I never felt more alone after the man I loved lost his battle with addiction. Wait, that’s not accurate. I’d felt isolated a lot of times during our four-year relationship. I’d existed mostly in a world of silence and helplessness as I watched my partner battle a disease that rivaled the most turbulent storm I’d ever witnessed. I’d never known anyone with a substance abuse problem before I met my boyfriend. I was a drug addiction virgin.
But soon enough, I became an expert. Nine months into our relationship, I quickly learned about relapse, withdrawal and binging – all in one fell swoop. It was a whirlwind like nothing I’d ever seen before. And without warning, I got caught right in the middle of it.
By the time I realized what was even happening, I was already living with and in love with my boyfriend. And all I could do was what I knew how – to be loving and supportive. I’d never even heard of the term enabler. I did know if he needed someone to cover for him, I made the phone call. If he needed a ride home, I picked him up. If he needed a bed to sleep in, I gave him one. Wasn’t that what anyone in a relationship would’ve done? But something just wasn’t adding up, because all of a sudden now I was suffering, too.
It was like someone had given me a riddle to solve that wasn’t solvable. It didn’t make sense to me. He was a parent like me. He had a good job like me. He came from a good family like me. How did he end up with this disease, unlike me?
I certainly couldn’t discuss the situation with my friends and family unless I’d wanted a dose of their, “What the hell are you thinking?” medicine. That wasn’t what I needed. I loved this man. I wasn’t going to turn my back on him just because he was sick.
I can help him!
I was wrong.
This is just a phase!
I was wrong.
I continued to go through things nobody should ever have to go through. I saw things nobody should ever have to see. Not at the hands of their partner. And I did it with very little support. My feelings of isolation and solitude were crippling. I didn’t know anyone else in my shoes. The stigma of being involved with an addict paralyzed me. I’d rather suffer in solitude!
At times, the emotional pain was so agonizing I wondered how I would make it through. And yes, I could’ve left him. I chose not to. I wasn’t going to allow this disease to win! I was a twelve-letter varsity athlete in high school, an all-state softball catcher, and the scholar-athlete of my senior class.
I could do this!
I was wrong.
It wasn’t me that had to beat it. While there were many glimpses of hope along the way, including an almost two-year clean period leading up to our engagement, I naively didn’t realize it was a lifelong battle. Unfortunately, my lack of understanding and his complacence led us back down that dark, relentless road. When he relapsed again, he never found his way back.
My partner lost his battle with substance abuse last year. And I felt lost and alone again; helpless and guilty that I wasn’t able to save him. I’d desperately wanted to show him that life had so much more to offer than picking up a drug. I never wanted to give up hope, especially after I’d watched him successfully crawl his way back from some of the lowest points in his life.
I wanted him to fight his demons and come out stronger on the other side. And while I tried everything I could to help him succeed, I realize now that task was insurmountable. That was my battle, my journey – not his. His loss left me with fierce anger, anguish, and feeling like a failure.
When people asked me how he’d passed away, I finally opened up about his struggles – and my own. I realized I still needed support. I was finally ready to let go of my secret.
And once I did, people started sharing their stories with me in return. It was beyond liberating. I heard things like, my adult son is a drug addict, my husband is an alcoholic, and my ex-wife had a prescription pill problem. I was no longer alone. My recovery had finally begun.
I wondered where these people were when I needed support as I tried to blindly meander the treacherous trail of addiction. They were around. I was just too afraid to ask.
I was so dissatisfied knowing there were people out there, people like me, who were suffering in silence while living in chaos. I felt compelled to create a community of peer-support for partners of addicts where individuals would be free to share their stories without being judged or ridiculed. I followed my heart, pursued my mission, and found an individual at a local recovery center who helped me create a closed Facebook group where significant others of addicts can share freely and openly. I was on the road to healing.
I helped create an online community of members who’ve broken their silence in the supportive environment they’ve been yearning for. Like me, many of them often found it difficult to physically attend meetings as a single, working parent. But that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve support. The Facebook forum allows members to sit at home in their pajamas with their sleeping children and speak to others who’ve been in their exact same shoes. It’s empowering, educating, and an essential resource for this demographic. The experience and camaraderie has been tremendous and inspirational.
I now realize no one can fight this battle alone. We ALL deserve support.
I know my partner would’ve been proud of the path I’ve taken. He used to refer to me as “his angel.” And now I’ll spread my message to as many people as my voice can reach.