On Election Day, and truth.

November 3, 2020

Refresh the screen over and over again, as if the answer will appear in the next moment and I’ll know, and I can stop wondering and waiting and frantically imagining the worst. I’ll know the answer. It’s all I ever want.

“Just stop checking,” M tells me. “There’s no point. There’s no way to know until it’s over.”

I keep dragging my thumb down on the screen, letting go, watching the wheel spin, the same answer appear, still hoping it might be different this time. I’ve done this before, many times, staring at the screen alone, my stomach dropping, flattening, twisting, watching the small icon of M’s face move across the map, or, even worse and more likely during those times, the message “Location unavailable” or “Last updated 32 minutes ago” and his face frozen on the screen.

Over and over again, the same answer: no answer. And with no answer, I didn’t know how to move forward, how to react. There was no evidence, no proof, no truth to shove in his face and say, “I know you are using, I know you are lying, now stop it.” As if knowing made a difference and actually got him to stop.

As if knowing tonight’s election results right now will change anything for me tonight. I will still go downstairs in a few minutes, where M and m are playing video games, and tell little m it’s time for bed. I will still follow him up the stairs, carrying his ice cold water, and give him a kiss and hug after he brushes his teeth, and rub Vaseline on his lips and shut the door behind me, while M starts the bedtime story in the silly voice m loves. I will still make coffee tonight for tomorrow morning, and watch an episode of The Sopranos while eating black cherry chip ice cream from the pint M brought home tonight, and I will try not to fall asleep on the couch. Tomorrow I will wake up early and open the blinds in the kitchen, let light in, pour a cup of coffee and shuffle to my seat in the living room with my Al-Anon books and workbooks and journals, and I will read and write and stare off into space.

All that will still be the same whether I know the answer or not. This election has a lot of people anxious, myself included, but it’s nothing compared to the anxiety of living with someone with an active addiction. Not knowing where my husband was or what he was doing, or knowing what he was doing but having no answers to prove it, to stop it, to control it. When I didn’t have those answers, everything else seemed uncertain, too. My evenings would not, could not, be the same. Instead, wrapped up in the unknown, the what-ifs. I thought the what-ifs could protect me, prepare me for the heartbreak to come. I felt alone, scared, stuck in a dark place with no light to show me the way out.

Searching for false truth in the what-ifs disrupts my actual truth: the present moment.

I believe in a thing called love.

Do you trust him? she asked.

We were at the lake house, sitting around the fire, and M had been gone for a short time. His cousin asked where he was and then, the trust question. I smiled and nodded, “Yes. Oh yeah. He’s doing good.”

That what I said aloud. In my head, a million thoughts. The answer is so much more than yes or no. It’s so much more than trust in one person. What does that even mean? Do I trust that he won’t use again? Do I trust that he’ll never hurt me again? Do I trust the person he is when he’s in recovery? Do I trust the addiction? Do I trust his love for me and my love for him? The answer, then, is not just yes. It’s no, no, yes, no, yes. If a good marriage is built on trust, then what the fuck am I doing?

I used to think that building a marriage on trust meant handing over my whole heart to my husband and knowing that it would be safe from harm, betrayal, judgment, lies. There is a part of me still hanging on to this way of thinking. The part that wants to answer her question confidently: “Yes, of course!” Proving that our marriage is normal, that I’m not weak for staying with a husband who lies, that we’re doing great, just like everyone else.

But… it’s complicated. I’m learning that trust in a marriage, in any relationship, is more about trust in myself and something greater. Trusting that my heart will be okay when I open it up to someone else because I take care of it myself – not simply handing it over and relying on another person to make it whole and happy. We are all human. Most of us don’t even know how to take care of our own hearts, so how can we promise not to hurt another’s, even if our intentions are good?

This doesn’t mean that I just take the hurt, tend to my wounds, and get ready for more. This does not give him an excuse to lie to me because it’s human nature to make mistakes, to get distracted by dark tunnels, to hurt other people without intending to. Honestly, this is where I’m stuck right now. I’ve learned to separate my husband from his addiction. I trust my husband, I don’t trust his addiction. But his addiction is a disease from which he will always suffer. It’s a part of our marriage, our family. A family disease. Sometimes the separation is not so clear.

“I cannot know what the future will bring. My best hope is every bit as likely to occur as my worst fear, so I have no reason to give more weight to my negative assumption. All I can do is make the most of this day. Today I choose to trust my recovery, the tools of the program, and my Higher Power, and to recognize how very far I have come.” // Al-Anon’s Courage to Change p. 169

I have to trust the process. The recovery. The work we are both doing. I have to trust that my Higher Power will reveal the truth to me when the time is right. Above all, I trust in love. The love in me and the love in him. I’ve seen that love in action and I see it every day. I’ve seen him work so hard to make changes in his life. And I’ve seen the progress.

I’ve made a habit of reflecting back each month, each year, in my journal. I write it out with colorful pens and doodles and lines and shapes, all the things that went right, the books I read, the crystals I carried, the places we went, the things little m said, the things I struggled with, my fears. 2019 was a two page spread, each item bordered by a different- colored box, and when I looked at it, the joy could not be ignored. Two boxes in the corner, one containing “two known slips” and the other read “at-home drug tests.” The rest of the pages were filled with so much good. It’s hard not to be grateful, to not see the progress, when it’s staring me in the face like that. The good outweighs the bad. Light washes away the dark.

So what do I trust? I trust that my husband is human. I trust that as a human, he will lie again. He will do things that hurt me. He will do things that hurt himself. Just as I do things to hurt him and myself. I trust that we are not perfect, and we will have challenges and fears and struggles. And I trust that he loves his family. I trust love – the love within me and within him and within the universe. Love will heal us, no matter what happens.