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My shameless story of my husband’s drug addiction pt. I

My name is Kelly. My husband is a “drug addict”. There, I said it. If I was speaking right now, I wouldn’t have whispered it either – I would have stood tall with my head high and said it loud enough for everyone to hear. He was addicted to Cat and Cocaine. Believe it or not, I had no idea. And believe it or not, I am only one of thousands who do not know their husbands or wives - or sons or daughters - are addicted. 

I was not exposed to drugs growing up. I was never offered drugs, or as much as a cigarette from a friend. I have never been addicted to anything in my life, so it is very hard for me to try to understand that desperate need for something. That slavery. When I found out about my husband’s addiction, someone I spoke to compared cravings to being worse than extreme hunger. That to me, was the best description I could relate to or imagine. 

12 years ago, if you told me a story about a woman that had no idea her husband was a drug addict I would have laughed, or worse – I would have judged. Not just the “drug addict husband”, but the simple wife for being so naïve. I mean, isn’t it obvious? I now know it has nothing to do with being naïve, or about not paying enough attention. It is not a reflection of me – it has nothing to do with me. Instead, if anything, it shows how well those in the slavery of addiction can hide it. How well they can manipulate. It’s their main goal you see – making sure nothing stops them from getting what their body has come to need in order to function. This disorder has convinced them that their drug of choice is life, like air. It is necessary for survival.

My husband and I got married almost 14 years ago. We started dating when I was 19. I was swept off my feet by this handsome, confident and funny man who gave me so much attention. I was very young when he proposed to me – it was shortly before my 21st birthday. We knew everything about each other anyway, so why wait, right? 

I had planned to be engaged for a few years at least… but then my mom got sick. She was diagnosed with colon cancer and I remember feeling that I needed to make sure she was at my wedding – we didn’t know how long she would live for. So, I found myself walking down the aisle at 22. Something didn’t feel quite right, but I brushed it aside, convinced I was doing the right thing for everyone. It made everyone happy. 

Things were good for a few months. Newly married and in a new home. He had his own electrical contracting business which was, as far as I knew, very successful. We were happy. About a year later is when things started to go downhill. I was pregnant with our baby girl and I started getting calls from the bank saying our bond had not been paid for 3 months. They said my husband was not answering their calls. After that, the company car was repossessed. Our medical aid was suspended. Our electricity was cut off. 

I was thrown in the deep end trying to juggle payment arrangements and signing letters from the sheriff. I never thought that going to the police station to sign affidavits for the nursery furniture my parents had gifted us would be a memory I would carry of my mom. I took over control of the finances and the running of the household. I became the provider, always full of anxiety and stress. Trying to hold it all together. Because I had to, right?

He became the fun one, the life of the party that no one ever forgot. I became the worrier. The quiet one that people forgot easily and often introduced themselves to me again. He was the laid back one and I was uptight. He was optimistic and I was the negative pessimist. I lost who I was. I became Barry’s shadow. I was a grey cloud next to his bright yellow sun. Debt mounted up and I started borrowing money from my dad. I sold my car and several of our belongings.

Our daughter was born and things calmed down a bit. With another big loan from my dad, my husband opened another electrical contracting business trying to start fresh. I managed to buy myself another car. I signed sureties for the suppliers as he was blacklisted. It would be okay this time though, we were in it together, complete transparency. The business seemed to start off well, even paying a few bills. But then again, the same happened. I would come home from work to find empty beer bottles in the kitchen bin, my husband on the couch napping, or playing Frisbee outside with a friend – or nowhere to be found. He stopped caring. He stopped wanting to support us and I couldn’t understand why. He had lost all ambition and motivation. Money started going missing from the business account. When I asked for slips for it, he would get defensive and angry with me for not trusting him. Too scared to cause more confrontation, I would back down. I began to suspect gambling – I couldn’t see any other explanation for the missing money. I realized that if something ever had to happen to me and I needed help, my husband would not be the person I would call because I was not sure he would even come to help me. The knight in shining armour I thought I had married turned out to be a weird smelly man in tin foil (sorry babe ☺️). 

I hung onto the hope of all his promises of construction work on its way, refusing to believe he was lying. My family wasn’t blind, they could see what was going on and they wanted to help. It irritated me when they tried to talk to me. I felt as though they were interfering, and I felt a desperate need to protect my husband. I constantly defended him, made excuses for him, and worse – lied for him. 

My mom died the day after her chemo treatment on the 20th of July 2012. I went through the hardest time of my life - losing my mommy, my best friend and confidant - and Barry was barely around. I have never felt so lonely and sad in my life. Too much was happening and I was too young to process it all, and to top it off, my last conversation with her was a stupid fight I had with her about my husband. 

My husband spent months unemployed and lying on the couch. Having no car, he would take me to work and have mine – he needed it for interviews he said. But 5pm would come and I was never really sure whether he would fetch me. When I called him and his phone was off, I knew it was up to me to get home and fetch our daughter. I would get a lift home and wait for the car to drive away before I walked to the nursery school to fetch our daughter – in the dark because it was winter. I never told my family what was happening or ask for help. It was silly because I know they would have wanted to be there for me. I was just too embarrassed by this point. I felt so much shame, and a small part of me still hoped that I could turn this around. That I could “change” or “rescue” my husband from whatever was going on. I didn’t want to delve deeper into it, it was much easier to pretend it wasn’t happening. 

There was always an excuse for letting us down. He ran out of petrol – several times. He dropped his car keys into a street drain once, he lost numerous cell phones, and he was in an attempted hijacking – that time he came home with his shirt ripped and eye scratched, just to give the story a bit more believability (these wounds were self-inflicted). The thing is, he truly believed these lies, and the sincerity on his face made me second guess myself. 

I put a tracker on his phone and started tracking his every movement during the day. Totally normal right? I was obsessed with what he was up to while I was working. It was about then that I realized that something was seriously wrong with him (and with me! Any more of this and I would have dressed in camouflage, rubbed mud on my face and followed him, hiding in the bushes!) – It wasn’t a deep depression, rut and the feeling of uselessness that unemployment sometimes brought - which I had convinced myself (and anyone that would listen) was the problem. He didn’t seem to care about our wellbeing. He would go from being so moody to being so loving. It was always highs and lows in our relationship, never constant. During one of the many good weeks, I fell pregnant with our son, Luke. This was followed by some very, very low months. I started researching, asking questions and listening to my gut for once. During those few years, I pushed Jesus away so much that I didn’t even try listening to Him and what the Holy Spirit wanted to tell me. I was so full of self will, and I refused to hand that over. 

One night when he didn’t come home, I lay in the bath crying, panicked with worry when I couldn’t contact him for hours. I kept thinking, “He must be dead. He must be. No normal person would do this, it is the only explanation. No one would just not come home to their beautiful daughter. He must be dead.” Just as quickly as that thought entered my mind, it was gone and I thought, “But he isn’t normal. He isn’t dead, he just doesn’t love us enough to choose us.” I stopped accepting his excuses and I realized that this is NOT normal. No “normal” person neglects their family. It must be drugs! But not my husband, surely? 

I confronted him, I pointed out all the signs. Everything I had researched. Of course, he denied it. He made me feel like I was going crazy and creating a problem when there wasn't one.

The night I found out for sure about the drugs was one of the worst nights ever. He didn’t come home, again. His phone was off, again. He eventually called me at 8pm and said that he was in a road block. The police had pulled him off because my license disk had expired (which I knew it hadn’t). Seeing the opportunity to finally catch him out, I asked where he was. I got Casey in the car I borrowed from my dad, after 8pm with my daughter crying in the back seat and drove through the worst part of town, with no concern for mine, my daughter’s or my unborn son’s safety. What was I doing? Enough was finally enough. I obviously didn’t find him, or any trace of the invisible road block and I went home, called my security company and reported my husband missing. I called our families and finally asked for help. No more hiding.

My shameless story of my husband’s drug addiction pt. II

Kelly Pretorius
7 Minutes

Kelly Pretorius