When the 3rd of July comes around next year, I hope that I am either out of it, or am surrounded by enough people to keep me from going off the deep-end. The story I am about to tell you is the hardest story I have ever told. It was a story I debated on ever telling, but recent events have convinced me that it may be able to help people. Given that anyone close to her already knows, I figure that at this point, there really is no concern for her privacy.
July 3rd, 2015. The refrigerator had been broken for almost a month. I had been looking for ways to fix it, and finally broke down a day earlier and called my dad. Because of the Independence Day Weekend, no repairmen could come until Monday. Hannah and I were miserable. I believed Hannah was suffering from a deep depression, or perhaps the effects of all of the trauma brought on by my cancer fight. She wasn’t eating well, she wasn’t sleeping all night through, and she had no energy. She spent most of the days of the previous month lying on the couch. I made an appointment with a psychiatrist for her, and she cancelled it behind my back. I urged her to see a doctor. We had signed her up for Medicaid because she wouldn’t let me pay out-of-pocket. She cancelled one of the appointments. The next one available was not until August 11th. I wanted to take her to the ER, but she refused. A week earlier, I told her I would, whether she liked it or not; if she didn’t start eating more again. She gradually ate more each day, and so I let her wait for the regular appointment.
On July 3rd, I was also feeling rather sick. The combination of allergies, the heat, eating out all of the time, and the stress of watching my wife in misery with seemingly no explanation was just becoming too much. Days had lost their meaning, and life just became one long slog. I told Hannah I thought we had made a mistake in moving back. She agreed that it was not what she was hoping for, but begged me to give it longer to work out. I actually believed that where we lived was the cause of most of the issues; given the decline I had witnessed in her when we got here. I told her that I had never been more worried about her. She cried and apologized, but I was not looking for an apology. I just wanted her to let me help her get better. We were sick of bad food. We were also on a budget, so our choices without a refrigerator were limited. After way too much back and forth, we decided to settle on Wendy’s because they had salads.
After an emotionally exhausting day, we returned from Wendy’s to eat. I am not a big drinker, but I thought that after this day, I would have one. I went to the cabinet where the big 1.5 litre bottle of Seagram’s 7 I bought a couple of weeks earlier was kept. Pulling it out from the cabinet, I saw it was about 90% full; which made total sense given the last time we had any was the day I bought it. I popped the top on my lemonade and went to pour a little in when I saw the water come from the bottle.
Suddenly, everything negative I had ever thought about Hannah in our entire relationship became like puzzle pieces in a puzzle I never knew needed to be solved. The missing small amounts of money from store trips I always told her she could just ask me for but I needed to track. The lack of appetite. The getting up at 4 in the morning only for me to find her asleep (or passed out) on the couch when I finally woke up. The weight loss. And the-oh my God-the yellow eyes she convinced me were just allergies when I freaked out about it a week or so earlier. She even pulled up an article online about how allergies could make the eyes appear jaundiced.
When I confronted her, (she must have seen it coming), I almost feel like she was a little relieved. I can’t imagine the amount of energy it must have taken her to keep that hidden. I trusted her implicitly, and I thought she trusted me too; so the betrayal was like a punch in the gut. I knew if she was refilling bottles, she must have had other stashes of alcohol. I had her take me through the rest of the house. I’d never gone through her things, and there were bottles everywhere. Part angry, part devastated, and part extremely worried; I told her I needed to get out of the house. I texted the two of her friends she would most likely go to and told them the situation and not to let her drink. I went out with my friend so I could tell her and she could talk me into staying, because that is what I wanted to do anyway. 6 hours later, I came home to an empty house.
I texted her a message that said I would try as long as she would. That I was scared for her and would be by her side to get through it as she was by my side. I told her I loved her, and would not leave if she tried. I told her we needed to get her to the doctor’s because I knew her yellow eyes were probably not allergy related. I opened up my Facebook to learn that an old friend had died. I knew in the past he had struggled with addiction issues. The fear of being away from Hannah that night while she was at her friend’s house was beyond anything I thought I could handle.
It was only the beginning.
She came home the next day. Her friend did not let her drink. But on the 4th of July, it wasn’t just her eyes, all of her skin was now yellow too.
While her color was bad, she seemed to be doing fine otherwise. Given that it was July 4th, and there were no doctor’s offices open, we knew the ER’s would be packed. We discussed getting her into treatment. I asked her to let me take her to the ER and wait, but she told me we could the next day. Since she was agreeing to everything, and seemed fine otherwise, I agreed we could.
The only exposure I’ve had to alcoholics were the “Whatever, I do what I want!” types who did not hide their drinking problems but celebrated them. I’ve also seen those alcoholics go jaundiced before, and when they cut back, they got better. With Hannah seemingly otherwise okay, we did not think there was a medical emergency.