SALT LAKE CITY — For Alan Richards, losing both his job and his house in the same year was incredibly difficult. But he says it couldn’t compare to the pain of almost losing his wife to alcohol addiction throughout it all.
He recently joined the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast to tell the story of a disease that would plague his family for a decade.
Alan recalls the early years of his wife’s alcohol addiction
Countless factors can be the cause of alcohol addiction. Whether it’s genetics, behavioral tendencies, or just numbing the pain, alcohol can seem like a quick band-aid for many problems that we face on a day to day basis. For Alan’s wife, years of abuse and trauma laid the groundwork that allowed her alcohol addiction to flourish.
“Everything through her life … she’s been through a lot. She’s been in relationships where she’s been mentally abused, physically abused,” Alan described. “She had issues growing up. She was teased all of the time and all of this just compounded onto her.”
And even though the two have been together for fourteen years, Alan recognizes his wife’s alcohol addiction as the root of years of damage. For the last six to seven years, she has been battling her alcohol addiction. For the couple, things got drastically worse when Alan lost his job of twenty-four years, almost eleven years ago.
“In 2009, we got married; two months after we got married I lost my job. In August, she lost her dad. A year later, we lost the house,” he explained.
Once Alan lost his job and the house, he began to realize how bad things were getting. He would find liquor bottles that his wife had hidden in strange places throughout the house.
Not until she started drinking directly from the liquor bottle did Alan realize the extent of her addiction.
Drinking from the bottle to a shimmer of hope
“I think she knew deep down that she was getting to a different level of drinking,” he said. “Even when she was drunk all of the time, she did everything she could to prove to me that she wasn’t drunk.
“Even though, you could see her staggering from one end of the room to the other end of the room and falling and slurring her words.”
His wife’s addiction kept advancing and Alan says her abusing quickly grew. But the two were able to sit down and try and repair the damage that had been done. After struggling with her alcohol addiction for years, the couple was able to find some resemblance of normalcy, he says, at least for a while.
“The crazy thing was, she went thirteen months sober. She really got herself clean. Our relationship was incredible,” he added.
That was until the two were able to take a getaway after Alan won an overnight stay at a local hotel. The two were just lounging around playing Rummy until Alan’s wife had a slight relapse.
“It got to where she was comfortable to where I could have a drink in front of her and she was fine,” Alan said. “I got up to go to the restroom and when I came out I saw her hurry and put my drink down and I said, ‘What the heck did you just do?'”
Taking a turn for the worst
Shortly after her relapse, Alan’s wife was jailed after receiving her first DUI. Three weeks after that, she would spend time in jail again for driving with a suspended license. To make matters worse, she would spend time in jail again for her second DUI after she drove into a parked vehicle.
“That’s when her life went upside down. She’s been in and out of jail, over and over,” he said.
The pressure was getting so bad for Alan, that last June, he decided he had had enough. He says he couldn’t handle the stress and chaos anymore.
“I was on my way home and I’m just like, ‘I’m done. I cannot walk into that door anymore and go through what I go through on a daily basis,'” Alan said.
Alan had begun having suicidal thoughts. He drove home to get his gun and says he planned to drive into the mountains and end his life. On his way home, though, he got a call from his own cellphone. When he looked down, he saw a picture of his two daughters and his three grandchildren.
“Immediately, I just broke down and started crying,” he said. “So I pulled over off the side of the road, I’m crying and I’m like, ‘I cannot believe that I’m thinking this way,'” he said.
“Just because of what’s going on in my home life, I’m thinking about going and taking my own life.”
That’s when Alan knew it was time for a change.
Alan’s wife’s last hope
“For years and for months, I really thought I could fix my wife,” Alan said. “But you know, I was enabling her and I didn’t realize it.”
Alan says he learned that he could not truly comprehend his wife’s alcohol addiction and that the only person who could help his wife was her. Alan’s wife began another stint at rehabilitation to help combat her alcohol addiction. But during this time Alan would move out of their shared apartment. He began to ignore all of her phone calls and even started the process of filing for a divorce.
What was supposed to be a six- to eight-week process, became a long ordeal. Months would go by where Alan wouldn’t hear anything. Sometimes he would get a call from the state inquiring if he would still like to go on with the divorce, which he would affirm.
Months later he received a call from the state. They were ready to begin working on his case.
“When I hung up, I got this knot in my stomach and I just got this weird, weird feeling like, ‘What the heck are you doing,'” Alan said.
Alan immediately questioned his own decision to begin the process of divorce. He wondered if he was really going to leave his wife to struggle on her own; if he was going to give up on their marriage.
“A couple of days after that … I went to visit her, saying, ‘look, I can’t ask you to promise me anything because of where you’re at but if you’re willing to give this 100%, more than you’ve ever given it in all of the other times, I promise you I will be right by your side,'” Alan said.
Putting alcohol addiction in the past
Alan’s wife was ordered by the state to stay at rehab for six months following her last stint in jail. If she was kicked out or anything happened at her stay in rehabilitation, she would be immediately sent to jail for three years.
So with her husband’s support and the incentive to stay out of jail, Alan’s wife was able to successfully complete rehab a little over a month ago.
“She’s been doing extremely well. She’s a little over seven months sober. I went with her to get her six-month [Alcoholics Anonymous] chip,” Alan explained. “Her whole demeanor is completely different. I can see that her character is so much stronger and she’s just got this confidence in herself.”
Even after all of the abuse and struggling to overcome his wife’s alcohol addiction, Alan believes they are stronger because of it.
“This has made us both so much stronger, and it has really helped me develop even more as a person, which I’ve wanted to do ever since I lost my job eleven years ago,” he said. “I didn’t want to be the person who I was. I wanted to be somebody different, who I thought I could be.”
Listen to the podcast
For more information on addiction or if you or someone you know is struggling, you can find more information on Facebook, KSL TV, or from Use Only as Directed. To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get major podcasts.
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