So, I have a therapist myself. This is relatively new to me. I mean I’ve had a therapist in the past but the first time I had walked in knowing what I was going to do already and thinking, rather full of myself if I do say so, that I was just going in for some support while I made it through the tough time of actually taking the steps of asking for a divorce from my first husband. The second time I tried to go to I’ve been to a couples therapist, three times, and all three times I really felt we were going so the therapist could tell my partner what they needed to change because of course, I’m great. This is the first time I’ve found a therapist I feel has some gravitas and can stand up to me. I searched for her. I combed over lists of therapists and their vitaes. Originally, she was to be for both my husband and I as a couples’ therapist but he is not working on his sobriety and she told him we couldn’t go back as a couple until he was in treatment or sober so I decided to go without him. And, I didn’t tell him I’m going without him.
I had my first session this week and I came prepared. I went in with my goal written down and the commitments I’ve made that support that goal. I’m going to list them for you because I think they help explain the purpose of this blog, too. My goal was to get help figuring out how to stay sane while keeping my commitments to my self, my family and my husband. And yes, my commitments come in that order. My kids were here first and although my marriage may take precedence over my commitment to my adult children in some ways, it certainly doesn’t take precedence over my commitment to my youngest child, who is 8, or even my adult children in other ways because two of the three have my beautiful grandchildren. Of course, I have to come first because if I’m not taking care of me, how could I possibly take care of any of the others. I wouldn’t have anything left to give.
- My safety / 8 year old’s safety / (and later, after thinking about it, I added) my husband’s safety
- My marriage – although we are married by common law in our state so we had no ceremony and took no vows, we view ourselves as married for 2 of the 4 years we’ve been together. My adult kids, and maybe his kids too, see our marriage as invalid, only boyfriend and girlfriend which is hurtful to both of us. However, we feel we are committed through good and bad. This is a double-edged sword, as all married couples know. I wonder if my younger daughter especially holds on to the thought that we are just girlfriend and boyfriend thinking I should be able to walk away easier then?
- My personal values: Acceptance, Belonging, Caring, Commitment/Loyalty, Emotional Strength, Family, Relationships, Integrity, Forgiveness, Responsibility, Sexuality, Hope
- My ethics: I believe that all people, including people with mental health and substance use disorders – including me, have intrinsic value and are worthy of love, effort and hope. I believe that they can learn to manage their diseases and that with the support and connections of other significant people in their lives their success rates increase dramatically.
Therefore, the rub for me, and the reason I began this blog, is to figure out how to walk my own talk. My ethics are the professional values on which I base my work as a substance use disorder therapist. I do truly believe that all people have value. I might get frustrated and vent about a particular person or client but my general attitude is let’s look at this from their perspective. Let’s try to see it from a different point of view and see if we feel differently about it. I try to give thought to the other person’s thoughts and feelings, even if I disagree, because they are what is driving that person’s actions. If I can understand what’s going on in their head, maybe I can help them see it a different way and change their behaviors to something that will be more healthy and helpful and maybe even more hopeful for them. But, that work is really based on the connection they allow me to build with them. If it weren’t for the personal connection I build with them, they would not trust me enough to take the chance to view things differently. Change is hard. Why go there if you don’t have a reason, like someone you like and trust encouraging you to go there? It’s the support that makes it possible.
So, I could walk away from my drug addicted husband. That would be the easiest way to solve the problem. Not that it would be easy at all. My love for him is more fierce, more dynamic than the romantic love I’ve felt for any person in my life before. The sexual connection we have is unexplainable and ridiculous, even before he relapsed so don’t think it’s just his meth use. It isn’t. My kids, although they want me safe and happy, do like him. My youngest loves him and cries when we argue because it makes him scared I’ll divorce this husband like I divorced his dad, except he knows he gets to see his dad because he’s his dad. He doesn’t know if he’d get to see his step-dad if we divorced so it’s even scarier. My grandkids call him grandpa. We own vehicles together. There are some issues….but still, it would be easier to walk away then to stay and deal with the verbal abuse when he is paranoid and hasn’t slept except for a few hours in a couple of days.
But to walk away would mean breaking my own ethical code. My co-workers who are also substance use disorder therapists and know what is going on in my life, bless them because they are just worrying about their friend, ask how long I am going to do this. My answer is “Until I get my husband back.”
My therapist says that doesn’t work. My own therapist! WTH? She says I am enabling my husband by not setting limits. Hey lady! I’ve tried setting limits. I kicked him out for 3 weeks once and he was sober for about 4 1/2 months until he was triggered by depression. Then it got BAD and he moved a homeless guy, a person we knew from high school not a stranger, into our basement until I said he has to go. They used all of the time together. I’ve tried kicking him out since. He won’t go. He and I rent and we are both on the lease. To get him out, I have to talk to the landlord about having him removed from the lease. What reason would I give for that? He does meth? And what about if he does get sober? Is the landlord going to allow him to move back in? I don’t think so. If I evict him through the court for having drugs in the home, my ex-husband could find the court records and take me to court for custody. Nope, not doing that. My only option is to leave MY home, move out. It’s not like I haven’t thought about this. Really, does anyone think I haven’t considered leaving? Or making him leave? Really? Jesus, you try getting woken up every 35-45 minutes at night being accused of screwing someone IN THE BED YOU SHARE WITH HIM. I’ll be trying to ignore him while he’ll be searching the closest, under the bed, even lifting the mattress because I might be hiding someone from him. (Please recall that integrity and honest were on my list of values.) Those are the times that I want to leave him. And those are the times that he needs me to stay the most.
Okay, so my therapist is right in a way. She and I got to a place we could agree. I had already put a boundary in place that if he woke me up at night, I would take my go bag and stay the night at a friend’s. I would come back the next day after work or whatever, if it was the weekend, and we would try again. She was happy about that. She asked what about if my son was with us? (I share custody with my ex.) I told her I have a go bag for him also but usually my husband doesn’t act as badly when my son is home as he does when it’s just the two of us.
However, the therapist and I agree that because I make more money and take care of most of the bill, I do enable him financially. We agreed I would complete a monthly budget then tell my husband how much money I expect him to contribute toward our combined bills, knowing I may need to negotiate. We will also likely need to renegotiate when he goes on layoff and is on unemployment. Then, although he told both the therapist and me that he would go to treatment, he did not do it. There is a valid reason that is work related but it is not valid when one considers the general picture of how long we have been living with this monkey on our backs. And I for one do not give a damn how much more money his boss puts in his pockets, especially when my husband is not being compensated appropriately and is working his ass off for that man, which is one of the reasons he feels like he has to use this damned drug in the first place. So, the other area is securing a commitment to treatment for the time when my husband goes on lay-off.
There you go. Three boundaries: Don’t wake me up in the middle of the night raging or I leave for the night. Here’s what you need to contribute from each check toward our monthly bills. Once you go on lay-off, you go to treatment or I move out. Shit! This is going to be hard!