Two weeks ago, we called the police on my husband.
All my worst fears were realized, and it was the only option. I’ve felt so powerless in this fight to try to save my marriage while demanding sobriety from my alcoholic husband, but I know some truths no matter what.
Truth #1: I will not allow Chris to be a part of our children’s lives or live in our house if he continues to drink.
Truth #2: I refuse to enable or sit idly by when I am aware my husband is drinking and driving.
So fourteen days ago, the police got involved.
The millions of tiny details and stories and moments leading up to this phone call are too numerous to share. I wouldn’t even know where to start. But I will tell you when I realized Chris was drinking again after about twelve days of sobriety, I pulled the half-frozen chicken nuggets from the oven, loaded my kids in my car, and went to find him.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if my marriage is going down, it’s going down in a blaze of glory—no more secrets, no more lying, no more bullshit. If Chris wants to drink, he’s allowed to drink. But he’s not dragging us along for the ride.
I didn’t know exactly what I was going to find when I got to him. I didn’t really even think it through that much. I just wanted him to know I knew he was drunk, and I wanted him to look me in the eyes when I said this was him choosing alcohol over his family for the final time.
It’s no secret a drunk person isn’t reasonable or logical, but rage took those functions away from me as well.
Bits and pieces of the next hour and a half look like this: Burger King parking lot. I’ve taken his keys. He refuses to let me take him anywhere. Our kids in my car watching a movie, unable to see us. Chris on a curb too drunk to stand. The last remnants of a bottle of rum pulled from behind the driver’s seat. I smash it in the parking lot because nothing makes sense. Our friend Adam, who Chris is living with, arrives to help reason with Chris. No luck. Chris is waiting out his drunk and thinks he’ll be allowed to drive when he’s under the legal limit. No, absolutely not, I refuse to give him his keys regardless.
He will leave this parking lot and drink again.
I offer rehab. Go now, we’ll take you tonight. Forget work. Forget money. I’ll figure it all out just like I always do. Go get some help.
No, he says. No.
Adam and I talk. We’re stuck in the Burger King parking lot with a drunk who will, when allowed to drive, immediately go drink more. He is no longer allowed at Adam’s—the only rule of staying there being he had to be sober and he’s broken that one rule. My friend Krissy arrives, taking my girls home. Adam calls a police friend for advice. Our hands are tied. Adam calls the police, they arrive within minutes.
Drunk driving charges.
Witnesses to him driving drunk.
Arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence.
Chris is finally listening. Under his breath, he whispers to Adam this isn’t necessary.
He doesn’t even understand the gravity of what is happening.
The police officers try to explain what exactly is happening—that Chris will be arrested if he doesn’t go to rehab with us right now. There are enough witnesses to his drunk driving that they are able to arrest him even though they didn’t see him. Everyone else did.
He agrees to rehab. Not because he thinks he needs it. Not because he thinks it will work. Not because he wants to go and get healthy. Only to avoid arrest.
As I’m rolling up the windows to his truck, I find beer bottles and a huge jug of vodka. Chris wasn’t planning on being sober for a very long time.
It takes us over an hour to find a place that has an open bed, will assess him, will accept him while he’s still drunk, will be able to monitor him in case he tries to hurt himself.
Adam and I drive Chris the hour to Bloomington, to a detox facility. It’s not the long-term solution we need, but it’s the only option right now. I don’t even know if they’ll accept our insurance. I don’t even know if our insurance will approve this. None of it matters. He has to be somewhere safe, and I don’t know where else to take him.
Chris spends six days in a detox center. When I take him clothes and toiletries, I have to cut the drawstring out of the shorts he sleeps in and take the shoelaces out of his shoes. As I pack his bag, a trash bag, to be specific, I wonder how we got here. All I keep thinking is how did we get here? How did we get here? How did we get here?
The answers are heavy and long and pre-date our marriage, our first date, our first interaction.
The rage I feel for the people who should have kept Chris safe and should have made him feel loved as a child makes me go blind. I am forced to do hard things because other people didn’t. My children are living in chaos because Chris was allowed to live in chaos and no one paid attention. The irony–the fucking circle of life–that got us to the point where I’m removing my husband’s shoelaces from his shoes so I can take them to him in a locked-down detox ward in a hospital fills me with hatred.
I will not be quiet about addiction. I will not be quiet about childhood trauma that fucks everything up. I will not be silent when adults who are trusted with children aren’t healthy enough to care for them. I will not stop talking about enablers who would rather stay with addicts than make healthy choices for their children.
If my life is burning down, I’m grabbing all the people who helped light the match so they can’t keep causing more fires.
But now we’re adults. This is our show, Chris and I. He has to take responsibility whether he has been set up for failure from the beginning or not. I demand responsibility for our actions because we promised respect and love and honesty in our vows. For each other and for ourselves.
Last week, Chris checked into a long-term drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. He entered six days sober, fully detoxed, and aware the help he needs is only found through an intensive, in-patient program.
The work ahead is long.
The damage—sometimes–feels too much to fix.
This is his last chance as my husband.
If this doesn’t kick start a long-lasting recovery process, I’m getting off this train. If this doesn’t begin a life of honesty and right choices even when it hurts, we are done. I will not allow my children to bear witness to this cycle. I will not allow myself to slip farther and farther down a slope I may never return from.
The physical pain I feel just typing the previous paragraph threatens to knock me flat. I do not want to get divorced. I do not want to raise my children without their father. I do not want to divide our assets, our properties, our savings accounts. But I also do not want to be married to an alcoholic who isn’t choosing a life of sobriety.
And that trumps all the other things I don’t want.
Healthy or nothing at all.
And so we wait.