Maine Focus

Even with an addiction and the death of my husband, why I have hope

Posted Oct. 28, 2015, at 10:30 a.m.
Last modified Nov. 02, 2015, at 10:32 a.m.

We will all experience bitterness. I’m learning, though, that it’s a waste of life. Even with an addiction, and with the death of my husband, let me tell you why I have hope.

I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts. I got married, had a child, earned my licensed practical nurse degree, divorced and remarried. I had done the usual experimentation with drugs in high school, but I had never developed a habit.

I drank during times of stress, which turned into maintenance drinking, which is when the body needs a certain level of alcohol just to function.

That went on for about 10 years.

Circumstances put me in an area where heroin was abundant. After trying it, it wasn’t long before I got hooked.

I used daily for about four years, during which time I did things that I was not proud of.

I fell in love with my dealer, knowing full well that two addicted people usually cannot manage a viable relationship. We were lucky.

We both got on methadone in 1994 and spent the next couple decades living happy, productive lives. Our individual strengths complemented one another, and we even started a store in Eastport together. (I do woodburning and painting.)

Sadly, after a brief battle with cancer, I lost my husband last year.

He was the bravest man I knew, and he stayed clean right to the end. I had had my share of challenges over the years, but this was different. I had lost my soulmate, my constant companion, the person who in a large way was how I defined myself. I couldn’t picture a future without him.

I’m sure I was mentally relapsing for about six months before I actually used.

When I did, it was to dull the pain. Even after 21 years of staying clean, the insidious nature of addiction doesn’t change. But those 21 years helped me to think it through and stop using before it was too late.

I am grateful to have the insight now to realize that using again was really just a form of slow suicide. I was reminded of a line from the film “Shawshank Redemption,” which said, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” I can’t put it any better than that.

After we first began methadone treatment, we began feeding a large flock of wild ducks that gathered at a local park. We spent the next several years feeding them daily. It helped us to heal in so many ways. We learned again how to be committed and responsible, and we felt needed. The grace and dignity we observed in those ducks taught us empathy, and so much more.

I have come away from it all a stronger person, and though I took a step back, I am again moving forward. With the right help — in my case, methadone and my husband — it’s possible. It’s even possible after great loss.

I have hope because I have learned that life is good, even when I am unable to see it. Addiction has taught me that emotions are neutral, and it’s how we act upon them that defines us. Happiness is not a constant state of being, but an ebb and flow.

We are all put to the test in one form or another. I don’t look in the mirror to determine how I feel about myself; I look at my behavior. What I don’t do is many times more important than what I do.

Amy Price lives in Bangor.

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