Behind Closed Doors | Addiction in the Family Part 2
Updated: Jun 23
How Drug Addiction Devestated My Family
Peering through a thick fog, I tentatively put one foot in front of the other, following the uneven path through darkness, struggling to keep my footing. I called his name, becoming more frantic. I stopped to gather myself, scanning from side to side, seeing nothing but shadows crowding in on me. All was still for a moment, besides my breathing until a heavy fear jump started my heart, thumping deep in my chest. My ears began ringing, my breathing was shallow as I moved forward again. Slowly at first, until I was running, sobbing his name, jumping away from being scratched and hit by whatever was out there with me.
Suddenly I was on the ground, dirt in my mouth, bleeding from my knees and hands. With hair in my face, and tears streaming down my cheeks, I crawled forward until I was up and running again. On and on, I ran through a black hallway where all I could feel was pain, grief, despair, hopelessness.
I tripped again and lay there depleted, crying, crying, crying for so long, I couldn't remember the last time I had done anything else. I looked around again, feeling confused and scared. The black marble beneath me shone in the moonlight through broken glass. I followed the weak silver beam up the shattered window, and above me the dark sky, thick with clouds that began to fall towards me. I tried to scream, but I had lost my voice. I put my head down and continued to cry until I opened my eyes again and recognized my bedroom spinning into focus.
I tried to shake the cobwebs out of my mind, and tried to sit up, but tangled blankets bound my legs, binding me to my bed. My eyes were so swollen that it seemed as if I needed toothpicks to hold them open. I touched my face and it was still wet from tears. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on where the banging was coming from. As reality tickled the edges of consciousness, I realized it was my heart beating out of control.
I thought about the nightmare that was my life and how closely it resembled the dream I just had. I sighed and pried my eyes open again, studying at the clock. It was 4:17 am. I heard a small commotion and sighed, pushing the blankets from my legs as my bedroom door creaked open, and two tiny faces, then three gazed in at me. "Come on," I said, moving pillows as three little kids climbed into my big, empty bed. They crowded around me, falling asleep almost instantly while I lay trapped under a pile of limbs, and silently cried more tears until the sun came up.
Drugs Make Even Fairytale Relationships Toxic
A toxic relationship is when there is no longer healthy communication between two people, and someone feels endlessly undervalued, disrespected, discouraged and powerless. - Psycology Today
The second he walked in the door, I knew. He didn't have to say anything, we didn't have to make eye contact. I could tell the way the door opened, and he put his stuff down that he had used. I immediately felt my guard rising. I did a quick mental check of where the kids were. Two were outside. Two were in my room and one wasn't home. I continued to make supper, trying not to get sick, as the smell from the food suddenly nauseated me.
Aiming for indifference, but coming off hostile, he put his drink on the counter and glared at me while I continued cooking. "You're not going to say hi? Why don't you say anything when I come in the door?
I continued to move around the kitchen, feeling an invisible fist in my chest closing around my heart. My shoulders seemed to sag as I shook my head.
"I don't know what you mean," I insisted, even though I did. What was I supposed to say? I didn't want to fight, I was so tired of fighting. But I couldn't act like everything was normal when it was so not normal. He had left to get milk 9 hours ago. I spent the day juggling the kids, cleaning, making meals, cleaning more, and listening to my school lecture with a baby shark blaring in the background. I was tired and frazzled. I had not had a sip of water or a bite to eat all day, feeling nauseous and anxious thinking about where he was. I knew where he had gone and what he had done. I had no energy to play nice or say how I felt, so I simply said nothing.
"What happened to you? You aren't nice to me anymore." The small jabs continued while I kept wiping the same spot on the counter. A long pause stretched between us as I struggled for words, trying to get my mouth and mind to match up to say something that would diffuse a situation I could feel brewing.
"Why is it such a mess in here?" The magic words he knew would dig at me, hurt me, and get a response. Without thinking, I whirled around, throwing the cloth on the counter. The next thing I know, we are in a full blown argument. We were tossing insults while I stormed around the room, picking up toys and papers, and anything else that was out of place, before carrying them to a bin and shoving it all in together. Grabbing a wayward shoe and some Lego pieces, I continued to fend off each arrow he shot at me with my own crushing words.
It was ugly, and I felt my self-esteem dropping with each insult, until I was covering my ears like a two-year-old, stomping my foot and hollering, "Just stop already, stop it."
I had tears running down my face again, and we stalked off in different directions. Once I got upstairs, I struggled to pull myself together before opening the bedroom door with a big fake smile on my face, only to discover the twins covered in sharpie.
"Oh, no! I cried, rushing to grab the markers from their hands. Instantly, they were both screaming for them back. I tried to usher them into the bathroom. While fighting to get their clothes off, I stopped to view in horror, the once pristine white walls covered in black permanent scribbles. I sank to the floor, holding them while we all wailed together.
My toxic relationship formed a codependent bond
Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship dynamic where one person assumes the role of “the giver,” sacrificing their own needs and well-being for the sake of the other, “the taker.” - Psycology today
Almost every interaction we had those days started with a distraction from the truth. If he got to me first, he could divert me from what he was up to. Sadly, it almost always worked.
Before his relapses became more frequent, one of the things I loved about us was our healthy way of communicating. We used to have so much respect, love, and admiration for each other. When we disagreed, we never insulted each other, or tried to pick the other person's opinion apart. We genuinely tried to put ourselves in each other's shoes, and discussed the problem to understand each other. I often left a disagreement feeling closer to him, enlightened in some way. Even if I still didn't agree, I felt I understood why he had that conviction and could choose my words in a way that offered him respect for being different than me.
Now I felt like I couldn't breathe without being told I was doing it wrong. Never one to back down if I feel wrongly accused of something, I lost the ability to be patient and understanding.
I was so sick and tired of being insulted and told lies. I was weary of the gas-lighting. I don't believe he knew the tactic he used to manipulate me. He sought to turn things around, by targeting my core identity and self worth. It infuriated me when I sacrificed so much of myself and it counted as nothing. If confronted about using, he would immediately turn it around on me. I began to question my own judgement and reasoning, and started to think sometimes I was crazy for even suspecting what he was up to. It's scary how easily a strong, independent thinking woman such as myself could fall into such a manipulated pattern of confusion. I felt so far away from myself because I didn't feel I could trust my own intuition. I was stuck in the cycle of 'love bombing' and manipulation.
After I settled the babies in my room with YouTube babysitting them with nursery rhymes, I began scrubbing the walls and cleaning water off the floor. The other two were arguing about who was making a bedtime snack. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, they started fighting about the jobs I had to delegate. It got later and later as I ran around in circles, broke up fights, cleaned up spills, told children what to do and was ignored. At 9 o'clock, I was pinned under a pile of tiny arms and legs again, listening to bed time music, struggling to keep my eyes open and work on some assignments while feeling anxious about the supper dishes and left out food.
6 hours later, I woke up groggy, my neck knotted and my head throbbing. My one eye felt glued shut from crying in my sleep while wearing make up. Through the mesh of little bodies, I untangled myself and went to wash my face. While in the bathroom, I noticed the garbage can full of water, a diaper floating on the top, along with a cup from the bathtub.
I ignored my inner self and repressed the shock she felt as I walked away from it, not even trying to clean it up.
I forced myself to go downstairs, so tired that my legs felt like they were dragging behind me in protest. I felt defeated as I looked around the living room, books and toys scattering the floor. The kitchen, an even bigger mess, because someone had left the food I had cooked and made another meal. On the counter I cleaned, sauce and juice spilled, with grapes and cheese rolled through it.
I began quietly unloading the dishwasher and rinsing dishes to fill it with. The dining room I had just picked up was cluttered with random junk on the table. Flashlights, screwdrivers, broken looking knickknacks and scattered bike parts.
He wasn't there. At some point, he left during the chaos of bedtime after making a huge mess. I kept cleaning up as quietly as possible until I heard a thump, and then little feet running down the hall to my bedroom. I quickly slipped upstairs to meet the twins going into my room where we fell into bed, and I stared at the ceiling until the sun started to peek through the blinds.
A deep sense of dread hovered around me and tried to cut through my brain. How was I going to do this again for another day? I was already tired and irritable, and knew I had to get up and make breakfast in an hour. I wasn't simply physically drained. I was also emotionally and mentally drained. How did this happen to me?
Life wasn't about living, it was about surviving. I knew that if I thought about it, the reality would kick me hard. I was sick of taking proverbial beatings, so I continued to do what I did every day. Struggle silently until our daily confrontation, which would give him the freedom to take off again while I sat trapped in hell for another day.
Why is it so hard to leave a toxic relationship?
I felt like I was withering away. I felt so disconnected from my true self. And then he would come home with a big smile on his face, Slurpees for the kids. He would gaze around at the disarray of the house and sheepishly tell me he was going to help me out, and that I was sensational for handling everything. He would crack jokes with the kids. everyone was smiling and looking happy, so I would too. I would smile and make silly faces at the kids before starting my homework. Afraid to rock the boat or give him a reason to leave or fight, I would be silent about everything that had just happened.
I allowed him to hug me and smile when he said I looked beautiful, even though he told me yesterday I looked skinny and pale, and some other hurtful statements meant to cut me up inside. We would continue living what I felt was a fake life. We had all the components of being our old, happy, close selves, but I was carrying all this baggage from the last episode, without a place to unpack it.
And just like a nightmare, it lingered on the edges of consciousness, throwing little bolts of fear into me while we all ignored the darkness creeping in. Routines started again, I got up and made breakfast while he made lunches, and we worked together to get the kids out the door. I got caught up on school work and the twins napped while I listened to my lecture.
The day felt normal, and I could see the sun shining through the windows, which were clean and bright because he had washed them all for me yesterday. I felt a twinge of the old happiness and felt a little grin while I took out the ingredients to his favorite meal.
The kids came home and did their homework, and I cooked supper while watching the clock. My heart began to feel clenched again, and then I started to feel fear and frustration as the clock just kept ticking away. Finally, I fed the kids and started their bedtime routine.
I knew where he was and what he was doing. Anxiety was gnawing through my throat, and the noise from the kids assaulted my ears and came rushing in on me in a wave. Suddenly short of breath and hot impatience laced my voice, while I made crisp commands to get upstairs and ready for bed. Disapointment covered their faces as they felt my attitude change, but I had not time for that. I had to finish my homework and, Oh, look, the house looked like a bomb again. So I began barking out a list of chores they had to compete in the next 30 minutes. Complaing, whining and even crying, I fought them for an hour before giving up and them into bed without even brushing teeth. I rested in a puddle of bodies while sending hateful text messages, threatening, then bartering and begging before worry replaced the anger.
I don't know when I fell asleep or when I woke up. It was all a blur of tears and a black sinking feeling before I went downstairs to check if he was home. He wasn't. I went back to bed, only to wake up two hours later and start the nightmare all over again.
Until you have walked a mile in my shoes...
I get asked all the time why didn't I leave sooner. And the answer is simply that I became an addict too. I was addicted to love. I was addicted to what we were before, and tried anything I could to get that feeling of happiness with him again. I was obsessed with making him happy, because if he was happy enough, maybe he would choose me/us over drugs. I was terrified he would ultimately choose his underground life style over the loving family and support system I was desperate to provide him. I was so afraid of how people would think of him. I felt I had to protect his image because He is so much more than a drug addict. I became so wrapped up in his identity, I began to lose my own. My needs stopped being important because his problems were bigger. I began to resent him and want him simultaneously. He caused me so much pain, but I loved him so much.
I wanted my old life back so badly. We could have the worst day ever, but then he would come home happy, and I would perceive the real him. Hope would grow in my heart that things were changing. He made promises, and I believed them. I didn't want to give up when normalcy was just around the corner.... and that corner, and that corner, and that corner, until I twisted through a maze every day and lost so much that I didn't know how to get out if I even tried
I realized about half way into it that we had become toxic and I had lost myself and become very codependent. I realized we had a broken communication pattern and we kept jumping on this weird hampster wheel that got us nowhere.
This thin veil of being normal felt so fragile. It seemed like my carefully constructed curtains would fall to the ground at any moment, exposing the truth that I didn't even want to admit. He was using more often, and this wasn't a mistake or a bad day anymore; this was turning into life. My life. That horrified me.
I began to think about the logistics of splitting up my family, and how I would manage four little kids alone and go to school. I fretted over what would happen with my stepson and didn't want to loose him. I couldn't keep up now; how was I supposed to pack up and move again and survive off the meagre budget I had? From the second, my eyes opened until my eyes closed on me, I struggled to keep up with my responsibilities. I agonized in every spare moment what I was supposed to do and how to pull it off. I needed freedom from this insanity and realized that freedom probably didn't include us being a big happy family anymore.
And then a month had passed, and another and another, and then it was Spring, and I had missed an entire season.
Spring has been known to take from me before giving me any new beginnings or fresh starts, and this spring was no exception. As my life hurled towards a breaking point, I felt more desperate and discouraged by the day. I had jumped into hell so he wouldn't be alone, and we could climb out of this together. I don't believe he knew of the sacrifice I made to be there for him, as this heavy weight of dread knotted in the pit of my stomach. It was warning me that I was about to burn before reaching the other side where freedom was going to be a little different than I had imagined. I had been avoiding this fire for a long time, but the fire was now at my door.
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