I was not actually married to my son’s father. We were planning to get married. Before our son was born we talked about it. We were saving for a wedding, but we decided that at my age (36 at the time) having a baby was more of a priority than a ceremony.
Neil and I had been together for 3 years when our son was born and we had been happy. I mean we had issues as every other couple did.. some more some less, but we had been through it all together and we were in it for the long haul. God, I was so in love with that man. He was absolutely the sweetest guy you could ever meet, and it’s not just me. Everyone who knew him agreed.
He was, however, an addict. I knew this about him. He had been very upfront about his past. I had met him through friends and had even dated him briefly a few years earlier when his drug use was very prevalent, but that life wasn’t for me. When we reconnected we were both very clear that the drugs had to stay in his past.
After I got pregnant his anxiety started to go haywire. He had real trouble adjusting to the idea of being a father. It’s not that he didn’t want to be. He was also very excited about the “idea” of it. It was just the reality of it that scared the crap out of him. He had never really had a great role model as a parent in general and had no idea how he was going to manage the responsibility of being a dad, work, school.. all of it.
He started to have slip ups when I was pregnant. They weren’t often and he always promised that it wouldn’t happen again. He wasn’t using opiates, but he would mismanage his anxiety medication which gave him a different kind of high. When our son was born via c-section I made it clear to the nurses that I did not want any pain killers and that I was perfectly content with Motrin. They were not.
Without my knowledge they slipped my son’s father a script for Vicodin “just in case she needs it”. Well, I didn’t need it. I never saw that script, until I found the empty bottle in the trash. He filled it without my knowledge, and ran through the bottle like candy.
We spent years going back and forth about his drug use. He was mostly sober more than he was actively using, but he just wasn’t capable of ever really staying away. He was in and out of the house depending on his use and it really hurt and confused our son. It was about 2 years ago when I had to put my foot down. Up until this point I’d only ever seen him use pills. I didn’t know how far it had gone and how bad he had gotten. He dropped a needle out of his pocket in front of our son and when I pointed it out he acted as if it were no big deal.
I had to tell him that he was no longer welcome in my house, not even for a visit. I couldn’t risk him bringing that garbage into my house, and I definitely couldn’t risk my son being the one who found him ODed in the bathroom. I ended up taking him to court over visitation and telling him that if he wasn’t going to go to rehab… I mean a real rehab, not a 2 week or 30 day dry out.. that he needed to have a monitor assigned to make sure that our son was safe around him. That I just couldn’t do it anymore. He was pissed.. and devastated.. and heart broken. We all were, but I had to do what was best for our son.
We went back and forth about lawyers. He wasn’t willing to do anything. He moved into a sober house and would occasionally call our son to check in, but for the most part he told me that anything more was none of my business and he wasn’t going to pay to see his kid. After 6 months his lawyer finally got him to agree to the monitoring and was able to see our son, now 5, again every other week for an hour. It wasn’t much but I was happy he was willing to work with me and our kid was thrilled to have his Da back.
It would be almost another 6 months, so a year in total, before we made it into court. I agreed to let him do an outside court appointed monitor instead of the monitoring building and he agreed to do 2 hours a week. We proceeded to go back every 3 months to renegotiate the terms and as he proved he was sober longer I agreed to allowing more and more privileges.
In December of last year we finally had a conversation. A real conversation about what was happening. No lawyers just us. He blamed me for fighting him on everything, and I reminded him that the only thing that I had asked was for him to prove his sobriety. That he and his lawyer were the ones that wouldn’t even sit down and have a talk with me and my lawyer. That I just wanted us to get to a place where we could be amicable, and have visits go back to how they were, but I needed to know that we were actually safe. He wouldn’t give us that.
He was shocked. He had no idea that my lawyer and I were trying to set up actual conversations.. his lawyer kept all that from him so we would keep going to court and she would keep getting paid. He told me that everything he had done. The sober house. The drug tests. The therapy. It was all for me and our son, and that he just wanted his family back. I knew he was telling the truth. I knew that he loved us as much as we loved him. I also knew that I didn’t believe that he had really cleaned up. I knew that he was still hiding things and not understanding my point of view.
He always told me that he didn’t believe in the AA theory that an addict could never use again, and that he just had to figure out a way to use recreationally. When we first got together I didn’t understand what it meant to be an addict. After 10 years I’ve come to realize that there is no middle ground. I told him that he couldn’t come back to us the way that he wanted to. I told him that we love him, but that he wasn’t safe the way he was, and I wasn’t going to risk our child on his promises. He didn’t like it, but he respected it.
We both moved on.. for the most part.. we both started seeing other people, but we were both clear with the other people that we saw that we already had a family. That we were each other’s life, love.. and everything. I think we both hoped someday we could make it work. After a year and a half I finally agreed to letting go of the court appointed monitoring as long as I was there to make sure he was ok at the start of the visit. He was now allowed to drive him, and take him on certain activities on his own. He didn’t. He wanted me there. He wanted his family together. Our son wanted his parents back together and would often ask when Da was moving home… and bring our hands together in an effort to make us hold hands. It was very sweet, and very innocent.. and no one fought it, but no one encouraged it. He and I both knew we were a long way off, if ever.
I don’t know what would have happened if he’d stayed sober. No one will ever know. His demons won out in the end. On August 14, 2019, 2 weeks after we signed the final custody papers I got the call that he ODed in his bed overnight. One of his roommates at the sober house found him the next day. He was gone.
I was never married to Neil. I wasn’t even with him at the time of his death, but I was his family. I was his person.. and I was his widow long before the last hit killed him. Opiates stole his life. They stole him from us. I am an opiate widow, because opiates killed my family.