From Suffering In Silence To Finding Courage
Hello friends! Susan here, stepping in to address one of the many questions that come to Leslie Vernick & Co. each week. I have just had a 4 day weekend and was so thankful to have downtime with friends and family. It felt so great to rest and wake up at my leisure for a few days. Monday morning came and I did not want to get up with my alarm! However, with some discomfort, I did get up. For my day to be successful, I find creating boundaries for myself helps tremendously. I try to parent myself well. Now that I am an adult, I recognize I am the only one that will take care of me…even if it isn’t always enjoyable in the moment.
Question: I suffered in silence for many years with my husband's alcohol addiction. The more he drank, the worse our marriage was because his addiction consumed him and then I was consumed by it too. I got the courage to put up boundaries about 9 months ago and he just blows through them. Or says he abides by them for a while and then blows through them. He had been to rehab 3 times, always with great promises but he just can't stay sober. I forced a separation because my kids and I can't continue to live in the chaos and destruction and lies from his addictive behavior. He continues to guilt me about this – continues to lie about his own behaviors, cares only about his emotions, and downplays the trauma and pain he has caused us. But I feel guilty every time he calls and says “how could you do this after I've gone to rehab for you, you don't understand addiction, you are heartless, etc”. How can I ever find peace and healing for myself and my kids?
Susan’s Response: I can certainly relate to this question and I am sure there are many more women out there who are struggling due to a spouse’s addiction. The addicted mind does not think clearly and is blind to the effects of addiction. After many years, you could see that your situation was not going to change until you created change for yourself and your children. I am so glad to hear that you are valuing your own health and safety.
To answer your question, “How can I ever find peace and healing for myself and my kids?”, I believe you have begun the process already. It does take time; be patient with yourself. As you detach from the chaos and destruction, you can focus on creating peace and healing. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.” Jesus reminds us as believers, we have the Spirit of Truth to help us discern danger and find the courage to grow to be healthy.
You stated you feel guilty every time he calls and says, “how could you do this after I've gone to rehab for you, you don't understand addiction, you are heartless, etc”. I must ask, is guilt what you are feeling? Or is that what he wants you to feel? Guilt is a helpful emotion that lets us know we have done something wrong and need to change. Have you done something wrong by keeping yourself safe and sane? Proverbs 22:3 states, “the prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” Seeking refuge from danger when you are able is wise. Perhaps what you are feeling is manipulated, manipulated to take responsibility for your husband’s lack of care for your relationship and his own health. What will you do to keep yourself from being manipulated?
You stepped out courageously to put up some boundaries and that is wonderful. Boundaries can be a difficult concept and upholding them takes practice. So let me simplify by saying, boundaries are defined by you, for your benefit, and carried out by you. Perhaps you had made some requests regarding certain behaviors and that is a great place to start in healthy communication. Making requests is different than implementing boundaries. It sounds like your husband agreed to honor your requests at times and at other times he continued with a pattern of recklessness. You set a boundary for yourself when his chaos, destruction, and lying did not cease. You carried out your own boundary and left to preserve your safety and sanity. Well done! You have given yourself a good example of how to implement a boundary…even if it did not feel good to choose to leave. Taking care of ourselves does not always feel good in the moment.
If your husband has gone to rehab “for you”, that explains why his change is not lasting. He is not doing it for himself; he is trying to appease you. This means his motivation is dependent on you and he would like you to take responsibility for it. Is that possibly what you meant when you stated you became consumed by his addiction? Perhaps you were working harder than he was to manage or resolve his addictive behaviors. For your husband to be well, he must take responsibility for his own life. As an adult man, that is what is good for him; otherwise, he will become more and more deformed. Sadly, many chose not to care for themselves well.
I will guess that you have loved your husband for quite some time and probably still do. I can imagine the outcome you are hoping for is for him to get sober and to live in peace and health with you. While that is a lovely thought, dear one, you cannot make it so. My heart aches for you as you are in this circumstance. Surround yourself with support, stay close to this community, and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you. Also, I will encourage you to continue to keep your focus on taking responsibility for your own peace and health as you parent your little ones well.
If you would like to be empowered to change through our 6-month group coaching experience, please go to www.leslievernick.com/change for more information.
Beloved reader, in what ways have you found that taking responsibility for yourself creates peace and healing in your life?
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