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Voices for Recovery


Jessica Walker (01/24/2011)

What 180 days of addiction and 365 days of a sober soul mate has taught me.

May 21, 2009.  He lost job.  I lost my grip.  He lost his pills because I flushed them down the toilet.  I lost touch with reality, while enduring a huge dose of it at once.

On May 22, 2009 when the nurse at the doctor’s office told me, “Sweetie.  He needs 24/7 care.  You can’t do this alone.  He needs help.”  Rehab wasn’t an option.  I didn’t believe it was necessary.  I didn’t think he would go.  She was suggesting that what he was going through was bigger than him, bigger than me…bigger than we would ever know.  I’ve never told her this, but her words were truer than I could have ever imagined.

I, we, endured 6 months from that day of insanity.  He struggled, he lost himself…I almost lost him and he almost lost me.  Somehow we were permanently webbed together, him relying on me for some sense of normalcy and trust that I wouldn’t leave him while I relied on the man I married to come back through my blind faith.  He tried everything he could to get rid of me.  Writhing in the throws of addiction, living in denial, pain, confusion, depression and dependency made honesty, health, balance, or sobriety unforeseeable.   So hard to touch what you can’t see.  So easy to want to leave this earth when you look around and all you see are things that are missing.  He told me on the phone one day at work that he didn’t want to be with me anymore.  It would be easier if he just packed up and left and disappeared.  That it would never be the same.  I was at work.  I went into the elevator, slipped off my wedding ring and cried an insurmountable amount of tears.  I watched that ring sit on my desk in front of me at work all day.  Someone could have taken me to the emergency room and I would have laid there, whispering that I wished to die of a broken heart.

I cannot tell you how we made it.

No.

I can.

That’s what I’ve learned.  One thing of many that I’ve learned.

I can make it.
We can make it.

Nothing is impossible…if you just believe.  I bought him that saying in a piece of art when I was in college, before we were even engaged.  My roommate and I lugged it back from the mall before Christmas time and I gave it to him on his birthday in 2005.  When I bought it I was making a point–one bigger than I could have ever predicted back then.

He checked himself into rehab on November 21, 2009.  I remember driving to that place with our in the passenger seat.  I remember his face when they told him he couldn’t go outside to see the dog.  I remember leaving and when I drove past the greenhouse where he was sitting I let our dog out of the car and he sniffed his hand through the glass.  I remember getting in the car and losing it.  It wouldn’t be the first or last time I literally thought I couldn’t survive another minute of breathing.

But I did.  He did.  We did.  He stayed.  He thrived.  I watched him transform into a better person.  A more loving husband.  A loyal friend.  An honest man.  A hurting, damaged man, but one that was willing to fight for his life.  A man willing to fight for his wife, his friends and his family.  It was hard.  Being with him the way he was in those six months was hard, but being without him was just as hard.  But it gave him time to start to heal himself, to address his hurts and wrongs and it gave me time to breathe.

He came home.  He didn’t come home to just our house which is what it had become.  He came home to our home.  Over a period of time, he made it home again.  A safe sanctuary for us to be, live and love.  A place where I could yell, scream and cry and talk about my hurts, my worries, my fears and he would listen.  He would talk.  He would hold my hand.  He would look me in the eyes when he spoke and I realized how long it had been since he had done that.

I can put into words the kind of pain I felt.  But I cannot put into words the joy, the love, the downright feelings of peace that the past year have brought me.  I cannot tell you in words how good it feels to look at him and have this feeling in my gut that tells me not only did I do the best I could, not only did I make the right choice to keep breathing, to keep staying and to keep believing–it tells me that the day I said:

Today I take you to be my husband.  Today I am certain.  I am certain that you are the man that I was meant to live my life beside.  I stand here and I see our lives before me.  I see lazy Sunday’s and crazy work weeks, love notes taped to doors and good night kisses, stolen covers, and missing socks.  I see family, and children, and laughter and a love between us that is too big to measure.  My love for you is and always will be unconditional.  Even in our unit of two, we have already become a family.  Today I ask you to communicate with me when you feel in doubt, to hold me when it’s hard to stand on your own, and to always know that you are my favorite, no matter what.  As I stand here before you, I see your face and I know love.  I look forward to a life full of the planned, but mostly the unexpected, and I know that one day I will look over at you, fifty years from now, and I will see a handsome old man, who has made my life richer, more beautiful, and more peaceful than I could have ever made it while alone.  And I know that in that moment I will look back on our lives with the kind of fulfillment and pride that I won’t be able to describe in words.  My love for you finally leaves me speechless.  Undoubtedly, from this point forward, I give you my hand to hold, and my heart to keep.  I love you.

I wasn’t lying.  I meant what I said.  And when the pills were gone, the addiction was tamed and the cards were put on the table for everyone to see…he reminded me that he meant what he said too.  Even more now than he could have ever meant then.

I, take you, Jessica, to be my wife, my best friend, and my soul mate.  I love you with all of my heart.  The last 3 years have been the happiest years of my life.  We have already made a lot of great memories together; the Inn, our perfect weekend at Glasbern, or the many Philadelphia sporting events we have attended.  They have all been special, but it’s the day to day little things that have made me feel the way I do today, like the way you greet me every day at our front door when I come home with a smile and a kiss, or the way you find a Hallmark card for every occasion.  I can stand here today and say that I am the luckiest man I alive because I get to spend the rest of my life with you.  I love everything about you and I promise never to take anything for granted.   I will be by your side through thick and thin, sickness and in health, and in your laughter and your tears.  I promise to love, respect, honor, and protect you, for the next 60 years and beyond.

I can’t speak for what he has learned, because I know it is a lot.  His experience of sobriety, a new life, is all his own and I am blessed to be sharing it with him. But I can share the following, as it helped me tremendously and without being armed with this knowledge I would not be the person I am today.

    * Addiction of any substance can happen to anyone of any age, race, gender, sexuality or background at any time for any reason.  You can be loved, educated, employed, respected and successful and you can be a prisoner in your own body and mind.  You can lose control and before you know it, you can’t figure out how to get it back.
    * Never say never.  I don’t care who you are or who you are married to or what you have been through or what you vow to do. Never say never is a terrifying curse and blessing.  We both would have told you this could never happen.  It did.  You could have told us it would never get better.  But it did.  And damn did it get great.
    * There were times I didn’t want to be here anymore.  There were times I didn’t think I could continue.  I wasn’t the greatest, kindest person in this time.  I wasn’t giving.  I wasn’t loving.  I was lost.  I felt alone.  I felt so terrified.  I remember my Mom asking me, “Is your marriage in trouble?”  I said yes.  She asked me if I was OK.  I shook my head no.  She asked what she could do.  I shrugged.  She tried to hug me.  I pulled away.  At that time, love physically hurt me.  I reacted to everyone the only way I knew how…blunt honesty.  I don’t know how I did it.  But I did.  I just…got up and kept on.  I just kept believing that this wasn’t going to be the end of our story.
    * There were times he didn’t want to be here anymore.  There were times he didn’t think he could continue.  He would lay in bed for days.  He would disappear for hours.  He would do everything humanly possible to prove he wasn’t worthy.  Until he did something about it.  He decided he didn’t want to be who he had become and he became determined to bring himself back out of this cloud that had overtaken him.  He knows how he did it.  I do too.  He just…got up and kept on.  He kept believing that this wasn’t going to be the end of our story.
    * You don’t find out who your true friends are, you find out what your true friends abilities are.  Some people can deal with crisis and others can’t.  Some can be there for you in the ways that you need and others are there for you in ways you didn’t know you needed or could tolerate.  We are human and we don’t and can’t always meet the demands and expectations of the one’s we love.  Though we certainly get credit and appreciation for trying.  We are not so different from each other, only our circumstances are.  We are each going through our own journey and sometimes they don’t collide and that’s OK.
    * Living an authentic life takes work, especially when you have endured and begin the slow, tedious process of conquering addiction.  We have never been more honest with each other.  We have never loved harder.  We have never laughed louder.  We have never held on tighter.
    * Counseling saved me.  It put my fears, my hurts, my insanities into perspective.  I loved and hated those hours with my counselor all at once.  I felt like he was the only person who I could tell the truth to, and I’ve never told him how grateful I am.  I hope to someday.
    * A village of people saved him.  I will forever and ever be thankful to the doctors, counselors, nurses and staff that went from being strangers to being a lifeline.  Neither of us will ever be able to tell you how you have helped give my husband a new life, but we do promise to continue paying our bills to you until our balance is $0!
    * Addicts are people.  They are human.  They are teachers, doctors, trash collectors, lawyers, stay-at-home Mom’s, retirees, and yes…even car salesmen.  They aren’t necessarily evil lawbreakers who were raised in poor conditions, with abusive parents in poverty.  They are just people who got mixed up and have to find their way back.  Many don’t.  But so many do, too.  This could happen to anyone.  Anyone can fall and anyone can rise.  It is all a choice.
    * If you don’t say how you feel it just sits inside you like a sickness.  It took me a long time and some really bad moments to realize that I had to “come complete” about my own story so I didn’t resent any of the peace, the good and the happiness I have allowed into my life as a result of our story.
    * You cannot help someone who doesn’t want help themselves.  There is help that help and help that hurts and it takes a long time to understand it when all you want is to make things better.  An addict has to decide that they don’t want to be an addict anymore and until they do you both are literally powerless.  That being said…an addict doesn’t choose to be an addict.  It’s something that happens without your knowledge, however it can be fought once its presence is acknowledged.
    * A life of sobriety is not without flaw.  It has its moments of imperfection.  But it is real.  Sobriety is an ongoing process, even if it isn’t seemingly and outwardly present every day.  Conflict and conversation are part of the process of life in general but living this life together is, well…sobering.
    * “The best way out, is always through.”
    * He saved himself. He really, really did.

Today is my husbands one year anniversary since he made the choice, on his own, to live a different life.  A year since he reclaimed the man we and everyone else who ever loved him knew him to be.  It’s been a ride, and a wild one at that.  Although I am full of words on this page I truly am speechless.  Most of all I am at peace.  I am thankful.  I am loved.  I am loving.  I am confident.  I am strong.

Together we stand, holding hands looking toward the rest of our “60 years and beyond.”

This makes the next 57 years and 51 days of marriage (and hopefully much more!) look like a cake walk.



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