Lady: “Why are you leaving? What have I done to cause you to want to leave?”
Man: “You know why I’m leaving—you’re crazy and controlling. I can’t handle it anymore.”
As he yelled these words at me and turned away, I smelled a cloud of pinch-nosed alcohol.
Lady: “Have you been drinking?”
Man: “What? See, like I said, you’re crazy.”
This was the day I discovered my husband’s second secret—alcohol abuse. This was also the day everything changed. I changed. My world turned upside down in the blink of an eye. At least that’s what it felt like. One second, I thought I knew my husband; then, in a flash, I realized I was looking at a stranger.
Because of the events taking place in my marriage, my past traumas were triggered and new ones were created. Every emotion, thought, lie, and story between us rapidly and constantly flew through my mind. What was truth anymore? I felt so lost. I had no idea what was beginning to happen to me.
I’d spent a good part of my life going to therapy to work through my childhood traumas and attachment issues. I thought I was in a good place mentally and emotionally and could sustain anything. I was also a worthy, faithful Christian as well, so why would there be anything wrong with me, right? How could I be the crazy one?
When I discovered the drinking, I was a few months pregnant—hormones raging, sicker than you can imagine, and feeling completely alone. I felt crazy and guess what? He was right. I was crazy and controlling. I had no idea why we were fighting so much, why he isolated himself so much, and why we couldn’t agree on anything. He didn’t feel understood and neither did I because our conversations went in circles. No understanding, no empathy, no safety, no love, no patience, and no validation.
I knew of the word addiction, but I didn’t know it intimately at that time. I didn’t know what it fully looked like, sounded like, felt like, spoke like, or acted like. I knew it was a habit someone developed and had a hard time stopping and I knew it created disconnect, but I didn’t realize everything else it did. Not just to my husband, but also to me.
I couldn’t explain why our conversations went in circles; why I felt there was so much twisting of words and unnecessary blame. Conversations would take place that didn’t make sense. They would jump from topic to topic and at every turn, would miss the opportunity to resolve a conflict or to take accountability. My husband would gaslight any effort or desire to find peace and understanding. Our lives were just crazy.
Emotions were so heightened that I did feel something was wrong with me, but I didn’t know what or understand why. One moment I was happy and content, then the next moment I’d be upset with my kids because they had made minor messes. Cleaning became an obsession. I was so desperately seeking safety but didn’t know it. “Control” was a soft way of putting it, but keep in mind that I was pregnant and other factors played a part in adding stress to the home apart from marital issues.
I’d never heard the words “betrayal trauma” until I discovered them on the internet. In my last article, “Am I Crazy or in Betrayal Trauma?” I explain in detail what betrayal trauma is. Please go back and read that if you haven’t yet, as it will help you better understand this article.
Betrayal trauma can cause a series of emotional and behavioral responses that may negatively affect yourself or others. When in the cycle of betrayal trauma, you may unintentionally cause hurt or add to the disfunction that is already taking place.
These truths spoke so clearly to me and validated all the years of hurt and pain I’d experienced. It didn’t hold me blameless for my behavior, but I finally felt understood. The reality of my situation and what was happening to him and then me finally made sense.
My husband would try to tell me that I suffer from borderline personality disorder instead of validating the pain I was experiencing. His addiction was the focus and daily goal. In order for him to feed the addiction and keep it going, all empathy and understanding was lost. He could not put me or our kids first, or comprehend rational, caring actions long term. Every thought and action had a motive behind it: to do what it took to hide and appear as though he was normal.
He wanted connection so bad but would cause fights in order to have a reason to leave and act out. He wanted to provide security for our family, but couldn’t handle being around for very long. Any financial security was taken as well. He would take money from our account and hide purchases.
Hurting me became second nature—and in response to his behaviors and emotional and verbal abuse, I became worse. We both began to hurt each other beyond anything I ever thought possible in a marriage. This is when I realized I needed help for myself even if he wouldn’t get help.
I suffered silently. But after so many years, I gave up that false belief. Silent pain brings long-term suffering. So, I decided I was done and finally gained the courage to stop the suffering and work towards healing.
I found a betrayal trauma expert and started to attend groups. I began educating myself on addiction and betrayal trauma. I felt it was important to gain knowledge in both because if I was going to try to make my marriage work, I had to know and understand the illness and severity I was dealing with.
You can’t heal what you don’t know exists. This same logic applied to me and my recovery even more so. I can’t control his recovery only my own. But I could protect myself and begin putting boundaries in place. The expert and group taught me how and gave me the permission I needed to do it.
For anyone experiencing a similar trial or watching a loved one suffer, please share this article. Very few men or women receive the support, validation, and understanding they desperately deserve and need. I have finally opened up about my trials because far too many are suffering alone.
No matter the circumstance you’re in, you can begin to get healthy and heal. There are too many resources out there for anyone not to get the right help.
There is hope and there is healing.
“Even the darkest nights turn into dawn for the faithful” (Elder Evan A. Schmutz, “God Shall Wipe Away All Tears,” October 2016).
In spite of the trials I've suffered, I'm still here loving my children and husband. I’m here trying to love myself. Even though I know life is a crazy, I am here every day, showing up the BEST I can, loving, shaping, and praying that if I stay here, my kids, husband, and myself will grow up strong, loving, and capable. I am here to write and share my story and trials because I want to be here. I hope my mistakes, blessings and trials will help others because I chose to be here.