It started with a text that said: “When Were You Going To Tell Me You Filed For Divorce?” I called my husband and after hearing me say ‘Hello,’ he said, “I’m taking the suitcase your Mom got me for Christmas and at least filling that up to take with me when I leave if that’s ok with you. It might take me a few minutes so you might want to delay coming home until I’m gone.”
This sentence is all that my husband had to say to me on the topic. On that day, he had gotten the mail right before I was supposed to be home from work and got a letter from a local attorney inquiring if he needed his services. My attorney had filed the divorce petition days before, and I didn’t even know the electronic filing was officially complete at the moment I saw his text. I asked him if he could wait until I finished driving the few minutes I was from home so we could talk about it. “Okay,” and then five minutes of nausea while I figured out what I was going to say when I got there.
When I walked in the door, he took the letter out of his pocket and handed it to me. My first thought was, ‘How efficient is that attorney that he knew my divorce was officially on file before I did?’ which is likely not the proper response to the situation. I was genuinely concerned, though – not for me exactly but for those in abusive situations; how many of them had a plan for serving their spouses on their terms but instead had a confrontation because of the marital equivalent of an ambulance chaser? No less proper, or maybe reasonable is a better word, was my husband’s response. He was calm and had an efficient response to an allegedly unexpected turn of events that would have any dedicated spouse hurt and confused if they genuinely didn’t understand what was happening. I had gotten so good at predicting behaviors in our marriage that I knew this was just another move in our chess-like game of strategy designed to keep two addicts co-existing without pain. It was the moment of truth and an ironic statement on the state of affairs. I had no idea if I’d be able to go through with ending our marriage, even with steps one through seven completed, or if my addiction was as powerful as his.
I had written him a long letter explaining how I felt, how I got to this point in our relationship, and what my requirements were if he wanted to remain in my life. The letter in my hand, he dismissed the possibility he would read it and said: “You know I don’t like to read.” Instantly I knew that the carefully chosen words wouldn’t translate well into an emotional conversation (which is why I had written them down, damn it). The letter is one I can’t quite share, but in the end, the summary was:
“If you go to an inpatient rehab center and genuinely make an effort to kick your addiction and not just talk about it, I will be here for you when you are ready and support you in any way you need. But not by enabling you to remain an addict.
Legally I cannot continue to be with you as my husband because if I were to die, I’d have to risk the reality that you could snort away any financial security I’ve built for my kids as my spouse and inheritor. I can’t trust the addict that has taken you over. That doesn’t mean we can’t be together again. But you have to want to fight, and I can’t wait any longer.
I’m not perfect. It’s not just about your addiction. But it’s a life-altering problem, covering more issues that need treatment as well. It’s not about quitting coke; it’s about learning how to be a healthier person. You have to want to start there.
If you can’t give any effort to try and quit and go to a rehab program sincerely, I can’t spend any more years watching you die, nor will I let the kids watch it. I hope you choose to try. I think we’re ALL worth it, especially you. ”
This exchange took place just days after he finished up an eight-day, $2,000 bender during which he isolated my daughter, who has always been his biggest supporter and insulted my son, who had known him as a father longer than his actual dad since we married when he was so young. Emotionally torturing me was one thing; my kids were something that had previously been sacred ground through all of our problems. My love for my kids been pitted against my patience with his addiction. That was the wrong battle to choose.
Faced with the loss of his home, family, life, financial security, and supposed love for me, he had an option to get help with the resource of my great insurance. He was unemployed and had no job to worry about losing because of treatment. Luxuries many who reach this point in their lives would love to have. Yet his response to the idea of going to rehab was simple. He laughed.