Earlier this week, I received some emails from wives whose husbands are addicted to meth. Sadly, they are now in the same place I was 3 1/2 years ago — do I stay or do I go? It’s an unhappy place for any person to find themselves, and the truth is, the answer is as different as the people who comprise each of these relationships. For me, it isn’t really an easy answer to give to a wife’s tear-stained question. I had a ton of people tell me to leave Chef when I first started sharing the horror show I was living in with friends, but it still took ten months, his infidelity, a crazy motorcycle club president, an incident with an ax, physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, and my own struggle with vodka and pills before I found myself ready to leave him. And then, though we were no longer living in the same home, I still struggled for another whole year emotionally letting him go. Each year I start out thinking, “Good! I’m all healed up now!”, but at the end of each one, looking back, I can see even more progress than I started out with. Healing is a process that won’t be rushed; lucky for us, once the wounding is no longer allowed to happen on a regular basis, the healing, though gradual, is effective and recognizable. Time begins to march ahead again, at a more acceptable speed.
One woman, whose email brought back to mind the worst memories from that time, posed a very good question — Is it really the Christian way to walk away from your spouse when they are so clearly sick? What happened to “in sickness and in health”?
That’s a fantastic question, and one I myself struggled with for a long time. The answer simply is, what God has put together, He can divide just as easily. The hard part is finding out where your line is, and knowing when your “love” is actually keeping them sick instead of helping them. I am the first one to admit — I’m an addict’s wet dream when it comes to being their partner. I’m forgiving. I have a crappy memory, so chances are, a lot of big mistakes made are going to be forgotten, and soon. I don’t have a judgmental attitude towards addiction in general or addicts specifically. I’ve dealt with addictions in myself enough, I’m more inclined than the average person to pop a pill than to actively seek out real help with something. In short, I’m an enabler. Looking back, I feel like the Lord knew this about me, and because He is in charge of this life I gave Him, it was within His discretion to remove me from a circumstance I was going to drown in.
I didn’t make it easy for Him. When this all started, I believed that all divorce was unacceptable to God. I didn’t spend much time in the Word looking for real answers. I thought I had them already. When Chef started using drugs, I begged God to heal him, but didn’t consider for a moment that this was Chef’s choice, not God’s. Chef didn’t ask nor did he want, healing. He felt old. He wanted something that made him young again, and the drugs, in the beginning, did just that. I stuck it out. But then, Chef’s struggle with age led him to having numerous affairs with younger women. Again, I was wrecked by this, but again, I felt like God doesn’t let us walk away from marriages. Then came his disappearing acts for days on end — fear, betrayal, lies, grief, hope deferred. It was all too much for me to handle, and I too, began using stuff to help me cope. Oh the irony and hypocrisy! And I did it all under the banner of “God Hates Divorce”.
Things got so much worse. There was abuse of every kind, and finally, he crossed some invisible line inside of me, and I walked away. Physically, I did, that is, but emotionally, I was still right there in the fight. It took a few months for me to finally realize, I wasn’t fighting against satan and the hordes of hell in a spiritual battle for my husband — I was fighting God. I’m a seasoned warrior in the Kingdom of God. I win a few; I lose a few. But in this particular war, I was losing every single battle, every single time. I remember the day I realized why as clearly as if it were yesterday. I was sitting on my bed in my little ghetto apartment in Tulsa, Oklahoma, weeping yet again, wondering how things had gotten so bad so fast, when it dawned on me. The world shifted, just slightly, and it all made sense. God, charged with my steps, had shuffled me out of a very bad situation; one that I would never have been able to rise above, left on my own. Back then, I simply wasn’t strong enough to withstand what was coming, and since Chef was not a Christian, but I was, He took me out of it. And He did this without asking my thoughts about any of it, and with me kicking and screaming and fighting Him all along the way.
That’s the thing about giving your life to God. We Christians all throw that term around loosely, but do we ever really stop and ask ourselves if we believe it? I don’t think I had before then. It’s easy to bandy about “being a servant of the Lord” when you feel like you only work for Him at your own good pleasure, or on Sundays, or with the occasional conversation with someone you meet. But the truth of the phrase is so different. It means He decides if you stay in a relationship with an addict, or you don’t. He decides if you get a promotion with lots of money, or you don’t. He is the one who decides your steps, because when you turned your life over to Him, you gave Him that right.
There are people in the world that the Lord instructed to stay put through a storm that a loved one was navigating. Hosea comes to mind, married to an unfaithful prostitute. And then there are those of us He instructs to walk away, despite how horrible it feels to abandon that person we so still love. With me, He warned me beforehand to go, but when I didn’t, He made sure to give me an out each horrendous step of that horrible journey, until I was able to. What He did not do was keep my steps from moving in the direction He had directed them to go in. And once I stopped fighting Him, things got amazingly better.
J, I don’t know which path your steps are being directed in. All I can say is this, if you are a person who has given her life over to the Lord, you’ll end up exactly where He wants you to be. Love is a very powerful force, and it isn’t horrible, or weak, or silly, or stupid to not be ready to give up on your husband yet. I think, in a way, the length of fight we give these men is a testament to just how much they were good for us once upon a time, and don’t we all hope we are loved that much? But you have an invisible line in the sand somewhere too, and only you will know when you reach it. You will hear others hope you save yourself, and understand, it comes from two things — how much you are cared for, and what they themselves would perceive as it being too much according to their own lines in the sand. That’s okay. We all judge others’ decisions by what we ourselves think we would do. All I can advise is this: every now and then, stop, breathe, and assess what your life is like right at this minute. Are you helping him stay sick, or are you just hoping he will see how much you love him, and start trying to get well? Are you still strong enough to bring him up to your level, or are you weakening so much, he is bringing you down to his? Are you sure that his life can’t be happy without you in it? Are you sure yours can’t be happy without him in it?
Even if the answers suck, you still might not be ready to walk away. All I can say is I promise, we all have our limitations. And if the Lord is involved with the divide, you’ll lose. Maybe, like me, He wanted something better for you. Or maybe, like Hosea, your love story will inspire generations. Either way, you’ll know it before anyone else will.
I am praying for you, and for the other two women who wrote me this week. You are not alone, by any stretch of the imagination.