This is my ‘year of recovery.’ Last year and the year before it were the ‘years of divorce.’ My ex-husband struggles with alcoholism and I finally felt able to make the leap.
He’s a beautiful man, talented, sweet, gentle, insightful, creative. He was a good dad. I love him. I always will.
He’s also a man who struggles with depression, anger, and addiction.
I shared 27 years of my life with him and this divorce has been like the grieving of a death. So much pain.
It is so complex and complicated that it is very difficult to write about because when I write about one aspect I feel as though I am betraying the other aspects when in reality they all coexist in the same moment.
If I say he was terrifying and my children weren’t safe then I feel like I’m not being fair to the fact that he was a wonderful dad and that he didn’t physically abuse our kids. If I say that he’s an alcoholic then I feel like I’m ignoring the times when he was sober–his alcoholism came in waves progressively getting worse with each new wave. When he was sober and not struggling with depression we fit together so well. If I say he was domineering and that we all tiptoed around him then I feel like I’m betraying all the times he was so generous and supportive, insightful, and steadfast.
I’ve been around alcoholism my whole life. My dad was an alcoholic, other family members were alcoholics, my husband was an alcoholic, his dad was an alcoholic. Even now in my job as a nurse I detox alcoholics regularly, over and over again, often the same people.
Alcoholics have taught me so many valuable lessons:
- I don’t need anybody else to make me happy.
- I can live peacefully even though there is darkness and depression around.
- It is not necessary to stop loving and having compassion for someone even if you have to let them go.
- Alcoholism is a family disease
- I am not responsible for another person’s successes/failures or emotional state. I am responsible only for my emotions/successes/failures. This is huge and I love it.
- Boundaries are healthy.
- I am not a victim.
- It is hard being a human on the planet.
- Life is fragile and precious.
- Respect for all humans struggling with addiction or living with an addict.
My ex-husband was an amazing craftsman and carpenter. He did beautiful work. He could put things together that would leave other people scratching their heads. ‘How in the world are we going to get this massive full wall of window installed on the drop off side of Mt. Sequoyah?’ He would find a way.
But our house hasn’t had siding for 20 years. We have sub-floor in the dining area. For some reason he didn’t have it in him to work on our home. It’s a common problem for tradesmen. Add that to the fact that when I told him we were getting a divorce he took a 20 pound sledgehammer through the house and destroyed about $30,000 worth of property–so you can see that I have some rebuilding and recovery to do in my life.
In case you didn’t know, it is legal for your spouse to destroy your property since it is also his property as defined by marriage.
Things that were destroyed? A guitar I bought when I was 17 years old, the TV, the TV stand, my Vitamix blender (if you have read any of my blog you know how important this piece of kitchen equipment is to me), built in bookshelves, an oak desk, computers, my hot tub, our wood burning stove. He destroyed it all with a sledgehammer.
But it is all just stuff, and the point of all that is to say that this year I am in recovery. I’m being optimistic calling it the year of recovery because recovery is a lifelong process. So far during this process I have learned how to patch and repair sheetrock, I finished siding my house with concrete hardie board–in the process learned how to use a nail gun, compressor, circular saw, and a bunch of other tools, and I have learned so much more.
My house is coming together, and so much of my time has been dedicated to that process. There are many other pieces to this recovery. Fortunately the process of physically rebuilding my house has helped tremendously with the process of reclaiming my life, redefining myself, building a better life for my kids, and providing them with a secure environment.
I hope that my ex can find his way back to his own recovery. But I don’t have any control over that. Anybody who has ever successfully negotiated their own recovery knows that it is a full time, life long job, and sobriety is only one piece of the puzzle.
I’m looking forward to the point in my recovery when I can use my time creating music, hosting get togethers, and writing books. In the meantime I’m learning carpentry and writing in my spare time when I’m not being a single mom, working as a nurse, doing massage, or teaching massage therapists. The work is good for me.
Being able to finally write about this is good for my recovery too. I think another very important thing I have learned about alcoholism is that we are not alone. This is such a pervasive illness that there are few people who have not been touched in some way by alcoholism. Just knowing that is a comfort when coming from the culture of silence and stigma that follows addiction.
This weekend I’m going to try to inspire my kids to help me caulk the house to get it ready for paint. When I’m not doing that I’ll be writing, running, and doing the few massage appointments I have scheduled. And when I get my house painted I promise to post a few pictures so that all my images are not depicting destruction. There is a rebirth that happens with recovery.
Let me know if you want to get on the massage table. I’m doing massage most Fridays and some Sundays. It’s part of who I am and I love it. I hope you’ll make time to get on the table soon!
By the way, massage therapy can be a very helpful part of recovery too.
Wendy Finn is the mother of 4 boys, former owner of I.M. Spa, registered nurse at a hospital, Raw Food Enthusiast and educator, runner, world traveler in pursuit of superior massage education, a Master Massage Therapist of 24 plus years, a massage therapy educator, and a gardener. She’s passionate about touching people and sharing health.