Addiction, the mere word causes my throat to constrict, my heart to palpitate, my eyes to fill. Being an addict is devastating; loving one can be just as disastrous.
This story begins approximately 38 years ago. A college freshman, away from home for the first time, meets a local boy in a bar, and is instantly intrigued. His shoulder length blue-black hair, dark skin and hooded eyes give him an air of mystery. He appears confident yet shy as he slumps casually in his chair sipping a beer. He is very unlike the college boys that frequent the bar. While their raucous behavior speaks to their immaturity, his behavior is the epitome of “cool”. His bell-bottom jeans hang low on his waist. His cowboy boots are a sharp contrast to the “wife beater” tank top stretched tightly across his chest. His chiseled biceps display a colorful tattoo of the grim reaper. He does not appear to be a weight lifter, but his toned upper body and golden tan lead her to believe he does some kind of outdoor physical labor. She is definitely attracted to him.
So begins the courtship that later leads to marriage between the two. The college freshman is me, the local boy my ex-husband. Throughout the early months of infatuation, I learned a lot about his past. He had a twin brother and a brother who was 4 years older then him. He lived with both of his siblings, along with their father, in a modest bachelor pad near the college. He had lost his mom in a car accident when he was 7 years old, and his dad never remarried; she was the love of his dad’s life; she was 32 years old. His house was the local hangout for the kids who chose not pursue an education after high school, immediately joining the workforce. These blue-collared kids worked hard during the week and partied harder on the weekends. Most of the group did not have girlfriends, so with the exception of his older brother’s girlfriend, I was the token female. On those days, that frequently ran into nights, the guys lugged in coolers of beer; shopping bags filled with Johnny Walker, Southern Comfort and Jack Daniels. Kegs were tapped and blenders mixed up all kinds of exotic alcoholic concoctions. The Moody Blues, Jonathan Edwards and Blue Oyster Cult blared loudly from the tape deck in the backyard. Weed was in abundant supply and many in the group, unbeknownst to me, were “dropping” acid.
This was the beginning of the “80’s” and this is what small town America looked like. This behavior was the norm and certainly did not seem dangerous, reckless perhaps, but not dangerous. We were 19 years old, carefree, wild and living life to the fullest. Addiction simply was not in our vocabulary. Alcoholics were old men, retired and toothless, passed out in their recliners, remote on the floor, TV screen sizzling static white snow, surely not us!
I went on to quit school and in April of 1981 got married. Everyone speculated that I must be pregnant; why else would you marry at 19, however I did not have my first child until I was 28; we were just crazy in love! Months into the marriage though, I did begin to take on a motherly roll. I outgrew the endless partying. Friends knocking on our door at all hours of the night became annoying and exhausting when we had to start work at 7 AM the following day. Trying desperately to recreate the home of my childhood, I was content to work, cook, clean and make our house into a home where he’d always feel safe. I was excited to expose him to a life he never knew, but in spite of all my efforts he remained restless.
When he was a child, his dad, devastated by his moms death, worked long hours trying to dull the pain and provide for his children. Often times he’d stop for a drink or two on the way home, prolonging the inevitable feeling of loneliness that awaited him. Frequently their older brother would collect the boys from the corner where they would anxiously wait for their father to return home from work. A far cry from my leave-it-to-beaver childhood.
Looking back I realize that as early as 15 my ex-husband was dealing with a substance abuse problem. Presently though, his drinking and drug use didn’t seem a big deal, after all he held down a full time job working a minimum of 60 to 70 hours a week. Neither drugs or alcohol ever interfered with, or caused him to call out of work.
The loss of his mom was something he never dealt with. His twin brother often saw her walking the hallways of the house after her death, and this caused him to also abuse drugs and alcohol. He frequently blacked out. Once he woke up in a neighbors house which he had drunkenly wandered into believing it to be his own.
The years passed and the names of the drugs changed, but the cravings did not. Where it was once acid and THC, it became quaaludes, crystal meth., cocaine, and finally crack.
There were good times, I had two amazing, beautiful children. My husband did have times of sobriety, and during those times he was an amazing father. I truly believed he loved me and our children, but the monster that lived inside, jealous of the attention he gave his family, refused to be ignored. It demanded to be feed and no matter how much love and support we showed him, he always succumbed to its gnawing hunger.
I cried; I begged; I guilted; I enabled. Nineteen years and two children later it was finally over, I simply could endure no more and in the end I left. This was more then he could take and his drug of choice became heroin. Out of all the drugs I watched him abuse, heroin was by far the worst. Heroin stole his soul. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to get his fix. He lied, stole, and humiliated himself in every way possible. In the end he was a shell of the man I knew. He was flesh and bone with a hollowed out soul. His once beautiful blue-black hair was now totally gray, his once charming smile was gone, as well as most of his teeth. His muscles once strong and sculpted were now so weak he had trouble functioning and staying awake.
The drug won as it almost always does. It ruined his life, but it also touched many others in the process. I think I know why he used. It numbed the pain he just couldn’t deal with alone, starting with the death of his mother. I’ll always remember him telling me, “Mar. no one would ever choose to be an addict. This life is the worst possible life anyone could imagine.” There are those that have no sympathy. They say he had choices, they say he succumbed to temptation. They say he was weak and selfish. This all has merit, and I’m not here to debate it one way or another. I choose to let a higher power be the judge of that.
I do pray someday he finds peace. I know he will be forgiven for his actions while he was under the influence of this poison. At that time his body will become whole again, his soul restored and the hell he has lived in on this earth will become the heaven he will live in for all of eternity. As I pray for peace for him, I pray for healing for us.