Our day-to-day life looks very similar to yours. We don’t talk much about addiction. It’s not a focus. It’s not the first thing on my mind when I wake up.
There was a time when it was though. There was a time I thought I could never not think about it. But life finds a new rhythm and things that seemed so hard and life-shattering can, after time, not feel so earth-shaking.
We’re on vacation this week, traveling around the west in our camper. A few days ago, we were in Keystone, South Dakota, exploring Mt. Rushmore National Park. On the way back to our campsite, we stopped at a touristy shop to find a bumper sticker to commemorate our visit. From across the store, I saw Chris looking at some woven pullovers. Think hippie-wear people sport at Grateful Dead concerts. I made my way over to Chris and said, “No stoner sweatshirts, sorry.”
He laughed and then I took a picture with him making a sad face next to the display because he couldn’t buy one even though he said he’d wanted one forever.
Six years out, we can laugh about an ugly stoner pullover. That moment feels like a big milestone because for so long, nothing was funny about our life and Chris’ addiction. But I love funny things. I realize that sentence is probably stupid to write, but I’m serious, I love to laugh and find humor in the most ridiculous things. Some would call it immaturity.
I call it being really good at life.
I find comfort in being at the point we can laugh about what Chris is and what our life has become. I used to make fun of my aunt who has a mustache and now I have one. I used to love watching Intervention and now I live the storyline. Life is strange.
There are some things that aren’t really funny though too. While the Chris that emerged from a drug haze is a more wonderful version of the one I fell in love with, there are some lasting effects to his drug use that remind us how serious and how destructive his choices were.
Chris has short-term memory issues that are more severe than just normal, stereotypical “I’m a guy and can’t remember things” stuff. He often forgets things he’s been told more than once.
One night after dinner with some girlfriends, I came home late and we talked about my night as I got ready for bed. He was already in bed reading and I shared updates on my friends and life as I removed my makeup and got into my pajamas. We talked for about 20-25 minutes. We also talked about what was happening that weekend with our daughters.
The next day, Chris asked a question about something we had talked at length about the night before. It annoyed me that he forgot and I tried to jog his memory about our previous conversation. He had no idea—not even a vague recollection–what we had talked about. He couldn’t remember a single thing from the almost half-hour long conversation. He didn’t even remember that we had talked.
This happens a lot. He can remember minute details from high school, but can’t remember what we did last week. His short-term memory is still greatly affected, all these years later.
In learning about Chris’ drug habits, he confessed a lot of times, he’d smoke pot or do whatever else he had in our basement when I wasn’t home or after I’d gone to bed. He had hidden stashes in our basement and during his addiction counseling, he was told to get rid of the spots he associated with his habit. Like if you’re an alcoholic who sits in front of the TV in your recliner every night after work and gets drunk while watching shows, you need to get rid of the chair, rearrange the living room, and establish new routines. So many little things can be triggers so you need to prepare for them and set yourself up for success. For Chris, that meant rearranging our basement to get rid of the area he spent most of his time in.
All these years later, I still get a little anxious if he’s been in the basement too long. Which is silly because he’s in charge of the laundry at our house, so he’s down in the basement often. But I would be lying if I told you I never wondered every once in a while what he was doing down there.
I know addicts can go for years and then relapse (thank you, Intervention). I’m still always on guard, even when things feel relaxed and safe. It doesn’t take away from my life, it just makes it different.
This time last year, Chris started a new job as an electrical apprentice. We were so excited about this opportunity; it was a raise, a new career, and more ways to grow professionally. But what felt like an answered prayer quickly became an unsafe place for Chris to be. Because he was on construction sites, he was surrounded by guys who lived differently than he wanted to. What I’m trying to say is there was a lot of drug use. And while the one guy he worked with every day understood his struggle and respected it, drugs were still readily available and around him a lot. So he made the tough decision to quit his job and return to exterminating. His former employer graciously took him back and he has felt a peace about the switch.
Addiction still dictates a lot of what we do and where we go. There are places Chris can’t work. There are ways I can’t rearrange our house. There are people we can’t hang out with. If you use drugs and want to be our friends, it’s probably not going to be a very deep relationship. It just can’t be—we’re not judging you on your choices or preaching to you about why you shouldn’t do what you do–but we are, for the health and safety of Chris, not going to do life with you. That might sound harsh, but Chris being clean and sober is more important than us having more friends.
That’s what addiction recovery looks like six years later. I feel like this point is where we just keep doing what we’re doing. Chris is not currently active in any programs or recovery groups, but that is always a possibility and a welcome addition to our schedule if he feels like it’s needed.
I ask myself a lot if I’m scared of Chris relapsing. The answer is yes and no. Yes, because I don’t want my husband to do anything that would hurt himself, take him away from our family, or for him to be in a spot that makes him feel so lost he thinks drugs are his only answer. And no, because I have a peace that passes understanding for whatever comes.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds. And I’m okay with that.