Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Would you consider this addiction?

This is a story. A story about addiction. At least, I think it's an addiction.

My friend, Susan, (her name has been changed) lived with this guy, John (name has also been changed), for many years - more than a decade.

The first couple of years they were happy. They loved each other and loved doing things together. Things changed a bit and they moved after a few years to a location farther away from friends and family.

They explored the new place together and had a good time. They loved drinking cocktails together at all the new places they visited, but never got terribly out of control--once in awhile, but not often.

But, after a few years, John started going to bars without her. It was only a few times a week at first, and at night, when Susan had other things she wanted to do anyway. When they moved, only Susan had a job, so John had extra time on his hands. He would do some job searching in the morning, and then spend the rest of the day at the bar. He would be there at night until late. She would often go to bed and he would still be there. She complained, but he was defensive, saying this helped him. Eventually he got a job and things got better, but he would still go to bars most days after work. On weekends they would do things together, like hiking and biking. But on weekdays, bars were his go-to for most of the evening. She would try to go to the bars with him, but he would often ignore her while she was there and talk to his friends--the other regulars.

When they moved to a larger place, Susan thought they could have a liquor cabinet in the new house and maybe bring some of his friends to them. So she started building a collection of liquor in hopes he'd stay home and hang out with her. They would have his friends over sometimes, but they would talk together and not pay much attention to her.

When it was just the 2 of them they would watch TV while drinking (because he didn't want to do much else). They didn't talk or hang out, except on weekends. She focused on doing things she wanted to do: taking classes, participating in groups of women at church and elsewhere. She didn't love the drinking, but also didn't know how to tell him to stop, since this was something he really enjoyed doing. She didn't want to take it away from him and it didn't seem ridiculous. She felt conflicted.

Then, Susan got pregnant. She couldn't drink, but she didn't care that much. John was mostly willing to stop drinking too. But he would still go to the bars and hang out. Once in awhile he'd stay home to take care of her. He was the boyfriend she'd always wanted while she was pregnant.

A week before the baby was born, John got laid off. That's good timing, in a way, she thought, John can be with her and the new baby and maybe even stay home with the baby when she went back to work. John was pretty hands on and helpful, only going to the bars once a week at the most. Susan suffered from postpartum depression and she had a hard time coping with being a new mom. He supported her as best he could. Soon, she found a new job and they had to move again, leaving John staying home with the new kid.

Sometimes John would drink while home with their daughter. But he wouldn't get out of control. When they moved again, things started to go downhill. Susan wanted to quit her job, but John insisted that he wanted to stay with the child. Susan became dissatisfied quickly with both the job and feeling like she was missing out on the life of her new child. John was a good father, but he started going back to the bars more heavily when she would return from work. He would yell at Susan, "it's your turn now. I'm out of here," and leave for the bar. They wouldn't see him for the rest of the night. Eventually their daughter started crying every time Susan came home from work because she associated Mommy coming home as Daddy leaving and yelling. Susan begged and pleaded with John to please stay home and have dinner with them at least, to go to the bars after. He would do it for a few days, but would eventually slip back into that pattern.

Eventually, John got a job, but it was not a good fit. He changed careers and it wasn't a good one for him. He got depressed and quit after trying for a year. He was so depressed that he went on disability. To cope with his depression he went to the bars more. At least, that was what he told Susan. And she believed him because she wanted to help him and thought that maybe the social outlet helped. He never came home super drunk, so she figured it wasn't a big deal, but he continued to go and get more depressed.

After a few years of this, Susan continued feeling dissatisfied. Every time she'd bring it up with John, he'd have a good reason why he needed to continue to go to the bars that she agreed seemed reasonable and logical. John wanted more kids, but Susan didn't. She felt bad enough having to work with one child, much less 2. Eventually, she agreed that she would have another child, but this time John would have to work while she stayed home with the kids. He tacitly agreed.

He was nice to her again while she was pregnant. It felt good. He was available and attentive and helpful. But when it came to her quitting her job, John was adamantly against it. She did it anyway, and he was forced to find work. He changed careers again to something that, again, wasn't a good fit. After another year, he quit. He was so miserable from being depressed and working and going to bars and drinking all the time he decided he could no longer work and had to stay at the bars all the time. He would come home occasionally to shower and sleep, but then go right back out. Susan didn't see him very much and when she did, he was unkind to her and the kids.

When I think of this story, I see addiction, do you? Addiction to alcohol, maybe. Addiction to going out and being validated by other people, certainly. I see neglect, lack of love and consideration for a family, time stolen away from relationships with a significant other and children, and a habit that caused anxiety in John's ability to work. Susan supported him all this time, even through his addiction, but in the end it ruined their relationship. This was a slow decline over 13 years.

Have you figured out who this story is about yet? I am Susan. My former husband is John. But the addiction is not going to the bar. Replace "going to the bar" and "drinking" with "playing video games" and you start to see a serious problem. I would never have called this addiction and I laughed and defended my husband anytime someone would say that. But when I replace the words "playing video games" with "going to bars" or "drinking," I see a serious issue. I, and my children, were neglected as a result of his video game playing. Eventually I paid all the bills and did all the housework. Why? He played video games. When we were done, he had no support system. Why? Video games. He would stop to eat. He would stop to work out. He would stop to watch sports. It clarifies some of what happened in my relationship. Addiction or not, video games created a major issue in our relationship and eventually (or possibly forever) were prioritized over me.