Married to an Opioid Addict

PTSD, Addiction, Divorce, Oh My!

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Today I’m going to tell you a story of a deep downward spiral and how it could have been prevented.

I met the guy who I thought was the love of my life when I was 23. I was in a bar. Specifically, a nightclub in Atlantic City — not the most ideal place to meet a significant other. I wasn’t planning to be in Atlantic City that night, but some friends convinced me to go out with them to celebrate his birthday.

I felt weird about it, but I went anyway. That’s when I met the birthday boy — a boy who would eventually end up becoming my husband just a few short months later. I wasn’t looking for a relationship at the time, and neither was he. I was finishing my first MA and had plans to go back south, as NJ didn’t quite cut it for me. He was in the Army at the time and wasn’t sure if he was going to deploy.

Nevertheless, we fell in love hard and fast. We met at the end of February and fell in love with each other by Easter. It was VERY quick. We were engaged on a Saturday night in December and were married only three days later. I was completely “head over heels” in love.

Now, let’s backtrack a little, because the time that transpired between our dating and getting married is very important to note. He was in the Army and injured. He had hurt his knee before we met and had already undergone three surgeries. He would be needing a fourth, and then, possibly even a knee replacement soon.

His fourth and last surgery was a bone and cartilage transplant.

Unfortunately, for this, he would have to wait for a cadaver — not an easy find. Three months before we got married he received his transplant. Afterward, he was on bedrest for months and I had to do everything for him.

Once, I forgot to pack him a lunch because I was late for work, and he ended up eating Halloween candy because it was the only thing within his reach. This surgery was supposed to be the thing that would help him walk pain-free and possibly even allow him to go back to active duty — but alas, it didn’t. Now, I’m no surgeon, but I firmly believe the lack of therapy he attended after surgery, played a HUGE role in this issue.

I’ll come to this knee thing and why it’s vital in a little later in this post.
Now, going back to during the time of his surgery. During this time, we lived with my grandparents, as he wasn’t being paid by the Army (unfortunately, yes, this a common problem that the general public is unaware of). So, we moved in with them since he was bedridden and had no income. He stayed in his bedridden state for months, until we were finally able to move into our own place.

The Rise

When we moved into our own place, I thought that things were finally going to start getting better. We had just joined the church and met with the missionaries regularly. My husband was seeing miracles daily and was also journaling about those miracles daily. The Army was finally paying him, and we had plans to move out of our crummy little apartment into something nicer. It finally felt like we were starting our life.

But all these good things slowly started crashing down.

The Fall

Moving into our crummy little place seemed to flip a switch and led to a series of occurrences that I had no way of predicting or expecting.

One night I woke up with a fist to my spine and my husband dead asleep accusing me of being a terrorist.

In another instance, we drove 45 minutes to go to the nicer theater in town, where he ended up having a panic attack before entering the theater and we ended up having to turn around and drive home, so he could calm down.
Watching an episode of The Amazing Race induced a panic attack because a challenge reminded him of a time in boot camp, where a man experienced a compound fracture and barely survived.

I’d always had a feeling that he had PTSD issues he wasn’t addressing, and these “episodes”, reinforced that feeling. I begged and pleaded for him to get help for his unresolved PTSD, but he continually insisted he didn’t have PTSD and didn’t need to be treated. This lack of PTSD treatment, I believe lead to big problem number two — addiction.

Remember earlier when I said he had a few surgeries? Well, those came with Percocet — A LOT of Percocet. The doctor explained that there was a great risk of him potentially becoming dependent on them (dependent is a nice way of saying “you’ll get addicted”). At the time, I don’t know why that didn’t trigger an alarm for me.

That doctor’s statement ended up becoming the source of many arguments, which I will go into more detail on in just a minute.

In the two months that we lived in our crummy apartment, I saw his PTSD rear its ugly head and I saw the addiction growing and becoming more of a problem. However, something else happened in that time — the Army offered him a new job. He had been in the infantry prior to his surgeries and was a “go Army” all the way type of guy. Unfortunately, due to the lack of success with his latest surgery, the infantry and being a Ranger wasn’t really on the table anymore, so he was offered a desk job.

He was able to travel and doing everything else, except being on the front lines. He really couldn’t imagine himself working a desk job, so he turned them down, thus beginning the departure from the Army.

With me so far?

The Breaking Point

He ended up receiving a large amount of back-pay from the Army. This back-pay came in regular installments, so we were able to leave that crummy little apartment and move into a much nicer one. He was being paid to do nothing basically, which became ripe for problems. He didn’t have a job to report to, classes to go to, or children to answer to. He literally was just at home with some cash in his pockets.

Then it started. Soon, the prescription painkillers weren’t lasting the entire month anymore. He’d start running out a day or two early…then a week early…then 21 days early. The money started vanishing faster it was coming in. This lasted for a solid two years.

During that time, he was medically retired from the Army and his pay was cut by 2/3. At this point, he was accustomed to not working and spending money like there was no tomorrow. The PTSD was still going untreated. The addiction was getting worse.

It got to a point where he was no longer just taking the Percocet — he was snorting it. On Thanksgiving with my family, he was absent from the dinner, as he spent the entire time hiding upstairs feeding his addiction. On Christmas Eve, we ended up missing dinner with family, because he had to meet his dealer. When his mom got cancer, he sat in her guest room and snorted pills for hours.

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, he even got to the point where he considered becoming a dealer himself so he could purchase them for himself at a lesser cost. I begged and pleaded for him to get help. He was becoming increasingly aggressive with me and I was nearing my breaking point.

I tried calling his mom multiple times, I tried reaching out to his aunt and some of his other family members. I was trying to reach out to as many people I could, to find someone for him to talk to, but to no avail — I was ignored. This was HIS addiction and problem, yet his family was blaming me for it. To my shock, I found out that they continued to provide the funds for and feed his addiction.

At that point, I finally realized I couldn’t help.

Catharsis

No matter how angry I got with him, how nice I was, or how much I cried, it made no impact. He felt nothing. He didn’t see the problem. His family thought it wasn’t an issue and they blew me off. I realized I can’t help him unless he wanted to help himself.

So, I asked him to leave until he decided to get help. He left for three days. When he returned home, he came with a therapy appointment for his PTSD and a Pain Management appointment to try alternative methods.

I thought this is it — he’s finally getting help…he’s going to do it. Now I don’t have to tell my mom about this. I can keep this bottled up inside — no one needs to know. I hid all of this from my family because I didn’t want them to see what was happening or give them any reason to judge and dislike him.
Then I found out he canceled those doctors’ appointments. I then saw the money start disappearing from our account again. This was the final straw — I told him it was time to separate.

Fast-forward to today — at this point, we’re filing for divorce. After everything, I can’t imagine it ever working. I can’t imagine myself ever trusting him again. I can’t imagine bringing children into this mix — it simply doesn’t work for me.

The Other Side

It’s not all doom and gloom. Let me tell you what’s happened since.
I’ve been happier than I’ve ever been. I didn’t realize the amount of stress I was under and I didn’t realize how damaging it was to harbor those things. I’ve had more freedom financially, physically, spiritually, etc. I’ve connected with friends in a way I haven’t in years. I sleep well at night now. I don’t feel stressed when I open my banking app — my account is no longer overdrawn. I’ve been able to travel whenever and wherever I want.

Here’s the thing — you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. You can’t love them and will healing into existence. Your love alone will not make recovery happen. They must want it.

I want you to know there is another side. I’ll be the first to admit, that I didn’t see it at first. I spent so much time sobbing over little things in our home. We tried to build a life together and it was crumbling like that crummy little apartment we had when we first got married.

I couldn’t imagine not seeing my husband for a month. I struggled so much because as a Mormon, we married in the temple and we promised each other eternity. But I can’t imagine this is what God had in mind for me. I can’t imagine this is what he would want for my marriage.

Walking away isn’t easy, but it’s so crucial to care for your own mental health. Care for your own sanity. I promise you there is life after divorce. There is a life on the other side of addiction. Be brave and take that first step.