Drug Abuse Created a Wedge Between Husband and Wife

Neither Karen nor I were aware of Brian’s drug abuse until I received “the” phone call from school that he was seen smoking dope on campus.  Hindsight being what it is, we now realize that the signs were there but not recognized by either one of us.  Karen thought Brian and his friends wanting massive quantities of snacks at late hours of the night, was growing boys, just being boys.  The smell of incense and other fragrances was the boys exploring other cultures.

Denial was ever-present in the early stages of our experience with alcohol and drug abuse.  Karen thought if she just “loved” Brian more, he would see the error of his ways.  I knew we had had a problem but didn’t think it was a disease, and Brian would realize that he could stop any time he chose to do so.  I was trying to wait it out hoping it would eventually go away. We both were in denial.

It wasn’t until Karen was invited by another Mom to attend Sean O’Hara’s Thursday night meeting in San Diego that we began to come together and form an alliance in order to combat the situation we found ourselves living with on a daily basis. This was the better part of two years, living in the turmoil and chaos that had become our everyday life.

Brian was “kicked out” of school 6 weeks before the end of his sophomore year of high school and we decided to home school him for the remainder of the school year.  My work situation allowed me to have Brian with me for the day and I was able to provide his schooling at this time.

This was the beginning of the stress that comes with the use of alcohol and drugs by a member of the family.  It was not an overwhelming force but an insidious growth that slowly infected the family relationships.  Karen and I began to distance our selves from each other, from Brian and from our two daughters.  Karen increasingly blamed herself and I was busy building a wall separating myself from the situation.  The stress became so great that Karen would begin to become physically ill, not eating properly; not getting enough sleep – she’d sit in the bathroom at night and cry till she had nothing left.  I could not wait until I could get out of the house and go to work – work soon became my sanctuary.  I would find any small task that would allow me to stay there as long as I could, anything to keep me away from home and the Hell that it had become.

This was the way we lived throughout Brian’s junior and the majority of his senior year of high school.  One day at a time and the following day being worse than the day before.  Growing further apart ever so slowly.  As to separation – we never separated physically – we separated mentally and emotionally.  It was during Brian’s 2-year sober cake celebration at New Life House when Karen shared that if our lives had continued on the path they were on; she was ready to pack her bags and leave the relationship.  I had built my wall high enough to drive Karen away but not high enough to me safe from the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction.

Brian didn’t pit us against each other with the intention of separating us, he goal was to manipulate us.  He could control Karen thru feelings of guilt and manipulate me thru anger.  Karen was made to feel that it was all her fault that he drank and used drugs.  Brian’s excuse for his behavior was Karen’s fault.  No matter what she did or did not do, her actions were the cause for him wanting to use and drink.

As for myself, all Brian had to do was get me to the point of becoming angry and I would retreat within myself and let him do what he wanted to do.  As time went on it didn’t take much for me to “check out” and build the wall of solitude higher and higher.  Looking back, the wall was never going to be high enough for me to escape the effects of this disease.

The effects of the situation, for our two daughters were damaging to each of them.  They both lived out of the house all this time.  Our oldest would visit often and could see the relationships within the house deteriorate and she became angry with both Karen and me because we weren’t doing anything.  We were jaded in our perception as to what was transpiring within the house and she was angry with Brian because of his behavior and blamed him for all that was happening.  Our youngest daughter was away at school and we were trying our best to insulate her from all the turmoil and chaos so she could better focus on school and not worry about us at home.  We later were to learn that trying to insulate her caused her to feel resentful and angry for keeping her out of the loop.  What we thought was a good thing to do – the way we were handling this before getting help – was to come back and haunt us.

By the time Brian reached New Life House, Karen had been going to Al-Anon regularly and had a sponsor and was working the steps.  She was the first to take that step towards recovery.  It was her willingness to take the necessary steps to change her attitudes and behavior that lead the way for the change in the family relationships.  As she become stronger, Brian’s power to control became weaker.  When he had at last lost the ability to control Karen, he was forced to decide how he was to continue his life – one of alcoholism and drug addiction – or a life of sobriety.  He chose recovery and sobriety.

For the first two years of Brian’s recovery the family started the healing process, Karen and Brian grew closer together, our daughters had worked thru their anger issues and I was happier now that the family was recovering and coming back together.  Karen, Brian and Breann were working programs of recovery thru Al-Anon (Karen and Breann) and AA (Brian) while Amanda (our youngest daughter) and I were working thru the Saturday family meetings at New Life. Amanda got all she needed thru New Life.  I on the other hand needed something more but was unwilling to take that next step.  I was better but still had issues lingering in the background that were not being addressed.  I had not accepted that alcoholism and drug addiction were diseases and that I had really suffered from their effects.

When I finally came to believe that alcoholism and drug addiction were diseases, I then was willing to take that step and begin my own program of recovery thru Al-Anon.  So, thru Brian’s ability to surrender and accept help for his drug abuse, our family’s relationships have grown to be so much healthier.  Our family is able to communicate and reason out our differences, have honest and frank conversations, enjoy each other’s company and we’re better able to assist one another with life’s trials and tribulations.   Because Brian chose to accept help, Karen and I have the family we dreamt about when our children were still young and innocent.

It’s been fourteen years since we began this journey to where we are now, living without insanity and enjoying the peace and serenity being provided by our HIGHER POWER.  None of what we have now would have been possible without the belief that something greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, and that something is a GOD of our own understanding.  Without this faith, not only would we have nothing, we’d have something much worse.

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  • Debbie O-A
    Posted at 09:03h, 14 May Reply

    Thank you for this honest and open share. How alcoholism and addiction devastates family relationships can’t be underscored enough. The amazing thing is that God always provides a light, if we only choose to walk towards it. You illustrated so poignantly the gifts we can receive once you start the journey.

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