When you've spent time in an abusive relationship there are infinite ways you manage to cope. In the beginning of my abusive and pathology ridden marriage I would tell myself I was at fault. I remember when I had one of my very first intakes session for therapy. I sat across from my therapist, she leaned in and absorbed the answer to the question she had just asked. "My inability to trust is ruining my marriage," I told her. "My dad cheated on my mom and I guess that had an impact on the way I treat my husband... because I am so suspicious of him." She asked me what reasons I felt I had to be suspicious. I named off all of the events that led me to doubt his honesty and she paused me mid-sentence. "Jasmine," she said, "my father didn't cheat on my mother, and if these events transpired as you've reported them... suspicious seems like a very reasonable reaction for anyone." I started my work with her and maintained therapy appointments almost every week for nearly 9 years. When I would exhaust the resources of one therapist, who would INSIST that I was not the problem and I was functioning fine outside of being married to an addict, I would ask to have a recommendation to another therapist. I would vacillate between prisons of self-doubt and denial. My ex-husband assisted this process by always having a convenient excuse, explanation, or reason it was my fault. If neither of those holy trifecta worked, he would simply cope out of responsibility only the way full addicts can. Obfuscation. Think: Keanu Reeves in the Matrix. Addiction is a progressive disease that can and often does lead to death. One of the most dangerous aspects of addiction is denial. These days I struggle to interact in a non-reactive way to anyone engaging in active denial. I am still tender about it, because my marriage was ruined (among other reasons) by an addict's denial. Two trips to rehab sobered him up enough to bring brief moments of clarity. "I'm an addict," he would confess. "I've been running from this addiction," he would admit, only to return to the same behaviors months later that he emancipated himself from during rehab. There was always a reasonable explanation why he would be unable to adhere to any kind of sobriety program at length. It was almost always never even close to his fault either. Denial and Addiction: the power couple My future relationship as a co-parent continues to erode because, yep you guessed it, denial. You see, just because you divorce an addict doesn't mean that behaviors that caused the divorce disappear. This is doubly true if you are raising children together. As much as an addict uses denial to cope, so too does the codependent spouse or co-addict.
Denial was a magical thing, back then. I would tell myself I misunderstood him. That I was unhappy because I was dealing with weight issues. We are just newlyweds. We just had a baby. We just bought a house. Work is hard. I am in college. I am in grad school. He is struggling with his faith. He hates his parents. He has no friends. My mom is insane. Our kid has health issues. I have health issues. The list goes on and on and on and on and on. I would deny and blame shift to everyone but Garrett. I was just as masterful as he was at finding reasons why he didn't have to take responsibility for himself.
But once that coping mechanism was gone I could never return to using it. The veil was lifted and the shift from denial to assigning responsibility caused a whole new set of problems. My denial ended while his persisted...even to this day.
What I would find out in later years was that the same month I was sitting across from my therapist indicating that my trust issues were sabotaging my marriage, my ex-husband was enjoying an affair with one of his co-workers. It wasn't even the first affair. He had insisted, though, that I go to therapy to learn how to not "punish him for my past." So I did.
As a child victim of sexual assault and abuse I'd learn to trust abusers. I was groomed and conditioned to immediately seek out how whatever bad was happening and assign it as my fault. My marriage was no exception. The problem was, and has always been, my intellect. The dissonance between how I wanted to live my life and the continuous patterns that left me lacking in hope and fulfillment grew. The life I knew I wanted and needed to lead (especially after my children were born) was incongruent with how my partner and I built our life. "Built" is the wrong word, even. For so long I was haphazardly reacting. There was nothing intentional about the life we tried to build together. I requested something and he would mostly comply as long as it suited him.
Another relational dynamic, I also learned about later, that would allow him to justify the acting out and affairs he was engaging in behind the scenes. He couldn't follow through well. Had difficulty envisioning the future or making plans. He would flit from one passion or idea to another often. It wasn't unusual for him to submerge himself in an obsession only to grow disenchanted within a few weeks or months only to grow reactive and aggressive about not having anything "to do."
I've grown to hate denial. It is a trigger for me, I think. Denial stole so much from me and continues to. One of the best things we can do for loved ones who struggle with addiction is to refuse to participate in their denial. We can refuse to enable their delusions, their denial, and their constant evasion. We can establish boundaries and hold fast to consequences when the addicts breach trust. We can refuse to participate in the lie.
Addicts are fucking brilliant liars- especially when it comes to lying to themselves.