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

The police came to our home and I was standing there by the front door in my mom’s pink dressing gown, heavily pregnant with Casey hiding behind my leg. I could feel their pity as they looked at me and I wanted the ground to swallow me up. My life wasn’t supposed to be like this. How did this all happen? 

When he eventually turned up a few hours later, he came in shouting. It was how he manipulated me, see. It was what he learnt had worked. He blamed me for not coming to get him. Saying he waited there with the police for an hour and eventually they took him to the police station. He carried on with that story until he heard our families were out looking for him, his mom and step dad had even gone to the police station he said he was at.

The truth came out that night because I didn’t keep it a secret this time. 

He promised that he could stop. He wasn’t addicted, he didn’t need treatment he said. He wasn’t like “those people” – you know, those homeless people who live under bridges with no shoes. THOSE are the ones who are addicted!

Well… a drug test a week later proved otherwise. It was positive. I remember his face as I told him to leave. He didn’t understand. He kept saying angrily “But I am not hurting anyone! This has nothing to do with you!” he walked out and slammed the door, cross with ME for finally finding my courage and my voice. He was gone for a week, and spent the only R600 I had left before I gave him the options to go into full time treatment, or to separate. I couldn’t do it anymore. 

He was checked into rehab on the Monday, looking petrified and exhausted. 

I have been thinking about how I coped, and trying to make a list of things that worked and didn’t work for me. I will start with what didn’t (the list is the longest):

  1. Probably the most important one, keeping secrets. I never told those closest to me what was going on. Not even my sister, or my dad. By keeping secrets, I hurt myself and I ended up enabling him. 
  1. Being soft. I made decisions that I never followed through on. I set boundaries that never stayed set. By doing so I was never taken seriously. 
  2. Taking responsibility for him. Have you heard of the 3 Cs? I didn’t Cause it; I can’t Control it and I can’t Cure it. I tried to fix everything before anyone found out and but by doing that, I enabled him so much more. By not enabling our loved one, we are able to “raise the bottom” of their “rock bottom”.
  1. Not having a set decision with his family. Whenever I told him to leave, his mom let him go there - of course, this is her son we are talking about. I would eventually cave and he would end up coming home again, and so on. He never felt like he had to seek help, because he always had either his wife or his mom sheltering him. It sounds tough, it sounds uncaring – but as I am sure you know, those are the things that hurt us the most. 
  1. Blaming everyone else. I blamed the drug dealers. I blamed his parents. They blamed me. No responsibility was taken by my husband because it was always everyone else’s fault. How do you get onto the road to recovery, if according to everyone else, you are not the one driving? 
  1. Shouting and screaming. Believe me when I say I shouted and I screamed A LOT. I was that crazy pregnant lady in her pink dressing gown. All that achieved getting myself so worked up and emotional, upsetting my baby girl in the process and making him mad. In the end we lost focus of the real issue. I never ACTED, I only REACTED. And I reacted out of anger and hurt.
  1. Being the middle man. Whenever someone was upset with what my husband was doing, they spoke to me. And while I appreciate the concern they showed, it put extra stress on my shoulders and I was carrying enough. Eventually, I put up my hands and said “Please don’t talk to me about this, go tell him yourself”.
  2. Doing everything for him and excusing his behaviour. I took on more responsibility than I should have, accepted so much more than I should have and I bent over so far backwards that I broke myself.

Things that worked for me? 

  1. Finding my OWN group. Barry had his rehab, outpatient program and then his meetings. I didn’t have anything. I needed support too; life doesn’t just go back to normal! Find a Project Exodus group in your area or online. Speak to people who have been through what you have been through. I found it really helped me not to feel so alone and dysfunctional.
  1. Research. And it helped me. There are SO MANY people out there going through the same thing. So many people that blamed themselves too. I had no idea what drugs did, what they were made from. I learnt all about them – not for his sake but for my own. It helped me, and empowered me. I learnt that I don’t need to understand why he did what he did. I don’t have to understand why he has this disorder of addiction and what triggered it. I just need to accept it, and support his recovery as well as my own.
  1. Praying. For me. For my children. For my husband. For our relationship. For healing. For forgiveness.

It took me some time to realise I needed my own healing. It wasn’t a case of putting my husband in rehab to “fix” him and then everything would be fine. My life revolved around him. I was always focused on him - what new thing he had done. My happiness was dependent on him, his behavior and his recovery. I had become co-dependent, depressed and anxious for the future. 

I needed to learn that my focus needed to be on myself, my circles of control and influence in my life and my faith in Jesus. I learnt what I could about boundaries, about how they are essential for a healthy relationship – ANY relationship, and implemented them. 

Barry has been clean for a decade. He has not touched drugs or alcohol since he stepped into the rehab centre. He is very careful about the medication he uses when he is unwell, and he has told all of our doctors and pharmacists that he is in recovery, to ensure he is only given meds that will not compromise what he has worked so hard for. 

We now facilitate our own Project Exodus group in Ballito, KZN. I have my loving (sometimes pain in the back) husband back instead of the stranger I spent 4 years of my life with.

I have my knight back – but a realistic one, with no armour – just an imperfect person I can now rely on. The loving father our kids adore to pieces. 

Together we live in the freedom of recovery and I am incredibly grateful for the journey we have been on. It has given me a purpose, a passion for recovery, and a deep understanding of God’s grace.

Kelly Pretorius

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

Kelly Pretorius
10 minutes