- Friends & Family
Submitted by: Margaret Phillips
This was by far my most difficult interview. Why? Because the person I love most in the world endured a lot at the hands of my active addiction and not once did he ever say “I’m outta here!”
”His love for me kept me alive long enough to finally get clean and sober. Recovery has given me the opportunity to make amends to him and be the wife he deserves. I love you!”
9/23/16 is our 21st wedding anniversary.
In Paul’s own words he explains what it’s like to see the person you love most in the world dying from a disease that you have no control over.
How long has your loved one been in long-term recovery?
Since May 3, 2008. She had brief periods along the way, but nothing sustainable for long.
What is the biggest positive change you have seen in their life since then?
She can now can enjoy everything that was there for her all along. She has the ability to appreciate where she is, what she has, and what she’s accomplished.
What led to their need for recovery? Your need for recovery?
There came a point where the person I loved the most in this world was going to be taken from me tragically. It was not going to be a mutual separation. Something serious was going to happen and everyone around her, including myself, knew it. Separation of any kind was definitely not something I wanted at all, but I was powerless. I think my planning to live without her may have played a part in what led her into seeking true recovery this last time. I finally realized that I may have to go on living my life without her and I needed to prepare to deal with this fact. This was extremely difficult for me because I loved her so much. My lifetime partner was going to be taken from me and it pushed me to get help for myself. This was my step 1.
What was the turning point for them and your understanding of what this was?
Probably a combination of things. Her quality of life was so poor physically, and mentally, because of all of the drugs she was taking that she just wasn’t functioning as a human being. Plus, I think her seeing that I was actually preparing to live without her also spurred her into asking for help. Having that moment of clarity. It was very difficult for me to watch. I recorded a conversation of her mumbling, talking gibberish, and being non-coherent. I had to erase it. That person on the recording wasn’t the person I knew and loved. I never wanted to hear that recording again.
What is one important truth you’ve learned through this recovery process?
That recovery can happen and it DOES work. I have seen her not work a recovery program and the outcomes kept getting worse. Never better. However over the past 8+ years I have seen her work very hard and life gets better for both of us each day. I never gave up on her or her recovery. I’d say about 2 weeks into her last treatment center in Memphis I knew she was different. Something had happened to turn her around.
What are you most proud of about their life today? What is your life like after your loved one addressed their addiction?
I’m proud that she can enjoy the successes she deserves. That she can enjoy all the happiness she deserves that was there all along, but she just couldn’t see it. The disease had her so wrapped up there was no way happiness or anything else could get in. I can see her successes every single day, and they get bigger and better. She would never have been able to enjoy or appreciate any of the things she does today if she were still alive and using. There is no way. I see someone that finally cares about themselves. I’ve always cared, but she didn’t think she was worth caring about.
Today, I now have a partner in my life that I can share things with who is engaged and present. She enjoys life at a different level. She couldn’t be “present” before recovery. I never thought that she didn’t want to do right by me – she was just not able. Now I have someone in this game called life with me 100%. I’m not discounting everything we had before recovery, but the partnership today is so much sweeter. She always tried to take care of me the best she could. It was herself she didn’t take care of.
What is one of your biggest struggles in their ongoing recovery? How do you overcome that?
I have to change the way I approach life. I realized I needed to change some things since she was growing and changing. In the past I could isolate and do things on my own and she wouldn’t necessarily care. Not because she didn’t want to, but she would be off doing her drugs and drinking. She wouldn’t want to go do certain things because she couldn’t drink or wouldn’t have access to the drugs. I’d do stuff on my own at night as I knew she would be passed out early. I’d go to the garage and work on my toys to escape. I just did my own thing then would go inside hours later to get her up and to bed. I enjoyed the time alone as I wasn’t wrapped up in her drama. At times I’m still in that mode of isolation because it’s comfortable for me. I need to work harder on that part. I can’t let her continue to grow and change alone. I have to think about us. My changing helps us grow together, but it’s hard for me. It’s like I did step 1 when she went to treatment and that’s all I’ve done. I need to do some catching up!
What part of your life do you find most satisfying since they chose recovery?
Our time alone whether here at home, on vacation, or on one of our adventures. We can enjoy the time as there isn’t the drive to find the next bar, or do activities that revolve around drinking and drugs. I no longer play second fiddle to those things. I know she didn’t intend for me to feel that way. It was just a byproduct of the disease. I understand it wasn’t her choice.
Is there a truth or piece of advice you have learned from your loved one in recovery? Is there something you have learned through their process?
Take care of yourself first. That’s how things started to change for us when I decided I’m just going to have to do whatever it takes to prepare to be without her. Not by choice, but because something was going to happen to tear us apart. I came to a place where I accepted this truth. It was my jumping off point. I would tell someone in a similar situation to know that recovery can and does work when the time is right for the person seeking recovery. You have to allow the person all of the space they need to work the program. To do what it takes to get well. Whatever sacrifice you see needs to made in the short-term – do it. It will be well worth it in the long-term. When recovery does work life is priceless. In looking back there were a lot of things I had to go through. People would say things like ‘I can’t believe you lived through that or put up with that.’ I’d tell them that in the end it has all worked out. Hold on to hope. If it’s worth fighting for then fight! Fighting for it doesn’t mean enabling them. You need to understand the difference. I had to understand the difference in order to save her.
What would you tell a loved one that is dealing with a situation where they know a family member needs recovery but they are afraid she/he doesn’t want it?
If the addiction is creating situations that are negatively affecting you or your family then you need to take action. Make changes for yourself first. Get the help you need. Sometimes making the initial change is what may spur your loved into action. It may be their turning point as well as yours. You set the example. Make good on your threats so the addict can see you are serious about changing your life. Be willing to make those hard decisions. It took me a long time to get to that point, but now I know what the right thing is to do. I didn’t have anyone outside of a program to give me advice like this so I hope it helps someone else. It’s not all the addict’s problem and it’s not all the addict’s solution. It’s definitely a joint venture.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you to my wife for getting to where she is today and making it work. It is what I’ve always wanted and now I’ve got it! Well worth it for both of us. There was never a question of whether or not I wanted to stick around. The difficult part was living through it, making the decisions I had to make, and working through them. I had a choice and she didn’t.