Tuesday, July 31, 2018

I probably should have written about substance abuse before.

But since I haven't, this will be really fucking long.

Back when MFD was abusing substances, or Not the Good Ol Days as I sometimes like to call them, I didn't write about it because I was focused on self preservation and making sure I did not go down with the ship.

When he got sober, I didn't write about it because that was his to deal with and work on. I didn't trust it at first, and when I did I didn't feel it was my place and frankly I wasn’t sure if my place was with him. When he hit a year I didn't write about it. Nor did I write about it at two, three, or four years sober. As he walks day by day toward his fifth anniversary, I can say with 100% certainty that while I have acknowledged it a few times, I never planned on writing about it in depth. It's a million times easier not to write about it.

Maybe I should have.

If I had, maybe I would not have accidentally seen a text that accused Michael of just fucking getting a DUI not REALLY needing to get sober and using this not needed sobriety and spirituality to advance himself politically...over four years later. This from someone who used to be close to us.

If I had, maybe people would realize not 100% bad did not mean secure, safe, okay, bearable, sustainable.

If I had, maybe I could have reduced even a smidge the stigma of addiction and would see much less of the absolutely ignorant shit people say about it that helps no one and hurts many.

If I had, maybe I could have prepared someone else's wife for the gutting path from addiction to recovery, shown her how to coexist without enabling or losing herself and how to prepare to get herself out if recovery never came.

If I had, maybe I could have eased a little of the pain of families who have lost loved ones to this monster, coaxed them out of their secret safe spaces and sat beside them in their suffering.

If I had, maybe I could have peeled back the complicated, nuanced layers of a life lived both with a substance abuser and the life you have to completely rebuild separately and together after that person makes the final choice of sobriety, which is often the only alternative to complete demise.

If I had, maybe someone who didn’t realize how life making or breaking sobriety is would be less flippant about it, would not casually suggest MFD was not still sober, would treat it as the sacred thing it is. 

If I had, maybe plainly acknowledging that maintaining his sobriety comes before everything else, including me, and that I am 100%  supportive of that priority would let people know that his life completely hinges on it.

If I had, maybe I could have helped someone I don’t know who doesn't have the support system I've had, someone who felt like there was no one who could possibly understand the position they found themselves in and felt alone and scared and ashamed. 

But I didn’t. I didn't write about it for a million reasons, most of which start and end with a desire for privacy that is probably not easily understandable given that I’ve put most of my life on this blog. Over the years, the desire to retain a privacy wall on this issue has felt simultaneously life preserving, true, selfish, honest, and deceitful. 

I wanted to stay up on my perch. If I opened the door on this in an effort to achieve understanding and compassion for people who struggle with addiction and the people who love them and for us to talk openly about it, I would also open myself up to disappointment if it only serves a desire for gossip. 

I didn't want to attempt it because it is difficult to write coherently about something you hold so closely to who you are, all the while standing in a hurricane as the ground below you undergoes a seismic shift that will change the landscape of your life permanently.

I didn't want to get close to it. I spent a lot of years separating myself from this. When he was drinking and doing drugs I separated myself out of self preservation and when he got sober I separated myself because I did not want any credit for his sobriety, which a lot of people wanted to give me. I still don't. It is his, not mine, and he works for it and is responsible to maintain it. He got sober for him, not me, and that's how it should be. When he made the decision to get sober it was with the knowledge that I was not sure if I would stay married to him or not. It had nothing to do with me. How he is and the strength he has shown has everything to do with him.

I didn't want to disrupt what I felt was my hard earned peace. I just wanted a fucking break. A very long fucking break from dealing with issues related to substance abuse. I had been to Al-Anon meetings and read books and talked to MY people about it, but never publicly talked about it. The thing is it never goes away though - you will always deal with it, and seeing it stigmatized and how much that enrages me makes me realize I will have no peace until the stigma is gone 

I didn't want to invite unwanted commentary. I have to acknowledge that we have the most supportive fucking people on the planet in our framily who never wavered one step away from us, even if they were scared or unfamiliar or unsure of how to deal with everything. There is such a thing as loving people through it and they did, a million times over. We also had people we had to shed who made light but meant harm and shot arrows to wound. Even though that was a necessity, it was and is still painful. And those were people we know, not the world at large sitting in judgement, which is what you open yourself up to when you share anything publicly.

Why now? 

Everything is out there with this campaign. MFD is basically running to remove this stigma on addiction, to get healthcare for all especially easier/better/more accessible substance abuse programs and mental health services - and he wants to give back to the neighborhoods where he got sober. He's been open and up front about his past from day one. Even though I  knew it would be free game for discussion, people I don't know nonchalantly discussing and using for political gain (not just on the opposing side of the aisle, either - people who are supposedly allies) or personal amusement what has more than once broken my life in a million pieces over the past 16 years feels like such a fucking gross violation I can’t even describe it. 

Time heals wounds, but re-living it and answering to it years later with people who don't know their ass from a hole in the wall regarding addiction issues expounding on them feels more trying than living it was the first time.

This rolls off of MFD because he has a program that enables that and he works hard at it. The man I thought I was stronger than has proven through his sobriety to be stronger than me.

It does not roll off of me. I worry about the collateral damage to my heart and my marriage as I struggle with public commentary on something I as a private citizen who is not running for office consider to be, you know, private. I lived this shit and it was hard enough the first time, having it all brought up again feels like a punishment for ME - not for him. He is so used to talking about this stuff. But it doesn’t work like that, and by extension it is my problem again too. 

I’ve felt like a stranger in my own body, more like the woman I was 10 years ago than the one I am today - worrying in the small hours, resentful of this intrusion, having to continually shake off those weak emotions I am angry at myself for even entertaining. It’s taken a tremendous amount of my energy this year to battle myself over this, because that's what I'm doing - battling the me from 10 years ago who had not yet learned about it or how to walk away from it. The me from today knows we’ll be fine no matter what because we’ve already lived through hell and come out on the other side. This is just the shitty replay.

Maybe I should have written from my perspective all along, because when your partner (or child or sibling or mom or best friend or you get the picture) is a substance abuser, you are in a club you did not ask to join. Why should I allow people who don’t know jack shit about addiction speak over me? How will people understand they should not be so derisive or casually judgmental about addiction because it comes for everyone regardless of race, class, education, upbringing, etc., if people like me choose to sit inside my own walls? I can’t tell you how many times someone who used to call people junkies sings a different tune when it’s their child with everything going for them who is in need of a lifeline and compassion.

There are things in our life that define us, searing our souls, burning us down and remaking us from the ashes. All of the versions of myself I have been throughout this battle stack on top of each other like layers of clothes the coldest winter temperatures cannot penetrate. I've been forged by fire many times over and risen every fucking time. Sometimes I need to remind myself of that.  

Maybe you needed a reminder too. We have a responsibility to each other as human beings. I have a responsibility from my perspective in dealing with addiction to help anyone I can. That requires pulling back the curtain and putting it out there. It calls for an end to my radio silence. I am happy to listen to any of your experiences and talk with you about this. If you don’t want to leave a public comment below please email me at lifeaccordingtosteph@gmail.com . If you would like some resources or books you can read or groups you can join, I can point you in the right direction. Or just listen. Always, I can just listen and acknowledge what you're going through or went through. 

It wasn't pretty and it rambled and didn't have a good flow but it's done. Thanks for listening. This one cost me. 

I need to add that I am fine and we are fine - this post was a long time coming. We live with the repercussions of this forever, but we don't break under it. 

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