With November 24th, quickly approaching, I've been thinking a lot lately, about the past two years since my wife's car accident in 2015. In the weeks that followed, I spent so much time learning about traumatic brain injuries and what I should prepare for. I also wanted to read stories and get tips on how to be a good caregiver for her, as she began her recovery.
One article that really stood out to me, talked about how a caregiver must learn to rely and lean on others for help as well. This is something I was also told while attending support groups. As a caregiver, you have to keep yourself physically and mentally healthy, in order to properly care for the person who is in need of care. Because all my family and friends knew about Emily's accident, it was never hard to get help when I needed it. People were great about constantly offering. I had an amazing support system and still do.
I began to realize I should have reached out for help way before Emily's accident. For years, I quietly and silently became depressed, I began to pull away and alienate myself from those I cared about. At the time, I did not know or understand it, but I was the most thankless caregiver imaginable. I was the spouse of an alcoholic! Whew......that was hard to write.
Not only is November 24th, 2017, the two year anniversary of my Emily's car accident, it also marks two years of sobriety for her. This will come as a huge shock to most everyone I know who might be reading this. Drug and alcohol addiction is a serious problem in our Country, which is made worse by the fact that those who suffer from it can't admit it, and those closest to these people, are too embarrassed to talk about it. Alcoholism and drug addiction is hard for the average person to understand. A lot of people look down on addicts, because they feel it's a choice that has been made.
Statistically, 87% of Americans over the age of 18, have consumed alcohol, while 12% get alcohol use disorder (AUD). Those who become addicted are said to have a disease of the brain, where the brain has been physically altered by extended exposure to alcohol, causing it to function differently and therefore creating addictive behavior. One out of eight people who drink, are likely to become an alcoholic, because their brains were not designed for it. While it is a choice for each individual to drink, it is not a choice as to how our brains react to it.
Once a person becomes addicted, it consumes them. It is all they can think about. How and when can I get my next drink? How and where can I hide it? How can I conceal it from everyone? When Emily and I were first married, we would go out and drink on different occasions. I noticed early on, when Em would start drinking, she would tend to drink excessively. She was also an angry drunk. It brought out the worst in her. I found myself wanting to steer clear of events or outings where she might drink, because I didn't want to deal with that side of her. Emily was able to obstain from alcohol when she became pregnant with our youngest son. After she had him, she had the opportunity to work from home and loved it. She was home with both my son and I throughout the day. When her employer announced they would require all employees to return to the office, she became depressed. She would come home and consume glasses of wine each night. Soon, glasses turned in to bottles. Our son was born in 2011, and by 2012, I noticed her consumption had begun to get out of hand.
The year of 2013 was a rough one for us. Multiple wrecked and damaged vehicles, a DUI, and a lost job because of alcohol, forced me to send her to Rehab just days after Christmas. The stress of dealing with her, while also trying to shelter our children from her alcoholism, began to take a huge toll on me. During this same period, my Grandmother, who was like a second Mother to me, passed away on Christmas morning. On the day of her visitation, I was checking Emily into a rehabilitation facility.
When my wife came home January of 2014, I expected to get back the woman I fell in love with, and had married 4 years earlier. Instead, Emily came back worse off. Every day was a fight and a challenge. I would get one or two days a week with the woman I loved, while the rest of the time, it was like living with the devil. Em became abusive towards me both physically & verbally, and refused to go to AA or talk to a professional.
There were many times when the thought of leaving her, had crossed my mind. I mean, how could it not? This wasn't what I had signed up for. I remember thinking, what if she were diagnosed with cancer or was in an auto accident and became paralyzed?....would I leave her then? No, no I wouldn't! The woman I married and loved, was in there, and I made the decision to stick by her side. I wanted to do all I could, to help her battle this vicious disease.
Looking back, I wish I would have opened up to friends and family about what was going on. There was nothing anyone could have done for Emily, but talking to someone, certainly would have helped me and my mental health. There is no doubt I was depressed, and the only thing that got me through those times, were the 3 sweet, beautiful faces of our children.
Since her car accident, Emily is a different person. I'm guessing something in her brain chemistry was changed with the TBI. She no longer has any desire to drink. Emily is truly an amazingly strong woman, who was overcome by an even stronger disease. I watched as she fought withdraw symptoms while also fighting to stay alive in those days following her auto accident.
Emily knows what alcoholism almost cost her. She can't remember much from those days, months and years of drinking, but she is well aware that she is a recovering alcoholic. She is remorseful and apologetic. I have to tell her almost weekly, the past is the past. We have 3 beautiful children to raise, and we should only focus on the present and the future.
Please, if anyone out there is reading this, and is in the same type of situation.....don't be ashamed to talk to someone. Trust me, I know that living with an alcoholic isn't as sweet or as beautiful as portrayed in the hit tv series, "This is Us". If anyone has ever watched the movie, "When a Man loves a Woman", then you've gotten a glimpse of the chaos alcoholism can create. The film also shows how an addict can put not only themselves, but their loved ones in harms way.