Sunday, April 1 was Easter this year. It was also the morning my husband packed a bag and left after two weeks of sobriety capped by a successful music gig the night before. He had played his show and avoided cocaine despite drinking, and playing in an environment that is his ultimate trigger. He was so proud of himself. I couldn’t watch. That night was precisely two weeks after the conclusion of an eight-day, $2,000 bender that marked the end of my patience with this disease. I had offered him the ultimatum we had both avoided for years, but both knew was inevitable: Rehab or splitting. He chose ”C,” and tried to convince me that abstaining from cocaine would be enough. It had never worked before, and I had no reason to believe it would now. We had existed around each other for weeks, and he seemed to think I had forgotten about the reality of my finally expressing the fact that I needed more than a hope and a promise this time. It seemed to come as a genuine surprise to him that I meant what I said, and it was clear that had convinced himself that I wouldn’t follow through with my threat. I did.
Ever the enabler, I still paid for a hotel room and promised him a new discussion after I’d had some time to think about what (if any) I could continue to tolerate. I got no such time. Every day was a new call, another demand, an interruption; and on the last night of the hotel reservation, I met him to discuss our future. On Tuesday, April 3 he somehow hooked me into allowing him to come home the next day yet upon breaking his spell and returning home I thought about what I had won. Nothing. Another promise, but a hollow promise having broken his sobriety “because of me.” It was my fault that he failed to avoid going to the effort of getting cocaine in those three days because I had been the catalyst and kicked him out. How could I expect him to succeed if I wasn’t there to monitor and coddle him? This is the logic of an addict.
I had to text him the next morning and let him know that I had changed my mind. In reality, I hadn’t changed my mind as much as I’d remembered it. He raged. He made a demand to give him the title to the $30,000 vehicle I’d paid for and allowed him to drive, despite having been unemployed for almost three years. He demanded $10,000 cash to “get rid of him.” He harassed me at my office while I was working despite all of the crazy-making of the week that would pay for both things all day, driving me to tears and home to get a title and do what he demanded. I was walking on eggshells, as I had come to know as my default daily mental disposition. As soon as I had gathered all of the items needed to meet his demands, I told him he could come to my office and sign divorce papers in return for cash and a car. A resolution in sight, he changed the game again. Instead, he wanted to meet again.
Wednesday, April 4 we met at the IHOP for dinner, and we discussed the fact that he was ready to consider rehab. We acknowledged that neither of us could promise anything afterward regarding the future of our marriage, but I could guarantee I’d be sure to hold off any legal action until he had finished treatment since I had excellent insurance and I wanted him to get the opportunity to go. He confessed that he doubted that he would be able to return to our small town where he is infamous for his party lifestyle and stay sober. He wanted to look for a rehab facility with certain caveats: Non-12 step program, as it wasn’t a good fit for him and his non-religious worldview. Recreational activities so he could use music therapy. Near the ocean, since it calms him and brings him peace. With job training and transitional programs to help him get back into the workforce. I found a place that met all the requirements, covered by our insurance in large part, and available immediately. We made plans for him to leave the next day.
Driving down to Palm Springs was his original plan. He intended to have one last ‘ride of freedom’ then he would be comfortable knowing his car was down there when he had finished with his treatment and ready to transition to work. The rehab counselors stressed how dangerous that was, and insisted I get him to take a flight down instead. He ended up agreeing to that, surprisingly, and we booked him a flight leaving O’Hare Chicago at 2 p.m. Friday, April 6. I had an important meeting that morning, so we planned on having him come to the house to pack his essentials on Thursday evening around 9 p.m., say goodbye to the dogs, and return to the hotel. I told him he could leave the car at the house while he was in treatment, so we planned to meet at the house around 11 a.m., and I agreed to take a long lunch and drive him to the airport.
Just after 9 p.m. on Thursday, I started to get nervous. I hadn’t heard from him, and he had said he was going to say goodbye to his sister, but I knew her young kids would have been in bed by then. I called and texted him with no response. He finally said he was leaving and would be on the way. At 9:45, I called him again and got no answer. A few minutes later I got the text that he was ‘violently sick in the bathroom.’ I asked if he needed anything, with no answer. After 10 p.m., I finally called again, and he answered. I could tell from his voice he was on coke. He denied it at first, then admitted it. But he claimed that although he’d only wanted a beer or two with his brother in law, the brother in law wouldn’t let him leave without finishing his four pack of beers, so he felt like he needed something to sober up. (It is worth noting that his brother in law advised me later he’d had a beer and a half, and that was bullshit.) But “Besides,” he continued, “I’ve gone three weeks and figured I deserved it.” (Though he hadn’t; remember the last excuse when I ‘kicked him out’ and he got high.) He then apparently just happened to run into a friend who had some coke on him at the gas station on the way to see me and offered it to him. He’d only had a couple of lines but knew I’d be able to tell, so he decided to fake being sick.
After all we’d been through, and after all of his claims that he wanted to make these life changes because he missed his family so much – he chose to get coke through a convoluted story instead of having the chance to come home for the first time in a week and see us. I felt the familiar rage, sadness, and disappointment but told him to come anyway because I had no other time to allow him home to pack as I had a meeting in the morning and didn’t want him at the house without me there. He arrived, packed calmly, and hugged me and my son goodbye. He didn’t even look at the dogs. He told me he’d see me the next day.
Shortly after he left, I found myself on a phone call with him where he was sobbing so hard he was unintelligible on the other end. He said he was in the parking lot of the hotel and had no idea how he was going to do this. I knew the situation was fragile. At this point, I didn’t know why but I knew I had to do whatever it took to get him to that rehab center. I drove to the hotel and sat next to him while he cried until he fell asleep.
I left early to make my meeting at 8 a.m. up the street at my office, and he was still sleeping. Although we’d agreed to meet at the house at 11 a.m., I started getting uneasy and decided to leave and go to the hotel around 10 a.m. I was pulling into the hotel when I got a text, “so am I locked out of the house again or can I go there?” I told him I was almost there and pulled in. He was sitting in the car having a cigarette, and when he saw me, he just got out and walked ahead of me toward the door. No speaking, just huffing and stomping. As I looked around the room and made sure it was ready for check-out, I noticed his boarding pass crumpled up in the corner. I asked him if he’d decided he didn’t need it any longer and he rolled his eyes and snatched it. I went to check him out, and he said he’d meet me outside. After I did that, I walked outside, but his car was gone. I pulled around to the front in case he was parked there and saw his vehicle flying around the corner, in my lane. He almost hit me head on, and squealed around and kept going. He flew to the house and was there within minutes, raging that the door wasn’t open when I finally caught up with him. He tore through everything, threw the contents of his wallet on the counter, and laid down on the couch crying, holding the dogs. I left him be until it was time to go, but some comment I made that I honestly can’t remember enraged him. He punched the cabinet, cracking it, and breaking his hand.
I put his suitcase in the car, and we left. The trip was sprinkled with comments made under his breath, breaking into condescending ‘laughs,’ and smirks when I would start to tear up. He got me so flustered, I exited onto the wrong highway and lost time. He scoffed and huffed and made it even more excruciating. When we had almost arrived at the airport, he finally said calmly, “I’m sure you don’t deserve even half of what I’m giving you, but you’re giving me a prison sentence, and I don’t know how I could be anything but resentful right now.” Despite his claims to the contrary, it was clear that his claims that he wasn’t doing this for me were bullshit. He was going to rehab to have a chance to come back to our home afterward. I had no confidence he was going to absorb a thing that would help him while he was there. But given the alternative is unacceptable, I wanted him to be there and hope the spark would light somehow anyway.
Once inside the airport, he got checked in and checked his bag. I walked him to security, and he said, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to bring myself to get in the car to the center when I get there. I have no idea.” He wanted me to fly him down there. I don’t know how to explain why I instantly agreed to do it, or how I got through the stonewalling I got on the 3-hour flight when I was asked to come for ‘moral support.’ But I do know that it was the best impromptu, major life decision he’s ever forced me to make on the spot (and that frequently happens with him).
The moment after we got his bag at the baggage claim and turned to see the driver from the rehab center approaching us to introduce himself, my stomach lurched. But when my husband reached out to shake his hand and hugged me, leaving with him to get some help, that stomach lurch turned into the warmest, most peaceful feeling I think I’ve ever experienced in my life. At that precise moment, I knew. I had done absolutely everything in my power to help him heal and had gone to any lengths I could to try and make him see that his life was worth living. At that moment, I knew that regardless of how long he’d stay, how involved he’d let himself be in treatment, or how small the chance that the experience would help him come out a more positive and self-aware, healthy person, I was okay.
I walked right back to the terminal and got onto the same plane we’d just arrived on to head home. It was uncomfortable, especially since I’d just jumped on the plane with no books, a half-charged phone and without anything to distract myself. Having come to the terms of the whirlwind of the journey I’d just been on, once I landed, drove home, and fell into bed, I slept for the first time in years without worry. One peaceful night.
The next day was a stupor of blank exhaustion. I ended up sleeping for the better of 2 days. Just letting my mind re-set after years of constant worry over the condition I’d come home to find him in or the bank withdrawals I’d have to compensate for if it was a bad day. I slept and cried, then slept and cried. I missed him, and I mourned the life we’d once had before the addiction took over the good parts of our life together.
This inner conflict went on until I got the call that he had checked himself out of rehab. He didn’t even give it 72 hours. He proceeded to provide me with every typical addict’s excuse for his departure: the place was terrible, the people were evil, the other addicts were so much worse than he, etc. None of that was the truth. The truth is that he still has not and will never acknowledge the damage his addiction has done, or the discomfort and mental anguish it has inflicted upon his family. If he had, he would have been able to allow himself to experience the discomfort of self-realization in a less than resort-like setting to save his own life and his family. So he was out of there. It told me all I needed to know.
The surprising part to me of the new situation I was in wasn’t that he had checked out so soon. It was that the feeling – the one of peace I’d felt at the airport – was still noticeably present. I knew deep in my soul that I had honestly done all I could do to get him the help he needed and to show him the support and love that he could get through this for years in every way imaginable. Discarding those opportunities is 100% on him. I no longer accept that it’s my job to ‘fix’ him or to make him happy, so he doesn’t use, or any of the other co-addict/enabling thoughts I’d had over the last few years. I had let him go, and I was at peace with that. For a brief moment. I knew the peaceful night I’d had on Friday, though, was the last I’d have again for a long time.