Love, Addiction, And Trauma

    I encouraged my wife to talk about my situation.  I've been very open about what happened to me because I want it to be a pathway for others who are suffering; both partners in different ways.  All the lies, the deceit, the broken promises - it's a tough life to live and there is no reason to suffer anymore.   There is help out there, and we can assist you in becoming well again. This is what she wrote for me:

 I had finally gotten home and I walked into the kitchen when I had found it. It was a simple piece of junk mail with some illegible blue scribble on it but one phrase stood out. “Love you always” those words were like a hot poker right in the heart. Then it finally happened, then I sunk to the floor and I cried. For the prior two years I’d gone through hell. My husband had been struggling with drinking and PTSD. I had done everything in my power to help him but nothing ever seemed to work. Love was just not enough to overcome the demons that had taken over. 

            When I think back I know there were lots of warning signs and I kick myself for not pushing harder.  My family wasn’t a drinking family, but his family was. So often times when he would drink I’d tell myself I was just a drinking prude and try to drop it. I started to notice though that the drinking didn’t seem to have a limit. He would drink whatever was available. He never just had 1 or 2 drinks he had half a bottle or a 6 pack. The drinking started becoming more frequent and I would often times get angry. It started to affect my life because I couldn’t count on him. I’d come home from work and find him drunk, or his friends would come over to help paint our new house and there would be bottles everywhere and no work done. Most of it I just figured was young age and a phase that he would grow out of. I never realized that the drinking was a bandaid to a deep dark wound.

             We occasionally would discuss his job but he never really seemed to be bothered by it. He just kind of brushed off the bad calls. I’d occasionally probe him about something that was on the news and he would always just shrug and say its part of the job. When I first met him in high school the fire department was his life. Most of our conversations always were about the fire department or the police reports. After high school we had lost touch for a bit but when we reconnected he was a paramedic. I was not surprised, it seemed like he was always destined for a first responder career. I always wondered how he did it, how he sat with someone he knew was breathing their last breath. How he listened to the screams of family members as he was helping their loved ones. We would go out with his co workers though and they would all laugh and make jokes about the gross things they saw. They were like magicians who just turned off their feelings whenever things got tough.

         In 2011 I had been reassigned for my job. One of my co-workers and I were discussing how he had chosen our careers. He told about his experience as a paramedic and how he had to leave his job because he couldn’t take it anymore. He told me about seeing people’s faces when he would go to sleep. Something about that conversation hit me hard. I remember it was like it all clicked and I realized that my husband probably was experiencing career burn out. I wanted to have a baby, so I decided to have a come to the table talk. We discussed his drinking and we discussed careers after EMS. He did admit he was drinking too much and agreed to stop so we could start a family. He also said that he didn’t think he had burn out and when he got to that point he would letme know. 

        Our baby was born and we struggled through the first few weeks like most parents do. It’s an adjustment that no books or classes can prepare you for. I decided to take some time off of work and things seemed to be going really well for us. The one thing no one ever told us about was how emotional parenting can be. Suddenly all the stories on the news about babies dying in car accidents or to neglectful parents hit home HARD. I often wondered if that’s what broke him, when he started to feel every single call. After about 6 months I went back to work. Shortly after I had gone back to work my husband had an episode. I came home from work and after our son had gone to bed he started drinking. He was vile, suicidal, and so I decided to let him sleep it off. I slept on the floor the night in a ball, I didn’t know what I was going to do. He was very apologetic and we agreed he needed to go to a therapist. He went and this was when he was first diagnosed with PTSD. He said he felt a lot better, and I assumed that this is when it was going to stop.

            In the Summer of 2014 he started to seem to be failing apart again. I just was very suspicious of everything he was doing. He would just send me strange text messages, or the conversations seemed odd. I’d come home from work and I’d smell booze coming out of his pores. He would tell me I was just imagining it. Then one night the worst happened. I was at work and I called home because I hadn't heard from him in a few hours. When he answered finally my worst fears were confirmed. He said some nasty things to me and eventually sent me a text message with a gun in his mouth. I had to call the police. I spent the next few hours in an abandoned parking lot with the police waiting to hear if he was ok, if our baby was ok. It was a nightmare. I knew he was going to be furious, but I couldn’t not react.  When I called the hospital to find out what was going to happen the clinician was very rude with me. She demanded my insurance card, let me know that I couldn’t have any information because my husband declined consent and that he would be unavailable until visiting hours the next day at 7pm. I didn’t sleep at all that night, I just sat and wondered how we got to that point. Were we even married anymore? It felt like the worst break up of my life. At the same time I felt so relieved because the giant elephant was finally out of the room. I had never told anyone about my husband’s drinking because I didn’t want people to not like him or to judge him. I was afraid to let my parents down, to disappoint our friends, and most of all to raise our child in a broken home. I called the nurses station that day and they let me know my husband didn’t want to talk to me still. I just sat and waited, wondering. Eventually we had a long talk. We decided he needed to go into a program and get real help. 

            He went to a good local IOP program and he made good progress. I remember he would come home and show me what he had worked on. I cried a lot because there was a lot of things I didn’t know. I had been so engrossed in the baby that I had failed to see the big red flags waving in my face. He seemed to be on a better path and I could only see good things to come. After a few months my hopes and dreams were crushed. He was working and I was cleaning up, I went into a cabinet and found a bottle. I was devastated. I didn’t understand why or how? I confronted him and made him leave for a few days. I didn’t know what to do at this point because I had such mixed feelings. There were moments where I loved him so much I couldn’t imagine living a day without him, but I certainly couldn’t spend the next year continuing to suffer. The next day I was sitting on a hard bench in a musty old lawyers office. I had googled names and his came up. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to pay a visit. The lawyer as unbelievably nice, and as I sat there crying he looked at me and he said “You know I can’t dispense love advice, but just remember that divorce is permanent. If you have any doubts then you shouldn’t be here yet. When you decide you’re ready then you know how to find me.”  After I left there I met up with my husbandhe said it was an old bottle and I had over reacted. I knew that wasn’t true, but I couldn’t prove otherwise either. Thankfully, he found a mentor, and my family was really supportive so he was able to get back on track.  Truthfully, he became a stranger that I couldn’t trust. I had to plan everything 3 times. The way it was supposed to go, the way it was going to go and an emergency plan incase I caught him drinking. He thought he was good at hiding things but I always seemed to catch him. He would have some amazing story to go with it. 

         On August 5th, 2015, about 8 hours before I discovered the junk mail,  I was at work and I got a text message from my husband who was home alone. The wording of it made me suspicious that he was drinking.  I was supposed to go to the dentist after work and I was having second thoughts. Thankfully a little while later my son’s daycare teacher called to let me know she thought he wasn’t feeling well. On my way to the daycare I decided to stop at our house to confront my husband. As soon as I walked in the door I looked at him and we both knew. There wasn’t much of any exchange, I just said “why? why would you do this? I see you’ve made your choice”. I left, it was sunny that day so I wore my sunglasses. No one at daycare had any idea that something was wrong. I brought our baby to my parents house to wait out “the storm”. I told my dad my marriage was over, I think that I couldn’t take it anymore. After a few hours I decided to leave and head back. I was going to visit my grandmother but I hadn’t heard from my husband. Usually he would apologize after a while, or say something. Instead it was silence. When I got to the house, I started up the stairs. I heard him breathing and I knew what I was about to find. He was dying in our bed, his face was purple. I quickly grabbed the baby and put the tv on downstairs and went back. I just remember going through the motions, I didn’t panic, I just started dialing phone numbers, first a friend to come by, then 911 then my parents. The time was a blur, it all went by so fast. I walked into the emergency room and it felt like everyone was staring at me. I figured everyone was wondering why I wasn’t crying, but there was just no tears. I was so angry at him and at myself for saying what I said. I felt guilty because I knew I had probably been the reason why he did this. I loved him so so much, but I was so tired of waiting for the storm to pass. He was laying in a bed on a ventilator because his own lungs weren’t working. His face had a sheen to it, and the doctor stood there letting me know that he was probably going to die or be severely brain damaged. He looked just the way he would look in a casket, I thought, and maybe this was the only way he was going to find peace. So I left, not knowing if the morning was going to come and I was going to be a widow. 

           The next few months certainly weren’t easy, thankfully my husband survived and went to a program designed specifically for first responders in Vermont called the Uniformed Services Program. The program helped change the way he viewed things and gave him the ability to cope and process all the emotions that he had been suppressing for so many years. For me being able to glue alcoholism and PTSD together was a huge part of me understanding and forgiving. No matter how much I loved him and tried to help it was never going to fix what was broken inside him unless he decided to fix it. The past two years were some of the loneliest times because I lost a lot of friends/ kept myself secluded. I know a lot of people do not understand why I would’ve stayed in that situation.  My husband is a good man who has been emotionally broken. In my mind I see him headed toward a scene dragging his heart behind him like a ball and chain. If he never grew up with healthy coping mechanisms, then it is not surprising that that’s the first thing he turned to. I want our child to grow up knowing that we aren’t all cookie cutter perfect and that the “better or worse” part of marriage can really hold true.  The most important thing is giving up expectations of situations and just living in the moment. Stay strong, help is out there.