SOURCE: Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick
Question: I need help as to what to do with my marriage. We have been married 25 years and, in that time, I have dealt with my husband being an alcoholic with two DUI’S and then his arrest for prescription fraud.
He stopped drinking, but then put pills in its place. He takes hydrocodone and soma for back problems, but he doesn’t just take the 2 per day as prescribed. He takes a lot more. When he ran out, he started buying more from other people and now also buys Xanax. He tells me that he doesn’t buy anything from other people, but I know he is lying. He writes a check for gas everyday which I know he uses to get cash back to do who knows what with.
Because of all this mess, we filed bankruptcy but still can’t get ahead. We are 3 months behind on house payments and just about 2 months behind on regular utility bills. I’ve dealt with all this for a long time. I have told him what I don’t like about it, but he says that all I do is get on him about everything. I know I do, but after so long of just holding things inside, I let it out on him.
I know I shouldn’t constantly tell him what he is doing wrong, but he has put us in a financial mess, and now I’m not sure what to do about staying married. Please help! I’m lost as to what to do and how to handle things.
I love my husband and want my marriage to work, but he is making it very difficult for me to love as I once did. I have a lot of bitterness, anger and even hatred in my heart for all that has happened. I’m constantly repenting for my feelings and don’t want to feel that way. He says he will take pills for his pain till the day he dies, and that I need to just deal with it. And, after about 13 years of not drinking, he has started to drink again. It’s only a couple a day, but an alcoholic shouldn’t go back to drinking should they? I also recently found a joint in his truck. I flushed it, and he got furious at me. He said it helped relieve his pain and said no one understands the amount of pain he is in. I just don’t know what to do anymore. He keeps spending money like crazy and doesn’t leave enough for me to pay bills.
He spends more money than we have in our checkbook, so then we have to catch up and pay NSF fees. I don’t want to lose my marriage or house, etc., but I have also been doing a lot of praying and soul searching as to whether I want to live the rest of my life like this. Thank you so much for your time and any help you can give me.
Answer: One of the most important things you must do if you want help is first distinguish the difference between your husband’s problem and your problem.
Your husband is an addict and is self-medicating to deal with his pain. That’s his problem, and he’s chosen to go outside the boundaries of his doctor or a pain management specialist to cope with this pain problem. You may have some influence in how he deals with his problem, but whether or not he changes or gets the help he needs will be up to him. You cannot fix or solve his problem as much as you want to or as much as you love him.
However your problem is that you don’t like living this way. You don’t like the financial havoc and chronic deceitfulness you live with every day. You don’t like the anger he displays when you try to express your concerns. You struggle with bitterness, hatred and resentment because of all this chaos. That is your problem.
When you can clarify the difference between his problem (which you apparently have zero influence over right now) and your problem, then you can work on your problem.
First, what do you need to do to get more financial stability? For example, do you work? Do you need to put your paycheck into a separate bank account that he does not have access to? Does he work? If not, where is he getting his access to money to buy drugs and write checks every day? If you are enabling that, you can choose to stop doing that by separating your money and not giving him access to it.
Will that make him angry? Yes, but it will help with your financial problems. However that doesn’t solve the marital problems. His sole focus is on himself right now which is true of anyone who is an addict. He’s not thinking of anything other than getting his drugs. Whether or not he’s in as much pain as he claims, we don’t know. Certainly pain is difficult to live with, and you can have compassion for his struggle with pain. But instead of trying to solve his problems in a healthy way, he is resorting to his own ways.
To let go of resentment and anger involves having compassion for a person who is so lost and desperate that he (or she) would do things that have such detrimental consequences, just to get a high–or get rid of pain–whether it is physical and/or emotional pain. However, being compassionate does not mean you have to cooperate or enable his dysfunction to continue to impact your life in detrimental ways. If you can cut off the funding for his drug use, perhaps that will motivate him to seek appropriate help for his pain as well as his addiction.
To get healthy, you will need to create some distance from him financially, emotionally as well as perhaps physically, so that the consequences of his foolishness don’t keep landing at your feet. He’s had two DUI’s and an arrest for prescription fraud. Now he’s buying drugs on the street. How does he drive with two DUI’S? Does he have a valid driver’s license or is he just driving without one? Why does he have access to a vehicle when he is taking drugs and now drinking alcohol much of the time? Who is paying for the upkeep of the car insurance, gasoline, repairs, etc.? Are you? If so, you must stop. If you can’t stop, you need to get help for yourself to be strong enough to set and keep good boundaries. Otherwise you are enabling him to continue to do what he does.
I’m asking you tough questions not to make you feel bad, but for you to recognize that you do not have to continue being a victim and enabler of your spouse’s foolishness. In the Bible, we learn about Abigail who was married to a surly and foolish man. When he made a bad decision, she overruled it and did the right thing (1 Samuel 25). I understand that for many women it’s hard to stand strong, create boundaries and still stay compassionate. If you’re having trouble doing that, get some help for yourself. Go to Celebrate Recovery, attend Al-Anon meetings or seek a counselor to give you the support you need.