‘I want to help him.’ I’ll never forget his boss’ words to me. I didn’t want people to know.’: Family struggles with husband’s alcohol addiction, ‘We were broken’

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“This photo right here holds so much for me. This photo is hope. It’s the start of healing. Of reconnection for our relationship and for our family. This photo was taken three weeks after my husband went to a treatment center for his addiction to alcohol.

Courtesy Ashley Albertson

We were broken… so broken. It’s hard to explain really what happens to the whole family when someone in it deals with addiction. As a spouse to someone who is going through it, the addiction begins to consume you. You become an addict yourself. Not to the alcohol (or substance), but to fixing the problem. Your every thought and every moment are filled with damage control. Trying to hide from friends and family the ugliness that is your everyday reality. You start to distance yourself from everyone, because it’s too hard to keep coming up with excuses and because you want to protect the person who is destroying themselves. And that’s what you do, try to protect this person who is destroying themselves (and slowly destroying you too.) You try to catch the addict in their lie. Constantly checking, searching for the bottles, looking at their eyes, judging their mannerisms and the things that they say to see if they had been at it that day. They say that the addiction is a family addiction and I couldn’t agree more. I want to share this with you, what we went through. I’m not typically one to talk about personal things but I feel that if I can help just one person going through this or someone who loves someone going through this, that it will make it that much more worth it.

Courtesy Ashley Albertson

I didn’t want people to know. Not so much out of shame, but out of respect for my husband.

He was an amazing man going through something, and I didn’t want the judgement, or the stigma being attached to him. So, I kept it as hidden as I could, but in doing so cut myself off from help and from reaching out. I kept it all inside, and on the nights where he would ‘fall asleep’ on the couch at 6 p.m., I would tuck my daughter into bed and close my bedroom door and I would cry and pray, cry and pray. Why was this happening to us? Why couldn’t I fix it? Why couldn’t I help him? And the big one… why wasn’t I good enough? With our relationship hanging in the balance and faced with the reality of losing me, why did he still choose the alcohol?

Someone out there may need to hear these words. I know I could have used them.

Someone to tell me that I wasn’t crazy for feeling the things I was feeling and more importantly that it isn’t because I wasn’t enough for him to change his behaviors. In reality it had absolutely nothing to do with me. And at the same time, it was my life, it was everything that I had ever hoped and dreamed for my future. It was all slipping away and there was nothing I could do about it. I think given that situation anyone would go a little crazy. I can never put into words the feeling of wanting so desperately to be with the man that I was married to, but to have him constantly just out of my reach, unable to fully grasp him and bring him back completely. I would get glimpses of him, maybe for one day, maybe for 3 but then I would lose him again.

Courtesy Ashley Albertson

Our story has a happy ending, one that brought him back to me completely. But that is not always the case. To those of you going through this, you are not alone (as alone as you may feel). It is not your fault. You cannot control the actions of another person for better or for worse. There is help out there. And, most importantly, you are good enough! Let’s just say that again for those in the back… YOU are good enough! It, simply put, has absolutely nothing to do with you. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that their addiction is your fault. Addiction is ugly and it tells lies to all involved. My husband never once even hinted at blaming his addiction on me, but he didn’t have to. I did that all on my own. I wish I had had someone to talk to. Someone who truly understood. But now… I understand. The best thing I can do now is to be for others what I so desperately needed myself.

We went around and around on this emotional roller coaster from hell. He would drink, I would find the bottles. He would hate himself for it and swear that he could get it under control. And he would, but it never lasted for more than a week or two. I felt like I was losing my mind. I could tell that he meant it every time. That he so badly wanted to get it under control. Neither him nor I had the resources to know that it simply wasn’t possible to accomplish on our own. I wanted my husband back so badly it hurt, but I couldn’t continue on this way. We were nearing the end. We both knew it. I had my daughter who was a year and a half, and another daughter who would be coming into the world in about 5 months. I had all of us to worry about, and there was no end in sight.

I won’t go into all of the details here, but basically his boss found out what we were going through. I thought, ‘here we go. He’s about to lose his job and now things are really going to fall apart.’ I will never forget the words that his boss said to me on the phone, ‘I want to help him.’ Here it was. The help that him and I so desperately needed but didn’t know how to get. They arranged for him to check into the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Center City, Minnesota. He came home to pack a bag, neither of us knowing how long he would be gone. They say that you don’t know how strong you can be until strength is the only choice you have. He was downstairs packing his bathroom bag. When I walked in, he looked at me. I could see the fear in his eyes. He whispered through his tears and said, ‘I’m scared, I don’t want to go.’ Everything in me wanted to protect him, to hug him and tell him he could stay. That we could figure this out together. I looked at him with tears streaming down my face and with a strength I never knew I had, I said, ‘you have to go.’ He stayed there for 28 days. I loaded up our 18-month-old and drove the near 2 hour drive every Sunday to see him. To let him know that we are here and that as long as he was willing to fight, so were we. I was able to witness the most beautiful transformation in him. He was becoming this strong, confident person again.

Courtesy Ashley Albertson

Becoming this man that I fell in love with. This man that I hadn’t seen in a while and God did I miss him.

I went through the three-day family program there. I learned all about addiction and how to navigate things once he came home. I also learned that his success had little to do with me. That was all on him, and if he did fail, that was on him too. But he didn’t fail. He took the opportunity that was presented to him and, true to my husband’s form, he led that group in every way he could until he left. He is just over 2 years sober. He continues to go to his meeting every week and is doing amazing things for the community and his AA group. He is giving back everywhere he can. We have some prospects to speak as a husband and wife team. But for now, we are simply grateful for the ability to be grateful. We have never been in a better place than we are right now. He is an amazing husband and amazing father, and we make a solid team. We have been through hell and back together, and it has created this bond between us that is unexplainable. I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. Maybe the reason is simply for us to come out of this a rock-solid couple. Maybe we’re meant to do big things for addiction in our community, or maybe there’s someone out there who just needs to know they aren’t alone. Whatever the reason, I know we could not have made it to where we are right now without God and the help and support of our friends and family.

I think the fact that we went through this will surprise those who know us and don’t already know. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone. My husband graduated high school as valedictorian. He graduated college with a 4.0. He is successful in his job. He is a smart man. If addiction was a matter of intelligence, we could have overcome it on our own. My husband is one of the most considerate people I know. He is a kind man who always thinks of others. If addiction was about only thinking of yourself, we could have overcome it on our own. My husband and I have many kind and wonderful friends and family. If addiction was only about surrounding yourself with the right people, we could have overcome it on our own. We live comfortably. If addiction was about how much money you make, we could have overcome it on our own. The truth is we couldn’t overcome it on our own. We needed help. It’s time that we end the stigma that comes with addiction. In labeling and criticizing those who struggle, we are only making it harder for them to seek the help they need. By sharing my story, I hope to contribute toward ending that stigma. You never know who may be going through this hell today. In fact, it may surprise you if you did.”

Courtesy Ashley Albertson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley Albertson, 31, of Wisonsin. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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