If I could go back to the fall of 2014, I would do things differently.
I would demand Chris continue AA meetings and his accountability relationships.
I would notice my husband isolating himself. I would know that when an addict isolates himself, it will never end well.
I would listen to what wasn’t being said, what was missing from our conversations.
If I could go back to the summer of 2010 when I first learned of Chris’ struggles with addiction, I would do things differently.
I would demand counseling for myself.
I would read Addictive Thinking by Abraham J. Twerksi, MD and then re-read it a million times. I would learn what self-deception looks like, what addictive reasoning appears as, and how consuming denial, rationalization, and projection is to an addict.
I would learn about boundaries (by reading Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend) and about safe people/relationships (by reading Safe People by Henry Cloud and John Townsend). I would look very critically at my marriage through the filter of these books.
I would have allowed Chris to suffer more consequences. Not to be a bitch, but because anyone who makes a mistake has to feel the full effects of that choice if they want to learn how to not repeat them. I would see more clearly ways I was enabling him by taking some of the consequences away.
I would tell myself I will be okay. No matter what happens, I am okay.
I would not keep quiet or dismiss all the seemingly random lies that had come to light throughout our marriage. If someone is lying about things that don’t seem important, they’re lying about things that are important too. Those things are always always always connected.
I would say out loud this is not my fault. And I would keep saying it, every single day, until I understood it. Until I could feel it in my bones that NONE of this is because of me, in reaction to me, or because I am too much.
I would understand that even an intensive, months-long rehab program isn’t the answer to all the problems. I would see it as a step, but not the end.
I would ask the what? questions. What are you numbing? What can’t you handle? What can’t you face? What are you trying to fill? It’s never just about the drugs or the drinking. It is the symptom. It is not the root.
If I could go back to the fall of 2005, when we had just gotten back together after a summer apart, I would do things differently.
I would listen more carefully to the people who loved me and expressed concern about our relationship.
I would pay closer attention to the family dynamics I was stepping into, to the generational sin and struggle that wasn’t hidden but was not addressed either.
I would notice how hard I was working and notice how hard Chris wasn’t working.
I would realize what sometimes looks like confidence and self-assuredness is actually the exact opposite.
I would see the depression and sadness, and not just assume that is who he is.
I might have said no.
I don’t think “regret” is the right word. I am not regretful. But I am learning. And when you know better, you do better. Each time Chris is found living a lie, I learn more. I learn more about myself, him, our marriage, what I will accept, what I will not, what I will tolerate, what I will not. I’m learning where boundaries are and where new ones need to be. I’m re-evaluating and re-calibrating.
We don’t know what we don’t know.
That’s what I think of when I reflect on our years together. What we were doing, what we were living.
But now I know.
Regret means you’d go back and do something different. Regret also leads to a lot of wishing and unrealistic daydreaming. Regret isn’t helpful to me, my children, or my marriage.
But I’ve learned a lot in thirteen years of being in relationship with an addict-alcoholic.
I know better so I’m doing better. I can promise you that.