When is the Right Time to Leave an Addict? (Part One)
The trouble with addiction is…
The people who have them are good people. Hurting maybe, but often, still good. At the very least, they’re human beings that we care about or have a history with.
In my experience, the struggle with addiction is not normally what the media portrays. Yes, there are many people who seem to have walked off the television show, “Intervention” (or need to go on it!) but not all addicts are like that. When it comes to decision-making and laying down boundaries, I always felt like the families of the "they-obviously-need-help-for-their-addiction" had it easy because it's so blatantly obvious their loved one needs to go to treatment (like, yesterday). If they won’t go, then they need to be left alone to hit their rock bottom.
As difficult as the process still is, the struggle is clear for all to see.
But what about when the damage isn't so obvious?
Addiction has many faces and the decision to assert the boundary to "leave an addict” isn’t always clear.
If you went to a non-Christian therapist and told them your husband had a pornography addiction, you could very easily get one of these three responses:
1. Why don't you join him? Maybe it'll be fun!
2. Why is he looking at porn- what's missing in your relationship?
3. He has an addiction, it's a disease.
As Christian women, a husband's pornography addiction is not only morally offensive to us but we know that it is spiritually destroying our marriage. Seeking help for a problem that isn't obviously hurting us from other people's perspectives can not only be confusing- it can be downright damaging! In my own experience, I have been told multiple times that I was the problem in my marriage (for being such a prude!).
A prude! If maintaining a standard of modesty and moral beliefs while keeping the joys of a healthy, sexual relationship between husband and wife is considered prudish- fine. I'll happily be a prude.
Until recently, with the rise of the "No-Fap" movement in the media and the increasing conversation within churches about pornography, the trail of destruction a porn addiction left behind really wasn't all that noticeable.
What is unseen about pornography, or any sex addiction for that matter, is the damage to intimacy from wives left feeling insecure and unloved. Sexual demons that can trickle down into the lives of children in the home. The silent wedge of shame between spouses that cannot be removed or discussed. Unforgiveness that has taken root with frustration simmering below angry waters. Until one day, the devastation of the addiction becomes much more real.
Looking back, we should have seen it coming.
By now, you might be thinking, “Okay, but what about a "real" addiction. When should we leave?”.
The most honest answer I can give is that I don’t know- but I assure you that God will say-so when, or if, it's time. [Related, read: Why I Stayed With My Drug Addicted Husband]
I stayed because God told me to.
The damage that is unseen is not worse than the damage that is evident to others. The real thing to look at is whether or not the addiction is actually damaging us.
It doesn't have to.
I didn’t stay because I couldn’t live without my husband or because my love was unwavering. I stayed because I knew down to my soul that it was right. Please don’t misunderstand, I do love my husband very much but I knew I would be okay no matter what happened. I was at peace with staying or starting over (sad, but at peace with whatever decision was made).
I knew recovery was a choice only my husband could make.
I remember distinctly one day, in particular, I was driving to pick up my son from school and trying desperately to figure out what I was going to do.
"Am I supposed to leave him?"
"Will he ever change?"
"Would I be happier without him in my life, at least until he decided to stay sober?"
I drove down a hill where I was about to make a left turn and I heard God say to me in my heart:
"You see these roads? You could go either way. Whichever way you choose to go, I will be with you and you will be taken care of. There is no wrong turn- it's up to you."
It was up to me. Whatever I wanted to do, it would be fine.
I wanted my family. I wanted my husband. I wanted to honour the vows I made. I made the choice that my heart truly desired and chose to stay married- because my husband's health and healing was my ultimate, best-case scenario, winning situation.
I instantly felt peace.
But being at peace about my decision didn’t mean that I wasn’t also going to take action- with God. At the time this happened, my husband was still using drugs. Waiting for him to make up his mind about whether he would work on recovery didn’t mean my life stopped moving forward, I forewent my boundaries or stayed in a situation that was hurting my children and myself.
I did choose to pack up my things and move home to Canada but I did it because I knew treatment was the best place for my husband and home was the best place for me and the children.
Could I force my husband into treatment? No. He had to go willingly. But again, that didn’t mean I had to sit waiting with my life on hold while he made up his mind about treatment. I had already made up mine!
I was not going to divorce my husband because I trusted God would intervene.
I would make it clear to my husband that I was leaving the intimate relationship but not our marriage.
My kids and I would live with my parents until my husband was in recovery. Real recovery.
Knowing when to end a marriage is a very personal choice. You're the only one who knows if you're really done. You're also the only one who knows whether this person is someone you married with God's blessing or not (yes, I believe we can marry the "wrong" person- post coming on that soon!).
Have you been trying to "figure it out?" Search your heart in prayer and ask yourself this one question:
What is YOUR ultimate, best-case scenario, winning situation?
God will be with you, whichever way you want to go.
Not sure which way you want to go? Take my 12-week Bible study, The Be Still Series. It's how God got me to the place where I could make a peaceful decision. Much like our loved ones do 12 Step Programs, I will walk with you through 12 steps to emotional freedom.
The Bible study is more about you than it is about your loved one, which I think is important when figuring out the desires of the heart! If you're on the mailing list, you'll get an exclusive discount on your purchase (I only email about once a week!).