I will explain my journey and why I invented a new approach to Couples Counseling to which I refer to as “My Marriage Marathon”. I graduated college in three years. I planned on going to NYU to get my master’s degree in nutrition and go on to become a Registered Dietician. I believed the best path for college graduates such as myself, was to finish getting my master’s in nutrition at NYU before getting married. My fiancée, who I dated for one year before marriage, talked me out of taking that path that I advise all my patients to take. His idea was that you work and save up money to buy your own home before having children and he was persistent because he believed babies should be raised by their mothers and not by a nanny.
My graduate school dream was not realized until many years later. I did get to learn about Substance Abuse Disorder a little late. I did not know about drugs, pills and/or alcohol/drugs that can change the way a person acts and/or looks. I thought I married two different people because my husband acted like a stranger when he abused a substance. I insisted on going to my parent’s house after my honeymoon as the airport was close to where my parents lived. My father asked me “who cancels a honeymoon”? I told my parents that my new husband was two different people; and one minute we got along and the next minute he acted like a different person to whom I was not attracted. For the first three and a half years of my marriage, we had vicious fights and my parents and in-laws came to our apartment to help us make up. My father truly believed that I missed my mother and he made it clear that I was not going back to their house; and he was going to rent me an apartment in New York where I was going to get a job.
Our fights had a pattern. Throughout the first three years of my marriage my husband would be fine during the beginning of a social gathering and we would continue to socialize. I would try and join him and when I found him, he looked like the guy on my honeymoon. Social gatherings began to make me anxious and became associated with his drug of choice known as “Qualudes”. I had the notion not to attend, but my husband was eager to be social. “Qualudes came in the form of a pill and were classified as a barbituate and they are no longer on the market. They were taboo and taken out of circulation because it had become a drug that many people were abusing and overdosing. Some people drank while others smoked weed. I did neither. My husband was the only one who blacked out and I would find him passed out in one of the bedrooms. He said “Qualudes” enhanced his ability to have a good time. I could tell when he took only a half of a “Qualude”. They made him sound like he was intoxicated, he acted dopey and weird, looked limp, and he turned me off. We all know our partners and can pick up cues immediately when they are not acting like themselves.
We had a stick shift car (I never learned how to drive a stick shift car) and I wanted to go home. I was left with no choice and walked three miles in order to get to our apartment during an icy stormy evening. At this point, I had taken on the role of a quintessential narc.
I found these pills in “M&M” bags and before going to Disney Land I checked my husband’s suitcase. It seemed strange that he packed so many “Motor Trend “magazines for a weekend vacation. I fingered all the magazines and found about 100 “Qualudes” taped into the many magazines, and I took the pills and flushed them down the toilet. My sewers must have been high. In the airport I checked his pants’ pockets which were always torn because he did not think I would go down his leg and check if something fell to the bottom of his cuff. I took the last eight pills out of each cuff and would not let him out of my sight in case he decided to substitute his drug of choice for alcohol. Thank G-d he stayed drug free because he was finally able to feel. He began to say: “I feel like I am going to die”. I told him he may be detoxing and I even went as far as saying: “maybe you have a real disease and can finally feel pain because you are not numbing yourself; and/or maybe this is what withdrawal feels like, and you may be experiencing signs of detoxing”.
Taking away these substances is the reason why he is alive and successful today. We did go to the doctor upon our return and he was diagnosed with “Lymphocytic Lymphoma” at the age of thirty-three. He had a huge malignant tumor in his spleen that had spread to his lymph nodes; and if I did not confiscate his drug supply, he would not have felt the pain which led to a quick diagnosis and to a successful treatment plan. He was prescribed six chemotherapy treatments and was prescribed a huge dose of chemotherapy once a month for six months and the treatment was successful.
Here is where my journey takes a turn. I found out that he could go to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and be educated about his substance abuse disease. The plan was for him to leave a couple of days after getting his chemotherapy treatment. My three year old son (who was in the 100th percentile and quite verbose) put his arm around his father while he was throwing up and his hair was falling out and he uttered these words to his sick father: “Daddy, mommy said that these are the good drugs that are making your hair fall out and making you throw up, but please Daddy do not take the bad drugs that makes mommy yell”. I tell my patients this story to prove the point that children know, at a very young age, whether their parent is drinking and/or taking drugs.
I decided not to get divorced because I could not divorce a man with Cancer. He went to Mayo Clinic again for 30 days and returned to New York for his chemotherapy treatment. During my husband’s second month at Mayo Clinic (he stayed another 30 days as that was the condition if he wanted me to cancel my divorce lawyer). I flew to Minnesota to be present with his team of doctors. I felt more confident that he could get off substances after meeting with his team of doctors, who agreed with me, when I told them what scared me so much in the past was when my husband said,
“I feel like it is okay if I take 1 Qualude every three months. That statement was like “the kiss of death” to me. He felt he could go and get high once every few months. I had the doctors from Mayo Clinic explain why they did not support his way of thinking. The doctor told me that once he leaves their facility he must commit to going to “AA” and/or “NA” meetings. All the doctors were saying “Ninety days/90 meetings” was what they prescribed to my husband if he wanted to remain in “recovery”.
Mayo Clinic finally got through to him and told him he has a disease and cannot abuse drugs once every three months. His Substance Abuse Disorder was like Diabetes. Once you get diagnosed you must learn what to do to control your disease. Diabetics are not allowed to leave the hospital until they learn how to prick themselves and understand how much insulin they must inject into their body. All a substance abuser needs to do is to attend an “AA” or “NA” meeting. Both are life threatening diseases but can be controlled. Unfortunately, Substance Abuse Disorder does not attract the same amount of sympathy as Diabetes.
We returned home to a broken business. Thanks to all this chaos our business almost had to declare bankruptcy. Substance abusers get well after hitting rock bottom. Everyone’s definition of hitting rock bottom is different. Some people never hit rock bottom and never get into “Recovery”. My husband’s rock bottom was “being poor”. We already owned our home and we would lose it, if he didn’t put the petal to the metal and rebuild our business. We both signed our respective halves of our home over to the bank as collateral. My lawyers discouraged me from signing my half over to the bank because he had not yet proven he could stay in “recovery”. I am intuitive and this time I could tell that he was driven to save our business because he could not tolerate being poor. He also wanted a second child desperately, and I told him I would not bring another child into this world until he completed six full years of being in “Recovery” and without having a “slip up”, which is really a part of this disease. “AA” acknowledges “slip ups” but Lorna Hayim did not find that acceptable, if he wanted me to bring a child into this world. He tried to change my mind, but I wanted to make sure another child was not going to live in a chaotic household. I am proud to say that my two sons are seven years apart and my daughter is 5 years younger than her older brother and 13 years younger than my oldest son.
My substance abuse journey never ended because friends came to me for advice to find out what road they should take when facing similar problems. I encouraged my husband to help the spouses of my friends understand this disease and he let them know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. He welcomed them to attend “AA” meetings with him. He also generously took time out of his day to empower cancer patients with hope and positivity so they could also win their battle with Cancer. He was in recovery for both diseases. He attributes his “recovery” to attending daily “AA” meetings. I attribute his recovery regarding his Cancer to me, because I confiscated his drug supply while we took a short vacation. He was generous enough to share our journey and help other Cancer patients and substance abusers/alcoholics. We navigated through “the roads less traveled” and combatted both diseases. My husband became empowered to make his business thrive while putting out two huge fires (his battle with Cancer and his battle overcoming his Substance Abuse Disorder). As we traveled down those two “roads less traveled”, I was beside him as he gave pep talks to other substance abusers/alcoholics and to other people who were recently diagnosed with Cancer. Many of our friends and/or friends of friends while in recovery, empowered my husband to deliver a message of hope and positivity to other people battling Substance Abuse Disorders and/or Cancer.
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