When I met my partner, I fell and fell hard. Smart, funny, kind, ambitious, hard-working – he seemed perfect or at least perfect for me. I was ecstatic when we moved in together and began building a life.
I don’t know exactly when I realized that something wasn’t quite right but, over time, some disturbing patterns emerged. If he developed a flu, I was sick with worry. If he erupted in anger, I boiled over with unnecessary apologies. If he worked too much, I went into overtime on house chores. When he blew our grocery money on a fistful of losing Lottery tickets, I quietly emptied my Bucket List vacation savings and paid our bills.
Don’t misunderstand or judge me. I’m not a shrinking violet. I don’t lack self-esteem. I just didn’t understand, or maybe, I didn’t want to understand. It hurt too much to consider that he didn’t have the ability to take care of me too.
Living with someone who is addicted to gambling can be extremely confusing. For example, he said his obsession with winning the Lottery really demonstrated how much he wanted to win a big pot and set us up for life. Even the scratch-offs demonstrated his love for us, he explained. He truly seemed to believe they were an instant payback and that he could win enough money to cover his latest losses and repay me.
I thought the dynamic between us reflected how people in loving, committed relationships balanced each other. It took time to realize just how much my willingness to give outweighed his.
I started feeling exhausted, anxious and upset most of the time. It wasn’t a question of if the shoe would drop, just when and where. I began plotting my escape and, yet every time I tried to act, my courage deflated even faster than my conviction. I loved him – didn’t that mean you stick it out?
Both my partner and I had been to Maryhaven before. I’m in recovery from alcohol and he had sought treatment for both alcohol and gambling. He has what is known as co-occurring disorders. Maryhaven is one of the few facilities equipped with personnel and procedures to treat both simultaneously.
But he rejected treatment after a time and returned to his addictions. My wakeup siren sounded the day I began imagining opening a bottle of aged Scotch. I knew I had to get back to Maryhaven. I cannot trade my sobriety for anything – even my partner.
Amazing things have started happening over these last eight months. I’ve learned to be kind and caring rather than morosely enabling. I respect that his brain disorders are his to work through and I pray daily that he will. I have my own to attend to, however, and I focus my efforts on being the best, happiest and most sober person I can be. I’ve tried new hobbies and sports and discovered I love hiking. I’ve separated our finances and pay only for those debts that are my own. I hope we stay together but I will be okay no matter what happens with our relationship.
I learned the beauty of serenity many years ago when I started seeking help within the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Today, thanks to Maryhaven’s wonderful counselors and a lifetime of AA lessons, I can pack and carry my own baggage and I can respect that others need to do the same.
It’s a trip worth taking.