Photo by Gwen Hawkins
A happily married mother of four, Linda had her world thrown into chaos when her husband suffered a painful herniated disc. His doctor prescribed Vicodin, reconnecting him with the drinking and drug use that he had abandoned over fifteen years before when he joined Linda’s church and married her. He became addicted to Vicodin, started drinking, and eventually started to use Meth.
Through ten years of Vicodin and alcohol abuse, and another five of Meth, Linda tightly held the secret of her husband’s addiction. She went to church (first with her husband, and later without him when he became too entrenched to even put on appearances) carrying a burden too great to articulate. Linda recalls seeing beyond the addiction and still believing that her husband was a good man. She didn’t want him to be stigmatized. So, in part, she kept the secret to protect herself, and in part she kept it to protect him. Even her children were not very cognizant of the situation. By the time he was using Meth, it was no longer something that could be confined within their home. Once quiet and reserved, he became loud and argumentative. Linda describes his physical appearance changing as well: “he became so thin and his cheeks were hollow, eyes dark, and he lost his teeth.” The two youngest, who were living at home still, were hit hardest by their father’s drug use.
The consequence of keeping her family’s secret was having to deal with the problem by herself. Trying to control the situation became an addiction of its own. Through fifteen years of increasing catastrophe, Linda tried to save her family on her own. The worse her husband’s addiction became, the more she resembled an addict in her efforts to hold her family together. It took her reaching her own rock bottom to admit that she couldn’t fix the problem without help. “I had to save myself because my life had become unmanageable. I was becoming just like the addict and losing everything. I was isolating, not taking care of myself, losing friends and relationships, losing control of finances, calling in work sick—exactly like the addict.” When they ran out of money and the safety of her family was threatened, courage to speak became imperative and Linda sought help. “I woke up from my own denial,” she says.
Reaching out for help was two-fold. It came both by finally relinquishing her secret and by turning control over to God. She says, “I had to admit I was powerless over my husband and his addiction. The ship of addiction was going down and I was on it along with my children.” When she realized that all she could do would never be enough, she decided to turn it over to God and trust His plan for her, her husband, and their children—whatever that was. Her husband was in and out of rehab for twelve years, and many thought he wouldn’t stay clean for more than nine months. But he’s now been clean for nine years. “He is a miracle!” she says. “They say if you stay in recovery long enough, the miracle will happen for you too!”
Choosing to turn her life over to God made all the difference. Linda’s children are grateful that their parents are still married and in love, and for their parents’ examples of love, forgiveness, and trusting the Lord. Linda reflects, “we are healing one day at a time and trusting God’s plan for each of us. … I didn’t understand that this is a family disease and I had a part in it. I learned that best way to love and support my husband was to let him go and give him to God. When I finally did, a miracle happened for both of us. He found sobriety and I found the girl again that was staring back at me in the mirror, and I learned to love her.”
For women who are experiencing similar tragedies, Linda offers this counsel:
- Talk about the truth that is going on with a trusted friend and not keep the secret! Secrets just keep everyone sick and allow our loved ones another day to use!
- I would recommend attending Al-Anon in your community if a loved one is struggling with an addiction. Find a woman there that has gone through similar pain and work the 12 steps together.
- Go to addictionrecovery.lds.org and look up Meeting Finder for a meeting for the Spouse and Family Group and it will show you where the meetings are located all over the WORLD! There you will find the help and support you need to find HOPE and HEALING!!!
- H.O.P.E. Hold On Pain Ends when you become completely honest and seek help. Life can be more beautiful than you ever imagined!!!
See also, this video about working through spousal addiction to pornography.
Written by Elisabeth S. Weagel