Because I’ve been inspired to write, let’s just say I’m on a roll today and figured I’d take some time to explore new things. When I came across today’s blogging challenge around “relieved,” my heart clenched and my anxiety rose…a clear indicator that I need to let some things out. So here it goes:
Years ago…what seems like a totally different life now… I was engaged and had a beautiful daughter with a brilliant, stubborn, thoughtful, kind, curious, playful, likewise dirty-minded man. A man that knew me in elementary school, chased me on the playground, took pictures of me on fieldtrips that I only found out about after we started dating in our mid-20s (creepy stalker that he was…I say this jokingly with love), and moved away after our 7th grade year. A man I reconnected with later thanks to social media, and fell in love with through long distance conversations that lasted hours into the night. A man who also was addicted.
I didn’t realize the scope of his addiction until I moved back to be with him. By then, I was committed and–by God–I was not going to give up on him. Until those moments when the co-dependent cycle became overwhelming, and I didn’t think I could take it anymore. I would start to pull away, and he would work at getting better. I’d take him back in because when things were good, they were great! To clarify (as I always feel I need to)…he was not the actively abusive type of addict. He never said mean things. He never raised a hand to me. His came in the form of neglect… of himself, his jobs, and us.
It was my daughter’s actions that finally gave me the strength to move out. At not quite two, she was starting to feel and react to the absense her dad’s drinking left in our lives. I can remember the heartbreak of picking her up from daycare and her crying because she didn’t want to go home when he’d been virtually passed out on the couch the day before. I used to be able to keep her in other rooms and entertained, but she had become very mobile and very aware. I would take her to the park instead. We’d play until I had to take her home and make her dinner. I usually asked her dad to go sleep in another room (after I had dug through to make sure no alcohol was hidden there), and then she and I would eat and play until bedtime. I’d try to check on him. Clean out our house. Double check all the hiding spots to make sure he hadn’t hidden more vodka while I’d been at work, and then I’d try to work…grading papers and making lesson plans…the one normal thing I seemed to have in my life. It became too much.
I loved him with all I had, but I could no longer live with the uncertainty of who we’d be coming home to…the lively funny man that made gourmet meals…or the person who self-medicated with alcohol to cover the mental illness that I am convinced was never properly diagnosed. I could no longer take the heartache of watching our daughter be scared to go home. I could no longer take the stress of living “normally” to most people around me while hiding the struggles we faced.
When I made the choice to move out…it was really hard. I found support from my family, close friends, his family, and even him. We had promised that we’d do as much as a family as we could…but he HAD to follow through on treatment. No more promises to get help and then backing out because he’d made it a month without drinking. As long as he was sober, we’d spend every night together that we could. But if he started to relapse, we’d agreed that I’d protect our daughter and try to sheild her from that to my best ability.
Clearly, we did not get the fairy tale where he made it…where he found a treatment plan that worked and stuck with it. It was about a month after I moved our daughter and me out that his final relapse started. We called every day. I told him I loved him. Every day. Those were my final words to him and his to me.
One day he didn’t answer. Then his voicemail was full. I got a call from his mom asking me to call for a well-check since she’d already called in and they wouldn’t go again. So I did.
And I prayed.
I remember sitting with our daughter at a pool and looking up to the sky and BEGGING God to make this right.
I remember very clearly thinking, “God, if You took him…then I have to believe that he was never going to get better. That his addiction was only going to destroy us more. If he had to go now, it was because he was finally at a place where he was willing to accept You and Your love for him…and had You waited, You’ve have lost his soul.”
That night I was informed that he was gone. As my daughter happily ate her broccoli chicken and chatted away, a very kind officer sat with me and talked. He could tell through our conversation that there was still love in a very frustrating situation. He made sure I called for my own form of backup to get through.
We learned later that it was believed that he died from a seizure while detoxing. We went into the apartment and took out what we could…putting it into bags and totes for me to go through someday. The rest that landlord offered to haul off for us (for which I was thankful).
Then came trying to learn a new normal–where it was my daughter and me and no uncertainty and stress brought on by addiction. Now there are times when it’s brought about by other things…but, truly, life is not as much of a roller coaster as it once was.
And that is where I find myself relieved. I’m relieved that my daughter (because she was so young) does not have to remember her dad the way he was when he was drinking. Instead, she gets to watch the videos we took when he was sober, fun, playful, and present in all ways. I’m relieved that I can truly plan a budget and know that if I go over…it’s my own doing. I’m relieved that I don’t have to watch him struggle. I’m releived that we don’t have to hide the life we lived. And at times the guilt comes…because the relief I feel is a result of his death.
I’m not relieved that he died. I’m just relieved we don’t have the chaos we once did.