The Valley of the Shadow of Death: 3 Things I Wish I Knew When My Husband Was Hooked on Drugs
Christians don’t like to talk about their dark days.
Well, maybe I should just say “people” don’t like to talk about their dark days. There may be more pressure in the Christian community to “have it all together”, but I think it’s the norm for most people to put on a façade of success and happiness. Except for the martyrs…then it’s darkness and despair 24/7!
The thing is, we experience the most growth during difficulty. . .and when others are going through similar circumstances, it can be encouraging to hear from someone who has already been there…and lived to tell about it!
Probably the most traumatic time for me was the three years that my husband was addicted to drugs. It may not have been the most dreadful circumstance I’ve experienced, but I was so completely blindsided by it and I never developed coping skills. It was just three horrific years and then it was over. What I gained from that time was mostly in hindsight.
There are three things I wish I had known back then…maybe they can help someone else.
1. You Can’t Fix Them: Ironically, I only began to understand this when my husband (in recovery) insisted that HE was in charge of his own recovery…not ME. He had been so out of control that I had become obsessed with controlling and fixing him. I took the “two shall become one” a bit too far and lost all perspective on his individual responsibility. Be aware, you will never be able to understand the “why” of anything they do…you can’t figure it out and you can’t change it. You can only change you.
That’s a nice saying, but when you need to know, “what do I do?” and “How do I handle this?”. . .well, move on to #2
2. Get Support: Find people who have walked in your shoes and can encourage you. Avoid anyone who says they have the answers or can solve your problems! I did not get support because I lived in a sea of well intentioned problem solvers. I resented being viewed as a “person with a problem” and could not tolerate another lecture on how to fix my messed up life! Why in the world would I willingly go to a “support” group? I had no use for a gang of angry women pushing their agenda on me. The thing is, none of my well-intentioned-problem-solvers had any comparable experience and were not representative of the kind of support that was available to me.
As I struggled with my husband managing his own recovery, I began to attend an Al-Anon group. To my amazement, there was not a word of advice given, they were not angry, they were not all women, and they did not have an agenda! They simply shared their stories and what they had learned (experience, strength, and hope, as they say). I could relate to their circumstances and found a lot of truth and wisdom that could have been very helpful during the “years of desolation.”
3. Ask For & Accept Help: As a very self-reliant problem solver, this was a foreign concept to me. (Could be why I was surrounded by problems solvers?) I was aware that I was drowning, but was so overwhelmed and inexperienced at seeking help that I didn’t even know what I needed. One friend in particular asked many times what she could do for me . . . I absolutely never knew what to say.
Several years later when my brother’s wife passed away, a wonderful group of friends did NOT offer to help…they just showed up every other day with a meal, once a week to clean his house, every morning to pick up his kids (taking one to school and the others home to play with their own kids so my brother could go to work). He probably could have managed all these things…but he had no experience at running a household, he was grieving and overwhelmed, and these ladies really helped him get through the next few years.
In the best of situations, you would have friends like these. I however, had become very isolated over the three years and had very few friends (just problem solving acquaintances). But if you have any friends or family who would be willing to lend a hand, ask them to babysit, vacuum, help with laundry and cooking, work on your car or do some yard-work. Actually, make a list of the things you do or need to do that someone else could do. When someone offers to help, let them choose! I was capable of accomplishing everything myself, so I didn’t understand why I should ask for help…but it would have taken a bit of the load off me…and reducing stress is very helpful!
Most importantly, in the middle of the darkness, when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, hold on to the truth that God is with you.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4