Without understanding why, this chapter has been tugging at me for the past 24 hours. So I looked it up, edited it for re-posting, and then it hit me: March marks twenty years since my life began re-aligning itself. The fact that it all began with a huge, life-changing explosion is not the story—it was just the beginning of creating a life that was more free, honest, and happy.
Perhaps, once you are out of your own storm, you will be able to glimpse clues of a bigger and brighter future, too. It's out there, calling you forward. Heed its pull, and watch what God and the universe have in store for you...
Death Without Benefits *
“Whenever you lose something you want, you’ve been spared (or God is a masochist).”
A death has occurred and I am in mourning. No one seems to get that. The Jack I married and loved no longer exists. My husband, friend, and partner died in the spring of 1996 when I realized that he wasn’t the man I believed in, trusted, and loved. The addict buried him deep beneath lies, betrayal, and malice.
Had Jack truly died I would be entitled to the benefits of a widow—life insurance, social security, financial security, and the sympathy of having lost my spouse, my life-long partner. What I have instead are a string of broken promises and vows, memories of deceit and betrayal, one-fourth of the income, lost health benefits, no life insurance or social security, and the remarks of others that offer empty sympathy: “So sorry your marriage didn’t work out.”
My decision to divorce Jack wasn’t based on his infidelities. It was based on his unwillingness to seek treatment and help. It was relatively easy to proceed with the decision to leave in spite of loving Jack, because relationships cannot survive when addictions have overtaken rational thinking.
I still love Jack and I believe the Jack who is now deeply hidden within the addict still loves me, but the addict resents us all because we threaten the addiction. I became the enemy once I stopped playing the game. I was supposed to allow Jack a life with our family and with his addiction. When I refused, I became the enemy.
When we went to court, I was surprised to find out that no one wanted to know about what caused our marital break-up. The judge had no idea that an addict had robbed our home of a husband and father. I couldn’t tell him. He did not consider that someone should pay for that. When my home was burglarized, the vandals paid for their crime. I got reimbursed for damages. Who pays for the damages inflicted upon my family when my husband was kidnapped by an addict? I wasn’t allowed to bring up such “personal matters” in court. Because sex addiction is so unknown, so misunderstood, and still so unbelievable, it is denied. People would rather believe that it’s not a real affliction rather than deal with its aftermath.
There are many hidden losses in addiction. I worked part-time as a nurse for most of our marriage so that I could be home as much as possible with our growing children. I was grateful to be a stay-at-home mom, while also enjoying the benefits of having an adult life outside our home twice a week. I was lucky, as far as I was concerned.
I now think that our decision created the ideal situation for Jack to maintain his addiction. I was raising children and had no intention of furthering my education or taking on more work responsibilities. Perhaps that was what Jack thought would keep me in our marriage? That my low wages would make me need to stay? Perhaps this was the perfect arrangement for ensuring that his addiction would not be thwarted, and that I would never leave him because I was financially dependent on him?
While it is true that I am financially dependent on him for child support and alimony, the income he provides each month is his responsibility for having had a family. But I have lost the steady income that I had counted on for a lifetime. I lost the health insurance and retirement funds that would ensure financial stability. Had Jack truly died, I would have that lost income in the form of life insurance.
I have been mandated by the court to fulfill my end of the “responsibility” by working full-time. Is it not enough that I care for my children, feed them, do their laundry, help with homework, and provide an emotionally stable environment for them by myself? I have little reprieve from the constant needs of three young children.
What about Jack’s responsibility? He was supposed to seek treatment, get better, and become a responsible and committed husband and father. Instead, everyone has turned their backs and pretend that nothing has happened. He is suffering no consequence for his lack of accountability and responsibility to the family he chose to have.
Jack’s Dad suggested that the court split Jack’s income five ways and I get four-fifths; I like that. Instead, he contributes only minimal financial responsibility, and takes the kids only two nights a week. I’d rather have the stability of raising our kids in the same manner we had become accustomed to by receiving money of a widow. I have become a widow to addiction.
Not only have I lost a husband; the kids have lost a father. The kids must feel the grief of losing the Dad they had. Whenever they return from his home, they fight, they cry. They don’t have the tools I’ve acquired to cope with the situation. They only know to react to their feelings. And it all must be terribly confusing.
It steals your conscience. It steals your logic. And I fear this will only get worse. I’m not sure how to tell our children about Jack. Do I allow them to read this book when they’re old enough to handle the information? Do I allow him to be fully accountable to their questions? Do I even wait for their questions? How do I tell them that their Dad couldn’t face himself and get well, despite loving them? How do I explain to them anything that may come close to helping them understand?
I know that in his own way, Jack loves our children. He would probably not expose them to anything potentially damaging. However, I remind myself that in spite of loving me, he did do that.
As far as I know, Jack is still practicing addiction. It’s confirmed in my interactions with him, watching his life-style choices, and hearing similar stories about him from others. He remains evasive and distant.
I’ve questioned the children’s teachers and counselors about their behavior. Fortunately, all of them say that my kids are normal. But do we really know? Will they be okay, with healthy behaviors and intact intuitions to guide them when they’re with him? I visit pediatricians, counselors, and lawyers. I am constantly on-guard for my children’s safety.
What I find most revealing is that I was disposable to Jack. I think he stopped caring about me as a wife, lover, or friend—at least in the sense that was appropriate and healthy—once the addiction consumed him. I became another female that he could objectify, feel-up when he felt like it, and seduce at will. He was able to love me conditionally, then when it became too difficult, he simply pulled himself away completely.
No remorse, no apologies, no looking back.
Spouses of addicts lose to the addiction, too, yet we are the quiet losers. Few people understand what we are going through. Most people don’t want to know. Perhaps it’s just too difficult for them to think about—after all, if it happened in my “normal” home, might it also happen in theirs?
When I see Jack today, my heart stirs with softness. I see before me a sweet, kind, loving man—the one I remember—and I feel compassion. I remember the good father, loving husband, and family man. I remember the man who made me laugh, the one I liked snuggling with, and the one who made beautiful babies with me. But I say nothing in that moment. I do nothing. Then I remember the reality of the man who stands before me and my heart stirs with sadness. I do nothing, say nothing, as the kids jump into his car, his voice quiet, his eyes avoiding mine. He is gone.
He is not the man I remember. He is a different man, one I don’t trust, one I don’t particularly like.
An addiction stole my husband.