The first few days your husband starts rehab – it’s like the 5 stages of grief except you don’t get anytime to stay in any of the stages so you don’t get to process the feelings. All you get to do is feel all of the feelings.
- Denial. Really this starts before the decision to go (back) to rehab is made. After all. We’ve been here. Done this. Why will this time be different. Doesn’t he know what he needs to do to get sober? Why are we doing this again. What about this program will make it stick.
- Anger. Are we ever not angry during the whole addiction? It’s not even the anger that anyone really questions. What are we angry about? Who are we angry at? Because anger feels like my right. It feels justified. I am not angry that Rob needs to go back to rehab. I understand that. I do everything I can to help facilitate that. I am angry about what this is going to mean for me. For our kids. I am angry because once again he is going to go off to some place where he’ll be told what to do, when to do it, where to do it, encouraged to read and study the Bible, participate in group therapy, one on one therapy, quiet time….the specifics vary from each rehab, but the idea of rehab is a time of rest and renewal. Working on themself. If I had a dollar for every time I heard them tell my husband and me that he needs to be selfish and take care of himself…well. I could pay for his rehab. He needs to put his recovery before being a father, husband, having a job, or anything that might work against his ability to get and stay sober.
And I just want to say. NO.
This is not what I need. I need a break. I need a week – a month – when I get to take care of myself and not worry about anything else. I need to process everything that’s happened and what that means for our family and I need to try to make sure our kids survive this with the least amount of scars as possible. <<<Spoil alert – the least amount of scars are a number so high you cannot count them. You mostly cannot see them. At least for the next few weeks – months – because they are also just surviving.
Surviving. That is all we, the family, get to do. We get to survive. We have to do all of the things and go to all of the places and keep all of the plates spinning and never drop one because if one plate falls while we are in survival mode…we may stop surviving.
- Bargaining. Oh this one. Why isn’t this at the top and in the middle and at the end? Because it is. We bargain with the addict to get him to agree to go to rehab. We bargain with how long he’ll have to stay. We bargain about what we will and won’t tell people. How much we will and won’t share with people. We bargain about when he’s ready to leave rehab. None of these bargainings go well. And when, its the end of the
lastmost recent rehab and for the first time you tell your husband he can’t come home. You tell him it’s too soon and you have to find some kind of sober living house for him to go to. Is this the ultimate bargaining? When a mom and a wife finally decides that she and the kids have to figure out how to move forward. And she knows she can’t do that wondering if he’ll relapse in 6 months or 5 days. So we bargain. Make plans. Change those plans. No one is happy with the end result of the bargaining. It’s literally just what you have to do to survive. Nothing more. And honestly, not even close to enough.
- Depression. Sometimes you get to admit your depression at this point. Unless the addict is depressed and points to that as why he drinks. Because when the addict is depressed, your depression will always get put on the back burner. Your mental health will not be a priority. Your job is to keep the family together and to be as supportive as possible to the addict. You will go deeper and deeper into the hole you started digging to get away, ultimately to realize you aren’t getting away, you’re only digging a hole deeper than you could ever pull yourself out of on your own.
- Acceptance. In grief – or, the death of a loved one, acceptance simply means. You accept what has happened and move forward. Yes. Life will look different but you have accepted what has happened and you start to learn to move forward. In an addicts family, acceptance is layered and confusing and fluid. There are some facts you have to accept. These are the next steps. You accept that. This is what the next steps mean for you and your family. You accept this not because you agree with it or like it or it is how you want it to be. You accept it because it is happening to you. Your influence on what happens to you is minimal at best. The family of an addict accepts what is happening to them because there is often no other choice.
Then there’s the acceptance of changed plans. You made a plan. Details were ironed out. Dates were set. You had a sense of knowing this is how we start moving forward.
Except. That’s not how it’s going to be. You’ve barely had time to accept the plan before it changes. And not a small change. A big change. And he isn’t asking you. He’s telling you. And he isn’t even just telling you this is what he wants to do. He’s telling you. This is the plan I made. And when you try to remind him you had made a plan together, all he says is. This is the plan I made. And. Once again. You realize all of this is happening to you. You don’t get to have a say. You get to figure out how to survive. And not complain because let’s not forget that he’s being told in his meetings – Your Job is to stay sober. Not to worry about your family or being a husband or father or employee. Your job is to not drink and to work on yourself.
Maybe one of the hardest parts of acceptance is this. Accepting that whatever his behavior looks like, he is being encouraged to behave this way. It is drilled into his mind that he has no responsibility except to stay sober.
But bills still have to be paid. Jobs have to be worked. Children have to be raised and sent to school and church and fed and bathed and taxi-ed to every. Place. Life goes on. No matter how much I need life to stop. To have time to breathe and sort through all the feelings and time to make long lasting decisions instead of making snap decisions that you know you are going to regret sooner than later but you don’t have time to figure it out so the snap decision is what you have.
Time is not your friend. The longer he’s in rehab or the sober living house…you and your family are learning <again> how to live without him. You take a minute and wonder if it’s better with him gone. Or if it will be better when he comes home sober. Except at this point you don’t even know if that will ever be an option.
You wonder if you should put a timeline on him moving back home. And you think you have that figured out.
Then. A year later. He’s kicked out of the sober living house and you look back on the last 6 months and beat yourself up for not seeing whatever signs would have told you he had relapsed. You relive the weekend visits and tear apart each moment. Trying to pinpoint those little changes. Angry at yourself for not seeing what was happening. Angry at him for relapsing and hiding it. Except you realize you can’t be angry at him for hiding it because there were signs and you just did not have the energy to admit you were seeing them. It was easier to brush off those little heart checks you felt and instead just count down the hours until he went back to the sober living house.
And you try to weave through the complex web of lies he’s been telling. Still is telling. You are in full panic mode now. He can’t come home. He can’t even stay sober in a sober living home. So you fight. And he goes to his parents.
And now it’s a year since he’s been there. And there’s no progress. And you’re still angry…depressed. You’re moving away from acceptance because you’re so stuck on anger and you need him to get sober. You need something or someone to mean enough to him for him to decide he needs help. But after more than 20 years of this, you’re almost ready to give up hope and resign yourself to this being the rest of your life.
So we wait. We know that nothing is changing and we wait. And we don’t bargain because there is nothing left to bargain for. We aren’t in denial. We just don’t talk about it. We only talk about it to ourself. I have all of these conversations in my head with him. And I tell myself I will Be brave enough to have these conversations with him in real life. And I back down every time. Because fear is a real thing.
I fear he will drink so much he loses his job
I fear he will drink and drive
I fear he will not survive the next time he has a 4.3 BAC
I fear he will become sick because of his drinking and I will be left taking care of him but still unable to control his drinking.
I fear our girls will move as far away from me as they can because they need to distance themselves from just surviving.
I fear there is nothing I can do or say or be that will help him.
I fear that I will never get past feeling like this is all my fault.
I fear that he will convince me he’s sober and he’ll come back home…and I fear that that next relapse will leave me paralyzed and unable to even just survive
I fear he will come back home because he is sober and I will not be able to stop fearing and dreading and planning my reaction to his next relapse.
I fear that one of my girls will fall into this addictive life. As the addict or as the addicts family. It’s what they’ve known. I fear they won’t break the cycle. I fear that this is my legacy to them. The one thing I pray against more than anything.
I fear that no matter which of these things happen, one or some or all, I fear that I have already lost myself. I don’t know where she is anymore. And I don’t have time to look for her as long as I’m stuck surviving.