Part II – How To Handle Addiction When It’s Progressing Quickly
Part II – How To Handle Addiction When It’s Progressing Quickly
Whether you’ve decided to stay or leave your relationship, or you’re not ready to think about that at all, this interview offers helpful insights, tips, and tools for your boundaries, your happiness, and how to make it work, no matter the exact situation.
This week we’re back with Michelle and Terri, Part 2 – they spoke late in 2017 (which we released last week, so be sure to check that out if you missed it). They spoke again early this year, in 2019.
Michelle and Terri circle back on events from her past, and look forward to what happened next, and where Terri is today with her own healing.
It’s a truly heartfelt story, and it’s easy to see Terri’s heart is so pure, and her hard work has really paid off. Terri said 2019 will be the year of sharing love and light to women who love someone suffering from addiction.
I hope you feel her love and light today, and find positivity, bravery, forgiveness, and true healing in her story.
Michelle: Let me start at the beginning. Can you walk us through how you ended up in a relationship with someone suffering from addiction? Did you know right away? What were some of the warning signs? Start us off with the history of your relationship.
I did not have any knowledge of addiction.
I didn’t know what the red flags were. My mom is an adult child of alcoholics and so she sheltered me from that situation. We didn’t have a lot of contact with her family, and now I know why. He was a great guy and he was not an addict when I met him. I think he had tendencies to become an addict, but he was not an alcoholic at the time.
Michelle: Interesting. What brought that on?
Terri: We moved away from family and friends and he retired. It really seemed that the retirement was a trigger. After a few years of retirement, that’s when the beers started opening at 8:00am and there’d be days when he wouldn’t even get out of his bathrobe.
Michelle: Wow. So do you think it was a lack of purpose for him? Do you think it was all this extra time? Or do you think it was depression from removing him from a healthy environment?
Terri: Well, we moved because he’d get into many conflicts with people in the community where we lived, and he got the last one was the next door neighbor.
So that was pretty much the last straw. We had talked about moving and we found a nice place to move to, and thought, “Well, once we remove ourselves from that situation, everything will be fine.” That’s kind of wrong thinking.
Would you say it would be fair to say he had issues with anger?
Terri: Yes. They were always directed at other people, not at me. After we got married he was diagnosed with depression and went on anti-depression medication.
Michelle: So he’s a high conflict man, and you moved. How did you feel about being removed from your environment? Were you relieved that this was a new beginning or were you feeling resentful that you had to pick up your life and leave your family and friends for his inability to healthily process his anger?
Terri: I would say it was a little bit of both.
I felt tremendous relief thinking, “Oh boy. Nobody’s going to have any conflicts with him where we move to. Nobody’s going to know his past conflicts with people. It’s still drivable to visit family and friends,”.
I truly thought it’d be a great thing.
Although, as you get older it’s a little harder to make friends with other couples or other people. That was a bit of a hard thing, so I did start to then resent the fact that I had to move away from all my friends and social activities and that sort of stuff. So, to be honest, I did have a little of both feelings.
Michelle: That makes sense, and you can feel both feelings. It’s definitely okay. Did you have children with him?
Terri: No. Well, this was a second marriage and our kids were adults when we made the move. My youngest son was around the most; he was still in high school when we got married. Then there’s a stepson that was the same age as my youngest son and he would come over about every other weekend. Then when we moved away, they were already out of high school, so that kind of stopped anyways.
Michelle: During their childhood, I know you said this is your second marriage, did they ever see your husband kind of display his anger?
Were they ever the cause of it or the recipient of it?
Terri: A little bit of his son, and I think that’s what caused his son to stop coming around as he got older and once he could make the decision and had friends and everything. He didn’t come except for a couple times a year. But my son, he got along the best with my son, so I don’t know if he ever did get angry towards him.
Michelle: That’s interesting. Okay. He’s retired and he’s clearly suffering from depression, can barely get out of bed, doesn’t want to change into clothing, stays in his pajamas.
When did you start to feel like, “Okay. He’s had too much to drink. This is now becoming an issue.” Do you remember a moment? Do you remember there being an instance?
Terri: I remember two. I need to give full disclosure here: I’m a slow learner.
So, 2009, he got a DUI …
Well, he didn’t get a DUI. He had his best friend get a DUI in a boat. I’m pretty sure he saw the sheriff’s boat coming and then he took a leave and went downstairs, or went underneath in the cubby and said to his friend, “Can you just sit here in the driver’s seat?” So, that was the first one and I kept thinking, “Wow, what are the odds of that?”
Then the second one was we had done … we went on a fad diet in 2011 and we had to give ourselves shots in our stomachs and it was a 500 calorie diet a day, which I would never do again, but that’s beside the point.
There was no alcohol during the diet, and it’s only 40 days, which isn’t that long. He couldn’t do it.
I think the first time we did it, he did maybe four days without any alcohol. Then he started to just drink little shots of vodka. Then the second time we did it he didn’t even try to stop.
Michelle: Got it. So those are both warning signs to you that there’s a bigger issue going on?
Terri: Yes, and right around that time, he also went to a pain clinic and started on his combination Vicodin and methadone.
Terri: Plus his drinking. So, that was a mess.
Michelle: That sounds like a mess. That sounds like a disaster.
But I also thought, “Well, better or worse, I need to be here for him during his worst.”
Michelle: Okay. I want to park there for a moment, but before I do, I want to go back to something you said earlier when you said ‘you’re a slow learner’, because I think a lot of women feel that way.
They may look in hindsight and say, “How come it took me so long to see the writing on the wall to see the obvious?”
I think that’s a very unfair judgmental statement that we make to ourselves, because, particularly with you, I mean, you were happily married for a very long time before this even started to be an issue, and you were not raised in a household with drinking going on, with an alcoholic or an addict.
So, it takes us a long time to figure out.
We have to allow ourselves to stop making excuses for our loved ones, to stop rationalizing and to start saying, “This could be the truth,” and it’s a hard thing to do.
So I don’t think you’re a slow learner at all. I think it does take most of us a super long time to come to that conclusion, and they do a really good job with talking us out of it, convincing us they don’t have a problem.
Terri: Oh my gosh. That’s so true.
Michelle: Yeah. So, let’s still go back to better or worse, because this is also really common. So, what do you mean when you say, “He was on all of these prescription drugs, plus drinking,” and you felt like you had to stick by him because of your marriage vows. Can you talk about that and share what you mean by that?
Did you feel guilty for the idea of entertaining leaving, or did you not want to leave and you were kind of using your marriage vows as a way to convince yourself that that shouldn’t even be something you should entertain?
Terri: It was because this was my second marriage and I really felt it was important to give it my all, and I just didn’t want to abandon him.
I knew he was sick and he just wasn’t getting any better, even with modern medicine. Even the doctor was telling him, “You’re going to die unless you stop drinking,” and it doesn’t work if you’re on the antidepressants and alcohol and narcotics, but he wouldn’t listen.
Everybody else had pretty much had abandoned him. His family wasn’t coming around and he really only had one friend left that would still be in contact with him. So, I just felt like if I left then he would probably not want to be here.
Michelle: You mean he could commit suicide?
Terri: Yes, and I didn’t want that responsibility.
Michelle: Did he ever threaten to take his own life?
Michelle: Unfortunately, that’s very common too, very common. So if you could go back in time and you could talk yourself, knowing everything that you know now, what advice would you give yourself in that moment or in that time of your life? What would you say to yourself and would you do anything different?
I would have done something different like stood up for myself and basically told him, “You’ve got this much time to get yourself help or I’m out.” And I would’ve done that much earlier.
I don’t know if the results would have been any different, but I think because he would always try and convince me that he could stop at any time and I knew that was a lie. I would have just said, “Okay. Prove it.”
Michelle: Okay. So that’s really good to know. So, he was sort of manipulating you with this and trying to control you and trying to keep you trapped by threatening to take his life and continue this destructive behavior. That is just a super scary place to be. Tell me what happened next. What did you do? When did you decide that enough was enough? Or did you decide that?
Terri: It just wasn’t going anywhere and I was getting physically ill.
Michelle: What was happening?
Terri: I started to take care of myself. I ended up in urgent care, all kinds of stomach issues and just I couldn’t sleep and all these different things and I’m thinking, “This is crazy.”
I was so worried about him that I never even thought about taking care of myself. So, it really did come into where it affected me and my health, and he of course couldn’t drive me to the urgent care.
So, that was another thing where it’s like, “Okay. Somebody’s got to drive me and we’re away from everybody, so it’s not like somebody can drive three hours to come take me to a hospital or the urgent care.”
That was a big turning point.
After that, I joined Al-Anon and then I found your older program, Love Over Mistakes.
Just hearing that somebody else had gone through it was really helpful to me. I do love Al-Anon but it’s not the same. There’s just not a lot of practical advice in Al-Anon.
So your program just has real things to do, like setting up a boundary. Oh my gosh, what is that?
Terri: Yeah, and once I started doing that.
Michelle: We don’t know what that is.
Michelle: No, no.
Terri: You hear the word in Al-Anon but nobody really explains what it is, how you set it up, and that it’s perfectly normal to have them. That was the thing.
Michelle: Yeah. It is normal, and some people do have them. Some people get that skill at a very young age. But for some reason it takes us, like you said, a little bit longer to arrive there.
Boundaries are one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves.
So here you are, you’re in the urgent care. You’ve realized that his behavior has caused you to be in a position not only where you’re physically hurting, but you’re isolated.
You’re completely dependent on this man to get you back home. That’s got to feel like somewhat of a bottom, like a rock bottom for you. That’s got to feel somewhat of like a wake up call. Was that what you would call it?
Terri: You’d think that would be my bottom…
Michelle: I love your honesty.
Terri: It was kind of that little glimmer and that’s when I actually started to listen to that little voice in my gut. I think it’s like, “Okay. How ironic is that, you’re having issues with your stomach,” and that’s when you start to listen to just that inner voice.
Michelle: I love that. That’s terrific. You know what? It might not have been your rock bottom, but it was like … I often think back, the decision to leave usually it feels like it’s one moment, but it’s actually the many moments occurred to result in that one moment when you make the decision.
Did you have a moment, Terri, when you thought, “Okay. I’ve got to go. This has to end.”?
Or what did you do? How did you handle leaving?
Terri: Oh Gosh. I gave myself time to prepare and got a storage unit and took out items from the house that meant a lot from me. I met with a attorney who was a very understanding attorney who dealt with alcoholics her whole life. So, as far as that goes, she was very great at giving advice at the beginning.
Michelle: That’s wonderful.
Terri: She told me to get a storage unit, remove items of value that are valuable to you. She also told me to open your own bank account, so I did that.
However, I would warn other other to not open it in the same bank that you have all your other accounts because I ended up with a financial restraining order and it froze all the accounts, our joint and my separate. So, it’s better to use two banks.
Michelle: First of all, super wise advice. I remember you sharing that and I thought it was fantastic.
Tell me more about the financial restraining order, how did that happen?
Terri: Well, when I had finally left, and the bottom was just out of control. He was taking the safe deposit box key, and going to take everything out that had value from the bank and so I just said, “That’s it.”
After that, he calmed down. He couldn’t find the key. I found the the key and just put it in my pocket for the next day. It happened to be Labor Day so the bank was closed. I just wanted to go to the bank and just take out my items, and leave all his there. My plan was to get a separate safety deposit box of my own.
So I did that and I opened up my own separate safe deposit box and I just was very cautious. We had been on a trip with his family and they had all just said, “We’re done with him,” everything, “So you need to leave him,” which that was not why I left him.
I didn’t want to share with the family that I was going to leave.
So I got all the information and everything out and then it took me about six months before I could finally leave.
Michelle: I wanted to make sure I understood, did you take out the financial restraining order or did he take out the financial restraining order on your account?
Terri: It was a mutual decision that my attorney brought to the judge after he went to the bank. The day after I left, he went to the bank and withdrew almost all the money from all the accounts that he had access to.
Terri: So I brought the paperwork to the bank and they just put a lock on all the accounts, which was good in a way, but also to your point of your wonderful advice to all the women out there, don’t use the same institution because it’s all your accounts. So I see, that makes total sense.
Michelle: Wow. I’m so grateful that you’ve found an attorney who is familiar with addiction and the tricks that it plays and all of the common traits.
That’s such an advantage when you’re dealing with somebody who’s very familiar with the truth of addiction.
So well done. Did you move out or did he move out?
Terri: I moved and I did not feel safe or comfortable telling him to his face I was leaving. I knew better. This is going to sound horrible, but he was a gun fanatic and he would leave loaded guns throughout the house in case anybody tried to break in. That’s the fear that I had the last few months before I left and why I took the time that I had to take because I was scared. So I left and I went to my parents’ and stayed with them for a few weeks.
Michelle: I am so glad and grateful that you shared that because I think so many women think, “It could never happen to me. He loves me. He would never harm me or hurt me,” and they think that they’re being dramatic or unreasonable or whatever by taking necessary precautions to protect their physical wellbeing.
But I have heard, doing this for as many years, I’ve been doing so many stories where women have been threatened or there’s been violence or there’s been weapons involved.
So I’m so proud of you for really thinking through this process and taking that time to come up with a plan.
So during those six months, you clearly were doing the work. You were deciding, you were organizing your finances, you were figuring out what you needed to do to leave. You were figuring out where you should stay. Are there any other helpful tips that you can share that you did during those six months of planning?
Terri: Make sure that you have in your phone, emergency contacts. If something did go south, I knew I could call certain neighbors and I was lucky enough to live in an area where there were a lot of law enforcement people. I had just talked to them in private and they totally understood and they said, “Here’s my private number. You give me a call if there’s anything that happens or you need somebody to come up immediately before the sheriff’s office can come.” So, I would say that’s a huge help.
Safe words. So when your friends or your family did call you, you could just say a word and they knew you were still okay.
That helped a lot too. That helped my friends and my family to know that everything was still on plan and I was okay.
Michelle: This is fantastic. I absolutely love what you’re saying. You had the courage to tell your friends and family, like that was part of your process of leaving, right? I mean, in order to tell them, you had to be very honest with them and upfront about what was really going on. How did that feel and what was the response?
It was the hardest thing for me because then I felt like, “Oh my gosh. I’m such a failure. They’re not going to know what I’ve been through.”
They already knew he was an alcoholic and an addict. My parents already knew, my kids already knew, my friends knew, so it wasn’t a surprise to them.
So that was such a relief and it was like the first time that I felt, “Oh my gosh. This is okay for me to leave. Everybody knows.” Nobody said, “You’ve got to leave,” but they were just so supportive and this disease does crazy things to us because I kept thinking, “Nobody’s going to know that he’s an alcoholic or an addict.” Everybody knew.
I think it also does a really good job of telling us that it’s somehow our fault. So when we feel like we like “confess” to other people what’s going on, that they’re going to place judgment on us, and I don’t know about you, but that was the first thing that I experienced.
I experienced a level of like empathy and compassion that I had never in my life experienced.
They were so accepting and so loving and warm and asking, “What can we do to help?” You know what? What I got a lot of too was that they felt relief that I could finally see what they had seen.
Michelle: That’s good stuff. That’s great. Okay. So you decided to leave, you created all of these wonderful plans. How did he take it?
Terri: Not well. Not well at all. He destroyed the house. He went to detox before he was served, thinking that he could win me back.
I had to have security cameras. I had an alarm system because like I said, I was kind of scared. Well, he wanted the alarm company too, so he’s telling me that he checked out of detox on day four and he said it was more like a psychiatric hospital than it was an alcohol detox, and he said that he’s sober.
So as he’s telling me this, I’m looking online and I could see the camera in the family room and he’s sitting … he said, “I’m not drinking any beer,” which wasn’t a lie. He was downing a bottle of red wine at 7:30 in the morning.
Michelle: Oh my God.
So I had him served the next day and then the day after that, his son came up to visit him, and once the son got up here, he overdosed and had to go by ambulance to the hospital.
Michelle: Your husband overdosed, not the son, right?
Terri: Correct, not the son, the husband. But he waited until his son was here, if that makes sense. So I don’t really think he wanted to actually overdose. I think it was a cry for help. I don’t believe he was trying to kill himself.
Michelle: Okay. What did you do when you heard that he had overdosed?
Terri: Well, his son called me two days after that happened because he said it wouldn’t do me any good. It wouldn’t be good for me to go back, and I just thought, “That was the nicest thing he could have done.”
Michelle: What a terrific man for just saying that.
Terri: Yes. So, I didn’t go. Actually, I went home the next day to grab more clothes and things like that because I knew he was in the hospital for real on a psychiatric hold suicide watch.
When I went home to gather more of my stuff, that’s when I saw the damage that he had done to the house and just said, “Okay. One day at a time, I’m leaving and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” but he said that’s when he went to rehab after he got out of the hospital.
Michelle: I see. What did you feel when you heard he was going to rehab? Was there a part of you that was like, “He’s getting better. Maybe this will work out?”.
Or was it where you were thinking the more distance you got, the more it confirmed your decision that this was the right thing to do?
Terri: It confirmed my decision and I never wavered. I had told him once I had finally talked to him after I left, I said, “You got to be sober and it’s got to be 12 months of sobriety before we even think about getting back together.”
Michelle: That’s terrific.
The hardest part is you still love this man.
It’s not like you can turn your heart off and all of a sudden you’re like, “Nope. No love anymore.” So I was very happy that he decided to finally get some help, but I just knew him well enough that I’m like, “There’s no way. I’m not doing anything. I’m not living together for one full year.” Of course he didn’t like that boundary at all, but I had to do that for myself.
Michelle: Was it difficult at times? Were there nights where you were lonely and you wanted to pick up the phone and just call him? Or did it get easier with time?
Terri: It got easier with time. He never stopped calling, and I did set boundaries around how often we could talk. I told him we could speak once a week, but he needed to stop calling me three times a day.
Unfortunately, he didn’t respect that, so I ended up having to let his calls go to voicemail, and that was a tough one.
But he also didn’t stay sober going to rehab.
He went twice, and neither time did he stay sober, and then when he got out the last time, the harassment really started because I was living in the home. The judge had said I could have the house until everything settled. So that’s when I put up security cameras outside because he was coming around, calling, taking things without permission, stealing mail and threatening to harm me.
I ended up having to get a restraining order.
Michelle: So you kept in contact with your lawyer and documented all of this and continued to present that information and that evidence to your lawyer who then I’m sure shared it with the judge or with his attorney, is that correct?
Terri: Yes. She tried to talk to his attorney, and said, “Look, he needs to leave her alone.”
Nothing would get done, so she just said, “Get your paperwork, go down to the courthouse and get it today.”
So I presented all this information and I was nervous, because I didn’t know if it was going to happen or not, and they’re like, “Yeah. It’s a restraining order,” and it was extended for a full year.
Michelle: That’s terrific. I had to get a restraining order too, and I think it’s so interesting that we go in there thinking, “I don’t know if this is enough to qualify for harassment or to qualify … it can’t be that bad.”
Then the person looks at you like, “Are you kidding? This is absolutely everything you need to legally get this person away from you.” I think it’s so interesting in hindsight how much we doubt ourselves. We tend to doubt our feelings and fears.
It’s so wonderful that you did this.
That internal voice we talked about earlier was probably so loud at that point, that you knew it was the right thing to do.
And that you had to stick up for yourself.
Terri: Yes. It was time. I had to do something, and I know restraining orders won’t stop anybody from doing what they want to do, but it was just the first step to protect myself. And that way, if anything did happen to me, then they’d know where to look.
Michelle: I think it’s a symbol of the strength and the courage behind the woman. Because you’re right, it’s a piece of paper and it’s not true protection, but it does send a message saying, “We’re going to take steps to stand up for ourselves. We’re not going to put up with this any longer.”
Terri: Yes, that was it.
Michelle: Tell me about, you got back into the house, the judge granted you the house, you were very smart with putting up cameras, that the harassment was at an all time high. What happened next?
Terri: We finally got to court.
Michelle: Did he stop bothering you?
Terri: No. I wished he would have stopped bothering me.
That was my weakness, he did continue with the phone calls.
I took the step to block the calls, so that way I still had documentation that he would call, but he wouldn’t be able to get through.
Michelle: That’s terrific.
Terri: Then I would see him driving around the neighborhood and he was living an hour away. That was the main reason I got the cameras.
You wouldn’t normally see anyone driving down the street unless they lived there or were visiting someone. There wasn’t anything around that he’d be going to. It was a pretty secluded neighborhood, so I assume he was there looking for me.
Then we did court and started to do the settlements and everything, and the harassment continued.
There were times when I would just pack up my dogs and leave the area just to get a good night’s sleep.
Michelle: Yeah, I could see that. I could see how you would just be on pins and needles, or very anxious. How did you manage to get through that period? How did you eventually manage to sleep well at night or did you not?
Terri: Well, he started to get worse. And because of that, I knew he wasn’t in the car, especially at night, anymore because he was back to drinking and back on pain pills.
I knew that there was no way he would be driving in the dark over hills and passes to get to where I was. So, that realization finally set in. Plus, I think it took me about two months after I’d had the security cameras and I would sit in bed and check the cameras to see what was going on.
Then I realized, “You know what? He’s so far in his disease again that I’m okay. Daytime is when I have to worry.”
Michelle: Okay. So he was acting up at night. You were worried during the day. What happened after that?
Terri: Well, then he was in and out of the hospital, about 12 times in two weeks, going by ambulance. It was because of his usage, but there would always be some other excuse. I wasn’t privy to all of those calls, but sometimes his son, or people that lived in that neighborhood would call to let me know.
Then I would contact his son and sister to say, “Hey, this is what’s going on.” Then he seemed to maybe get a little better, but the contact was less. So that was good for me. He stopped trying to call as often. The last time he tried to call was last Memorial Day at 5:00 in the morning.
Michelle: Then I know that something, and I’m going to let you reveal what happened to him, but can you talk about that and the timeframe of that?
Terri: Yes. I hadn’t talked to him at all and I wasn’t answering any of the phone calls from him.
I got a call on a Monday night in June from a friend of his that lived across the street.
He said, “He’s been shot. The police and ambulance are on their way, but he’s been shot, and they’re going to take him to the hospital.”
I said, “Is he talking?” I knew that would be a big indication for him, of his state. He said, “No, he’s not, but his eyes are open. Somebody shot him. He didn’t do it himself.”
I called a couple of neighbors and they drove me up to the hospital. That was the only time I felt like this wasn’t something that was his own doing. He wasn’t going to the hospital because of his drinking. This was worse.
So I thought I wanted to be there when he woke up, just to let him know that I still cared about him, but not because of the drinking. I hope that makes sense. It was probably warped thinking.
Michelle: It makes total sense. No, I don’t think that’s warped thinking at all.
That’s a healthy thinking, that’s kind and compassionate thinking. And really, what that is, that’s forgiveness.
You can’t get there without forgiveness.
So, he was shot and you got your neighbors to take you to the hospital. What did you see or what did you feel when you arrived at the hospital?
Terri: It was empty. It was late at night and nothing was really going on. I was not on his contact list, but I don’t think he even made one. They were doing CPR on him when I got there.
I was very honest and said, “I am his ex-wife.” and I just waited.
We all just waited. Then a couple of hours later, a nurse came out and said, “We’d like to talk to you. Can we get you into another room?”
I said, “Well, there’s nobody here. You can just tell me now,” and I didn’t put two and two together just yet.
He took us into a little room and he said he’d succumbed to his injuries.
He had been shot six times and I just froze. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I was just in a dream because it just didn’t feel real. This larger than life, big guy, it just didn’t seem real.
I had called his son to let him know I was on the way to the hospital and what had happened, and his son said he couldn’t take off work or he couldn’t get there.
He was an hour and a half away. Then I texted his sister and his sister thought it might’ve been self-inflicted. I said, “No.”
So, a neighbor was nice enough to call and let them know what had happened because after he passed, I felt like I was in this dream, I couldn’t do anything. I just couldn’t stop crying. So the neighbor called and told his son and sister what had happened.
Michelle: Were you still in the room when you were crying?
Terri: Yeah. It was just unreal. It’s like, “This happens to other people. This is like a Dateline NBC thing, not my life.” But he passed and I stayed in the room for a bit. Then the neighbors drove me back home and I don’t think I slept much. I don’t think I slept at all that night.
What was going through your mind? What were you feeling? Were you feeling anything?
Terri: I was feeling, “Gosh, what if I hadn’t have done this? What if I had not had that year boundary? Would that have stopped anything? Would that have changed anything? What could I have done different?”
Then, I started thinking, “Wait a minute.”. The next morning after I’d been thinking about all these things and I’m thinking, “Why am I trying to make this my fault? I wasn’t there. I did not get into an argument with somebody who had a gun.”
Michelle: So that’s what happened? He got shot because he got into an argument with somebody?
Terri: Yes. They still haven’t found the person who did that. So I don’t have a lot of information on that.
Michelle: Thank you.
You were saying you were trying your initial instinct, your knee jerk reaction was to place blame on yourself, but because you’ve done so much work, and you’re so much healthier, you were able to separate that and say, “That’s not an accurate decision. That’s not accurate thinking.”
So you reframed it and you removed yourself from the blame and from the guilt and from the narrative. How do you feel about it now? How long has it been?
Terri: It’s been almost seven months.
Michelle: What goes through your mind now?
I feel really sad that this disease took him, because I’m going to put the disease right in the crosshairs of the blame.
If he was sober, he wouldn’t have gotten into an argument. So I know that that is the reason that he is no longer here on this earth. It is because of his addiction.
I’m also thinking, “Well, I know he’s sober now.” It doesn’t really help, but it’s like he doesn’t have to suffer with this disease anymore. Then I just had to work on me and just continue my work.
If I would’ve had a crystal ball, this is never something I could have ever imagined would’ve happened to him.
Right. This man that you fell in love with, that you married, didn’t even have this issue until he was retired.
Michelle: Yeah. So how is your life today?
Terri: It finally feels like it’s my life. There were issues. I was excluded from doing a memorial service for him by his mom and sister, which was really difficult. It wasn’t so much that they didn’t invite me, it was like I was purposely excluded.
Michelle: Wow, that’s bad.
Terri: They never contacted me again. His sister was trying to get a hold of being in charge of his money, but he hadn’t changed his will or his trust.
So everything was going to go to his son. There was no issue. Nobody was fighting.
I wasn’t trying to get anything. I knew it was all going to go to his son because that’s how he always wanted it to go.
But his sister, once she started to get upset with me because she wanted to be in control of his money, and she couldn’t do it, so then she just stopped talking to me.
Terri: So 2018 is over and everything is done. His son now has everything that he’s supposed to have and I can move on.
This year I’m just going to continue my growth because you don’t just get over this quickly.
Michelle: Yeah. I can’t even imagine because it wasn’t just the death of your ex-husband, you lost these relationships with his sister and the mother and I can see how painful that would be.
I can also see how healthy that can be for you, and that can be a gift for you because you were able to start 2019 with such a clean slate. There’s no trails of addiction following you at all.
It was just a very dramatic and really painful, painful situation. But I can see where that could be purposeful, where that could be healthy for you in a way.
I know a lot of women that are listening to this are really, really scared of losing their loved one if they leave.
They’re scared of the blame that they would put on themselves if they chose themselves over their marriage or their relationship.
What would you say to them?
Their worst nightmare happened to you and all of it, and the in-laws that don’t like you, and the tragedy of it all.
But I know you, Terri, and I know that you are incredibly strong and you’re in a very healthy place.
So what would you say to those right now that are listening and going, “Okay, that’s it. I’ve got to stay, because I couldn’t handle this.”
Terri: You can’t save anybody from this disease unless they want to be saved, and you can’t lower your guard just because they’re starting to tell you that they’re healthier, that they’re going to get healthy.
Everybody who is involved with this disease, we all know that they lie. It causes people to lie. It causes people to manipulate and to hide. We all know that.
So you really have to trust your inner voice, your gut, and don’t let somebody control your feelings. Don’t be manipulated.
I’m really glad that I had set that year boundary. I’m really sorry that he couldn’t even do more than 30 days sober, but that’s not my fault.
My mom tells me this all the time, “Put on your big girl pants and just deal with it.”
Michelle: I like your mom. I say that to my kids too.
When we take responsibility and accountability for our happiness, there’s really a sense of maturity that we gain.
We’re able to give back what doesn’t belong to us, like other people’s lives and their personal choices.
Instead, we really just focus on being responsible for ourselves.
I think that’s when you put on your big girl pants. So, thank you so much for sharing this. You’ve been a light and you have been so helpful. I know I said this to you before, but I am so incredibly proud of you. I am so grateful to have met you. Everything absolutely perfectly. 2019 is going to be your best year yet.
I think one of the most encouraging things about your story is that it is never too late.
We have a lot of young ones in our community, or in their 30s, but it is never too late to get that life that your inner voice is telling you you deserve, that you could have.
I know that you have just taken all of these wonderful steps in order to be able to receive it. So I’m really looking forward to hearing how you’re going to be enjoying your future.
Terri: Thank you. I really do owe you so much because your programs, like I said before, it’s so different from Al-Anon. Al-Anon is great, but just to have real practical advice.
I really owe you such gratitude for your programs and I know that it’s because you had to go through a lot in your life to get to where you are, and that example to share with everybody in this community that we’re not alone.
So, by putting some light to these horrible things that we’ve had to deal with, we really are going to be a powerful force for women in the future.
We can help so that they don’t end up having to deal with what we both have had to deal with. That’s my goal.
Michelle: Absolutely. I love that goal.
Terri: That’s what 2019 is going to be about.
Michelle: Love that. Absolutely.
I love that and your story is going to do exactly that.
I know that you have just helped so many women and I am so grateful that you had the courage to share because you’re right, Terri, we’ve got to talk about this.
The more of us that actually share what works, we share that we don’t have to stay stuck, we don’t have to be miserable for the rest of our lives, and that if we’re just willing to do practical things, we will get great results. It does sound scary, but it works. So I adore you and I want to talk to you again very soon.
Terri: Sounds wonderful.
Michelle: Thank you for sharing. All right.
Terri: I just thank you so much for everything you do and I just love you so much.
Michelle: I love you too, Terri.
Terri: I’m going to wish you the best year of 2019 and thank you for what you do for all of us.
Michelle: Thank you.
Please take a moment in silence to honor not only Terri and all she has to offer, but the loss of her loved one who was taken by addiction.
Terri, if you’re listening right now, I hope you feel a sense of love and support from the thousands of women listening to your story. Truly, we admire your hard work, we admire your honesty, and we look forward to hearing from you again.
Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.
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