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Faith Formation Guest Posts Marriage Matrimony Offering your suffering Prayer Relatable Sacraments Series Vocations

…Unless He’s Addicted

RELATABLE-LoveActually

Welcome to the next installment of RELATABLE: LOVE, ACTUALLY. In this series, guest authors* share about all the challenging realities of marriage.

Marriage today is rarely presented realistically or positively. Hollywood and the media promote Disney fairytales where couples “live happily ever after.” Or marriage is demonized as an unnecessary complication when hooking up and cohabitation will do just as well.

But what about the Catholic who still believes in the sanctity of marriage, including its permanence? Is it even possible for couples to remain connected to one another through all of life’s struggles and suffering? YES. In RELATABLE: LOVE, ACTUALLY, we will feature authentic, honest, and hopeful stories by real Catholic women about the journey of marriage. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, after all, and we want to give a voice to those couples struggling with infertility, infidelity, miscarriage, mental illness, addiction, and financial stress. We want to give hope by sharing stories of those who have weathered those crosses and come out stronger for them. These stories will reassure strugglings wives that you are not alone. And that with God’s help, there is a way forward, even if you just take baby steps, one day at a time.

*While some authors may post anonymously for privacy reasons, we assure you that each story is authentic and reflects the journey of a real person.


Most marital advice comes with the caveat “unless he’s addicted.” Share the deepest secrets of your heart … unless he’s addicted. Be joint owners of all your possessions … unless he’s addicted. Stay together forever … unless he’s addicted. So, what do you do when normal rules don’t apply? I can’t give you the answer. But I can tell you what happened to me and what I did about it.

For ten years, I had a model husband and a model marriage. We barely fought over anything. We talked things through reasonably, we prayed together, and we stayed together. Then he found a drug he loved more than me. That drug became the center of his universe, more important than his wife, his kids, his job, or his career.

He started disappearing for hours at a time, with flimsy excuses as to where he had been. Money flew out of our joint bank account as he made ridiculously unnecessary purchases we couldn’t afford. He left one job under a cloud and the next one because they told him to resign or be fired. He overdosed once, twice, three times. The hospital staff told me, “Your husband is an addict.” I responded, “I know.” When I begged, pleaded, demanded to know why, my husband said, “Because it feels f**king awesome.” My life and my marriage would never be the same.

Drawing boundaries

When the reality of my husband’s addiction finally sunk in, I collapsed into a sobbing mess. Over the ten good years of our marriage, we had become so interdependent, so united, so “one” that I had no protection against the menacing invasion of addiction. My emotional and financial health was completely intertwined with his. 

Relying on the relationship as it used to be, I peppered him with questions whose answers left me raw and shaking. “Don’t you love me any more?”  “If you’re searching for happiness and pleasure, wouldn’t you rather have sex with me than get high?” His bald-faced response to both: “No.” Every rejection hurt me, but it also hardened me and made me stronger. I had to block out what he said. I had to start building walls around my heart.

His moods grew more and more erratic. Seemingly simple things enraged him. I became adept at keeping my tone of voice steady and calm, as if I was approaching a wild animal. I deflected by changing the subject, using gentle humor, and sometimes apologizing and backing down. I learned not to provoke him. My home had become a lion’s den, and survival demanded that I become a lion tamer.

The kids started noticing that he was no longer their carefree, happy-go-lucky dad. They asked me what to do. I explained that in life, we can behave passively, assertively, or aggressively. In most situations, assertiveness is best. But with their dad, they had to be more passive. Depending on their basic personalities, this came more or less naturally to my kids. My strong-willed child had a harder time with it. “Passivity is not weakness when you choose it deliberately,” I told her.

The biggest problem with addiction, though, is it almost always gets worse. Strategies that worked before start failing. A soft voice may turn away anger, but it won’t evade the catastrophe looming on the horizon. 

Seeking support, not a “savior”

I started looking for ways out, and there weren’t many. I was in my 40s, frumpy, and out of the workplace for fifteen years. I wanted someone to save me, preferably another husband. For a while, I poured out my troubles to a male friend of mine. The daily phone calls and texts made me feel better, but they also made me fall a little bit in love. I wasn’t fixing the problem. I was just creating a new one. I broke off that friendship, and the next time an attractive male friend offered to be my sounding board I refused.

I also realized that I had very little to offer a man except an ego-boosting neediness. So I joined yoga classes, dyed and straightened my hair, bought a new wardrobe, and got a job. 

At the first job I accepted, they paid me one quarter of the salary I had earned more than a decade ago, barely enough to cover child care. I was over the moon with happiness anyway, because they provided excellent re-training. Within nine months, another company offered to double my salary if I jumped ship.

In the meantime, I tried therapy, but it cost a lot and didn’t help much. What I needed was the affection and emotional intimacy that I had lost when my husband went off the rails. Al-Anon, the support group for family members of addicts, helped me far more. Collectively, the people at Al-Anon knew a vast amount about what I was suffering and how to endure it. Their main goal was appealingly simple: to be happy whether or not your loved one is using.

One of Al-Anon’s credos is that addiction feeds on silence. For months (more like years, to be honest), I was afraid to tell my parents anything about my husband’s problem. I felt humiliated and sure they would shame me. I never dreamed they would help, because I assumed they would consider any assistance to be “enabling.” I was shocked at how much they supported me once they knew.

With the knowing support of Al-Anon and my parents and the unknowing support of my new employer, I realized I didn’t need a man to save me. And I began to accept deep down what I already knew on an intellectual level — that the only person capable of saving me was God himself. 

Rebuilding trust

I had always given God credit for bringing my wonderful husband into my life. Incomprehensibly, God was now taking my husband away again. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” said my mother. So why was God doing this to me? Even worse, how could he be doing this to my children?

I yelled at God. I prayed that he let me die. Then I prayed that he make my husband die. My husband had so many close calls that his staying alive appeared utterly miraculous. God clearly did not want my husband to die, but it seemed that God didn’t want my husband to get better either. Stuck in a nightmare, I stopped praying at all.

I never abandoned the angels, though. St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael became my constant companions. I imagined them flying over the roof of my car and snuggling with me in a heap of heavenly goodness while I slept. When I walked around the block to clear my head, one of them held my hand.

I haven’t stopped going to Sunday Mass, but it is still hard for me to pray. I can’t shake the feeling that God has betrayed me and let me down. And praying for the husband who has hurt me so much seems like a task for a saintlier and more compassionate person than I. A friend from Al-Anon has encouraged me to keep praying anyway, not because it might please God or help my husband, but for my own sake. “Keep praying, because prayer will help you,” he said. So, clumsily and awkwardly, I try.

I can finally recognize that God has sent blessings into my life. My children are stupendously fabulous and dealing so much better with this horror than anyone has a right to expect. My job keeps me sane (when it’s not driving me crazy). As my husband spins faster and faster out of control, I can hold on to the hope that God has a plan even if I can’t see it. I can rebuild my trust in God whether my marriage survives or not.


REFLECT

Let’s dig deeper. Did this witness resonate with you? If so, we invite you to continue on below and consider starting a journal to jot down your answers. PRINT several copies of these questions to start your own journal based on different posts. 

  1. What was my spiritual life like before the experience?
  2. How did the experience negatively impact my relationship with God?
  3. How did the experience negatively impact my relationships with my spouse, my children, my coworkers, my relatives, my friends?
  4. Was there anything that helped to alleviate the suffering I was going through? (e.g., counsel from others, professional help, medication/supplements, devotions, lifestyle changes)
  5. How did this experience positively impact my relationships, either during or afterward?
  6. How did this experience positively impact my spiritual life, either during or afterward?
  7. If I could go back and change how I responded to this experience, what would I do differently?
  8. What would I say to someone else in this situation to give him/her hope?

SPIRITUAL RESOURCES AND HEALING

WHERE TO START?

RETROUVAILLE – A Lifeline for Married Couples

THE ALEXANDER HOUSE – Offering Hope & Healing for Marriage, Family & Relationships

BELOVED: FINDING HAPPINESS IN MARRIAGE – offered through FORMED.ORG (ask your parish for the code to access this program for free)

PODCASTS
BOOKS/WEBSITES
CLASSES

In the privacy of your own home, you can begin to heal your marriage. CLICK HERE to start the process.

PRAYER

Novenas

Prayers

Unless He's Addicted

Categories
Domestic Church Homeschool Raising Saints

Hero Mothers in {Catholic} Home Education

Are you a hero mother? I bet you are.

This week we completed our ninth week of school.  A small victory for anyone who teaches, but especially us home educators who not only wear the hat of teacher to our children, but also that of home maker, chef, school psychologist, curriculum coordinator, school nurse, among many other tasks.  Let’s face it our job as home educators, is not an easy one.  Let’s be frank about this.  Something someone said in a homeschooling forum, struck a cord with me….she said, “I wish someone would have not just painted a pretty picture of homeschooling before we started, I wish someone would have been frank and told me just how HARD it would be!”  This is an honest comment, though I think that anyone who would sit and foresee what this journey would entail before beginning would possibly not realize how difficult it would be was also not being realistic.  Of course, all the beautiful blogs with perfect still pictures of children reading and painting, or playing an instrument do not help, BUT also, we cannot simple believe that that is how their home life is 100% of the time.  Why? Well because we are fallen humans and children are children.

I must confess, I feel like a failure to my children (MANY, MANY, MANY, did I say many, yet?) Many times!  I have even taken these failures to the Confessional many times.  The last two times, my spiritual director said two things that have stuck with me, although I did not realize it until yesterday when I wrote a help plea in a traditional mother’s group I belong to.  First, he said to me, “well that is why we call them children right?  Your job is to patiently (ahem!) guide them to do what is right, teach them what is wrong, and this may take many times, even fifty times if you must.”  Easier said than done right? But think about this, he is right even if the words are hard to to swallow.  The next month he asked me this, “since the last time you were here, how many times do you think you were impatient with your children, would 200 times be an exaggeration?”  Tearfully, I answered, “not an exaggeration at all, probably 100% accurate.” Then he said, “well for the 200 times you were impatient, would you say you were at least 400 times patient with them but they would not listen?” GAH! Yes!  So true….I had not even thought about this.  He then said, “God wants you to focus on the good you are doing for your children, the sacrifices you are making for being home with them and not be so hard on yourself, you failed, you found your faults, pick yourself back up and move on! Forgive yourself!”  WHOA!  Did it stab me in the heart? Of course.  Did it sink in?  For about three hours later.  What happened the next week (this week) is an example of what a bad job I am at forgiving myself.

Yesterday morning, I woke up and everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.  We had to get school done BEFORE the doctor’s appointment, which took six months wait to get, so I could not miss it or cancel it.  My children were exceptionally pushing all my buttons and I sat on the couch, with a white flag, grabbed my iPad and begged friends in a forum for advise.  I was typing and thinking to myself, “they are going to think I’m such a failure, I pride myself in being such a homeschooler extraordinaire, and cheerleading anyone into homeschooling, and living a good, holy Catholic life, but here I am begging for suggestions for my four out of five unruly children.” BUT guess what happened?  TOTALLY THE OPPOSITE!  

I got responses like, “Oh honey I am so glad to read this, I’m not alone.” To, “Oh this too shall pass when my children were smaller I thought it was the end of the world and now they are such great adults!” To, “Story of my life!”  From women I too thought had the perfect home life with still pictures of beautiful children sitting around the kitchen table, cooperating and smiling as they complete their math problems.  BUT, they were there telling me that was just a “Facebook Lie” and that they too struggle.  WHAT?  Then this happened, I came across a meme that had been floating around, I had read and thought, “wow, what love this mother had for her child!” Never associating that mother to myself.  Her child, as an adult, called his mother, “his hero who believed in him.”  I am not even sure if this is true or not, I did not take the time to check Snopes or anything because it did not matter.  Why? I have met in the past eight years of home education, the most dedicated mothers, mothers with and without college degrees, mothers of special needs children, mothers of children whose school system failed them, mothers of children who were unruly, yet they stuck by their child until that child reached his or her best potential.  Who was this mother who was called a hero?  The mother of the genius, Thomas Alva Edison, here is the meme:

Edison story

 

This was a mother that not only believed in her child but also in herself.  What do we see today?  We only know the story of her genius child, her story (true or not) has not been told.  Did she doubt herself capable to teaching her child?  Most probably. Was she worried of being a bad mother? Quite possibly. Did she give up?  No.

I write the following advice for myself, if it rings true to you, wonderful, if not, pass it along it might help another mother in need:

  1. Find the courage to be honest with yourself.
  2. Forgive yourself, keep your chin up and tomorrow is another day.
  3. Ask for prayers, they sustain us.  
  4. On social media? Use it to be real and help one another.
  5. Go to Confession often.
  6. Stay close to the sacraments.
  7. Keep on praying with your children.
  8. Keep on praying FOR your children. Turn to their guardian angel OFTEN.
  9. Talk to your children about your concerns, why would their actions make the home disorderly.  Would God be proud? Put it one them to think about this.
  10. Make sure you have friends you can always turn to, be honest, and they will support and not judge you.

You are that hero mother.  You can do it!

Categories
A Family Woman Ink Slingers Marriage Michelle Motherhood Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman Series Spiritual Growth Vocations

Ode to Feminine Genius: A Family Woman

This is the seventh installment in the series of Ode to Feminine Genius: Proverbs 31 Catholic WomanToday’s topic will cover A Family Woman.

A family woman

When I was a child I always said I wanted 9 children. In fact, I said I wanted 9 boys! I would tell people I wanted my own baseball team, not a softball team, a baseball team. Family was important to me and I hoped and prayed that one day I would find someone who would love me enough to want to marry me and start a family with me. I was very fortunate to begin dating my husband in high school and to marry shortly after we graduated. We added to our little family just two years later when our daughter Kaylie was born. I loved my little family. Sure, there were ups and downs but I was happy. I was right where I had always prayed to be.

As the years progressed and my husband and I worked out our roles as both parents and spouses, I began to feel like I was losing myself. Sure I had gone to college, I had worked outside of the home, and ultimately I made the choice to stay home with our children, but I found that often people only referred to me as just a wife or just a mother. I wanted to shout, “I am Michelle! Can’t you see me?” Resentment invaded my heart. Why was it that Mike could be seen as more than just a husband or father, but I couldn’t be seen as more than just a wife or mother? It didn’t seem fair.

why can't you see me

I don’t know what happened to change my heart, but one day I realized how silly I was being. After all, wasn’t I the one who dreamed of being a wife and a mother? Wasn’t I the one who claimed that her family was her reason for living? Wasn’t I the one who prayed daily that God would bless her with more children and a deeper, loving relationship with her husband? Why did being a wife and mother take away from who I was? My husband and my children filled every space in my heart and every minute of my day. I lived for them. I cherished them. I thanked God each and every day for them. I realized that my vocations as a wife and mother completed who I was. It was a startling discovery.

It wasn’t that I didn’t do my job as a wife and mother before that point. I did; and I did it well. But after I realized that my vocations as wife and mother were more important than any other aspect of myself, I found that I had a desire to do better. I wanted my husband and my children to be proud of me. More importantly, I found I wanted God to approve of the wife and mother I was becoming. This meant I had to let go of me so that He could mold me and make me into the woman He desired me to be. It was the easiest, and the hardest, choice I have ever made.

wedding-ringsThe Proverbs 31 woman does well by her husband. She respects him as the head of her home. While I had always respected Mike, I don’t know that I had allowed him to become the head of our home; the head of me. When I decided that my vocation as wife and mother was the most important calling in my life, I decided to actively submit to my husband. When we talk about submission we are often faced with criticism that no man should ever “rule” over us and that as women we are strong and should stand on our own. Submission in marriage doesn’t mean that the husband rules over his wife. In fact, more often than not you find just the opposite. You find a greater amount of cooperation and trust. You find spouses working together to make decisions that will affect the family. You find mutual respect and love. Submission often equals greater satisfaction within your relationship.

But what does it mean to submit to my husband? When I submit to him there are certain things I do to make sure that I am honoring him and holding him up as the head of our house. I encourage him in his work and in his fatherly duties. I speak highly of him to our children and to our family and friends. I never talk badly of him to others. I respect his views and his thoughts and consider all that he says with an open heart. I truthfully share my thoughts and opinions with him knowing that he also respects my views and wants to know what I think. I trust that he has our best interests at heart and when I am not sure that we are making a right decision, I trust him to lead us down the right path. I try my hardest to do nice things for him that will bring him joy and peace. I do not deny him any part of myself- my time, my attention, my thoughts, my heart, my body, or my love.  What I have found is that when I submit to my husband, he in turn submits his heart to me- he loves me the way Christ loves His church.

But the Proverbs 31 woman doesn’t just respect her husband. She also loves her children and nurtures them. She teaches them the ways of the Lord and trains them in the faith. She is a model of love and wisdom. Perhaps this is the harder role of the family woman. What a tremendous task to set out to accomplish! As I began to see that my role as a mother didn’t preclude me from being Michelle but actually made me a better version of myself, I could see just how important my role was in my children’s lives. I knew that I had to take it seriously. But how could I make faith an important part of my children’s lives? How could I be a model of love, wisdom, and care?

fritz family 1I started out the best way I knew how… I took my children to church. I made the decision that church was important and that meant we needed to go. And so, we went. I often had to go alone and I often wouldn’t hear the Gospel or the homily and would be sweaty and tired by the time Mass ended. But, each Sunday I was there I prayed that God would accept my offering and know that I was doing my best. The graces I received were innumerable. They spilled over into my everyday life. I was able to bring our faith into our everyday lives as well, centering our family around God and His promises. I had more patience and more hope. I found peace in the mundane and joy in the hardships that accompanied motherhood. I saw joy and peace spread into my children’s hearts as well. Their eyes sparkled and their laughter rang through our home. I felt fulfilled. I felt that my life was exactly as God had planned.

My vocation as a wife and a mother helps to make me Michelle. My family helps me to be the best version of myself that I can be. They help me to see the good in life; they help me to call on God when times are tough; they help me to trust and to love in ways I could never do on my own. When I take care of them I am rewarded in ways I could have never imagined. When I fall short of my calling we are all affected by those shortcomings. While I am not perfect by any means and fail more often than not, when I try to do my best my family thrives. I thrive. When I focus first on my family I become a better version of myself than I could ever be on my own and I uphold the calling I willingly accepted when God invited me to enter into family life. I become as much of a blessing to my family as they are to me.

 

Categories
Domestic Church Faith Formation Fatherhood Guest Posts Homeschool Marriage Motherhood Perspective from the Head Vocations

Why I Love My Wife

People sometimes get exhausted just looking at my family (it happens when you have five really little kids), and I often get a sympathetic “Do you guys ever get any alone time?” Yes, of course! Almost every night is a “date” night in our house (we just never go anywhere). We put the kids to bed, and I get to do my favorite thing in the world: spend time with Rachel. I look forward to it every day. Where would I rather be right now? No matter when you ask me, my answer is always the same. I’d rather be with Rachel. When I’m at work (my dream job)? I’d rather be with Rachel. When I’m out with friends? Yep, I’d rather be with Rachel.

Why? Because I’m in love my wife. Why do I love my wife? That’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer, but it is the question that Joel Schmidt at The Practicing Catholic has challenged men to answer this Valentine’s day. It isn’t difficult to answer because I can’t think of things I love about my wife. It’s difficult to answer because through my wife’s love, I experience something like Pope Benedict XVI describes in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, “love promises infinity, eternity—a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence”. Through Rachel’s love, I’m pulled out of the normal world, and I can grasp just a little bit of infinity, a slice of the Divine here on earth. So, while I don’t think I’m capable of explaining something so transcendent, I can give a glimpse of some of Rachel’s amazing qualities that orient me to the supernatural.

1. She’s Sanctifying

I am sanctified through my wife. On paper, she’s the convert and I’m the cradle Catholic. The reality is nearly the opposite. As a girl, she wanted to be a nun, and when we met in high school, she had a strong desire for the Eucharist. I, the Catholic, couldn’t fathom what the big deal was. But, her longing for God was infectious, and as she grew in her faith, I was right behind her. And, it never stops. Just when I think we’re getting pretty darn holy, she knows better and pushes our whole family to learn more about the faith and devote ourselves more to prayer and the sacraments.

It rubs off on other people too. She has literally brought strangers to tears at Mass when asked questions like “why do you wear that veil?” An elderly woman once took a look at Rachel praying and said “God, please put in my head whatever prayers that woman is praying.”

2. She’s Disciplined

Rachel is tremendously disciplined, intelligent, efficient, and all-around excellent at whatever she does. She runs a tight ship, and I sometimes joke with her that she could be a Six Sigma Black Belt. One of the things I love about her is her passion to put this brain power and willpower in the service of our family. Whether it’s feeding our family on $40/week (when we were getting out of debt), reorganizing our laundry workflow for maximum efficiency and throughput, or running the most cutting-edge homeschool preschool in town; Rachel uses her gifts for the good of the family.

3. She’s Thoughtful

Remember that cool-thing/idea/need you came across months ago? No? Well, Rachel remembers. And, she used this information to get you a great gift or do something really nice for you. I can’t match this, but thank God she loves me anyway!

4. She’s Self-Giving

Rachel desires good for those she loves. She puts us first, and if she can provide us with a good at her own expense, she doesn’t hesitate. She gives of herself in hundreds of little ways every day. For example, she’s a cheese-lover who cut out dairy (and soy) from her diet because it seems to help the stomach of our 4-month-old daughter. You’re also likely to find her bringing meals to families with new babies and taking bags of groceries to the homeless guys with the signs near the Interstate. I had to convince her to stop giving blood because she was always passing out in the bloodmobiles.

5. She’s Tough

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Rachel is the toughest, strongest woman I know. She’s given birth five times (three inductions) without any pain medication. She’ll take all the kids (even four kids under four while eight-months pregnant) by herself to the library or the grocery store, and she’ll gently keep them in line the whole time without losing her cool. She also courageously stands up for what she knows is right when most of us (Catholic Sistas bloggers excepted) would be too afraid to speak up. Many people who know her think it’s just easy for her or that she’s just tremendously talented and fearless. OK, maybe it’s a little of that, but it’s mostly sheer fortitude through the grace of God.

6. She’s Imperfect

While I’ll encourage that this post be archived for the day when Rachel’s cause for canonization comes up, she’s also imperfect (and she’ll probably contest all of points 1 through 5 on the grounds of rose-colored glasses). Sometimes she’s not particularly holy or disciplined or thoughtful or selfless or tough. And sometimes I have to tell her to take a break. That’s one of the things I love most about her. She keeps her chin up most of the time, but when she’s vulnerable, tired, and feels like giving up; she lets me be there for her. She lets me be chivalrous. She lets me love her back.

Why do you love your wife? If you’ve got a blog, let’s hear it (and link up with the event at The Practicing Catholic). If not, tell us in the comments.

*Eric is the husband of an amazing woman and the father of five adorable children aged five and under. He does his best to live his vocation as God asks of him, and he thanks God for every moment he gets to spend doing it.*