65 day sober milestone.
We don’t ask for the worst things in life. My husband is an addict. His drug of choice is dope. Any kind; heroin, oxy, roxy, fentanyl, percocet, you name it, he has used it. We don’t always ask for the best things in life either. My husband is a recovering addict. Today marks 65 days sober. I am here to tell our story. A story usually has a clear beginning and end; however my life in addiction is not this way. It is circular like a wave taking me to crests and troughs, an ebb and flow of energy always moving, sometimes rhythmic and often irregular. I am going to start at the beginning but as you will soon see my ending place is really just the beginning of this journey. I first started telling my story anonymously on a blog. A life story that began when I fell in love with my husband, changed drastically when I lost him to addiction, took a turn when I started the fight to get him back, then took many more turns downward when I failed miserably over and over again, and began again when I picked myself up from a life that had been leveled by addiction and left in ruin. From the devastation, I began a new fight, this one a battle for self. MY-self. The fight that ended up winning against my husband’s addiction actually started in self-love. Looking back it is not ironic, it makes perfect sense. Connection to self, led to connection with him. In many ways it happened unintentionally. At the point when I was completely fed up, depleted, and seeking detachment, I began to write my story, and it led me unknowingly to the beginning place where I will end today, in connection, love, empathy, and recovery. On 10/20/2016 my husband entered a partial hospitalization program. After 14 days there, he went to a rehab in Florida for 30 days. I wrote this the first week my husband went in:
It started as a spinning atom, barely perceivable.
Then a molecule creating a single drop of mysterious water, the moisture dampening my fingertips.
Then a small ripple waving through my life’s ocean, easy to wade through.
Then came the rolling waves, I floated in this sea. I watched the white foamy tops form, feeling the uncontrollable force of the undercurrents moving below me.
Then the tsunami waves came crashing. I gulped air, gasping to take breaths.
Then the vast and violent motion, reeling through the universe. It was only then that I began to grasp the significance of the addiction.
By then the disconnect between us was so profound, all he could think of was obliteration and all I could think of was recovery.
And now stillness. Reflection as I gaze upon the glass water of the fresh water lake, remembering what brought us here, tasting the salt from the waves on my lips and running my hands through my matted salty hair.
Standing at the edge of a chasm, looking up.
Then looking down.
Ultimately realizing what happened and how we arrived at this place, finally knowing why we are here, and wondering what’s next.
We don’t always ask for the things we get in life: my husband picking up, my own toxic actions in a codependent marriage. We don’t always ask for the worst in life: addiction’s descent bringing us to the depths of hell; before my husband went to rehab he was using five 20 bags of fentanyl and heroin per day. We don’t always ask for the best things in life: meeting and falling in love with my husband 5 years ago, his return home from rehab two weeks ago, his 65 days of sobriety. Sobriety is life. Life is a gift. Recovery is a circular path, it may not always supply us with happiness, but it brings meaning. Happiness is finite and implies an ending. Meaning is infinite, and we can find it along the way.
We don’t always ask for the worst in life. People with addiction suffer from stigma. So do their family members. Stigma is a dark, isolating, and hopeless place that scars. We don’t always ask for the things we get in life. As I mentioned, about 5 months ago I began telling my story anonymously in a blog. We don’t always ask for the best things in life. Two weeks ago I broke that anonymity in an act of revolt. I did it in indignation against judgment, marginalization, and criminalization. Here is what I want to tell the world: my husband is an addict, I am worthy of respect and love and so is my husband, I have not fallen from grace. I am here in my being, I have risen from despair, and I have risen in love.
The face of the “junkie” according to the world is an ugly one. This exists in the eyes of the beholder, and I am here to correct that vision. I asked my husband what he wants people to know about him. I thought about the things I want you to know about him. Here they are:
-His name is James, I call him Jim.
-He is loving, gentle, and kind.
-He is a brother, uncle, son, and husband.
-He is really funny.
-He loves animals.
-He can sell water to a well.
-He is a fisherman.
-He likes to watch crime shows.
-He is a talented photographer.
-He is my best friend.
This is us:
Today I end and begin in recovery. My husband is 65 days sober and I am working at loving myself and living out loud in this battle against addiction. Addiction is heartbreaking, I know because I have been there (getting beat by it), I am still there (beating it), and I am still here (standing upright to tell you about it).
Currently we are facing a devastating opioid epidemic in the United States. My husband is just one person among millions who are battling this. It is a life or death fight. Only 1 in 10 people get treatment. My husband is one of the lucky ones, but he is not more deserving than anyone else. For those that are struggling with this, that are beating it in recovery, that are still caught in the tight hold of addiction, for those that live with an addict, and that love an addict: stay strong people and keep fighting the good fight. For those that just have a friend of a friend, think long and hard about what that person and his or her family may be going through, try to let go of judgment, put the shoe on your foot, open your heart, and gaze through the eyes of empathy.
FIGHT STIGMA. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR. DESTROY ADDICTION.