Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Year of Recovery: The Beginning

On January 5 of this year, my husband was laid off from his job. He saw it coming in the weeks before, but didn't want to worry me, so he didn't tell me. I found out on January 6.

On January 7, I discovered my husband's acting-out behavior: the full extent of one affair, as told by the husband of that woman. Over the next several days, I learned more about that one, and some others. We were in different cities because he worked in one and I went to school in another. We were about 400 miles apart. That weekend, I inisisted that he come to where I was, because talking to him on the phone about it was impossible. He was mostly silent, largely due to shame, but also because he was drinking even more once he knew that I knew. He came, and admitted the basics: the drinking, the acting out. Then he slept and went back.

On January 13, I went to my first Al-Anon meeting. I met and talked to a few women there, and got some phone numbers. I remember feeling very numb and confused, but vaguely better after going to the meeting. I was determined to do some things to take care of myself, even though I couldn't eat or sleep. I was constantly nauseated and anxious and near tears or crying. After the meeting, I went to the gym and worked out. I felt a lot better. When I got out of the shower at the gym, there was a voicemail from my husband. He sounded distant and different, and angry. It was a call from jail. He had been charged with a DUI and hit-and-run.

I had no idea what to do at that point. I was hundreds of miles away. I had also just heard about some new concepts, like "detachment with love" and boundaries. I didn't really understand what these things were or how they worked, but I did know that despite all my instincts to do something right then, there wasn't really much I could do at that moment. I couldn't even call him back. So I called some of the phone numbers I had. I didn't know if I should go out there, but I decided it was too late that night to go, or to decide what to do, and even if I was there, there wasn't much to do. Eventually I went to sleep.

The next day, I went to school. When I came home, I received a call from my husband. He told me that he loved me, and he didn't want me to worry, and good bye. Naturally, I panicked. His speech was slightly slurred and very quiet. I tried to keep him on the phone for as long as I could, to figure out what he intended to do. He hung up, and I called him back. I tried to talk to him longer as my mind raced through the options of what I could actually do from so far away. After a few minutes of me questioning him and him telling me I was better off without him, he hung up again. This time, I called 911. I explained the conversation we had had, and asked to be connected to emergency services in the other city. When I explained the situation to the dispatcher, and they told me that they were sending someone out to his address, I hung up and called him back. I was relieved when he answered the phone.

It's very painful to remember this episode in our life. Much of it is foggy in my mind now. I remember being so confused about what was the right thing to do. I had enough knowledge to understand that he had a clear plan and that it should be taken seriously. I knew that none of it was within my control--I was many hours' drive away, and even if I was there I would have to do essentially the same thing, that is, leave it in the hands of emergency personnel until the situation stabilized. As devastated and angry as I was at the time, I loved him deeply, and would have done anything if I could, but it was not within my control.

One of the worst things that I remember about this day and this series of phone calls was that after I called 911, I questioned myself. All the things that he had experienced lately: losing his job, having his addiction exposed, my anger and pain, the accident, the DUI, going to all the terrible things that had come before this. I wondered, would it have been kinder not to call? It is shameful for me to admit this now, because of course it was the right thing to do, and we are both so grateful that help arrived and that I called for help. But at the time I was so confused about everything and all I could see was the terrible pain we were both in. I thought for a moment that maybe he was right to want out of the pain.

Thankfully, this isn't what happened. He called me for a reason, because no matter how much pain he was in, the deepest part of him wanted to live. While I was on the phone with him, I heard a knocking on the door, and heard the voices of police men who came to take him to the hospital. They talked to me briefly once he was secure: he was very inebriated, and not hurt, but he did have all the things that he had described to me as his plan. They took him to one hospital for assessment, and I was able to talk to him there, where he told me he was angry with everyone: the police, the doctor, the nurses, and me. He told me I should have just let him do it, and hung up. I called the hospital a little later and talked to a nurse, who told me he was still very angry and uncooperative, but that they were going to take him to another hospital's inpatient psych unit. He was under a 72 hour court hold for evaluation, which was fairly standard for an episode like this. At this point, I knew he was safe from harm, although I had no idea what the next few days would hold. My next decision would be whether to come see him in the hospital...

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