Hey everyone. It is Michelle Lisa Anderson from LoveOverAddiction.com—an online community and movement for women that love somebody who drinks too much or suffers from substance use disorder. I am so glad to present you with Kate. Kate is a member of our community, and if you don’t know about the amazing women who have made their healing a priority by joining our programs, you need to check us out at LoveOverAddiction.com.
Once you join one of our programs, you get a private invitation to our secret Facebook group. And inside this group, our friend Kate is a tremendous leader and a mentor. You can meet Kate and all the women who have been on this podcast when you join the secret Facebook group.
Kate is a super feisty, powerful woman. When we use the word powerhouse, I think of women like Kate. They are outspoken, they are leaders, and they are the type of women that come up with ideas that help make our world better. They are not afraid follow through or to voice them.
You are in for a treat today. She is going to be sharing with us about how she tried her best to be perfect so she wouldn’t feel rejected. She came from an alcoholic family, and I know a lot of us in this community have that same experience. And another subject that she touches on is how addiction can make you feel manipulated by using tragedy as a way to get you to do things that don’t align with your morals or your values.
So I cannot wait for you to listen to Kate. If you are the type of woman who ever thought that you needed to settle because you think that the person you’re with is the best that you can do, then this episode is for you. If you’re listening today and you’re staying because you feel obligated, then this interview is for you. And if you are the type of woman who has pornography going on in your relationship—and I know from experience that this is a popular issue—then we are going to even be discussing that.
This is interview is packed with juicy, relatable topics. I think you’re going to see a lot of yourself in Kate. So get super comfortable. Be prepared to be moved and touched and, most of all, encouraged because this is a true story of victory. Enjoy!
Michelle: Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me. I am amazingly grateful that you are finding the courage to share your story with women. I have gotten to know you a little bit over the phone, and I just know, particularly in our secret Facebook group, that you have so much wisdom that you are going to offer women in this conversation, so I’m really excited to talk to you today.
Kate: Thank you. I’m glad you have me on today.
M: Ok, so what I like to start with is: how did you meet your husband, and when did you start seeing red flags? Were there specific moments in your relationship where you started to think, “Hmm, something isn’t quite right,” and can you describe those moments if you have them?
K: So, I met my husband on New Year’s Eve 2003/2004. My best friend was dating one of his brothers, and we were just trying to make plans for New Year’s Eve, and she said, “Oh, he’s got a brother that you might like. Why don’t you come out and meet him?” And I thought, well, ok. I travel a lot for work, so it’s not going to be a blind date. It’s just going to be a group of us hanging out, and that will be fun. So we went out and met, and he was very nice. I thought he was attractive. I thought he was smart, and I liked the idea, oddly enough, that he had a lot of college under his belt. In terms of having a masters degree. To me, that sort of indicated something up to par.
And so the four of us and some others went to a party, and we hung out at this restaurant. I noticed there was beer drinking, but I was young (in my twenties). None of us had kids. It was sort of just—you could do what you wanted with your life. There wasn’t any big responsibilities. I did notice even on that very first night that I was one of the drivers. I noticed that neither one of the brothers was capable of being a designated driver. Or even if they thought they were, I knew that I wasn’t going to get in the car with them. But I thought well, ok, it’s New Year’s Eve, no big deal.
So I think I noticed early on that there was an attraction to alcohol amongst the brothers, and in that time of our lives, it was something that was very carefree. But I just chalked it up to that. We’re young. None of us have many responsibilities. We’re still going out and having fun whenever we want to.
And then our relationship progressed over the next few months, and I had to relocate to—this was in Pennsylvania. In Pittsburgh. And then I had to relocate to New Jersey, but we were in love enough that we decided to try to maintain a long distance relationship. But I started to notice that when I would drive back to visit him in Pittsburgh on weekends that sometimes he would already be a little intoxicated by the time I showed up at night after I had driven six hours in the dark by myself. Or that we really wouldn’t go out. We would kind of be staying at home. And it was nice. He would cook steaks or something, but there was always alcohol involved. We were never going out and having something like a real date. It always felt like something put together, or hey, let’s eat dinner here and then go out to a bar. And I just continued to chalk it up to what it was.
But I did notice increasingly more and more it always was with us. It always played a role even when I was driving a long distance to come visit him, or on the rare occasions he would drive to visit me, it seemed like that was always something that needed to be in the picture. Like, “Can we stop and get some beer? Let’s make sure we have some beer. Let’s go out to a bar. Or let’s do this.” There was never really times when we did movies on the couch without having beer in the picture. So I think I recognized it right away.
M: You said when he occasionally came to see you. Why was it mostly you making the effort to go see him? Was there a valid reason why he wasn’t making—why it wasn’t equal?
K: Yes. I did most of the driving back to see him because my schedule allowed me to. He, oddly enough, worked in the mental health field and had clients at night and on a lot of the weekends. So unless he cancelled his clients for that weekend, he usually worked on Saturdays visiting families and visiting clients. So I would make the effort. But there definitely came a point when I felt that it was unequal and why am I running back there all the time.
So he has clients. He is working anyways. I don’t have to see him every weekend or every other weekend. If this was really meant to be, or if he really wants to see me, he’ll figure out a way to do it. But I didn’t let that happen. I think I kind of made myself available and I allowed myself to always drive back there. And then I would always get frustrated when I would get there late on a Friday night. And to tell that he had already been drinking. Or that drinking was the priority that night.
M: Right, right. Had you ever been around anyone that had a drinking problem or any addictions?
K: Yes, my father is an alcoholic, so I grew up with him drinking beer every day. But my dad didn’t drink at home that much. My dad was the kind that would stop at the bar after work for a couple hours, then come home at dinner time. And usually by dinner time, he was three sheets to the wind and you never knew what you were going to get. Sometimes he was fun and light-hearted, and sometimes he was aggravated at the world. And so there was always beer drinking in my relationship with him.
M: When you showed up and saw that your future husband had already been drinking by the time you got there on a Friday night, did you feel like the same feelings came up for you with him that you had with your father?
Were they similar feelings? Or how did you feel when you opened the door? He would open the door. I know we all have that kind of “Spidy Sense” where we can tell almost immediately that they’ve been up to no good. Did those feelings seem similar to you?
K: Now that you’re asking it, I can definitely think back to there were similar feelings of questions of, “Why, if you know I’m coming, why would you allow yourself to be in this position? Why is alcohol more important than me or us?” And those are definitely feelings I felt growing up with my dad. Why did getting buzzed up or getting drunk on beer take priority over going to your children’s games or going to your children’s school activities? It was always a part of our home life. “Is dad drunk or not right now, and what’s that going to be like?”
And I did notice that with Eric. Oops, I said his name. I did notice that with Eric that I had feelings of gosh, I just drove 6 hours on a Friday night in the coldest winter night through snow to come see him and have a wonderful weekend. I show up, and it’s almost like it’s too late. He’s already chosen something over me. So a lot of feelings of rejection.
M: I was just going to say that the word that keeps coming to mind for hearing your story, and I think all of our stories, is rejection. And I just heard Tony Robbins say this. I think two nights ago I was watching his new documentary, or I was reading something of his. And he said that rejection breeds obsession. I’ve never heard that before. But I can see how, clearly, the more that we are rejected, the more obsessed we become with trying to become not rejected. Trying to become accepted.
So did you feel like in your marriage, or in your relationship, that you were working extra hard at trying to help him so that he could finally stop rejecting you?
K: Yes. And first, let me say that that quote is outstanding. I don’t think anyone could have nailed it any more perfect than that. That feels very true to me. Yes, I would try to look my best. I would try to make sure I didn’t gain weight. I’d try to ask questions to get into his thoughts like, “What’s going on your world?” And try to get him to talk to me. Try to get him to do things with me. I don’t really feel like he was rejecting doing any of those things, but I definitely felt like I had to be the one to initiate things like that. I felt like I was the one who kept the relationship together. That he could have taken it or left it. If I didn’t keep it going, he would have been, ok, whatever, and moved on.
I was like, “Oh my gosh, I love him so much. I’ve got to keep driving back from NJ. I have to make this work. I’ve got to keep looking nice. I better get my nails done because he likes nails done.” I did as much as I could. As much as I could. But then, when I felt like I didn’t get the response I wanted, then I changed and became a nag or asked five million questions that he didn’t want to answer. I would pepper him with questions. “But why? But why?” Or, “How come that,” or, “How come that,” and no matter what he said, it seemed like I was never satisfied with the answer. I kept digging until I got what I wanted, but I never really got the answer I wanted.
M: Yeah, because I think when we do that, and I’m nodding my head, and I know so many women are going to be listening to this and going, “Yeah, me too,” or raising their hands. I think that’s our attempt to control. We feel so out of control, and it’s our attempt to try to put logic to an illogical situation. This disease is so—it’s not even logical. It doesn’t make sense, so there’s no point wasting our time trying to make sense of all the dysfunction. You go down a rabbit hole. You’ll never be able to predict. You’ll never be able to explain. It’s just sickness. It’s what this disease looks like. And that’s why any time I found myself just obsessively asking questions or trying to get to the bottom of things, I always just kind of felt like this is just a big waste of time.
K: Yes, yes. I can totally relate to all that. Totally.
M: So you ended up marrying him, though. And isn’t it funny how we do that? I’m not saying that out of judgment because it is quite amazing looking back on it. I know you’ve now moved on with your divorce. But isn’t it interesting when we can look back and go, “Ok, so why did I marry this guy?” There’s so many signs up front why this isn’t going to work. And yet we walk down the aisle. We accept crumbs. Why do we do that? It’s so confusing to me. So you did. You married him.
So did you move? Did you move to him, or did he move to you, or how did that happen?
K: So let’s see. After a few years of long distance he didn’t even—one time we broached the subject of him considering moving to New Jersey. And I think I had brought it up, and he gave me an answer I didn’t like. So I never brought it up again. I felt rejected by his answer, and I was like, “Ok, I guess we’re not where I thought we were, so I never brought it up again.” And then about 8 months later—10 months later—I got a phone call from him from Pittsburgh, and he said, “Guess what? I quit my job, and I’m moving to New Jersey to be with you.”
And I remember having a semi-panic attack on the phone like he did what? Oh my gosh. I’m happy. I’m in my own apartment, and I feel like a big girl by myself. I was on the verge of probably ending the relationship because I was really sick of driving back there. And I think I had indicated that to him. I don’t know how much I can do this anymore. This is just getting a lot. Let’s see how this goes. and the next thing I know…
It wasn’t that he was thinking of quitting his job. He quit, and he was moving in with me, and I felt okay. I felt like I didn’t exercise my choice in that moment. I was like, “Alright, ok, I guess we gotta figure out a way to make this work.” So he moved to Jersey with no job, no savings, no plan.
M: Ok, let’s park there for one second because I think this is super fascinating. So he sits there. And you’re giving him some indications that you’re not interested in the relationship. Or distancing yourself. You’re not saying let’s break up, but you’re giving clues that say, “I’m going to detach.” And then he, out of nowhere, comes up and says, “I’m moving.”
Do you think that was strategic on his part? Looking back on that now, do you think he was like, “Oh, I’m going to lose her, and I need to get control, so I’m going to take drastic measures”?
K: I’m not sure, exactly. But one thing that I’ve never forgotten is that was at the time when I was feeling like not driving those hours every weekend, and I was kind of sick of trying to make it work. He was having a situation at his job where there was a, in his opinion, a less knowledgeable, less senior person that was brought in who he had to now sort of report to. And he constantly complained to me on the phone about this guy. Like, “I can’t believe I have to take directions from this guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I can’t stand working for him.”
He complained about this guy, whereas prior to this he was really happy in his work. But there was something about this particular person making my ex feel less smart or like he didn’t know as much as he thought he did. There was some kind of dynamic where he didn’t even try. He just quit, and then I felt like he used me almost because I was stable.
I had and have a great job. I pay my bills, and I have a place to live. And I don’t know if it was to control me or the relationship because he’s never really been like that. It was more about using me, manipulating me, and knowing that I would be there to rescue him when he was at a low point.
I really truly believe that. He left that job because he was feeling like someone was better than him. Or his narcissistic attitude got in the way of continuing to do a good job because he didn’t like his supervisor. And so he depended on me to sort of be there for him when he decided he couldn’t take anymore. I really feel that way.
M: That’s excellent. I completely think that makes sense too. And I love that you can now look at that and see it for what it is.
K: And going back to—
M: Yeah, let’s talk about that. He, all of a sudden, drops this bomb on you and you’re left feeling that you don’t have a choice. Now, looking back on that, do you feel like you really did have a choice?
M: Yeah. Ok, so let’s talk about that.
K: Now that the smart person I’m now that believes in myself and trusts in myself—of course, I had a choice. I could have said no. I could have said, “You’re free to move to New Jersey, but you can look for your own apartment.” And I could have done a number of things differently, but in that moment, I almost felt like that heaviness of responsibility. Like, “Oh my gosh, he finally wants to be with me even though he doesn’t have a job. I better make this work. I really love him. This is my chance.” There was definitely an air of me feeling responsible though to make sure he was ok.
M: That’s fascinating. So he moves in with you, and now you’re feeling what?
K: It was stressful in the beginning because he didn’t have a job. He didn’t even have a resume. So I did all that for him. And I happen to be good at that. At the time, I felt out of love, I’ll do your resume. I’ll do this. I will send it out for you. I’ll help look for jobs for you. And it was very stressful. In the meantime, I’m helping him do all that and he’s getting acclimated to my apartment.
All of a sudden, little things started to bug me like where he left his keys. Or if there was a stack of mail. Just things about him bothered me. Like, “Hey, this is my place, and you moved in with me. You’ve got to respect my space.” And that would cause arguments. Especially the way that I would speak to him. That would cause arguments. I would let my frustrations get the best of me, and instead of speaking to him in a calm, rational, loving way, I would let my anger get the best of me. Or whatever that frustration was for me.
So in the meantime, while he’s looking for work and all this, he gets shingles. I’ve never had shingles, but I’ve never seen a man in so much pain in my life. For weeks. So now he’s unemployed and saddled with shingles in my place, and I’m paying all the bills. Mind you, he had no job, no savings.
Here he is now laid up on my couch, and I feel like it’s my responsibility to look into COBRA for him. “Oh, when you left your job, did you sign up for COBRA? So you didn’t sign up for Cobra. Ok, let’s see what we can do because you don’t have any health insurance, but your suffering from shingles.” And I think I found some natural remedies that I ordered for him, and I had it overnighted so he wouldn’t be in pain. I mean, just on and on I felt like his mother, like his nurse, like his caretaker
He finally gets a great job, and a few days before Christmas, we get a terrible phone call that his younger brother was in a car accident. And because it was back in Pittsburgh, it was in the same hospital that my mom works at. So my mom did a little digging and called me privately and said, “You better come home today because his brother might not make it through the night.” And so then it was pack up clothes for a funeral, probably, so immediately my husband went into this dark tailspin. Not my husband, my whatever—my boyfriend at the time. He went into a tailspin. We went into a bar before we drove home. We went into a church so he could say prayers before we drove home. I drove him all the way home, and he drank beer all the way home. And I didn’t care. I just wanted to get him there.
His brother had a terrible head injury from a drunk driving accident. And even though his brother wasn’t the driver, he was drunk enough that he made the poor decision to get into the car with somebody that was drunk, and he was the only one was injured. He did end up dying the day after Christmas. They had to pull the life support.
That was an awful thing to watch your boyfriend go through, and they all turned to alcohol. And when we returned back to Jersey, after the funeral and everything was done, he really turned to food and alcohol as his way to deal with it. He gained a lot of weight, he drank more than ever, and it sort of never stopped since then. I felt like it really escalated after his brother died.
M: That was the huge trigger event. Because they say that alcoholics—there’s a genetic predisposition or there can be a traumatic event that occurs in someone’s life. And those are the two things or causes the alcoholism or addiction. It’s one or the other. Or sometimes, for certain people, it’s both. And so you’re like something—you are already dealing with an alcoholic, a man who cannot control his—he’s relying on his alcohol. It’s his coping mechanism, and then you pile on a tragedy onto that. Well, if he doesn’t have the tools before to deal with his feelings of everyday responsibility, imagine the downfall that’s going to occur after that tragic event. I mean, that’s a recipe for disaster.
K: And it was
M: I was going to ask you. So you’re not married yet. You’re just dating him.
K: We’re not even engaged. We are just living together.
M: You’re not even engaged?
K: Not even engaged. We’re just living together and—
M: You’re so loyal, Kate. That’s such loyalty! That’s the thing. I’m looking at this, and I’m going, “I think this is a common thread among us women.” We are just so loyal. Even through all this tragedy.
Did you feel when his brother died that increased your loyalty? Because he was in such pain. And how could you leave a man that was suffering so much?
K: I think sometimes there’s a fine line between loyalty and obligation. And I think where I get sucked in is this feeling of obligation. Because I didn’t feel like there was much to be loyal to. We weren’t engaged. We didn’t even talk about marriage. It certainly wasn’t the perfect relationship, but it was this feeling in your life I think that you grow up with.
Maybe when you grow up in a home of an alcoholic and you have a mother who’s a nurse, a caretaker, who always took care of your dad. She never let him fall. She always rescued him. And she always sweep the bad under the rug. There’s always this obligation to move forward and take care of the people in your life, and so as he ate and drank his way through his grief, of course I felt obligated to be there for him.
M: You were doing what you had learned. You were mimicking the exact model that you grew up with.
K: Yes. I was not nearly as good as my mom. My mom really went above and beyond taking care of all of us and working full time. But I certainly was there for him. And even if that meant driving him to get more alcohol or going out to a bar, I almost can see it in hindsight. Through the grief, there was manipulation because it was, “Ok, what’s going to make him feel better tonight? Oh, he wants to go to a bar? Great, let’s go to a bar. Oh, he need to go to a beer store. Great, let me drive him to a beer store.” Let me help him get through his grief, not realizing in the slightest how I was making it worse.
M: Wow, that’s huge. That’s huge that you were so accommodating. And supporting him. And being medically attentive. I think you give your mom a lot of credit, but Kate, the way that I see it with you and the way that you’ve described yourself: filling out a resume, nursing him from shingles, and driving him. That’s pretty attentive, my friend. That’s very—those are acts of real obligation.
So how did you get to the point where you married him? When did that happen?
K: So it was around Easter. We would still go home to Pittsburgh for major holidays because that’s—we’re both from there, and that’s where all of our family is. So it was Easter. We drove back to Pittsburgh, and you know what? Before we went back there, I think we were just casually talking about it, and every now and then we would look at rings. But when we went to Pittsburgh, he apparently met my dad at a bar, and they both sat together all day drinking, and he asked my dad for my hand. And my dad’s response—we laugh about it because it’s kind of classic. He said, “Eric, there’s two things you never want to do in life: go to war and get married. But, if that’s what you want to do, go ahead.”
M: No, no.
K: So even the response from my father wasn’t this loving, beautiful, supporting comment. So he took me out for dinner that night, and he was loaded. By the time we actually made it to dinner, he was drunk. And at some point, he got down on one knee. It was my favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh which was nice. And he got down on one knee, and he proposed, and I said yes. Then we finished dinner, drove to a six pack store, and he threw up in the parking lot. All I could do was sort of laugh it off to my friends like, “Oh my gosh, he was so nervous to propose that he threw up.” But really, it’s probably because he sat and drank with my dad all day and he was nervous.
It was just like none of this feels beautiful and romantic. This just feels like a little bit of a crap show. But ok, I love him anyways. I’m obligated. I support him. Nobody this attractive has ever found me this attractive, and so I better not lose this one. He looks like a big Pittsburgh Steeler which I find very attractive. All these little things went through my head of how this is the best I’m ever going to do. This is as good as it gets for me, so I better stay obligated. I better take care of him. I better make it work.
And I thought that that’s what was love was. I thought that’s what happiness was because I didn’t realize I wasn’t loving myself. I was trying to be loved by the attention I got from him. Even though I wasn’t getting positive attention all the time, I felt like, “Oh, it’s a good-looking guy, and he’s interested in me. That must mean I’m worthy.” Or, “He actually wants to marry me, so I’m worthy. He moved in with me all the way from Pittsburgh. I must be worthy.” And so I just sort of bought into that stuff.
M: Well I also think that it’s interesting. How are you supposed to know what real love is and what respectful love is and kind love is when you didn’t grow up with that? It’s not like your parents modeled for you what a healthy relationship would be. So where are you supposed to learn that? How are you supposed to know that this isn’t as good as it could be?
K: Right, I didn’t. I never learned it.
M: So when did you learn it? When did you start to get to the point where you’re like, “Wait a second here. This isn’t—I don’t know how much longer I can do this”?
K: It’s funny because I think it started even before we got married. I’m Catholic, and to get married in the Catholic Church, you have to have so many visits with the priest. They call it Pre-Cana. So the priest took each of us into a room privately to hear our concerns, and then he would share it with the other people. I thought, “Ah ha, this is my chance. Finally, I’m going to tell the priest my concerns, and the priest is going to fix it and make it all better because he’s going to tell Eric he can’t be like this.”
So I told the priest he had a problem with drinking, and the priest basically, I guess, talked to Eric but was kind of like no big deal about it. Like, you have to be attentive to each other. You gotta watch that. You gotta keep it under control. And all that did was generate a giant fight on the sidewalk outside of the church after we had finished our meeting. Eric said, “I can’t believe you said that to him,” and I’m like, “He asked me. I’m supposed to tell the truth.” He’s like, “That’s BS.”
We had this giant argument, and we almost ended the marriage two nights before we got married. We almost called the whole thing off, and I’m not sure why I didn’t. Again, that whole obligation—I got this far, I better follow through. And then we got married, and we lived in Jersey. We didn’t have kids for a couple years, and the first time I got pregnant was sort of by accident. I wasn’t planning it, but I wasn’t stopping it. So I found out I was pregnant, and then very shortly after, a few weeks later, I miscarried. And I didn’t realize that he wasn’t there for me. I miscarried all by myself.
There was no family, there was nobody. I called him, and he wouldn’t leave work to come with me. I went through the whole thing by myself, and I remember feeling so alone and like ok something’s not right here. This is not a behavior of a husband. This doesn’t feel good. I feel lonely, I feel angry, he doesn’t feel any remorse. And then by the time he showed remorse, it was after it was all said and done. So I went through it by myself.
And I thought long and hard. I don’t even know if I want to have kids. I know that I want to be a mom. But jeez, that was really hard to go through by yourself, you know? So I wound up getting pregnant again a few months later, and when my daughter was born, seven years ago, in New Jersey they had paid family leave. So the husband got to take off three weeks of work to stay home and help you. Mine went on a bender for three weeks while she was a newborn. And it was really hard because she was a very high need newborn. I chose to breastfeed which anyone who has ever breastfed knows that is one demanding thing. And I didn’t want to supplement with formula. I really wanted to commit to breastfeeding, and that caused arguments between us.
And I didn’t feel like he was understanding my wish to breastfeed exclusively. I didn’t want him to just hold her and give her a bottle. I wanted to nurse, and it was making me tired, and it was making me stressed. And I just needed him to be there. He just went on a bender for three weeks drinking all day every day while I was dealing with this newborn.
Then, because he was drunk, I felt like I couldn’t rely on him to hold her or take care of her. When he did, I would criticize. “You’re holding her wrong,” or, “Hold her like this,” or, “Burp her like this,” or, “Don’t drop her.” It was just stress. And it just never got better. I made the assumption that when you have kids, you’re going to become an adult—you’re going to grow up because you have to. And he didn’t. It’s like he got worse. And the drinking got worse.
M: And I think the whole criticism part—because I remember feeling that way too when my ex-husband was not there for multiple of my kids. And my stepdad came with me. He left on a binge the night before I was scheduled for a C-section, and my stepdad came with me to the hospital, and everyone thought he was my husband. I don’t know why. They just assumed he was. So I had to awkwardly explain to all the nurses that no, my husband isn’t here.
But I remember trying to nurse as well and criticizing him for multiple things whenever he involved with the baby. And I remember now looking back thinking I was just resentful. This criticism was just resentment coming out of my mouth for all of the ways he had abandoned me. For all the ways. And I think it’s different when a husband rejects you and you don’t have kids, it’s one thing, it’s super painful and so harmful. But when your husband rejects your child—oh my gosh, that anger—it gets you in the gut like nothing else. Where you are just like, “How can you reject this beautiful little package?”
K: Yes. And she was planned. It wasn’t an accident. It was intentional. And it was one and done. Trust me. I know exactly when it was. And that was another thing. I noticed after his brother died, the intimacy just fell way, way off. I mean, probably a lot of it because he gained weight and he was drinking all the time. More than ever.
But it was like I remember thinking I was in my prime. I’m in my early thirties, I feel beautiful, I feel good, I felt sexy, and he was never interested. That was really hard to deal with. Like you said, what did you do to try to keep things going. And even in that department, I would try my best to either initiate or look pretty or be sexy, but the rejection of your man not wanting to be with you—that’s one of the hardest things to ever get over. That is so hard to be rejected like that.
M: Let me ask you really quickly. Because the surprising thing that is coming up in a lot with my conversations with women is the sexual intimacy and the fact that it wasn’t there, or it was that the husband was demanding. It’s either absent, or they’re making amazing demands.
Was there pornography involved? Do you know that?
K: Yes. Not all the time. But it definitely was a problem. Even before we got married. But I tried so hard to be cool about it—to be open minded. This is an unbelievable true story. I actually would leave to go shopping at the mall before we had kids when we lived in our little apartment in north Jersey. I would leave to go shopping at the mall so he could have alone time on the computer to fantasize, and then I’d get pissed because I’d be gone for a couple hours and I’d come back and he’d still be doing it. And I was gone for hours. “Didn’t you finish? Aren’t you done yet? You had enough time. Finish up!” Not understanding how detrimental that was to our entire relationship. The way that I thought. The way that he thought.
And it got so bad that after one time, after my daughter was born (she was about 2 years old)—it was one of the first times that I let her spend a night away from the house. I sent her to her babysitter for an overnight because my girlfriend and I did an overnight half marathon in New York City. It was a fundraiser for breast cancer or something, and so you had to walk 13 miles overnight in NYC.
And so that night—this is another one of those moments like what am I doing? This marriage sucks. That night, I thought he was calling me to support me in the middle of the night. It was 1 o’clock in the morning, and my phone rang, and it was him or something. And all he wanted was the password. I had to set up child protective access on the laptop so that he couldn’t get to the porn. And he called me begging for the password. I said, “I thought you were calling to support me.” And he said, “Yeah, whatever, do a good job. Give me the password!” And I was like, “I’m not giving you that password.” And I think I finally relented and gave him the password.
When I got home the next morning at 6 o’clock in the morning, I found my laptop—MY laptop—smashed to smithereens with a hammer. He took a hammer to my laptop and totally demolished it in the basement, and I screamed and sobbed. Everything came out of me. I screamed and sobbed. And part of the reason was that there were baby pictures on that laptop—that were on the hard drive that he didn’t even care to think about. I was like, “What did you do?” And he was so disgusted with this disease, he felt the only way he could stop himself was to destroy the source of it. The only computer we had in the house was my laptop. And so he pummeled it with a hammer.
And since that day, I’ve never bought—well now he’s out of the house, but for the rest of the years that we lived together, I never brought another computer into the house that wasn’t related to my work. Because if it was related to my work, he wouldn’t touch it. But we never got another computer in the house. So yes, it was a problem. It was a major problem.
M: It was a problem. Yeah, I feel like that’s part of the addiction that hasn’t really been brought to light so much, and I’m really going to make an effort in the future to really discuss it because I feel like it’s such an issue that gets put under the rug.
K: Yeah. Let me just make a point about that. Maybe because my husband’s a therapist and we would talk about stuff. Once I realized porn was a problem too, I realized it wasn’t just a problem with alcohol. It was that he had a completely addictive personality. And probably if we lived near Atlantic City, he probably would have had a gambling problem too. It wasn’t just alcohol, it was this addictive personality that overtook. He also has a problem with chewing tobacco. He doesn’t smoke cigarettes, he chews, which is the most disgusting thing ever invented. And it was like his whole schedule in the morning, and at certain times of the day, revolved around that.
If there was one thing that would make him get his butt out of bed early on a Saturday is because he had to go to the convenience store to get fresh chew. And he would drive out of his way to a different convenience store because they had better dates on the canister. I used to think, “Wait a minute, this guy won’t drive to get me anything. No treats, no medicine while I was pregnant. But he would drive out of his way to get fresh tobacco because it had a better date on the can. Something is not right here.”
M: Right. Right. And so when did you start to feel like, “I gotta think about a change”? I was talking to somebody the other day, and they said this brilliantly. They said it wasn’t just one moment. It very rarely is with women. it’s more like death by a thousand paper cuts.
M: So all of these instances that you’re bringing up, which I know so many of us can relate to, I think those are your small paper cuts. But was there a moment for you where you were like, “I’m done. There’s no point of return here”?
K: Yeah. Well, I will say I have two of those moments. And one was the final nail, and I want to tell you both because they both matter. When we lived in New Jersey and we had our daughter and there were other young people in the neighborhood that had young kids, my house always became the place where people would come, and I would have a fire pit in the backyard. I would have people over for pizza, and my place kinda became the place where people would come to hang out.
And so my neighbors and I—like the women neighbors—would hang out on the inside of the house. The guys would go out by the fire and drink beer and something like that. And I started hearing about the wives of my neighbors. One would talk about how one can’t keep his hands off of her even though she just had a baby, and you’re supposed to wait 8 weeks. I’m like, “What? What do you mean?” She goes, “Oh my gosh, he wants to have sex all the time, and we can’t because of the doctor’s orders.” And I’m like, “God, I had my daughter like two years ago, and my husband has never wanted anything to do with me since then.” And then, my other neighbor would talk about play dates that they did together with their kids, and I’m like, “Wait, your husband actually goes with you to the park? You both go to the park together with your son?” That’s so strange to me.
We kind of did everything separate. We were even in separate bedrooms since the time my daughter was six months old because I really wanted to nurse her and share a bed with her, and he was drunk every night, and I was afraid that he would smoosh her (he’s really big) in her sleep. So we moved into a spare bedroom when she was 6 months old, and I never went back.
So I noticed right away with my neighbors that whatever life I was living was really abnormal. Normal to me, because that’s what I saw growing up, but once I noticed how other young moms and couples were living, I was like, “Ok, I want what they have. And something is really off here.” So it started to make me really resentful and more bitter.
But fast forward. We moved to Maryland for my work. Long story short. One night we got into it at the dinner table. And I had never called the police on him before, but I just felt like I just couldn’t take another moment. I couldn’t take another instance of him being drunk, obnoxious, and disrespectful, and I felt like he would taunt me when he was drunk. He never was physical, but I feel like he would taunt me. But this particular night, he got a tiny bit physical. I think I slapped him in the face. I did something to get him out of my face. He was kind of in my face, so I took my hand and kind of hit him in the face so that I could get him away from me.
I spun around, and he grabbed the back of my hair really hard. He ripped some hair out, and it was like a five-second scuffle. He took the plastic placemat and kind of whipped it at my face, and his fist caught the edge of my chin. So even though he didn’t mean to punch me, he still sorta did it a little bit. And I was like “That’s it. Forget you, I’m calling 911,” thinking that was going to be the turning point in our relationship.
So I called 911, and they came, and they basically said, “Well, he does have a right to be drunk in his own house. You can file charges against him, and he can file charges against you because you hit him in the face first,” and bla bla bla. I was so disillusioned because I felt like now I created this big problem where I got the police involved, but nothing changed. Nobody got arrested that night. He was allowed to stay in the house. I was a mess. And I remember the cop looking at me, and he said, “What are you still doing here?” And I said, “I live here.” He said, “No, I mean what are you doing here with him?” Because he could see that he was a drunk mess even though he was allowed to be a drunk mess. And that really hit me.
Then I found your site, and one of the first things I realized was I didn’t call the cops because I was afraid. I called the cops because I thought, “Aha, this is finally what’s going to make him change. Once I get the authorities involved, that’s it.” And when nothing changed, that’s when I realized the only person that could change was me.
M: I love that for you. I love that you had that moment. Because I feel that’s the pivot moment. That’s the moment where our lives pivot.
K: That was the pivot moment. But I only had that pivot moment because when I was listening to the recordings, the LOA recordings, and you had said something about that. You had told a story about one night when you got the kids out of bed and put them in the car because you had to go get him out of jail. And you thought, “Ah ha, finally, now the world’s gonna know that I’m this poor mother that has to drag my kids around to get him out of jail. Now things are finally going to change.”
And you were wrong, and I was wrong, and it was listening to your message that—it related to me, and I thought, “My God, that’s exactly what I did by calling the cops.” And I didn’t know it at the time. I thought that was going to be the last straw. Like getting the authorities involved and making it public, and it wasn’t.
M: Yes, I did tell that story, and I think that’s so true. I remember having many moments like that. Calling the cops or a DUI or a hit and run and jail time. And thinking every monumental moment like that. “Well, this has got to be it. This has to be the wake up call that I’ve been waiting for. You can clearly see that you have a problem.”
And you know what is interesting? I could see that at the beginning of our marriage, or even early in our relationship thinking, “If I could just get him to accept that he has a problem, then everything will be in a great direction because he’s going to get help.” So that was my goal. My first goal was: let me find all the books and all the proof and all the experts and everything. My full-time job was going to get him to see that he is an alcoholic. And really, I think it took me three years to get him to finally admit he had a problem. And you know what he did? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It made no difference whatsoever.
K: Mine admits he has a problem all the time.
K: He does nothing. I even signed up for a European hypnotist program called The Drinkless Mind. And I was like, “Look what I got for you. You have to listen to this for three weeks straight, and it’s gonna be great. Then you’re going to drink without over-drinking.” And he looked at me like I was from Mars. I said, “Did you listen? Did you listen to your tapes?”
M: I used to buy books at the bookstore and leave them on the toilet thinking maybe he’ll read them there. I mean, it is kind of funny when we look back on all the crazy stuff that we did to help the one at the time that we really loved. But I know your story, and I really want to take the last several minutes of this conversation to talk about how you pulled through and where you’re at today because I know that’s going to inspire many women.
So can you share with us where you are at today and everything you’ve learned and how you’ve applied it to help you get to this point?
K: Sure. I’m currently coming up on one year of legal separation. And in the state that I live in, you can file for divorce after a year of separation, so I can file at the end of this month if I want to.
M: Oh, is that right? You can’t go file for divorce until you have one year of separation in your state?
M: I did not know that that existed.
K: I think because there are children involved. I think it’s the state of Virginia. I think Maryland and Virginia are similar, but I think because—it’s children. When there’s children, you have to wait a year. I called the police around Christmas, and it took until August to actually get him out. I refused to leave because I pay all the bills and the kids go to school there. And I’m not uprooting my family, the kids, to move and change schools because you won’t leave. You need to leave. If you’re the one that can’t stop drinking, then you need to be the one to leave.
So it took him all the way to August to finally get his own place and move out. And it was great. I really tried to channel Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow and try to make it positive. You can have open visitation. You can come over for dinner to see them. The only rule is you can’t be drunk in the house. Or before you show up, you gotta be sober. You can come over every weekend. You can do whatever you want with them.
M: How did that work?
K: It worked great for the first few months, but then, by the time we got to Christmas—we always go back to Pittsburgh for holidays as I mentioned. We went home, and I stayed at an Air B&B, and he stayed at his mom’s. He never even came to see the kids on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and it was because he was drunk. And I remember thinking—
M: I was going to say, I don’t think Chris Martin is an alcoholic. I mean, I don’t know him personally, but…
K: No, but I meant I wanted to have a channel—like this conscious uncoupling. I wanted it to be like, “Let’s be friends. Let’s go see the kids all the time. Come over for dinner. Let’s keep it as normal as we can.” And that only lasted for a couple months. By the time he didn’t see them on Christmas or Christmas Eve, I was like, “Ok, something’s way off. Things aren’t getting any better.” And then, when we came home after the holidays, he saw them less and less and less. Finally—and he had open visitation mind you, but he just didn’t exercise it to come see them which was really heartbreaking. Or he would come over for an hour on a Saturday and say, “I gotta go.” So it’s like where do you have to go? Why don’t you want to see your kids?
M: That is so normal though. It’s so sad, but it is so textbook normal. It’s really right on par with the drinking. Every woman thinks that when they get divorced that the visitation is going to be their biggest issue and that the husband will want to spend more and more time. In most cases, and I’ve been doing this for 7 years, the husbands lose interest very quickly because you were the glue that kept that family together.
When you have physically separated, there is no glue. So his responsibilities in almost every area of his life go to the wayside because the drinking or the drugs or whatever become the biggest priority. My kids only see their dad once a year. And it’s only because we make the effort to go to wherever he is and bring them there. If we don’t do that, they wouldn’t see him. It’s right on schedule.
K: Wow. That makes me feel better. I mean, right now it’s great because I think it’s helpful for me that he’s not under my foot. It makes my detaching and my recovery easier for me, personally, because he’s not here. I’ve seen a personal therapist now for two years. We saw a marriage counselor together for about a year, although the goal was never to reconcile. It was to kinda break apart the marriage peacefully. And I’ve actually still gone to see her without him since he’s left. I’ve wanted to go and see her every now and then just because I still have questions and want to understand things better.
But between LOA and my own therapist, it’s just been such a growth and such an awakening of who I am. Looking back on some of the things I made choices on, it’s like, wow, I would never do that again. And I would totally do things differently if I could. It’s been really hard because I don’t have any family. This part is going to make me cry. I don’t have any family where I live. And he’s not here, so it’s really hard to ever have time to do a lot of self-care. I do have an au pair who lives with me which has been a total blessing, and gosh, I wish they had more affordable au pair programs for everybody. That’s a great program, and I rely on her a lot to help me with the kids during the week.
But on the weekends, she’s off doing her own things, and so I’ve become really close with some of my neighbors who are also single moms. We try to do stuff together with the kids. I go back to Pittsburgh still for holidays and weekends so they can see their cousins, and I just worked out with my marriage counselor that maybe I’ll try to drive back there every 4-6 weeks so they can see their dad. Because they ask for him. It’s really hard because they ask for him. They love him. They miss him.
And so I thought, “Let me turn this into self-care. They can see their dad, and I can get one or two nights with my parents by myself.” But then I get nervous because I cant—I don’t know if he’s been drinking or not, and so I’ve contacted his sister to make sure that someone is around just in case there’s an emergency. I’m not there in the same town. I’m five minutes away, so if my kids can’t figure out how to get in touch with me—although she knows my phone number. If something happened and there was an emergency, I want to make sure that somebody’s there. So even dropping them off to see him hasn’t been good, but they want to see him.
K: You know what else I told her? I asked her if she knew the difference when dad was sober and when he’s not. She said yes. And I said give me an example. She started talking and slurring her words a certain way, and I said, “Ok, if you’re ever uncomfortable on the phone or when you’re with him, you do not have to stay on the phone or stay there. You can call me. You can hang up the phone, and you can tell me to come get you.
M: Does she have a cell phone?
K: She has an iTouch. She’s only seven years old. I got her one just so we can be in contact.
M: Good. Good. I don’t care. I know they say don’t give your kids a cell phone, but if you’re in this situation and you have a kid, you need to get them a phone, and you need to train them how to use it. You need to teach them boundaries. And then, for the visitation—and I know you know this, but you need to create your own set of boundaries. So checking in with his sister is great. Having someone present during the visitation.
And I did the same thing you did. I had to drop off my kids. I gave my daughter the phone, and I taught her how to use it. They had to use it. There were situations where the police were called where there were terrible instances that occurred, and, unfortunately, as you know, this is part of growing up with this disease. But there’s been many good things that have come out of those terrible situations. Of course you don’t wish that for your child, but it’s not—it can be turned into wonderful learning lessons. So that’s great.
K: I’m glad you said that.
M: Yeah. Have you ever thought about making him use a breathalyzer? Someone just told me this yesterday. I was talking with her for an interview, and she was saying that he had to breathe into a breathalyzer everyday. And she has it set up so that if he wants to see his kids, the report gets emailed to her first. So before she agrees to a visitation, that breathalyzer report has to come back, and it has to come back obviously clean. And so that might be a great thing for you to look into.
K: I imagine I would have a hard time. I don’t think I would get him to agree to that. I’d probably have to make a judge make some kind of enforcement with that.
M: What an amazing guy that he’s—
M: Yeah, I did. My ex-husband had to take a blood and urine sample at a local Quest and fax me the report no later than—I think it was 24 hours with advance notice to let me know that he was clean. And if he failed to do that, or if he failed—usually because he couldn’t pass, then there was no visitation. Then I would cancel it. So it’s just nice to know that was the judge the court appointed. So I think that’s totally doable. But just being really, really clear on the boundaries that you’re setting in advance. I think it’s super important if you’re going to do visitation.
K: Yeah. I know. And I think at this point in my recovery, I have to work on that because I know in my heart that he probably wasn’t sober when I did drop them off a couple weeks ago even though I was really close. And I didn’t get any bad phone calls or anything, but I have a feeling that he probably relied on his sister to make sure to watch them.
But I was also at the state where, god, I just needed one weekend to myself. Unless I get a call that there’s an emergency, I’m going to stay out of it. I’m not going to get involved even though I know he was probably—I know he was probably drinking. I just needed that time with my mom to myself. I just needed a little break. But I do want to work on that boundary
M: Being a single mom is tough. I mean, good lord, it’s exhausting. It’s particularly when you don’t have help. If you don’t have family around, it is tough. I wonder if there’s a way that you can somehow figure out somebody to come in to watch your kids once. I do this when—and I’m married. I’m remarried, but I have four times a year when I know I have weekends that I can get away. They are my saving grace. So when I’m sitting there completely drained and going, “I have nothing left to give,” I think, “Ok, I’ve got four more weeks until I can have that self-care alone time weekend.” I’m just wondering if there’s someone…
K: Well, there is now because I’ve decided to—my au pair has extended with me for another six months, but I am also putting my son in pre-school, so I have extra hours with the au pair. You’re only allowed to work the au pair so many hours. Since both my kids are going to be in school all day, I thought, “Ok, this is really gonna be—financially going to stress the heck out of me to pay both full-time school and the au pair, but I need to do this. I cant keep going at this breakneck pace with the kids all the time.”
So the au pair will now have hours when she’s going to have to work later nights and some weekends for me, and so even though it might hurt for a couple years until he’s in pre-kindergarten, I don’t care. I need this. If I can’t have family there—and relocating back to Pittsburgh is not an option for me—then I will pay to have this support. And she’s awesome, and she loves my kids, and they love her so, I think it’s going to be good.
And I know our time is up, but I want to make a point that I never thought I would get to say. But since joining Love Over Addiction two years ago—almost two years ago—I am at the point at my life where I can honestly say that addiction has been a blessing for me. Because I have learned so much about myself and how my past has impacted my present. And I really like the person I’m becoming, and I like all the things I’ve learned about myself. I like that I’m going to set my daughter on a different path from what I was set on, and if all of this hadn’t have happened, I might still be stuck in a situation that isn’t healthy and doesn’t demonstrate how healthy relationships for my kids.
So even though it’s been crappy for so long, I feel like there is a silver lining to all of it, and it’s that self-growth and understanding and learning. Because it really applies beyond our husbands—the boundaries we talk about and the self-respect. It translates into so many areas of our lives. And it really has been a blessing for me, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
M: I love that, Kate. And I love the growth that you’ve made. You’ve been such a leader in our group, and you offer such hope to so many women. I know it’s because you are one determined woman, and you are willing to do the work. You are willing to make the effort to make life better.
And I think about your daughter and the way your courage just changed her future. I mean, you just started a brand new generation of strong women, and she can learn from you. When she sees you, and when she talks about my mom supported us financially and with a single mom and willing to leave, I think that you are providing such a great role model for her.
I’m really proud of you. I’m so proud of you, and I know your future is going to be fantastic. I know it is. And when you describe yourself the way you were when you met him, I can’t even imagine it, because it’s not even a fraction of who you are today. The growth you made is amazing.
K: Oh, thank you. And I love the growth. I love it. I wish I could have been this person fifteen years ago, but at least here I am now.
M: I was saying this the other day: some of us need to learn the hard way. I learned the hard way.
K: You sound like my dad.
M: Yeah. I needed addiction in my life because I don’t think I could have become the woman that I am today any other way. I don’t think that I would have arrived here. So I agree with you. It can be the greatest blessing.
M: Thank you so much for sharing this and sharing your story. I know it’s going to help so many women.
K: And thank you because you’ve helped me so much, and your stories help so many women. I just love the community that you’ve built. I’m so proud and blessed to be a part of it.
M: You’re so welcome.
Don’t you just love her? I love the fact that she is bold. I love the fact that when I listen to Kate, she says it like it is without caring what other people think. I’m not saying she’s not a thoughtful person, because she is. She’s incredibly encouraging, and she’s sensitive. But this woman has the guts to tell it like it is. And I really admire that about her.
So I hope you found this really encouraging. I can tell you that at the time of this recording, Kate was going through a divorce. That divorce has finalized. I have remained in touch with Kate. And let me tell you: she is kicking butt. She is rocking it. She’s coming out strong. She posted on Facebook that announced her situation to her friends and family. She went public with her marriage and why it dissolved.
That, to me, is the ultimate form of bravery: when you have a woman who is willing to give a voice to the pain and suffering and bring other women together. So I hope you enjoyed Kate. And I hope you enjoyed this Love Over Addiction special bonus podcast!