Three weeks into my marriage, I discovered my husband’s addiction to alcohol. It was like a one-and-done knock-out punch. I was out cold and left in a daze of anxiety and confusion for weeks. It was like getting shoved onto a roller-coaster of denial, anger, shame, fear, panic and extreme grief. But what surprised me the most was the lie.
A lie is like a slow black sludge that fills your heart and mind. It rots you from the inside out.
I had been so panicked about the addiction in the first few days that I never thought twice about the betrayal; about the lie. Looking back on it now, it is so obvious that it had already triggered a deep shame within me, but I couldn’t see it then. And as it slowly sunk into my heart, almost unnoticed, the ground under my feet began to crumble.
Here’s the interesting part: most people would think that my husband’s betrayal would have broken the trust in our marriage, which it technically did, but the most harmful and unexpected consequence was that I stopped trusting myself. I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t anymore. I didn’t know what parts of my lived experiences and memories I could trust, and that included God.
I had never felt so alone and so helpless in my life. I had absolutely no-one to turn to. I couldn’t turn to my friends and family because they would be biased, which would have just divided Daniel and I even more. I also couldn’t afford to go see a counselor.
I scoured the internet for anything I could find to help me understand addiction. I looked everywhere I could for testimonies of couples that had found a way through so that I could try and imitate them and use their strategies, but I found almost nothing. Instead, I was met with devastating statistics about marriage and addiction. I had no one to turn to but God. Even though I wasn’t particularly impressed with Him at that time, I had no other choice.
So I reluctantly prayed… Since I was a young girl, everytime I had a problem in my life, my mom would tell me to go talk to Jesus about it. She never gave me any other instructions, she simply told me to go talk to Him. So that’s what I did, I talked to Him like I would anyone else and I have continued to do that in prayer time ever since. It has proven to be such an incredible blessing, and this situation was no exception.
It's crazy to think, but all of this happened in about six weeks. It all led up to one final period of prayer. In a moment of fear and despair, I asked God how He could have let me enter into a marriage where I would not be protected and provided for. His answer shocked me. I felt the greatness and firmness in His voice reverberate through my entire being as He said: “I am your protector and provider first. And I will give these things to you, through your husband, when and how I see fit.”
As I pondered these words in my heart, I began to see my husband through a completely new lens. Instead of seeing Daniel as someone who had failed me, I began to see him as a gift, as a vessel of God’s protection and provision. I no longer felt as though he owed me these things because it wasn’t really his job, it was God’s job. And if I didn’t receive these things through Daniel, it didn’t mean that I was deprived of them, but simply that God would provide them in a different way.
What a shift in perspective! I was able to stop desperately grasping at my husband. I was able to release him, to free him. I realized that I had been robbing myself of the gift that my husband was, because when you believe someone owes you something, it's no longer a gift but the repayment of a debt. Now, instead of feeling like he was giving me what I was owed, everything he gave me felt like a bonus! Instead of anger and resentment, I was filled with gratitude for even the smallest things he would do.
You can imagine how drastically different it would have been for him to be met with gratitude every time he did something good, and patience and forgiveness every time he failed. But loving like this is just not possible without God’s help.
It’s an amazing thing to look back over our story and see where we are today. We now have a thriving marriage filled with prayer, joy, honesty, and intimacy. People keep thinking we’re newlyweds, even though we’ve been married for over 7 years! It still feels like a dream to see him chasing God and taking his role as the Spiritual Leader of our family with joy and intentionality.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers