WE LOST EVERYTHING & GOT IT ALL BACK: HOW WE SURVIVED AMERICA'S OPIOID CRISIS
Five years ago, I didn’t have a future. I had an addict for a husband, chaos for a life, food stamps for groceries, and three small children. I had dreams, but they seemed impossible given all those other things I just mentioned.
When I asked my husband to leave, I lost everything…again. For the three-thousandth time in four years. I’d become accustomed to the world being ripped from my hands like a mother slapping a child’s hand reaching for a cookie. Every time I tried to hold onto something, it was taken from me. Homes. So many homes. People. Oh, so many people (30 now, to date, since April 2009).
I remember reading a passage from Eat, Pray, Love in the cold black abyss of a nightmare I was living after discovering my husband’s addiction had escalated to deadly levels. In the book, Elizabeth Gilbert travels to Bali after a devastating divorce and there she meets a medicine man, Ketut Liyer. He reads her palm and tells her, “You will lose everything once in your life, but you’ll get it all back.”
She ends up giving her ex-husband everything in the divorce just to settle their negotiations once and for all – the house, the cars, everything. But, a year later, after her Eat, Pray, Love adventures, she gains it all back – a new love, a new life, and well, a best-selling book and movie to supplement the old income.
Eat, Pray, Love had been my “grief Bible” through what I call The Grim Reaper Girl Years. Somehow, that book about marriage and divorce had been exactly what I needed to dig myself out of grief. She gifted me my one saving grace – she taught me, awkwardly, alongside her in an ashram in India – how to meditate. The first time I managed to sit still quietly for a full five minutes, I felt it – the saving grace. THE saving grace. I can’t put it into words, what it was, but it was at least and finally, a moment’s peace in the storms of nightmarish grief attending funeral after funeral.
It was only natural, then, that I would turn to Eat, Pray, Love again on the heels of severing my life with my soulmate. I think, all along, I’d known one day her story would be mine, too. So, I relied on her, and her infamous cohort Richard from Texas, to walk me through the fumbling nothingness that became my life overnight, the moment I told my husband to leave – GET OUT. Liz walked me through those days. Her promises became mine. And so, I took her promise to my heart, too. “You will lose everything, and get it all back.” As I let go of more and more, once again, I believed, it was all being held in trust, where it would gather interest, and come back tenfold in returns one day.
I lost the most when I lost him, unknowingly, possibly, eternally, to addiction. I stared at him the night before I kicked him out, sleeping in our bed, heaving mournful groans I would later find out were gasps for breath and air in a near overdose, and I realized how powerless I was over addiction…how powerless I’d always been, since that day he injured his back and a doctor handed him a prescription for a miracle drug called Vicodin. I realized, he might die from this disease, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I had tried every trick imaginable in the book. If there had ever been a love strong enough to save a man from addiction, it was my love, our love, the love that had held us, fed us, sustained us, through so many deaths and funerals, that had brought us together upon the heels of the two most devastating deaths in our lives: his best friend, and my 2-year-old nephew, hardly a year apart. Our love was magnificent and magical. It found us when we could not find ourselves. Held us, when we could not hold each other. I thought it could heal him, but it never did.
So, I walked away. I realized, I couldn’t change him. At that point, the only question left to ask was, “Do I want to be married to an addict?” And the answer was a simple and resounding, “No.”
I kicked him out, not to emit him to rehab, not to initiate his descent to rock bottom, but to accelerate mine from out of it. We’d lived at rock bottom for years. I’d lived and breathed and become his addiction with him. He was the addict, but I paid the price for his choices every day, as if I were slowly wounding, deteriorating my own body and spirit, too.
I never expected that the moment I let go of everything…would be the moment it would all start to come back.
As I waded through Protection Orders, sitting in Divorce Attorney’s and Victim’s Advocates offices, filing Police Reports, applications for food stamps, and running myself ragged, broke and alone, caring for three kids, I didn’t know the unraveling of my life was also the threading of a new one.
I didn’t know that the love that had held us…would never let us go…even when I had dropped it. It didn’t go away. Because you can’t kill love. You can’t chop it down like a tree, dig out the roots and dispose of it like garbage. Love cannot be killed. It exists outside of us, around us, in us and through us, even when our lives seem transparently devoid of it.
Love found us.
It found Kory in Rehab and pulled him through three weeks of fighting for his life through debilitating detox.
It held him, in the arms of newly formed friendships who held him up the day he found out his wife had filed a Protection Order against him.
It held him, as he made his way home from Rehab and back into my heart.
It held him, as I told him I’d begun filing for divorce.
And, when I said, “divorce,” do you know what my newly-sober, freshly-re-cemented always-been-my-soulmate husband said to me?
He said, “But…love.”
He believed in our love when I couldn’t.
That was the moment I knew love cannot die. Addiction cannot kill it.
In a way, it did save him. Even in the absence of my love, he fought to get back to it. He held out hope he’d win me back and that hope brought him through a rehab that only 3% of addicts complete.
When he emerged, sober, and I saw him again in court fifty-five days after I’d kicked him out, I knew…I knew he was my soulmate again. I hated him. I loved him. Still, I planned to divorce him.
But, he didn’t let me. He fought for us.
He fought to help me find my love for him again. To see and know, truly, this one truth he spoke to me:
“Megan, the real me would never have done those terrible things to you.”
I took him back, because I knew, in my bones, this was true. I didn’t hate him. I hated… Addiction.
I chose to forgive him…and Addiction. From the birthplace of forgiveness, I gained everything back and much more.
I fell in love with my husband all over again. Really! Who does that? Who gets to fall in love with their soul mate twice in a lifetime?!
We did the hard work of putting ourselves and our marriage back together, detangling our former selves, unearthing new versions of ourselves no longer addicted or codependent or enabling.
We fell in love again.
We had another baby!
And love sustained us, even when I nearly died after the birth, after I developed severe postpartum depression, PTSD, and a debilitating seizure disorder.
His love made me fight for my life when the “intrusive thoughts” told me to just die, baby, die.
His love gave me the courage to write it all out in a one big long, painful, but deeply redemptive story, my forthcoming memoir: RISE AGAIN.
His love gave me the strength to keep fighting through chronic illness, seizures, depression, PTSD and anxiety; through countless doctors appointments, hospital visits, EEGs, therapy appointments and medication changes. And one day, I got up out of the bed where I’d been laying for months having seizure after seizure, and decided, once more, it was time to RISE AGAIN. I didn’t get back in bed that day. I got on my bike. For 5 minutes. Then five minutes more the next day and the next. Then, I went to a Chainsmokers concert with loud music and bright lights and did not die, did not have a seizure. Then, we went to Maui on an all-expenses paid business trip and when we returned, I told Kory I had to go to San Francisco to a writing conference to share my book with the world…to try to get it out there in the world. And…I DID. After weeks of seizures and the flu, being in the hospital 3 days earlier, I got on a plane ALONE and went and pitched my book to dozens of agents and editors. Every single one loved our story. Many of them cried. Nearly every one told me an addiction story of their own with tears in their eyes.
Then, I came home and told my recently promoted husband it was time to buy a house. And we did. We just bought our dream house.
In a month, he will be five years sober. Our daughter is almost four years old now. We named her Kama. It means, “LOVE.”
Love saved us. Even when we let it go, it sustained us.
Now, I have my dream house, the most selfless, caring, beautiful sober husband (who meditates, too!), and four, beautiful, healthy, still-breathing children (which is not lost on me after losing my nephew and my daughter’s five-year-old best friend). I do not suffer from depression or PTSD anymore and after two years of suffering, I DO NOT HAVE SEIZURES ANYMORE!
So, yeah, I lost everything, and then I lost it all again, and again, and again…but, in the end, Liz Gilbert, Richard from Texas and that old medicine man were right…I got it all back. Tenfold.
Thanks for keeping your promises.
LOVE. ALWAYS. WINS.