Addiction is like a cavity. It doesn’t develop overnight. It sneaks in slowly, a little bit at a time. Some days you notice it a little bit more than others and some days you wouldn’t even know it was there. Then one day BAM, there it is! Deep, painful, and unavoidable. No matter what you do to try and alleviate the pain and discomfort there is just no relief. Finally you have very few choices left, you can either:
1. Deal with the pain and suffering
2. Ask for help
Two choices. But, at times, so difficult to make.
When you are put in a position to make the choice for yourself (when you are suffering from an addiction to either drugs or alcohol) sometimes, you literally can’t make the choice. Most often I have found it’s because there isn’t a problem. Or at least, by their perspective, it’s not a problem and it doesn’t need fixed.
Oh, how that word angers me. The funny thing about denial is it is not always the addict that’s in denial that there is a problem. Raise your hand if you have ever tried to justify someone else’s bad behavior? Or, if you have ever tried to rationalize a situation by talking yourself into believing that “it’s not really that bad, it must just be me overreacting”.
When your life suddenly takes a huge change in direction, like in our case by adding multiples to an already possibly shaky territory, it can send you into a tailspin. There are so many different aspects and emotional steps that come with adding multiples to your family. You can go from an absolute euphoric high or being excited and happy to the absolute lowest rung on the ladder in a matter of hours from being overwhelmed and exhausted.
When you are dealing with the webs of addiction, the sheer exhaustion, bouts of crying, financial stress, and the general load of responsibility that come with parenting twins (or more) it can kick you into a relapse in an instant with no warning at all. It can also cause the sober parent stress and constant anxiety. The gut wrenching feeling that something is wrong. The tricks your mind will play on you so you think that there are red flags, but you try to shrug off the feelings only to question yourself 20 minutes later.
When you are caring for young multiples it is non-stop as we all know, all too well. It is a constant, repetitive cycle of feed, soothe, diaper change, feed, burp, soothe, snuggle, repeat… A cycle where you can use an extra set of hands. When you have a partner that is crippled by an addiction you can instantly turn into the lone caregiver for your multiples. All responsibilities now fall on you. This inadvertently can lead to many negative results. You can become overwhelmed, stressed, and ultimately bitter toward your partner.
While you are working to be compassionate and understanding towards substance abuse or alcoholism you are also struggling to fulfill your own needs and the needs of your children. You can struggle with the want and need to ask for assistance but can’t due to either your partner being physically unable to help you care for the children or your own stubbornness in not wanting to ask them to step in and help you.
The walls start to go up. You feel the unnerving need to protect yourself from getting hurt but also know that you need to be able to function and care for your children. You can become extremely selfish and set ultimatums, which aren’t always fair or helpful. You consider compromise but aren’t willing to give on your end.
Marriage to me is sacred. It is serious business. We took our vows, “til death do us part”, as a meaningful promise to each other. For better, for worse. Just when you think it can’t get worse, it will. However, those vows echo in the back in your head. Society today makes it too easy to walk away. To throw your hands up, pack your bags, and leave.
When you have children this changes the perspective. You approach separation and divorce from a different angle. Add multiples to the mix and you are in a whole different ball game. You ask yourself so many questions:
“Can I afford to leave?”
“Is it safe here for my children?”
“Can I live without them?”
“Is this my fault?”
“Why won’t they just stop?! Am I not important enough?”
Sadly, addiction is a disease. I do not feel that a person makes a conscious choice to become so completely involved in a destructive behavior that it takes over their entire life. Accepting that there is an addiction is the biggest step. I can’t say enough to get a support network. Support, support, support. Support can come in many forms. If you are ashamed, embarrassed or not ready to talk about it publicly or do not want to go to your family for fear of judgment or rejection, reach out. Reach out to addiction support groups. Reach out to a clergy member, pastor, or local church. Find a support group for alcoholism or substance abuse. And most importantly, talk to a mother of multiples. If you need someone that truly understand your situation reach out to one of your own.
Addiction can ruin any relationship if you let it. Parents of multiples have a higher divorce rate than parents of singletons. Add the two together and you have a perfect storm. I’m a fighter. I’m stubborn and hard working. I refuse to be a statistic to society. I refuse to raise my children in a broken home. I also refuse to leave someone that struggles to be a good person, a good parent, and a good friend.
In a marriage you have to take the good with the bad. We are never promised 99% happiness, not even 50% happiness. But we do promise to love and cherish in sickness and in health. I know in my vows there was no small print that said anything about leaving if I wasn’t happy or something hard came up or I just didn’t feel like dealing with the bumps in the road anymore. I want to be clear that I am in a safe, loving, supportive marriage. I do not advocate for staying in an unsafe situation. If ever I felt I was in danger I would leave the situation immediately.
Twiniversity Note: If your spouse is suffering from addiction, reach out to Al-Anon Family Groups, a support network for families and friends of addicts.
Carrie English is a mother of four who lives North Central Pennsylvania along with her husband, Jason. Her children range from age 12 to her one year old toddler twins. She is a full-time working professional, sleep deprived lover of coffee, hugs, and her family. She credits her strength to her amazing family and her faith.
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