Written by: Kyle Schalow
Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. ~Mike Tyson
That moment when I’d realized that everyone around me was conspiring to hide the “secret” from me, and I mean in-laws and friends or so I thought, was the exact moment I realized none of them had any regard for my children’s health, safety or well being and my gloves came off.
I spent most of 2011 studying “The Art of War” and planning strategy to be a thorn in the side of my mortgage company during the foreclosure process. I couldn’t go toe to toe with a multi-billion dollar bank in court but I could manage to make my property a nonperforming asset for them, and I did, out of spite for the better part of 36 months. When you have no money, how do you fight with people who do and value little of anything else?
Little did I know that was practice for an even greater war that had silently been waged against my family. The first principle Sun Tzu teaches is to love first and if that doesn’t work, anything goes.
There is something about mercy dope that will grab a hold of the people you love and turn them into really good liars, master narcissistic manipulators. The mercy dope epidemic (a reference to why they are prescribed or the way people active in addiction look out for one another during times of withdrawal) is wrapped up and hidden in the guise of compassion and delivered like a lamb.
When April first started being prescribed in 2009, I admit I didn’t really pay much attention. Real pain plus the stress of being a stay at home mom with four small children, we lost our motorcycle dealership and our home was in foreclosure. I was busy trying to hold the fort up and didn’t notice her slow subtle dependence. The distance I’d begin to feel between us I chalked up to the overwhelming mountain of shit that piled up. Then one lazy Sunday afternoon late in 2009 while I was watching tv my daughter pulled an empty fifth of vodka from under the bed. Of course it set a furry of anger and resentment with me. I met April in recovery and new alcohol was bad medicine, I never even gave the pills a second thought.
Shortly after this incident I ended up in Toledo Hospital, I was going into a myxedema coma, from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. I remember wanting to see my kids and April couldn’t bring them because she was afraid to drive. A day after a 3 day stay in the icu I was pulling the iv out of my wrist so I could go home to make sure my kids were ok. Just a couple days after I got home April overdosed on vodka and pills, the ambulance came in the middle of the night, she had her stomach pumped and ended up in the psych ward.
It was really hard to see her like that, I was mad too, look what she was doing to our family was my attitude, How was I going to explain this to my kids? Then there is my understanding of recovery, at the time about 9 years, addiction is disease and relapse is a choice. I am not responsible for anyone’s addiction but my own.
April was released and entered Intensive Out Patient treatment right away. As husband and wife for a very long time we never resolved any of our problems, they always got shoved aside. That is pretty much how this whole crisis went afterward. I told myself I wouldn’t go through this again. April never completed IOP, she was showing signs of being healthy and I was happy to have a wife and the mother of my children back. The remainder of 2010 was pretty smooth for us, all though my own behavior had changed I was pretty irritated deep down inside and had sudden bursts anger, addiction does affect the whole family. Physical health and situation after situation knocked me into the darkness of depression sometime around February 2011.
Over summer of 2010 we opened a booth at the Flea Market off Lasky Road. Most of the other vendors on the surface seamed like people just trying to make a buck. I admit I was pretty naïve to what was really going on there. WE had made friends with another family who made candles to supplement their ssdi. An old friend, who was actually my 12 step sponsor’s, sponsors brother, who dealt in Native American crafts to supplement his ssdi while going to the University of Toledo would set up regularly there.
Complications from my Hashimoto’s ended me up in the emergency room for some pain and I was issued a prescription for 10 percocet. The next day, while I was helping a friend out at his shop and a former in-law went into my lunch box and stole nearly the entire script, to take home to his wife, who was known to be using opiods for the last couple years. I didn’t call the police, I should of, I didn’t want to bring problems for my friends garage. And sure as hell couldn’t go back to the er or they would.
I mentioned all this to the candle people mentioned above and the husband offered me one of his, that’s when I found out how they had really been supplementing his ssdi. And sadly this is where the temptation for April had become to great. Her first source, husband and wife, candle making dope dealers. Boldly they did business in front of me unsuspecting anything for months. Even more bold my grand sponsor’s brother, who claimed to be a Native American faith healer was also peddling the mercy dope he was getting every month for free to April behind my back. There were several other mercy dealers running around the flea market I didn’t find out about until the end.
The booth slowly failed for obvious reasons. When I wouldn’t bail it out any longer and decided to shut it down I unknowingly closed the route of supply. Shortly after April said she was going to work with some of her family doing building maintainence for an apartment complex. Everyday that summer she would pack the kids and go to do her apartment cleaning. Which was a real source of income, that became a rouse for her and her family members to run around and find mercy all day. I suspected nothing of it until fall, I had known something was wrong from the beginning, avoidance on her part leaving me feel alone. The real notice was around June or July she had lost so much weight she was skin and bones. I had confronted her on a couple occasions and tried to pry the truth which always ended in screaming match. The way of the active addict is to spin it on you so that you begin to doubt and think you are acting irrational. Then, in my case I started to get a picture of myself painted as a insecure control freak to the world.
I had been going to see a counselor for most the year to get help for my depression. I knew something was terribly wrong at home, I didn’t want to go through again and told myself I wouldn’t after the first crisis. I had been planning on leaving April all summer long. Things were growing increasingly hostile and challenging everyday. I would never recommend anyone to that counselor or agency and they are major player in the Toledo market. I had been reporting to this woman all along all the bizarre and mysterious behavior April was displaying. She agreed something was wrong. Towards the end of this crisis with April, when she was still using, we started to go to this counselor for our “marital problems” almost instantly this counselor turned it on me and said it was all the way I was behaving that my need to control was pushing April away. Making April a victim and me the monster. I had April go back with me one time after she came clean with me, She told the counselor the truth. The look on this ladies face watching her squirm and back peddle was priceless.
I don’t want to give anyone the idea that I am a saint. I’ve got so much dirt under my nails it may never come off. I stepped out on our marriage towards the end of this crisis, I had an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and wanted to make myself feel better. Not one of my prouder moments. It is a very real way that alcoholism and addiction affects families and contributes to broken homes.
Things started to unravel around Thanksgiving time when I had found messages from a conversation that April was having with another man. An emotional affair was just begining, April’s composed confident disguise had shattered. And what a time of year to be having “marital problems”. I’ll tell anyone, if you think confiding regularly in someone of the opposite sex besides your partner is harmless, you are mistaking. Often people engage in this behavior but they keep it a secret. Why do you think they keep it a secret? What do you think would happen if that secret was ever discovered. Trust is an important and a gift, don’t blow it. We’ve had to have some pretty hard talks, not fun, not pretty. Everything has to be an open book with each other or there is no us. It’s not about privacy, it’s about trying to fix something that was broken. The slightest white lie and it doesn’t have to be towards each other can set us back months.
All at once it came to me, a very simple technique, that I had read over and over again all year. “Appeal to there greed and they are sure to come”. I went work on all the playesr I knew about and played along like it was all ok. Sure enough they all started filling the puzzle pieces one by one. The other technique, I would plant false information to see where it traveled. Pretty much everything April was telling me at this point was lie, lies to covers lies and protect her sources.
On January 2nd 2012 I got up really early and snooped through her phone and discovered the her final dealer. Someone from the flea market. By this point I had had it, I made my mind up I was leaving. I confronted her one last time and still lies. In front of her I packed my kids and left. I lied and said we were going to her moms. Hours late when she couldn’t locate me, she asked me to come home. She told me everything.
10 days later she entered IOP again and completed the program. I realized very quickly how fortunate I am. There was no funeral. Many people would of thrown in the towl. You don’t just throw out the people you care about. I also want my kids to have better. A broken home means they have greater risks of following this cycle of addiction. Some may say I’m co-dependant, no, I’m ok being me an April being herself. It’s fun to watch her discover her true self. This fight was well worth it everyone is healthy and we are still a family. My children excel in school, April has more strength than most to put her stuff out and not be afraid of being judged. End the stigma.