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...
READ MORE in my forthcoming memoir, WE'LL BE COUNTING STARS.