I wish I could tell you that it was the first time I’d found my wife bloodied and broken — sometimes literally, often figuratively — but the truth is, when you’re the spouse of someone who has journeyed to the center of addiction’s hell and back, a part of you learns to expect this sort of thing. Or, probably more to the point, never completely unexpect it, no matter how much time, distance, and positive life experience you’ve managed to carve out since the last great catastrophe. Accordingly and ever reluctantly, you wind up with a certain crisis-management skill set, dormant but just below the surface, an adrenaline rush ready to push you through the lion’s share of the fog and noise.
There I was, again rushing into a crisis situation, this time after hearing an unexplained crashing noise — just sure she’d knocked over the dog food storage barrel when she knew better than to attempt to fill it on her own, an argument we’d had a thousand times or maybe just twice — only to find her passed out on the kitchen floor, spread-eagle, her hands and face covered in blood. Quickly, there are the important things — check her breathing, determine what is hurt, take her pulse, wipe away the blood, check her mouth and teeth, keep her awake, catch her when she passes out again (and again and again after that), turn her on her side when she starts to seize, try not to restrain, breathe — but there are also The Questions, just waiting for the first available opportunity to demand answers. Have you taken anything? Are you using again? Is there anything else, anything at all, that I need to know? Even when you feel certain you know the answers, you ask because you’ve been the victim of the unasked question before. You’ve been one to elect willful denial over uncomfortable perseverance and you’ve paid the price with a portion of your soul. So you ask, and then you ask again once more, finding yourself listening more to your own gut’s barometer than to any response offered.
I’m not sure if or when any of that goes away, at least fully. Perhaps it’s no different from the Alcoholics Anonymous admonition that an addict has a life-long disease, manageable and controllable, but always there, lying in wait. If there is to be any truth to that — and believe me, I’m generally the first one to argue the relative truthiness of AA’s many catchphrases — how can my experience, as someone who continues to make the choice to love a recovering addict, reasonably expect something different?
Yet, there is growth to be noted. I’m learning to reach out in the face of these challenges, whether that means calling in re-enforcements and asking for help (thanks, Mom) or posting a simple request for prayers and good thoughts (thanks to the countless ones who responded to my purposely vague Facebook note with love and encouragement). This, as people who have known me longer than either of us would be comfortable admitting will recognize, is not nothing. And of course, there is the simple fact that when hearing that terrible crashing noise this morning, I found myself assuming something humorously inane instead of mentally going to the familiarly dark doomsday place. Well, that’s something, too.
These are admittedly small changes, sure, but this is growth just the same. During those times when it’s most important to find something to be grateful for, sometimes what we have before us — what we often must choose to see — are these incremental blooms.
[Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated as my wife recovers from what the doctors feel reasonably certain were the dramatic effects of severe depletion/dehydration, resulting from an unrelenting flu bug.]