For the past three weeks I've been operating as a solo parent while my husband is hundreds of miles away in an alcohol rehab facility. Our inner circle is aware of his absence but it isn't something that we have advertised to the masses. That's not to say that it's a big secret. I give the straight story to anyone that has noticed his absence and asked about him. I don't feel shame or loss over his decision to seek inpatient treatment for his illness. I feel hope and, perhaps ironically, joy.
Watching my husband slip into the pit of alcohol addiction was a slow, painful process. His martini nightcap habit slowly grew into a two martini habit. And then more. And then a few more. Ever so slowly, a fog descended on his personality...so stealthily I didn't even realize how dark and quiet our lives had become.
The recovery process, while difficult in its own unique ways, has a much different feel for me. It's a season of rebirth on so many different levels I find myself exhausted and at times overwhelmed by the blessings that have been revealed.
When Nick decided to admit himself for treatment, I had to face some pretty uncomfortable conversations. I had to ask for help. I had to try to describe the illness of addiction to my young children. I had to explain it in a much more honest and adult way to my teenage step-daughter. I had to reveal the elephant in the room to our close friends and extended family, most of whom were completely blindsided. I had to search my soul a bit to understand my role in this circus we had been performing for years. And finally I had to learn the truth of his addiction, the tip of which I saw, and the iceberg that was floating beneath the surface.
Well, it turns out that people love me, my husband and our children. Intellectually I knew that, of course. But during the past few weeks I've been able to witness love come to life. I've seen small acts of kindness that humble me. Teachers carefully watch my children and ask how we are doing in a way that tells me they aren't just making conversation, but truly care about the answer. Friends text me in between soccer games and making dinner to make see if I want to chat or go for a walk or just to let me know they are praying for me. Family members offer to babysit or pick up the kids at school to give me a break from the grind of being a solo parent. People have come out of the woodwork to make the long road trips for family visitation manageable. Girlfriends have dropped their busy schedules and made time for dinner, conversation and laughter. The circle of prayer that surrounds us is like a living, breathing being. I can feel its presence.
I must admit it's work for me. To ask for help is a challenge. But I keep reminding myself of my own inclination to help or cook or visit when someone I love is having a hard time. There is joy in giving and relieving someone's heavy load even just for a moment. And there is joy in receiving. There is relief in stepping off the treadmill of life temporarily to let others take care of you. During the past few weeks I've had this recurring visualization of myself doing a trust fall into a giant, feather pillow. I picture myself letting go of all control, falling backwards, and safely landing in the soft comfort of that pillow. My urge is to turn around, make sure the pillow is properly situated, and remind my friends to spot me so I don't bounce off onto the ground.
But I don't. I do none of that.
I breathe, I sigh, I pray and I do my best to work through this season of life. I allow friends and family to pick up some slack for me. I invite people into my home that hasn't been cleaned properly in over a month. I've learned to give myself a little bit of grace. When I'm tired, I don't get busy folding the last load of laundry. I go to sleep. When someone says "Let me know if I can help", I do just that.
Perhaps the greatest blessing of this journey is the reminder that God answers prayer. Sometimes He isn't quick about it. He may not provide the straight answer or solution we were looking for. My prayer was for this sickness to be gone from our family. Just gone. Done. Game over. Something along the lines of, "Please God just make it go away overnight so we don't have to live with it or talk about it ever again. Thankyouamen."
The answer I got is a cracking open of our family imperfections for the whole world to see. It is financial drain, emotional struggle, and raw, honest, soul-searching. It is stress and worry and many unanswered questions about what the future holds. It is a greater understanding of our family and our short comings. But along with that comes an awakening, a sense of hope and a opportunity to strengthen connections in different areas of our lives.
By definition, recovery is, "The restoration to a former or better condition. The regaining of something lost." So, if you see me out and about and are tempted to say, "I'm so sorry", please don't. Because I'm not. Our family is on a journey to better health and regaining something that we lost.
And I'm so glad.
Two years ago I never would have dreamed I'd be writing my 100th post about finding light and joy in the midst of watching my husband go through alcohol rehab. But perhaps on some level I knew this discipline of finding joy in the small, everyday things would serve me well while riding the wave of emotions that comes in the harder seasons of life. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. I'm far from perfect, but thankful everyday for the opportunity to practice.