When you’re married to (or dating) anyone with an addiction, life is hell. There are no exceptions. Is it worth it? No. It’s a terrible existence for you, the children, and anyone else in the vicinity.
Addictions come in different forms. There’s the alcoholic (I lived with a functioning alcoholic that could hold a job but my hell was just as bad as the next person’s), druggy, prescription pill popper, porn addict, gambler who’ll hand over the title to your home, shopping addict, sex addict… I could go on, but you get the picture.
If you’re living with an addict, here’s what you can expect.
He’ll lie to you
He is a pathological liar. Everything he does is to cover his addiction. That’ll mean lying to you about what money he spends and on what, where he’s at, what he’s doing, what time he left work, and if he walked the dogs. Big lies and little lies. You cannot trust him because he is simply incapable of earning your trust.
In order to live with this man, you need to set your expectations extremely low and not be surprised or angry when you catch him in one bold faced lie after the next. Can you do this? Doubtful. Unless you give up, have zero self esteem, and are so thoroughly beaten down that there is no dignity left in you. Sound good? Of course not. It’s horrid.
His needs will always come before yours (or anyone else’s)
He may be capable of doing nice things for you. Sometimes. Usually out of guilt and because he knows you’re at the end of your rope. But as things simmer down, he’ll be back to being the utterly selfish guy you know. You will do the majority of the work, cover up for his disasters, make excuses for him to others, and do everything possible to try and make him “happy” so he’ll have an incentive to get better and be better. It’s an exercise in futility, though. There is nothing you can do to make him an improved guy. It’s exhausting and frustrating.
In order to survive this guy, you’ll need to take all the things you love and put them on the back burner. You’ll forget who you are because you are now the person who covers for your mate. Sounds fabulous, right? Wrong.
Life will be unpredictable and volatile
You will never know from one moment to the next what surprises lie in store for you. It will often come with zero warning, when you least expect it. Maybe the police will show up, or you’ll get a lovely piece of mail letting you know your checking account is severely overdrawn. Or a process server will knock on your door with a lawsuit. He will often simply start screaming at you for no reason at all. If you aren’t fond of surprises like these, life with an addict probably isn’t for you.
He will blame you, resent you, hate you. Then tell you he’s sorry and that he loves you
He might try to “get better.” He might go to therapy. But he’ll stop going and not tell you. You’ll discover that instead of being in therapy, is actually out feeding his addiction. He’s a good liar and he can keep this charade going for, what, a month, two, six? Sooner or later, though, you’ll have to find out. You might ignore it, try to pretend otherwise, or wish it away. But eventually you’ll have to deal with the reality.
He will hate you for making him try to change. You will be a nag. You are the reason he can’t (for a period of time) feed his addiction. He’ll want to be out drinking, or doing drugs, or playing poker, or having sex with a new honey, and it’ll be your fault he’s not out doing it. And when he goes back to his old ways, he’ll hate you even more for the reason he is now hiding it. Yes, you are trying to change the great guy he is and he will loathe you for it.
After another huge fight, he will apologize, promise to do better, tell you he loves you, bring you flowers and gifts and help out around the house more. But those changes will be temporary.
Truth is, an addict is emotionally stunted. They have one coping skill: their addiction. Take away that one coping skill and all of a sudden, they have zero coping skills. So even if the addict truly gets help and makes progress, they need years of therapy before they become a decent human being. Usually in recovery, they become more hateful and awful and evil for a period of time. He will first need to rebuild his personality, learn knew ways of dealing with stress, and discovering a better person inside himself. Will you have the patience to stick it out? Is it in your best emotional interest and the best interest of your children? There isn’t a respectable therapist out there who’ll recommend it. True, there are ways to make the best of your horrible life with this man, so if you decide to stay, get help. Repeated help. Go to therapy, group therapy, read books, meditate, and pray a lot. You’ll need it.
You will be embarrassed
You will be out with friends and he will say something really dumb and you’ll want to dig a whole and hide in it. Or he’ll do something even more humiliating. And you’ll have to try and make excuses. He’ll make decisions that will leave you horrified and scratching your head. Sometimes it’ll be so totally ridiculous that it’s funny. Except there really isn’t anything funny about your addict. If you aren’t crazy about public humiliation and endless frustration, trust me, this life isn’t for you.
I could give you a list of ways on how to survive while living with an addict but none of them will truly help you. I went to Alanon twice a week. I went to individual therapy. I went to a Kaiser Permanente group therapy for alcoholic spouses. I went to marriage counseling, though after a few sessions my husband couldn’t make the appointments because he was too busy (wink wink) at work. It taught me one thing: if I didn’t leave, I’d stay in living in Hell. And Hell was a really lousy place to live.
If you’re married to an addict, start making your exit strategy. Contact an attorney, make a list of things you must do in order to file for divorce and get started, one tiny step at a time. If you’re not married, you have to cut this guy off. Like yesterday already. Unless the life described above is one you’ve always dreamt of, move on. As hard as it may be, cut your losses and bolt.