Aaron & Lori

Unraveling Addiction, Restoring a Marriage

(Please listen to Aaron and Lori’s story by clicking the white play button at the top of this post. You can read the transcript of the story below.)

We were married June 12, 2004..?

Yes, 2004.

And then we renewed our vows. June 12, 2019. Fifteen years later.

Fifteen years later to the day, he walked our daughter down the aisle. And then our little boy walked me down the aisle. And it was just a family celebration.

The first 10 years of our marriage, I spent drinking in secret. A lot. And at year nine-and-a-half, our marriage completely fell apart.

Yeah. Sometimes I feel, when I tell this story, that I come off like an idiot. Like, how did you not know?

No, I was hiding it.

How? Like, how did, how did you not know? And, I mean, when things were really, really bad, and they were really bad. And we can share a little bit more about that. But I thought it was me. I thought that my husband was just falling out of love with me. I thought that if I were just more this way, and not this way, you know. If I didn’t care so much about this, that, and the other. If I were a more dedicated wife, if I were a better mom. And so it really did just turn into a constant…I mean, people use the phrase “walking on eggshells,” but it really did just turn into that. And you’re almost like the metaphor of the frog in the pot, and you don’t even notice how bad it is. God kind of showed me how hot it was. I mean, I don’t know any other way to say it. But I mean, it all came to a very abrupt…

The first time that you found out I was drinking behind your back, and had been drinking heavily behind your back, we made a half-hearted effort. And then I switched to…because I was feeling guilty about that and I wanted to find a way to check out without using alcohol. I switched to over-the-counter medicine that would have kind of a, not hallucinogenic, but but a kind of euphoric effect. And so the second time, I’d actually taken my daughter on a camping trip and I got a phone call from Lori one night. She had looked at my laptop, and gone through my purchase history, and saw that I was ordering large quantities of this over-the- counter medicine from Amazon. And that’s when she knew that, like, there’s a huge problem here that we’re just not dealing with.

And I had never, ever searched his Internet history before. We have our own laptops. And you know, it’s just not something that I’ve ever really felt compelled to do. And I’d put my son down for a nap and I just had a very uneasy feeling. It was a complete and total prompting, like, just check his history. And, I mean, I sat there in just complete disbelief. And I remember it was like, I had to uncover it. And then, you know, you just, you continue clicking and you follow the trails. And, I just remember calling him and telling him, “What have you done? We’re over.”

At the time I was, and I’m ashamed to say this, I was an elder in our church, and all the while hiding this. And she said, “You have to tell the church.” And her recollection, she can correct me if I’m wrong, but that was, that was the issue. And for me, it was so much bigger than that because everything was unraveling. And I hadn’t told her yet, but we had $42,000 in credit card debt that had racked up over the past like, five years. So for me, it was the drugs and the alcohol, and then this huge debt load that she didn’t know about. And I knew that was all going to come out. And so, I think for her in that moment, it was, I just want him to tell the pastor. And for me, it was like, it’s over. I mean, I don’t think at that point in time I necessarily felt like I’d hit rock bottom or anything. But I knew that was kind of the beginning of the end or the beginning of the beginning. I don’t know how you want to look at it. But, her ultimatum was: You need to leave and find some place else to live until you’re prepared to tell the church. And I think that was a good thing because, like I said, for me, it was my whole world was falling apart. There was a brief moment of clarity in which I actually went and lived…I lived in a hammock at Lake Levon for seven days. Because everything felt too big for me to handle. I wanted to, I wanted to feel small in a place. And part of it, too, was I didn’t want to tell my parents. I didn’t want to have to go back home at 32 years old and admit that I didn’t have it all together and I didn’t have it figured out and I’d made huge, multiple huge, mistakes and covered them up for a long time.

But I can remember just spending hours in prayer at the lake just praying that God takes control of the situation. Because I couldn’t. I mean, I just, I couldn’t. I didn’t have any means with which to deal with it. The separation lasted nine months. And it was a kind of a dichotomy of activity going on. Lori was in the process of rebuilding herself and her finances. She lost her job and she was rebuilding her job. And I felt like I was on the other side in the process of being deconstructed. One of the things I agreed to do for Lori, at the time I did it for Lori, was to go into a 12-step program. The one I had chose was Re:Gen at Watermark. I remember reading on the website that, I think the quote was, “at any point in time, there’s 700 people on a Monday night seeking healing from addiction and pain.” And I remember thinking that that’s got to be ridiculous. There’s no way there’s 700 people. I remember the first Monday I showed up, I walked in like holy moly, there are 700 people here, at least. And it was the, I think was the first time I’ve ever walked into a church and not felt alone. I felt like I was not the only one dealing with this. That I was not the only Christian that dealt with addiction or dealt with trying to hold up an image that doesn’t, that isn’t reality. And it was, it was so refreshing. That first Monday was what kept me going back. I mean, just going into a room with people that were just like me. They were broken, just like me. That’s pretty powerful.

I think it was so important to me that he tell the church because he was an elder and he was in this position. That and transparency was what was so important to me. Because, years 7 and 10 of our marriage was when we confronted this addiction. You know, year seven we just really glossed over it. I quit drinking. I hadn’t touched a drop thinking that, oh, I’m somehow…this is helping. It wasn’t. It didn’t matter what I was … it didn’t. And then year 10 was…during those three years, we kind of quit fighting, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t a happy marriage. So when he came home, and we chose to talk about this, it was important for me that he tell the church because I was after transparency. I wish I could remember it more clearly. Something came over me when I was talking to him and I unloaded. I think he would call that a fair term. I unloaded on him and it didn’t even feel like my voice. It was all of these injustices about the way that I had been treated. I think everything that he was hiding from me, the finances, the drugs, I think I probably hit on it all in those moments. And I didn’t know. But I unloaded on him and it didn’t even, it didn’t even hurt when I told him, “You gotta go.”

I think that God just somehow let me know that what was happening, the way that I had been treated, was not okay. And I couldn’t, I mean, looking back now I can see that. That’s what that moment was. It was just a glimpse into the whole person that I could be. But I couldn’t be that whole person, and God knew that, until we could confront this really uninvited third party in our marriage, this this addiction, this sin incarnate that had just infiltrated every aspect of our marriage, of our private life, of our public life. You know, there was just so much isolation, so much shame. The fights that we would have…you know, he would rage and yell at me every night. And I mean, most of the time it was for nothing at all. But, you know, you just start to believe it after, after so long. And it’s like if I weren’t this way, or if I were more that way, if I were a better wife, and I would, I would compare myself to other women and other wives and other moms that I knew. And it was like, well, I can’t ever be her. Like, I’m not going to be her and I just felt so small. And I felt so unworthy. I mean, I had been dismantled within my own marriage. The person who promised to love me…I don’t know that he ever stopped loving me. But I do know that I stopped coming first. A long time ago, I had quit being first. For sure.

The whole time I’ve been trying to do it backwards. I figured, you know what, if I could just make everything look good on the outside, then things on the inside will be settled.

There was not a like, an aha moment. There was, I do remember, I think it was week three, which I was in the small group. I can very clearly remember, I don’t think I’ve told you this. I can very clearly remember a voice in my head just saying, “I can release you from this, if you trust Me.” And at the time, I think I just I said, “Okay.” But by week nine, I remember praying, “God, I trust you completely. And I just ask You to take this from me and if You don’t, I know that You’ve still got me. But if You can take this from me, take this from me.” There’s not cookie cutter. And so I don’t want to ever say this to another alcoholic. But I haven’t craved alcohol since then. And I don’t know, I don’t know where that comes from. It terrifies me sometimes when Lori asks me, “When’s the last time you thought about it?” And I do think about it. I mean, there are situations there, there are emotional states that I get in and I’m like, I just I want to numb out. I want to, I don’t want to feel anything. But I haven’t. One, I’ve been truly sober for five years and two, I just, I haven’t, there hasn’t been a physical need for it. There has been the mental “man, that sounds good, I would love to do that.” Or I just want to check out I don’t want to feel anything right now. But I do, I truly credit God with removing that from me. And I don’t know if it’s forever, for a time, or for a period. But I trust Him daily that it’s, He’s the one that’s done it and I will trust Him to continue to do it, or to continue to provide for me, in whatever way He sees fit. But that didn’t solve the problem.

For me, stopping drinking physically did not fix us. But it was a big step in clearing roadblocks. And, and I think that that was part of the whole Re:Gen program. There’s nothing magical about it or any other 12-step program. But the exercises, the writing, or the thinking through things, the Bible verses, the truth. The truth that you study, and that you replace the lies that you’ve been told, that you believed with–it puts you in a position where you’re ready to invite God to work in your life. And it’s, it’s terrifying when you invite Him to work, because He does. And you don’t know what the outcome is going to be. And so, it’s not like you get to prescribe, “Hey, this is what I would like to have happen, would You mind taking care of it?” You just get to say, “I trust You, and I’ll follow You.”

It was, I think it was one thing for the drinking to be gone. But there are, I mean, you can Google “dry drunk,” you know. The behavior itself is gone, but the thought process and that mentality, and always wanting to hide things and just railing against someone else’s desire or like logic [is still there.]. He was, he was a very hard person to deal with.

My heart was oriented towards something else. I mean, it was oriented towards myself and what I wanted to do. And I wanted to continue drinking, and I wanted to continue to have my marriage, and I wanted to continue to be able to spend money however I want. And that’s what I wanted. And I absolutely cannot account for the heart change. I have no earthly idea. Like, there’s no logical explanation for, “well, one day I just woke up and my heart was oriented differently than it was when I went to bed the night before.” I mean, and I don’t think it happened that quickly, but there’s this progression of attitude change towards Lori, towards alcohol, towards God, towards the church, towards my kids, towards how I live my life that occurred in that time period that is unexplainable. I don’t think you can manufacture that. I mean, that is, that is work from the inside that then manifests on the outside. And the whole time I’d been trying to do it backwards. I figured, you know what, if I could just make everything look good on the outside, then things on the inside will be settled. It wasn’t until we deconstructed everything on the outside and let God rebuild from the inside that I became comfortable in my own skin. And I became able to just confront uncomfortable things without rage and without medicating with alcohol, without taking it out on Lori and blaming others. There’s a systematic replacement of lies that you believe about yourself, or about God, or about others, or about life in general, that get replaced with biblical truths that refocus and help you understand life better, and what God has designed us for and what He’s capable of. And I think that is where the heart change came from. But it’s, but it’s not like a data in, you get this output. I mean, there’s something supernatural about it.

The heart changes he’s talking about, I feel like that is when our relationship work started. Like, we had been engaged in just the business of finances. And like he]said, you know, I’d lost a job and so I was starting a new job and trying to manage that and I was, for all intents and purposes, a single parent, and trying to manage that. And so a lot of it was just business. He was working with a counselor and I was working with my own counselor.

We have this brown chair. And I love this little brown chair. I don’t think that we’re ever going to get rid of this chair because I love it so much. And it even has a tear in it and that’s okay, because I love this little chair. Because it’s where Aaron was sitting when he expressed his heart to me, and told me that he was sick of it. That he was sick of holding up this poster board and he had to keep taping the edges back up so that it wouldn’t fall down. And the brown chair, I think that’s when, that’s when we cut through all the crap. Like, I don’t know how else to say it. I do know how else to say it, but I won’t say it. But that’s, I felt like that’s when we just cut through it all. And it was like, we’re going to pursue this honestly. And I felt like I could see his heart and his heart for himself. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about whether or not he loved me enough. It wasn’t about whether or not he wanted our marriage enough, but it was him investing in himself and coming to terms with who he was as a person, you know, every ounce of himself and being okay with it. I can’t ever feel hopeless in our relationship, because I have this restored marriage with this whole person. And I’m a whole person. And you know, sometimes I wish we could get that first 10 years back. But at the same time, I’m so thankful that, I’m so thankful that we have this story. As awful as it was to live through it, I’m so thankful that, I don’t know. I’m so thankful that God chose me to let me walk through this with you. That He thought I was strong enough to be able to do it. I’m thankful.

I am too.

One of Laurie’s closest friends at the time, that would come over to the house and sit with her and just encourage her and be with her…I mean, I think she hired a lawn service to do our lawn while we were separated. She was, at the time, I think she would have said she was an atheist. I think she moved to kind of more agnostic. And Lori got to go to her baptism this year. And so it’s amazing to see that casual observers in our life, they were able to step in when brothers and sisters in Christ didn’t. And to see God, reach down and say, “Know the truth.” And so she’s, she’s a believer now, six years later after having walked through our separation with us. It’s just, it’s kind of like trying to catch the wind. But there’s just so many different instances that we can think of where there’s, you can’t explain what happened. And you just have to, I mean, there’s…I couldn’t produce and make facsimiles of hard truth that God exists. But in my life, you could never get me to deny God’s existence because He’s been there and I’ve seen His work, and I felt His movement and I’m grateful for it. I’m so grateful for it.

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