I’m not trying to save my marriage.
I’ve made that clear, right?
My actions, my words, my thoughts are not and have never been about saving my marriage.
When I realized the missing puzzle piece to the unsettling chaos I’d been living in the past few years, I was finally able to save myself. I was finally able to glimpse enough of the picture to say this is enough.
It all made sense, and I said no more.
I said no more for myself and for my children. I told Chris how I would be living–in a home without an active alcoholic or addict–and left the rest up to him. If he wanted in on the new life I was demanding, he knew how to make that happen.
But he could have said no.
He can still say no.
This is not about saving my marriage.
This is about saving myself.
The past seven months have been the hardest and the most beautiful of my life. I have learned God-truths a broken marriage can’t take away. I have seen the worst in people, and I have seen the absolute best. I have seen redemption in ways that steal my breath. I have realized the best things are always the hardest.
But I have learned these things for myself, not for my marriage.
I know people overuse the metaphor of the oxygen masks on airplanes, but it’s also the best example. I can’t make sure others are still healthy and breathing if I don’t first make sure I am. So I fought (and still fight) for health and air because I have two children to care for. So I fought (and still fight) for health and air because I have to survive this. I refuse anything less.
And if in that process–that gathering up of my own oxygen mask and securing it to my face–other people join the fight for health and fresh air, HALLELUJAH. Welcome to the revival.
But if they don’t, it’s not my fault.
This is not about saving my marriage. This is about saving myself.
My actions aren’t keeping Chris sober. Just like my actions didn’t cause Chris to drink. I set a boundary once I realized how off-course things were. I said this is what I will accept and this is what I will not accept. Then everybody picked a side. Everybody decided in or out. Everybody got to make their own choice.
I’m choosing to stay married to an alcoholic. And as long as he carries the word “recovering” in front of that, I’m on board for whatever battles come next. There will be battles. There are battles right now. Chris will be an addict and an alcoholic the rest of his life. This disease doesn’t go away with a little sobriety. He’s still a baby when it comes to living life clean and sober. There is still so much uncertainty. I’m sure you hear hope in my voice, but don’t think it is blind hope. I am grounded in the reality of relapse and old patterns and continued therapy and medication and active recovery. We are in for a long battle with this monster. It has and will continue to change our lives, our choices, our families, our friends, our relationship.
People have said to me they wished they were as strong as me. People have said to me if they had been as strong as me, maybe they could have saved their marriage or saved their alcoholic spouse or child or parent.
Nope. Not accepting that. Not allowing it here.
I didn’t save Chris. He saved (…is saving…) himself. Don’t take away his hard work by saying I got him sober. Don’t take away his fight by saying I made him stop drinking.
None of those things are true or helpful or right.
Chris stopped drinking because he wanted to; because he had professional help that cleared some of the cobwebs and delusion out of his head; because he saw the line in the sand and decided where he wanted to be in relationship to it.
This line-decision isn’t just between Chris and I. I drew my boundary line and figured out through others’ actions and words where they wanted to stand also. I can tell you not everyone picked health and safe boundaries. I can tell you I’ve let some people go down with the ship because it’s not my job to save them. Every man for himself sounds harsh, but it’s the truth.
When I consider those boundary lines in relationship to Jesus, I ask myself how it all fits together. And here’s what I’ve come to: we don’t change hearts, Jesus does.
So when I say I can’t make anyone do anything, that is absolute, Biblical truth. I can’t make sinners stop sinning (and I’m not called to). I can’t judge someone’s actions and shame them into repentance (and I’m not called to). I can’t preach about how wrong someone is and suddenly show them the error of their ways (and I’m not called to).
That is the Holy Spirit and only the Holy Spirit. That change and action comes from His prompting.
When everything started falling apart, I asked God to change my heart. When everything started collapsing, I pleaded with God to give me rest and firm-footing only in Him. I realized very quickly what I could control and it was just me, me, me.
I didn’t spend time demanding God transform Chris. I only asked about myself, asked how I could get better.
And He answered. He answered through His Word, through prayer, through other people, through songs, through quiet, and through tears. He began working on my heart: building me up, mending broken pieces, softening hard spots, and cleaning out the dirty areas.
When Chris left our house in August, I stopped praying for him.
That sounds horrible to say out loud, huh?
But it’s the truth. I could not say one single pleasant or loving thing about him so I stopped praying for him. I couldn’t ask for help or change in Chris. I couldn’t find the compassion or strength. But I also knew there were a whole lotta people praying for him, and I rested in that. I only had ugly for Chris, and I decided to stay quiet in prayer about him. I left it to others to bring him to the foot of the cross. I just couldn’t do it.
I had enough to discuss with God without even bringing up Chris Graham’s name.
I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but it was survival and it’s what I did.
My friend Katie was leaving my house one evening last fall after bringing dinner to us. She said she was praying for us–all of us–and I said thank you. Then I mentioned I wasn’t praying for Chris. I told her I was praying for her and her heart as she wades through disappointment and frustration, but I couldn’t pray for Chris.
She said she understood. She said sometimes you’re just too close to it.
That’s it. I was too close to Chris’ mess and brokenness.
So I started with myself. What could I do better? Where did I need forgiveness? Where did I need help? What did I need to confess? What could I control? What did I need to let go of?
It’s like when you’re sitting in church and you hear this amazing message so you think of all the people who you really hope are listening to it, because THEY COULD LEARN A THING OR TWO.
Except you probably need it more than anyone else, but you’re in too deep to hear it.
I stopped looking at what Chris was doing wrong and instead prayed, fix me please.
God answered by showing me how to get healthy, how to be healthy. God answered by saying stop trying to make your marriage healthy or Chris healthy and just worry about you being healthy.
I can’t demand a healthy marriage if I’m not emotionally and spiritually healthy. I can’t attain a healthy relationship with God if I’m not emotionally and spiritually healthy. Peter Scazzero writes in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality that “Christian spirituality, without an integration of emotional health, can be deadly—to yourself, your relationship with God, and the people around you.”
I didn’t want to be deadly.
With that in mind, I didn’t try to save Chris or our relationship. I tried to save myself.
And I did.
I saved myself.