So a lot of people have been asking me how things are going. And I've realized that most of the time, they ask with hesitation--like they are almost afraid to ask. Why is that?
I haven't been super vocal about how things are going--certaintly not as vocal as I was when thing were going terribly! I've been thinking about that a lot lately--why am I keeping it to myself?
I've come up with a few reasons. First, I am so freaking happy that it seems like bragging to talk about it. Seriously! Second, I'm afraid that if I really talk about how happy I am, people will assume I am delusional. Third, if I talk about how great things are, it only makes it painfully and embarrassingly obvious how bad things once were. I look back on the majority of my marriage and see how bad it was and it makes me cringe. How did either of us survive in this marriage for 11 years?
I was delusional for a long time, completely in denial. I thought things were good enough. I was willing to settle and I did for a long time. Then that place became less and less comfortable and doable. I think I intuitively knew that if I pushed him too hard, he would leave me. So I hung back until it wasn't possible anymore. And he left.
I feel like Jay and I have been to hell and back in the past four months or so. We had a choice--fight for our marriage or cut our losses. Thankfully we both eventually got to the fighting for it place. And I believe we came out of it different people. Jay is truly a different person--if you want to ask him about all this please do! He loves to talk about it. I also feel like I have changed. I have become more comfortable with conflict. It used to eat me up inside and I would do anything to make things better, not just with Jay but with everyone in my life. Now I feel like God truly is guiding my path (not that He wasn't before, I just didn't care). If there is conflict, I feel much more comfortable with just hanging back and letting things work themselves out instead of forcing it to happen and maybe settling for an outcome that isn't right. It is a huge shift for me and is taking some getting used to.
I feel like I have a partner for the first time ever. I can't even describe what a huge deal this is. I'm still trying to get used to being able to ask him to help out with a chore and have him cheerfully tackle it. I used to expect nothing from him just to keep our home free of conflict (yep, that worked really well). There have been times where we have uncomfortable conversations and instead of a cold wall, he is a warm and caring person that tries to understand me rather than ignore me. It is still kind of freaking me out! But I love it. And I love that it all feels so real. I've seen him white knuckle our relationship many times and this is nothing like that. It is hard to describe but I am confident in our relationship and the bond we are rebuilding--or maybe building, since it is brand new to us.
The time has finally come for me to write about our beautiful disaster. I've been waiting until I felt ready and now I do.
We now refer to our crisis as a beautiful disaster. A disaster to be sure, but beautiful in the sense that we now have a stronger, more honest, more real marriage than we ever could've had without it.
Our countdown to disaster probably began the moment we met, as crazy as that sounds. I thought Jay was the perfect boyfriend. But that was not because he was being himself--he was being the person he thought I wanted him to be. I didn't realize this, of course. What has come to light is that Jay doesn't have a strong self identity. He has always adapted himself to be who he thought people wanted him to be. And this worked for him for a while and then it just became too much work.
Jay's drinking started out innocent and normal, like how the rest of us drink. Then it turned into getting drunk on Saturday nights while he played video games. I thought he deserved to unwind after a hard week of work so I never gave it a second thought. About six years ago, it had become a near nightly thing. Still, it didn't really bother me because I felt like things were good enough between us.
When he decided to lose weight, he completely stopped drinking. I took that to mean that he was not an alcoholic so things were okay. Once he lost his weight, he started drinking again. This time it became a seven day a week habit. But he always stopped at two drinks. Just so we are clear, each drink was about 4 shots of vodka.
Then Olivia was born. I got really sick and lived in a fog for the next two years. I didn't really care that he was drinking because I was barely functional at that point. As long as he was drinking, he was happy and didn't care that I was a blob of inaction. There were times he felt like he needed to quit drinking and he was able to maintain sobriety for up to six months. But he always went back to drinking every night, no matter what kind of "deals" he made about (i.e. only drink with friends, only drink on the weekends, only have two drinks).
I didn't ever think he was an alcoholic though. And I didn't think our marriage was in trouble. I felt like this was as good as it would ever be so I better just learn how to deal with his coldness, his disinterest in me and the kids and his obsession with work.
My breaking point came in July of this year. It was a Saturday and we were sitting on the deck enjoying the sunshine. And I realized the drink in his hand was not just Mountain Dew. And I realized this was a problem. Our unspoken rule was that he would only drink at night--he had just broken that rule.
I got us in to see a counselor a few weeks later. We went weekly and for a while, I thought things were getting better. In retrospect, he was doing just what he needed to take the heat off so he could continue life the way he wanted.
Labor Day weekend was when things really picked up steam. We had a terrible counseling session that ended with him saying he wasn't sure he loved me and wasn't sure he wanted to be married. That was so painful to hear. I went to my sister's house after that session, not sure if he would be home when I got there or not. I sobbed in desperation on their deck. She and JT had also gone through the devastation of alcoholism and were able to provide me with good, solid counsel. Their words helped me get through the weekend.
On Sunday night of that weekend, we had my siblings over for dinner. Jay drank a bottle of wine and spent most of the night sleeping. I was furious that he was such a jerk and embarrassed by his behavior. That was the first night that he left.
He came back about 12 hours later telling me that he wanted to be with me. I ate it up! He traveled for the next two weeks for work. When he got home, we made it about a day before he left again. That time he was gone for two nights and again came home, telling me that he was going to change. Again, this lasted a day. At this point, he moved into my parents basement.
Now, before you judge this decision, please understand that I thought this was a great move. My mom is an amazing woman who was made to deal with stuff like this. She is sweet and nurturing but she has an iron backbone when it comes to dealing with these broken people. I am so thankful to my parents for opening up their home to a man that was making my life miserable.
We had our Grand Canyon trip planned and ended up going. It was awful. He basically ignored me the whole time and I pretty much cried anytime I was alone. The mood swings from him were so hard to deal with.
When we got home from that trip I discovered that he was lying to me about some things. I LOST IT. I called him and unleashed a string of profanity that would make a truck driver blush. I had to go out on my driveway so my kids wouldn't hear--somehow that is worse than the neighbors hearing!
At this point, I met with Sandy, my therapist. She saved me. And I'm not being dramatic. She took a broken woman, desperately trying to keep her life and marriage together at any cost and turned me into a woman, still wanting her life back but not on Jay's terms. She taught me about detachment (your reaction is not reacting) and helped me see that Jay really was an alcoholic. She gave me tools and the confidence to stand up for myself. Until this point, I felt that Jay was in control of how things turned out. Now, I was in control of me and my feelings. And I was able to frame up what life was going to look like for me. My bottom line was that Jay would get treatment for his alcoholism and no less than that would do. The desperation was overtaken by resolve. Now, I was still devastated--this didn't magically make me stop crying all the time.
I started practicing detachment towards Jay. At times I was successful, other times not as much. He told me later that he felt the shift and it made him sad, that I didn't care about him. Inside I was still dying but I was trying to keep it together on the outside. He wasn't the one seeing me cry anymore. My family saw most of that. They saw many meals ruined by my tears. One day my mom had to come over to help me wash my dishes--I just couldn't even figure out how to do the simplest tasks. At one point, I laid in bed for two days straight, only getting up to feed my kids. It was awful--I hate thinking about it.
Then came October 11. I had realized that day that Jay was still lying to me about some things. I was sick to my stomach. He had stopped by the house to pick up some things and I started asking him questions and crying (so much for detachment...). I wish I had a picture of what he looked like that night. He looked dead. His eyes were dead, his skin was sickly. As I stood there, heart breaking, watching this man I love die, something in him changed. I said something to him about him being an addict and that he will never be free until he gets treatment and suddenly he slumped over and told me to take him to treatment. I was stunned, so much so that I thought he was making fun of me by saying that. Once I realized he was serious, I ran into the house to call The Retreat, fully expecting him to be gone by the time I got back outside. But he stayed and spent an hour on the phone with The Retreat, crying and realizing that he needed help. I just sat there stunned. It felt surreal.
He stayed at the house that night and we sat on the couch talking for hours. He kept telling me he was sorry, that he loved me, that I was beautiful. I hadn't heard kind words like that from him in years!
The next few days were the best days we had in many years. We talked, we hung out, we just enjoyed being together.
On October 14 he entered The Retreat. Although he was scared to death of treatment, he never wavered on his decision. I honestly was surprised--I thought I would have to push him through the doors. The first few days were rough. He really wanted to leave, thought it was overkill, didn't think he was really an alcoholic. Once he settled in things got better. After about four days he was finally able to admit that he might be an alcoholic--this was a huge turning point for him.
His month in treatment, while challenging, was a great time for us. We got to talk a lot and I got to see him on Sundays. It was so fun for me to hear about his breakthroughs and his challenges. He wasn't able to fully admit to being an alcoholic until he was at The Retreat for 2.5 or 3 weeks! But when he did he told me how liberating it felt.
So what's up now? Jay has been home for about three weeks. He is still sober but more importantly, he is in active recovery. Yes, there is a difference. He has a sponsor and attends AA meetings with him. We will also start seeing a therapist together that specializes in addiction.
My prayer throughout this whole experience has been that Jay would be transformed. When I first began praying that, I knew it was a long shot prayer. I wouldn't allow myself to believe that God might answer that prayer. But then I began seeing the change in Jay and realizing that my prayer was being answered and I was able to watch it happen. So amazing. The Lord's hand has so clearly guided this experience that it is impossible to deny it. Nothing short of miraculous.
Our marriage is something that is 180 degrees different than it used to be. Some of it is little things--he kisses me goodbye in the morning while I'm still sleeping, he sits down and talks with me after work, he actively engages with the kids, he is more patient. Other things are big--he listens to me when I talk about how I feel and doesn't try to fix it or blow it off. He doesn't ignore me or treat me coldly anymore. He asks me how I am doing, how I am feeling. This is a major change from our "first marriage"!
I know there are things I am missing in here and more that I could add but I think it is long enough for now. I don't feel that keeping our struggles a secret is very helpful--the reason Jay and I felt like this should be posted it because some of you might be in a similar place or know someone who is. Maybe our story can help in some way.
I know this is ridiculously long--thanks for reading!