“Our love story started seventeen years ago. We met when we were twenty-three, and I remember after I drove away from our first date, I knew. I knew he was the one. James, my husband, told me a few years after he had the same feeling. Our chemistry was electric. We instantly became best friends and more.
Throughout the first few years of marriage, I clung to that memory. I remembered all the butterflies in my stomach and the excitement and possibility of us and what could be. I needed to remind myself of that moment often because we didn’t have an easy go the first few years of marriage. My husband had an addiction to prescription medication. It nearly cost him his life several times.
Before we met, I lived in Michigan, and my husband lived in Myrtle Beach. We lived two totally different lives. I was building snowmen and watching hockey games while James was jumping ocean waves and playing golf. How those two worlds eventually collided is nothing short of a miracle.
During my husband’s school years, he struggled. He was labeled lazy, dumb, and the classroom distraction. It wasn’t until years later he was diagnosed with ADHD. By this point, his self-esteem was in the gutter and depression had crept in. The only source of confidence he had was golf. He was a phenomenal player. I only wish I could have seen him play at his peak. As he was getting better and better on the course, he was getting worse mentally. He finally broke down and went to get some medication. Not only did these pills make him smarter, better, faster, they also helped numb the pain. This was the start of his addiction.
By the time we first met each other, now both living in North Carolina, he was a full-functioning addict. It was safe to say the pills had a tight grip on him. It appeared he was managing to keep his addiction ‘in check’ not letting it limit his daily life. However, soon that would all unravel. He was honest with me in the beginning with his struggles. We would talk on the phone every day for hours; there wasn’t any topic off-limits. We’d shared everything. We were falling in love. Neither of us knew the uphill mountain we would have to climb. You could call it naive, but as long as we were together, we didn’t care. We dated for over a year; and on a Wednesday night, after work, James stopped over at my apartment, got on one knee, pulled the ring out of his sock, and asked me to marry him. I was in my pajamas! His proposal was sweet, and we hugged and kissed and called everyone we knew to tell our news.
At that moment, nothing could get in our way.
In the days, weeks, and months following our engagement, we were planning our wedding. But now, the pills were starting to get harder to control. One pill would turn to two, and two into three, and on exceptionally bad days, three into four. He had many doctors in his back pocket. It wasn’t uncommon for him to doctor-shop. I would go with him to his doctor’s appointments and beg and plead with them not to fill any prescriptions. James would promise to the doctor and me it would be different this time. The doctor believed him. I didn’t.
I grew up in a very loving, Christian home. My faith was instilled in me early on when I was young. It was always important to me, and looking back, I’m so grateful to have had the faith I had. It was all I had during those difficult years with James. I would spend the next few years crying and begging God to make this better, to make him better, to make me stronger. I’d be lying if said there weren’t times I felt God was ignoring me. Luckily deep down, I knew better.
Our wedding day was here. We kept our wedding simple and small. It was sweet. Every girl has this vision of what her wedding day would look like. While I’d never change a thing about that day, it wasn’t what I envisioned when I was young. We were already climbing this steep mountain together, and we just wanted to get married and make it official. The semantics of the cake, guest list, and so forth didn’t matter. I vividly remember saying our vows and squeezing each other’s hands when the ‘for better or worse’ part was said. We knew. We knew this was the ‘worse,’ but we believed together we’d someday see the ‘better.’ We took a breath and sealed it with a kiss.
We spent the next two years throwing pills down toilets, praying fiercely, and seeing therapists seeking some kind of hope. A hope that we would be at peace. A hope that recovery is possible. A hope for our happily ever after. And a hope that we made the right decision. Decisions were definitely made. Despite my husband’s best attempts at going after a golf career, he put his clubs up for good. Honestly, it was probably a blessing in disguise. Any success he might have had from golf, especially monetary, would have been too much for him. Money and addiction never end well.
He started a new career from the ground floor. He studied hard to learn all the industry had to offer. He came in early and worked late. Eventually, he found he was succeeding. Then, his confidence started to increase. Then, he was getting promotions. He was creating a life for himself he didn’t want to escape from. Part of recovery is just that…finding what makes you happy. He was happy. At this point, he wasn’t abusing the pills. Yes, he was still taking them, but he wasn’t popping them like candy anymore. It was a small victory, but we took it.
After many grueling years of ups and downs and mood swings and depression (those pills started to severely alter his mood), things were starting to settle. We started to heal. I had to forgive and keep on forgiving. I had bitterness. My husband had to forgive me too. We learned to love each other without conditions. At one point, I developed panic attacks during these years after being in fight-or-flight mode for so long. You start to get used to waiting for the other shoe to drop. Those gradually started to dissipate. Our smiles came back, we started to feel like this heavy weight was starting to ease up.
By year four, we found out we were pregnant with our first, a baby girl. We were elated! We went to every parent class and prepared our daughter’s room. The day she was born changed us forever. We created this beautiful life. Our mess created this amazing child. James stopped the pills, once prescribed for ADHD, cold turkey. He even made the decision to never drink. Alcohol was never an issue with him, but alcoholism runs in his family, and he realized at that moment, holding his daughter, she shouldn’t have to witness a father battling addiction of any kind. He took everything off the table. We settled into our role as parents almost seamlessly. It felt like this was what we were meant for.
Eight years have passed since the day my husband made the choice to be sober. We gave added to our crew with a little boy and another little girl. I have to constantly pinch myself: I can’t believe we are this blessed. James must say daily that we have the cutest family, and if we had to go through what we did to get to this place, then it was worth it. I agree. It’s kind of like we have a reverse love story. All the bliss and joy, and romance you typically have in the beginning, we didn’t have. We had way more tears than laughter. But almost thirteen years into marriage, we have that fairy-tale love story playing out now. Sure, like every couple we still face challenges and struggles. We certainly have our moments, but when you compare them to what we walked through, it puts it in perspective big time!
Choosing to be authentic and honest about our past was an easy decision. We wanted to turn our super sadness into our superpower. We wanted to turn that dark cloud following us around into a rainbow. We also, above all, wanted to give hope to anyone in need of it. Even if you read our story, and have just a glimmer of hope in whatever situation you’re facing, then our struggle had a purpose. And a glimmer of hope is all you need because that tiny seed of hope you bury deep in your heart will eventually grow. If I had to go back to September 20th in 2008, I would do it all over again. I’d say our vows, I’d squeeze his hand tight during the ‘for better or worse part, and I’d gladly seal it with a kiss.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shannon Quirk. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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