When my husband Mark and I first met back in 2013, we immediately clicked. On our first date, I was comfortable around him, felt like I had known him my whole life, and loved how I could be my authentic self around him. I didn’t know why, but I sensed that Mark was a little bit nervous.
Eventually, he confided in me that he was scared to tell me that he was sober. He was worried that I would reject him.
All of his friends advised him not to talk about recovery on our first date, but I guess he felt the same sense of connection because he did tell me. When I “found out”, I just looked at him, smiled, and told him that I already knew; I, of course, had Facebook-creeped him before we met.
He asked me what I thought about it, and all I said was: “I am here with you today, am I not? Plus, that was in your past - we all have our demons and battles that we face every day. Who am I to judge?”
At the time, he just thought I was being nice; today, I am sure he knows that I meant it.
Mark ended up relapsing 2 years ago. When it happened, he had been clean for nearly 6 years. I didn’t see any of it coming. Not at all. I knew nothing about addiction; I had thought that he was cured. I was naive to think that he would never relapse again. Today, I realize that you are never completely cured. I had heard about his friends relapsing, but I used to think “never, not my Mark”. I knew how strong Mark was, knew he worked at a treatment centre and knew that he really seemed to participate in his recovery. I thought we were safe.
I was always supportive of Mark when it came to his recovery. I attended every event with him and accompanied him to meetings when he asked. I immersed myself in his world despite the fact that I was a “normie”, someone who doesn’t have a problem with drink or drugs.
I wanted to be a part of his life as much as he was in mine.
One day, something changed in him. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it but knew that something was wrong. He was becoming restless, irritable and discontent. Nothing on the exterior was different, but internally, something was off.
At first, I thought: is he cheating on me?
When addiction takes hold, it’s like the person you love disappears. The person that you love is obviously still there, but that’s not who you’re dealing with anymore.
Over and over, because I was responding to the man that I loved, I fell for all of his lies, betrayal and manipulation. He wasn’t the Mark that I had grown to know.
When he finally came clean, I was angry, upset and didn’t want anything to do with him. I felt betrayed. In reality, it wasn’t really because he had relapsed; I was mostly angry at myself for believing things I shouldn’t have. I felt heartbroken. I felt as though I had failed him as his wife.
I was crushed and exhausted. Eventually, I came to terms with everything once I realized that there was absolutely nothing else I could’ve done.
It took his relapse for me to actually realize that addiction is a disease. Addiction has nothing to do with a lack of character, a poor personality, or choice. This is a human condition, which manifests itself in illness; the results are consequences, for the individual, and everyone in their life.
Addicts come from every section of society and from any family. Mark didn’t choose his disease; anyone can potentially be vulnerable to suffering from it.
It’s likely that during our lifetime, even if we don’t personally know or love someone who suffers from addiction, we’ll at least know someone who does. It is important for all of us to understand that. This is a widespread problem. It is too often kept as a dark family secret that no one talks about.
If you’re waiting for the addict to all of a sudden stop the insanity, guilt trips, lying, manipulation, and everything else on their own, it’s not going to just magically happen all of a sudden. It has nothing to them not wanting to do it, the reality is that they can’t. They need help and support. They need care and love.
As someone with a pretty good grasp of my surroundings, I was able to see and feel that Mark’s reality became distorted once his addiction took hold. I couldn’t reason with him or talk him into seeing things the way I did.
For him, his lies didn’t feel like lies. His betrayal didn’t feel like betrayal. He couldn’t see that he was being self-destructive. He was delusional. Everything was about survival.
I had to realize the hard way that when Mark was active in his addiction, there was absolutely nothing that I, or anyone else, could have done to change him. Even will all of the love, wisdom, strength and will we imparted on him, there was nothing we could do.
Not until he was ready to change. Change only came when he had absolutely no other option but to do it.
Sitting in meetings hearing everyone share their stories, listening to Mark express himself, and witnessing it first hand, I’ve learned that addicts and alcoholics, when active, will do anything and everything to feed their addiction. They are filling a void left by some sort of emotional or spiritual pain.
People change when their actions cause them enough pain, hardship, and consequence; they change once they’ve hit “rock bottom”. I believe this applies to anyone, not just addicts. Change happens when the force for change is greater than the force to stay the same. When we suffer, we’ll invariably look for a solution to our problem.
Until the pain of addiction outweighs the emotional pain that drives the addiction, there won’t be change.
When Mark relapsed, it was extremely hard on him. He was devastated. His whole world came crashing down. I created strong boundaries that were good for both of us. Detaching was hard, but I knew I had to allow him to hit bottom.
He was mad at first, but what he didn’t realize was that he was the one who had taught me about what I needed to do. He taught me that if you do things that help sustain addictive behaviour, or protect the addict from the consequences, you’re actually preventing the rock bottom from being reached. I knew that if I didn’t set boundaries, his run would continue for much longer.
I didn’t want to stand in the way of his healing by protecting him from the pain of his addiction. It wasn’t easy, for either of us.
I would also be lying if I said that my compassion for him was endless. It was frustrating. I was exhausted and sometimes felt like I had nothing left to give.
During this extremely trying time, I was lucky enough to have Carol Anne, a counsellor at Together We Can, teach me about self-care. It was a game changer. Prior to that, I never really practiced self-care on a regular basis. I was always putting others first. I couldn’t even comprehend how taking care of myself first and foremost would help erase the hurt and pain that I was feeling.
I really didn’t like Mark at the time, but I never stopped loving him. I did what I had to do because I didn’t want to support his addiction. I wanted to support him, the person underneath the tornado of addiction.
I loved the man with a huge heart, the man who loved his family. I loved the kind, loving, caring, sensitive, thoughtful, loyal, strong and genuine man. The man who I am proud to call my husband.
I wanted Mark to find his way back to me, and it brings me immense joy that he did.
Today, we always keep our lines of communication open. We are open and honest with each other and share our feelings. When one of us is hurting, the other must be strong. We are able to have an open dialogue about the things that are bothering us. He is my rock, and I am his. Prayer is a major part of our lives and acting out of gratitude is something we make sure to do consistently.
I am a firm believer that when you don’t practice gratitude, there won’t be room for God to provide all of the blessings that he desires to give.
I am grateful to be standing side by side with Mark today, with our relationship stronger than ever before. It brings me unspeakable joy to have recently celebrated his 2nd-year sober cake with him recently.
I am grateful for God’s love and unfailing care for both of us. I hope and pray that we are blessed with many, many more years of this light. I know that if Mark does what he needs to do, on a daily basis, good things will continue to happen.
It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but recovery does work. I’ve seen it for myself and experienced it through Mark. Recovery must be practiced every single day. It is a process; it takes time, patience, and everything you’ve got. It is worth it.
Just like how my self-care comes first, I understand that Mark’s recovery must as well. His recovery comes first so that I and everything else he values in life doesn’t have to come last. Recovery is his self-care.
His commitment has allowed me to trust that he’ll always strive to do his best. I know that he’s able to trust in the fact that I’ll always do my very best to be there for him and support him in his recovery.
With love, compassion and a fierce commitment to stand by him, I am able to be the wife he needs me to be. It is important for me to remember to be patient, appreciate his progress, and never expect perfection. There will be times when it’s one step forward and two steps back. The beautiful thing is that I know if he’s doing what he needs to do, he can make it through any adversity.
Adversity doesn’t mean failure, it’s all just part of the process.
Recovery has allowed me and Mark to enjoy an amazing life together. We’ve grown stronger, and so has our mutual love and respect.
I am so proud of Mark. My appreciation for recovery and the people who make it their mission in life to help others is impossible to appropriately state. Miracles happen on a daily basis. Today, life is good.
I love you, Mark.