When we started this show, we wanted to share stories not only from people in recovery but also those who love them. Joy’s experience with addiction has followed her through her whole life. Her parents were both addicts, her cousin who adopted and raised her from ten years of age was an alcoholic. Her first husband was an alcoholic and so is her second husband. And she chose a career which would have her working to help people living with addiction see another way of life. On the podcast this week we talk to Joy about how her normal childhood, learning to balance recovery and relationships, and the chaotic dysfunction which substance abuse brings to a family.
On Her “Normal” Childhood
I was sharing with somebody the other day some of my childhood stuff, and I paused for a minute, and I was like, Hey I went through that. I was like there’s no way you should be going through that at seven or eight years old.
I think with one of my stints with my dad being home I guess I was about seven. I walked into the bathroom, and my dad was shooting up in his foot. And I remembered thinking to myself that’s weird. Something’s not right. And my mom would nod a lot of the time, and I knew that wasn’t right either.
My dad would go in and out of jail all the time. For one instance he was taking me out to catch the bus for school, and he saw the cops, and he took off and [I remember] thinking to myself that’s not normal. We shouldn’t have to be like that. And people breaking in our house and things like that so I always knew something wasn’t right. I wouldn’t sleep in my room because I was in fear. People broke into my room, and we had somebody [overdose] in my room.
I went to visit my father in jail a lot due to his addiction. He would go in and out of jail. I went to the clinic so my mom could get well which was her methadone which she would do when my dad was away. She wouldn’t do heroin. She would go to the clinic to get well.
I always knew I didn’t feel safe. I felt loved, but I didn’t feel safe. If that makes sense.
On Seeking Out Chaos and Drama
It’s crazy to think because I was growing up it was always chaos. Anywhere I was there was chaos. So for a long time, that’s what I looked for. I liked the chaos I liked the drama, and I always searched for that.
I was doing my internship too because I just finished my drug and alcohol and I was in training. [My current husband] was a store manager for them. And he had about six years sober. So he had already done treatment had some good clean time. He was very different.
There is no trauma or chaos in our lives. But it [my experience with addiction] also prepared me to set healthy boundaries with [my husband] and let him know if that’s what you want to do that’s okay. I just can’t be a part of it. But he had a lot of clean time. Six years is a pretty good significant time. He currently has 13, and we still talk about it that you ever relapse.
On Balancing Relationships and Recovery
I always want to be the mother I want to be the fixer. I can make everything better for you. Now I take a step back, and I don’t have to fix everything. I didn’t cause all of this. I don’t have to fix it all, and I can’t cure them. For us, in our relationship, his recovery is his recovery. How he chooses to work his program his meetings his relationship with his sponsors completely separate. I have my meetings that I go to as well as I do work an Al-anon program. I have my own sponsor, and we just keep it separate. When I tend to get in his stuff, it doesn’t work. His recovery needs to be his own.
I understand that he needs to go to his meetings. He needs to be in his fellowship and allowing him that time because both of us know. Without that we have nothing.
We’ve since had two more children, and that might mean that I pick them up an extra day from daycare so he can go to his meetings or do what he needs to do. There will be times that I’ll say hey I think you need a meeting you’re getting pretty irritable, but I try to stay out of his recovery. I support it but allow him to do what he needs to do to.
On Talking to Her Kids About Addiction
I’m very open with [my 18-year old] about it. He knows what I do. We’ve talked about it. He was there at his dad’s addiction. So I’m fortunate enough now that it doesn’t interest him. And he understands what it can do to his life. And I try to keep him busy with extracurricular activities. He’s an outstanding football player. So he’s been playing football since he was seven and just keeping involved in sports different areas so they don’t have that idle time and they’re not out running around on the streets. I think it’s important to educate them. Because if he so chooses [to use or drink] it won’t have to be such a secret and he would be hopefully willing to come to talk to me about it.
On Her New Normal
I had a conversation with my sponsor one day, and I was like the house is really quiet. Nothing’s going on. She goes, “Sit on your hands, it won’t last forever.” Because I don’t know what to do when it’s not [chaotic]. It took me a long time to be okay with just letting it ride. Not everybody having issues and needing me to come in and fix everything.