Welcome to smiling again. And I’m here today with Lisa, someone that I have just met for the first time. Although we have seen each other in a Facebook group where people talk privately about their experiences of loving someone with an addiction. The reason why I reached out to Lisa is because I could sense straight away, she was on the other side, as I call it. She had been through a healing journey. She has been through this experience of loving someone with an addiction and she was conveying so much hope. And that’s why I’m so grateful today that Lisa is here with me. Welcome Lisa. Thank you.
Thank you for having me.
It’s such a pleasure and it’s also wonderful to see you’re sitting on your yacht and see the water in the background. It’s beautiful.
So Lisa, tell us a little bit about your story. Your husband was the one in your life with the addiction. Would you like to share a bit about that background for our listeners please?
Absolutely. I met my husband when we were 20 and we married at 29. He was addicted to opiates and alcohol had been in and out of treatment many, many times. I did a lot of enabling trying to save him, eventually, because of our children, it came to a point where I needed to let the marriage go, but we managed to maintain a friendship despite the divorce for the sake of our children. And for ourselves, you began as my friend and he ended as my friend, but I wasn’t, I wasn’t trapped by his shortcomings anymore. Um, yeah, we were divorced about five years. He was still in and out of treatment during that time. And eventually he overdosed and I still don’t know whether that was an overdose or whether it was a suicide because he also had those tendencies. So at the time of his death, my children were nine and 11 and I had been a stay at home mom and began my own business as a way of taking care of myself and my children.
Wow. There’s, there’s a lot in there in a very short period of time. So can I ask you, you mentioned that you were enabling and can you remember back to those days where what happened to help you understand what enabling meant and knowing that you, something needed to change?
When the things that I was doing to try to fix him, which we all know that’s not even a possibility started to impact the life of myself and ultimately my children. And I don’t, I don’t know if we have not had children that I would have ever been strong enough to make the decision to walk away from that situation. But I knew that my children didn’t deserve to live that life and I wanted more for them and not to perpetuate a life of addiction. Ms. My own upbringing was much the same behaviour and I wanted more for my kids and ultimately in making that decision, which was extremely scary at the time. And I think holds back a lot of people, it forced me to be introspective in, in the things that I was doing to hold myself back. And in many ways, hold him back from dealing with the things you needed to. I think that, you know, addiction addiction is really just a cover for a lot of underlying trauma. And people think that if you, if you fix the addiction that you fix the problem, and that’s just not the case, it’s the first step in the process. And you know, I think that addicts have a very difficult time becoming clean because they’re never able to face that trauma and really deal with it.
So let’s, let’s go back to that moment in time, back to you. And what were you feeling at that time when you made the decision to leave? Because you left the family home, didn’t you? I did. So I did. So how did you know that’s, that’s, it’s a huge challenge for people. I remember that moment myself and think it was the absolute hardest and most heartbreaking thing I ever did. How did you, how did you come to that conclusion and what gave you that courage? How did you find the bravery to take that?
It was the realisation that I was going to go down if I stayed. Our financial life was in ruins. He had lost his job due to his addiction. You know, I had to begin a housekeeping business as a means of making ends meet, to support a, all I was, I was covering all the time. I mean, I was bringing doctor’s notes to his place of employment then, and, you know, hiding his addiction from family. And, and I was really single parenting my children and, and I was trapped in a desperation and loneliness and knew that the only way out of it was by gathering my own courage to do something differently. I could not change him.
With all of that going on in your mind and finding the courage to make that decision, what were your thoughts about your children at the time and how that decision would impact them?
It was important for me to be able to maintain a sense of family on their behalf. And a lot of people stay in the anger of what they feel was done to them in their marriage. And they worked hard to move through the thought that it was something that he was doing to me rather than I was just a casual tee of what he was doing to himself.
So tell us a little bit more about your story, about what happened next. What, what was your like life after you made the decision to leave? Because that’s quite scary leaving and, and starting, you know, raising two children on your own. I know that feeling.
Yeah, it was very scary. I mean, I rented a duplex that I could barely afford. I was still on the fledgling stage of my own business, trying to balance it all. And I had so much self doubt that I was going to fail. And you don’t know. I mean, I knew that is the way new businesses. You don’t know it’s going to take off and I didn’t know what I would do next, but I just persevered just kept trudging along because I had no option. Um, it was important to me to maintain a sense of family with my then ex husband. So if he was in active addiction, he had ruined himself. Financially had no money. They already lost his job. I would pay his phone bill. So we could at least speak to the kids. And when he was doing well, I would give him gas money to come and take them for ice cream or come and visit. And I made the effort for us all to do things as a family. And I, you know, in hindsight, after his passing, I think it was probably the greatest gift that I could have given to my children because it gave them memories. It would, they would not otherwise have had had I just taken the position of anger and stayed there.
It’s so important to be able to look back and find the happy moments, to have those happy memories, no matter what’s going on there, they’re always there, if we can find a way to, to see them or to enable them to happen.
Even more. So my children now they’re, they’re 23 and 25 and have them remember the times that they had with their dad, that they would not have. They would not have otherwise, you know, and I, even after his passing, I don’t live with any guilt that I didn’t do all that I could on their behalf. And I did it. I did it without enabling my addict. I, I did it from a sense of compassion for him, but doing what I knew, what was best for the mental health, with my own kids. And for me,
Who wants to walk around with that junk inside of you?
So Lisa, how do you, if, if you were to share a little bit of guidance for anyone listening, who might be, you know, really hearing what you’re saying, what did you do to, to find these realisations within you? You know, these things that you’re talking about about, you know, innate, you know, helping create the happy moments, um, w w you know, behaving with compassion, living with compassion instead of anger, instead of living in a way that builds guilt on the inside, it sounds wonderful, but how did you make that possible?
By realising how my own trauma impacted the way I managed my marriage by realising, you know, I am, I am a child of trauma and have always needed to be the fixer and have people like me and always say, yes, even if I meant no. And it compromised what it was that I truly wanted in my own life. And it was a matter of finding a way to say no while still holding compassion. And really it was the self-inventory. I knew how much I sabotaged my own life and then resented where he was putting me. But ultimately I was putting myself there because I wasn’t, I wasn’t creating and living by those boundaries, I was, you know, I did what everybody does threatening to leave, leaving and coming back. And there was just so much anger and resentment and beginning of that, and I don’t know, maybe it was self-help books, maybe it was that it takes a lot of honesty.
It takes a lot of honesty. I used to resent, hearing the word enabler and co-dependent, I resented those words. I was helping, I was fixing, I was looking at all that I’m doing. And I, you know, I settled into this sense of martyrdom until I had nothing left of myself to get, and, you know, I needed to take something back because I knew I wasn’t creating a good family environment for my kids. You know, I didn’t want to talk about their father as the problem, the problem wasn’t just addiction, but it was trauma. And the dynamic that we all operated within it. So something had to change and you cannot, you cannot control someone else’s behaviour. You cannot fix an addict. The only thing that we can control is ourselves.
And I think that once I made that connection, things changed for me and I needed to, um, check my own internal dialogue. You know, I, as well as many of us, you know, we, I can’t leave. I’m not in a financial position to leave. I have small children, you know, I’ve been a stay at home. Mom. I don’t, I don’t know what to do. And there’s just so much negative self dialogue that we hold ourselves back in a lot of ways. And sometimes you just, you need to check what is what’s accurate. What’s actually true about you. What steps can you personally take to fix that? It’s not the key to fixing all this it’s not just changing the addict, but because nothing is going to change within you within, within what you think of yourself in your own mind, unless you change what you think in your own mind and challenge those thoughts.
That’s where the switch took place for me.
And for every small success I built on that, you know, as I told you, I, I barely made the bills. I barely made the bills. And, you know, and by the time we’ve gotten through all of this, I’ve got two children. I’ve put through college, bought a house on my own. I’ve been driving new cars. And like I had, I gave my children a whole life, whole life, and I’ve given myself a lot of gifts and not hitching my waggon to somebody else’s needs, but discovering the things that made me happy. And for me, that’s been art, it’s been a therapy, it’s been an escape. It’s been a release. It’s, you know, it’s just, it’s a very important part of my life. And it’s funny because in those years I thought, I thought that financial success was the success was the journey.
And two years ago, I reconnected with a boy that I’ve loved since I was eight years old. And as it happens, he was my husband’s very best friends since second grade. And we’ve been in contact through Facebook, social media, but really hadn’t been together in, I don’t know, probably 30 years. And he called me out of the blue one night and we started talking about childhood feelings or attraction to each other. And those fleeting, what ifs, if we weren’t with other people, we’d never so much just held hands. And I ended up flying Florida two weeks later. And by the end of that two weeks, I decided that this, this was what I wanted in my life. I wanted that peace. And I walked away from the business that I had built and was very successful. I walked away from all of my property. And as I said, my children are 23 and 25 now and said, have at it, whatever you can’t use or don’t want, let it go.
And here I am living, living a life that really feels whole for maybe the first time, because it’s not about rescuing. It’s not about what I do for everybody else, but it is finding the things that fulfil me and I’m still growing and learning in that. And that’s a beautiful thing. You know, I’m, I’m 58 years old. So beautiful thing to be able to say, there’s still more, there’s still more, I’m still learning. I’m still growing. I’m still figuring things out about myself. It’s a good feeling. You know, my children are, are doing beautifully, which was my biggest fear in the moment. And do I’ve come through this and see two whole adult human beings. Despite it all is probably the biggest accomplishment of my life.
Oh, Lisa, that’s just so wonderful. There’s, you’ve just given conveyed so much hope and everything that you’ve said there. And there’s quite a few points in there I’d like to, to, to pick out. Um, but if you were to look back at that whole journey, all of those things that you, that you mentioned, what do you think is the key thing that you realised about yourself through this experience?
I am not God. I am not God. And the key to my worth is not in fixing other people. It is not trying to make myself indispensable by fixing everybody else’s trauma. And, you know, from all the things that I read in our posts, so many people say, you know, I’ve done so much for them. Why don’t they get it because it’s not your job to do. And that is not the key to healing. The key to healing is not fixing other people’s problems, but for giving the support while people discover what those problems are and fix them for themselves. And it’s something that is on no one’s timeline, but their own, you know, and, and unfortunately, you know, people feel so much at risk because there’s a marriage and there’s small children and a house and the mortgage and all of those trappings that people get wrapped up in the fear of what they’re going to lose, the security of being paired with somebody, anybody else, even if they are neglected and abused and, and, you know, being in financial ruin as a result of it. But people are so desperate to hang on to what is familiar and not take risks.
You know, I think if I’ve learned anything through this risk is okay, and sometimes failure comes along risk. But to me, personal growth never comes when things are stagnant, personal growth comes from challenge and was challenged comes failure because if you were successful each and every time, then there would really be no fulfilment there. So I think, you know, that that’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve learned through all of this, you know, stop self-doubt stop that, stop that challenge it. Yeah. I think as women, especially we, we base our self-worth on so many things that are unimportant, you know, and, and for a lot of people, it is about the outward trappings of success, but that’s, that’s not success. 30 years of marriage. It’s not success. If it’s unhappy having a big house, it’s not success. If you feel alone in it. I, you know, and I’ve got to tell you, you know, the greatest thing that I ever did was give up all of those things that were a sign of success to the outside world and come and live on a boat.
I love that you’re living on a boat. Um, you’ve got the water in behind you. Biggest smile on your face. And living with compassion.
I love my husband and I, and I will always love my husband. I hate what happened to him. And then I love that I’m now married to someone that knew him, that I can freely share any thought that goes through my mind. When I think about my husband and he loved him too next this time next week is 14 years since he died, you know? And it’s nice not to have to hide my morning. I can share it with him, that he understands that I can do it freely.
People need to go where there is peace. I think that’s interesting that you mentioned morning because 14 years on, I think from my experience, the morning you move forward with your loved one in your life. It’s not something that you get over and that the pain goes away. It’s still there at times, ebbs and flows and certain things that happen. Um, for me, that bring back those memories of the happy times and how they’re not, how he’s, how he’s gone, but he’s still there
In our hearts. It will continue forever because for every child’s graduation or accolade or, or new experience, the wishing that their father could be, there will always be there. Yeah. My daughter’s high school graduation and auditorium filled with people everyone’s smiling and happy and clapping. And I could see my daughter after graduation through the crowd and we’re making our way to each other. And I could see the tears in her eyes. And she said to me, mom, do you think dad would be proud of me? And the two of us broke down in a, in a sobbing heap in the middle of that auditorium and no one around us understood why, you know, but those are the moments I think will continue to come. You know, my children still have weddings ahead of them and there’s grandchildren that he’s gonna miss out on. And it’s, it’s a journey that I, it will go on forever, but I’ve been able to, um, have a perspective around it now, but I didn’t in those early years.
And if I could ask you, I’d like to end on a happy memory. What does a happy memory that you hold?
There are so many, it’s really, it’s difficult. It’s difficult for me. I’m going to give you my most freeing memory. It was a couple of years after my divorce from Richard. And he had said to me, Lisa, I don’t blame you for leaving. I understand why you did. And he apologised. He apologised. And there was just, it allowed for me to not feel the guilt of the decisions that I needed to make. You know, he acknowledged it and really understood it, not just staying the words, but really feeling and believing it. He knew why, you know, but the happy memories, I mean, you know, known each other for 25 years, it’s a long time. There there’s a lot, which makes it hard to let go.
Yes, absolutely. That’s good that you have so many memories there and I’m sure no doubt that you’ve shared those with your children as well, all the time, so important. What’s something that you’re grateful for
That I finally been able to be honest about the things that I want in my life and feel worthy of obtaining them and stuff, giving myself away to other people to find my value. I hold it. It’s always been mine and it’s not cooked to someone else telling me that I have value
Lisa. That’s absolutely wonderful. And I think, gratitude is a wonder for way to end the episode. I think with gratitude, we have a positive mindset that enables us to see each day differently and all the challenges that it may bring are easier to overcome with a more positive mindset. I’m extremely grateful for you sharing your story with us. Um, oh, there’s so much in there to, um, to work through, you know, coming from moving away from anger to a place of compassion, recognising, um, the talk in your head, the self doubt and overcoming that, uh, believing in yourself.
Oh, there’s, there’s so much there. Uh, thank you for sharing.
And it’s been wonderful to meet you and to see you on your boat and that absolutely beautiful setting in the states. Thank you.