I have PTSD due to my husband's addiction

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Detective
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I have PTSD due to my husband's addiction

My situation is a bit different than most of the spouse posts I have read so far, mainly because my husband has successfully recovered from his addiction. You might think that the problem is solved, but really it still lives within me. He has successfully gotten over his WOW addiction 5 years ago, but ironically I haven't, and I still live in fear of it. 

Our story: I met my husband when I was barely 17. He was 6 years older than me. I threw myself into his arms because we fell deeply in love, and because I was running away from an abusive/dysfuntional family situation at home. He became my life, my everything. Even when things got bad, I was too weak to leave because I was petrified about what I would do without him. I had low self-esteem, I know. Even though I was (am) young and attractive I feel deep inside that nobody else will ever love me and I won't amount to much. About 5 years into our marriage my husband was introduced to WOW by a friend, and quickly became extremely addicted. He played every night when he got back from work. Lost all interest in me, his friends, his work. Started under-performing at work, because the whole time he would be researching things regarding the game. He literally had no interest in doing anything that wasn't WOW related. In week-ends I had to DRAG him out of the house to do anything, and all he seemed to want to do is go back to his game. He was angry and resentful that I took him away from the screen. He manipulated me into believing I was in the bad guy, that he was just doing something he enjoyed and I wanted to control his life. Often, he would play until 3am, get a few hours' sleep, then wake up at 6am on a week-end morning to play his game before I woke up and "nagged" him. On a few occasions when we travelled on vacation he could not handle not being able to play his game and seemed really depressed and moody. Which is crazy because his real self loves traveling and learning about history, art and culture. Yet we found ourselves in beautiful Siena, Tuscany one day with him sulking, saying he was "bored"!  

I was so lonely, sad, and angry. I got so tired of asking for permission every time I had to speak to him, always interrupting his game, him having to take his headphones off. Aside from grossly neglecting our marriage, his work and social life, he also ignored any responsibility at home. In hindsight, I enabled that behavior by doing everything in his place. I took care of everything around the house, payed every bill, walked the dog etc. etc. Thank GOD we didn't have children at the time, that would have been insane. In hindsight I can't believe I put up with that. If I could turn back time I would have left the house and let him rot in his own destructive behavior. Lose his job, and live in a dirty house. But I was too scared, and held on to this relationship that defined my existance and hoped that he would change back into the person I love. I couldn't give up! So I pleaded, cried, screamed, nagged, fought... Sometimes we got into very violent confrontations. This happened because I confronted him about his addiction and he would turn aggressive. His depression and addiction transformed him into a completely different person. A few times he beat me up. Once I had to go to the ER with inflamed ribs, I could barely breathe. I refused to file a police report even though the nurse urged me to. I was so embarassed I told no one. I was devastated at how my life as a 25 year old bride was going. But I didn't really let anyone in on the depths of my situation.

Anyway this story has a happy ending because after about 3 years of addiction my husband pulled himself out of the situation. We moved very far away, he changed careers and pursued one that he was very passionate about. Gradually, leading up to our move, he stopped playing WOW. Fast forward 5 years, and he is now a very successful entrepreneur and earns a great living for his family. We now have a daughter who is almost 2 years old. He has been the sole provider for our family ever since her birth, since I temporarily stopped working in order to raise her. He now comes home from work and spends a lot of quality time with us, and he is a wonderful and loving father. He is not perfect in the husband department and sometimes leaves me feeling lonely. He is very passionate about his work and that is his main focus.

Here is the problem: I still live in fear of his addiction returning. During these 5 years of "sobriety", he has gone through light to moderate cycles of vieo game playing. No addiction, more like normal behavior of someone who plays recreationally. Sometimes not playing at all for months at a time. However it has been about 6 months since he discovered Overwatch, an MMO that is similar to WOW. So far, the situation is under control: he plays about 2 night a week and a couple of hours on the week-ends. But it scares me to see him enjoy this game so much. I have flash backs of the trauma that I endured and I am frightened that he will want to do nothing but play that stupid game again. A couple of times we have argued and I have pulled the plug on his computer when I woke up and found him playing at 1am. He has not reacted aggressively on a physical level, and we always made up in the morning. I told him about my fear, and he said he understands. Sometimes he says he is exhausted and can't hang out with me after work but has lots of energy to play Overwatch for 2 hours straight. My obsession is so awful that sometimes even though I don't want to hang out with him, even if I'm content being on my own reading a book for instance... I will beg him to hang out with me instead because I'd rather do anything than let him play that game. Crazy, right?

Although he made a brilliant recovery I still never felt like I healed. For one thing, I never told anybody the whole story, UNTIL NOW. Secondly, he has never to this day admitted that he had a serious problem. He minimizes it, and says that he was just going through some "tough times" and turned to games to cope with it. He always rejected the words "addiction", or "depression", and is too ashamed to talk about the physical abuse. This denial from his part leaves me without a sense of closure. He just wants to ignore that the whole thing like it never happened, and if I try to talk about it, he shuts down. Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I overreact to his casual game playing because I am traumatized by his past behavior. He sometimes still shows me little attention and affection and it makes me sad. Even though other times he is very loving, I take it very harshly when he is quiet or withdrawn because I always fear his depression! I am seeing a counsellor and she brought up the idea of PTSD. 

I'd love to hear your insights, and comments, and find out if anyone has had a similar experience. Thanks for reading!!

Polga
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Welcome Detective !

Welcome Detective !

Thanks for sharing.

I think many spouses worry that when their loved one 'quits' that it may not last. We have stories where that happens.

We learn here that we cannot control their addiction, if it does happen again. If he wants to play he will play whether you like it or not. Arguing with an addict about their drug usually doesn't work and can drive them deeper. So really your  fear serves no positive purpose for you. Learn to accept he is how he is and detach from those fears. You can also think in advance of how you would cope if things took a turn for the worse. Have a plan B for what you would do if things went that way. Make yourself strong so that you can cope come what may.

Unfortunately for most people it is not an easy process to "detach", but it's worth it in the long run. We have a thread about detaching with love here:

http://www.olganon.org/forum/discussion-spousessignificant-others-olg-anon-members-only/detachment-what-means-and-how-do-it

Some of the feelings you descibe are sometimes associated with Codependancy.

http://www.olganon.org/forum/i-need-help-spousessignificant-others-open-forum/codependency-what-it

This is something you can work on for yourself if you think you may be affected by it. Many of us are. There is a group called CODA which may be able to offer guidance. Also it is worth checking out Alanon and Naranon meetings to help you look after yourself to overcome these bad feelings and behaviours around his addiction and detach with love.

About your counselling, does your counsellor understand addiction and accept that you are the wife of an addict? I found it slightly concerning that they raised the PTSD flag when what you describe is a common feeling for the loved ones of addicts who feel they are out of control and have fears regarding potential relapse. Nobody wants the devastation that can occur during active addiction ever again, so those fears have a rational basis because it is possible this situation could occur again. Perhaps the way you feel is particularly severe. But  I think you need to make sure you get help from someone who specialises in addiction related problems or has a very good knowledge of them. We see many stories of ineffective therapy because the therapist does not understand the real issue. If your fears are troublesome then you may want to consider working a 12 step process through CODA, Alanon or Naranon as an option.

Take the focus off his problems and put your attention onto yourself. You need some TLC and you can give that to yourself. I think it would be helpful for you to keep nurturing yourself to increase your strength, so that you are able to stand alone if you have to. I think you have probably come quite far and you are now quite a resilient person, since the early days. Keep building yourself up. Find new sources of support in your community. We are all on a journey and you are not alone. Keep coming back !

INFO

Parent's online meeting THURSDAY 9pmEST/EDT click here

Online meetings gaming addicts click here

Spouses/SO's of addicts click here

Parents of addicts click here for advice

Help for video game addicts click here

Please help! Donate here

Detective
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Thank you, Polga.

Thank you, Polga.

Your reply was helpful. I believe you're right about the codependence issue. I spoke to my therapist about what you said, and she lent me a book about Codependence that is really helpful and, by the way it describes codependence, really sounded like what I might be struggling with. I still have many questions about it though, I don't fully grasp certain thing about codependence. Can you be codependent if the significant other is no longer actively an addict? And does that mean the role of the other is also dysfunctional, or would it just be me who is dysfunctional, since he is no longer addicted to gaming and has moved on to healthier interests? I know you can't answer most of this, but I just wanted to get these off my chest. 

I will try something I've never done and attend some of those meetings you mentioned. I am really committed in strengthening myself and getting better, as the suffering has become out of control.

 

Polga
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Hi again!

Hi again!

Codependance is soemthing that may have been conditioned early in your life or from his addiction; it usually sticks with you until you become self aware and learn new ways. It explains why some people have serial relationships with addicts even if the addiction is hidden  when they meet. Addict attracts co-dependant and visa versa.

Co-dependance does not have to exist with just addiction; it may be the codependant gets their 'kick' out of seeking a person with a problem that "needs help"; such as chronic illness, disability, or being an over concerned parent.

I think the key is self awareness and to recognise the symptoms and a willingness to change. All the best with your quest!

Your partner may still have dysfunctional behaviours; they may be coping mechanisms, personality traits, mental health issues ... non of us is perfect. As you become more self aware it will also make you more aware of his treatment of you and his life. As you progress you will change as you become stronger and this could provoke a reaction (positive or negative). For example, you will identitfy where you enable him (eg allowing him to be lazy with you doing more than your fair share of chores) and stop. He may not like that you stop doing certain things. As a codependant, you would be drawn to appease a negative reaction but you will have to try to see who is being reasonable .. you will start to see his shortcomings. It would be up to you to be confident in your own judgement and maybe to stick up for yourself and directly question his attitude; although you cannot make someone see things your way, improve themselves or recover from their thinking errors, as you stand firm he will have to learn to adjust which may not be comfortable.

INFO

Parent's online meeting THURSDAY 9pmEST/EDT click here

Online meetings gaming addicts click here

Spouses/SO's of addicts click here

Parents of addicts click here for advice

Help for video game addicts click here

Please help! Donate here

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