“Something’s wrong with Eddie.”
In four words, my entire wedding day collapsed around me. I’d just arrived at a beautiful Gothic chapel in a rented 1950 Rolls Royce, mom and dad on either side of me, prepared for a picture-perfect first look with my groom. As his mother’s words echoed in my ear, I immediately thought of all the scenarios that could be easily remedied so we could move forward with our day. Perhaps he was having GI distress, maybe his shirt had torn, maybe just wedding day nerves. But soon, I would realize that it was much worse. Ten minutes later, he was in front of me, speaking words that made no sense. He thought it was Thursday. I told him how nice he looked in his tuxedo, and he thanked me, making no mention of how radiant I looked in my dream wedding gown. A short time later, it became obvious that there would be no wedding. I had no idea what was happening, but his family obviously knew that sleep would remedy the situation. So, he went to the hotel to sleep while 80 of our dearest friends enjoyed our reception one floor below. I spent the evening crying in my wedding dress on a friend’s screened porch, completely dumbfounded by what had just occurred.
A message from his ex-wife the following week simply said, “You just married an addict. Watch your script pads.” I wasn’t surprised by this. After all, his ex-wife was a drug addict herself; a hospice nurse who had been apparently arrested for stealing narcotics and who had forged prescriptions in my husband’s name. He’d explained that his background check would show court cases, and this was why.
Winter was difficult. My husband would often fall asleep at restaurants (he was obese, so I figured sleep apnea), say things that made absolutely no sense (he was tired, he’d say), and do very bizarre things. One morning, I came downstairs at 6 a.m. to find that he’d been awake all night reorganizing our kitchen drawers. He thought it was still evening and told me that he’d come to bed soon. He was baffled when I told him that it was 6 a.m.
One week before Valentine’s Day, the morning after a major ice storm, I found my husband asleep, face-down, on our kitchen floor. I woke him to remind him that he had a job interview that morning. Seeing that it had apparently been a rough night, I encouraged him to text his recruiter to reschedule, with the ice storm as a convenient excuse. After watching him drift in and out of sleep for almost 20 minutes while trying to send this text, I offered to do it for him. He handed over his phone. I still have trouble wrapping my head around what I saw.
“I’m sorry I missed the meeting. My wife was in a terrible car accident and the sheriff was at our house, so my mind wasn’t in the right place. Also, she is pregnant with our first child.”
None of this was true. The message below, written but never sent, outlined my apparent injuries.
“She has a concussion, two broken wrists, broken ribs and airbag burns.”
“What the hell is this?” I asked.
For the rest of my days, I will never forget the nonchalant way in which he responded, “What? I couldn’t’ tell her that my alarm didn’t go off.”
That response suddenly made everything clear to me. If he could lie about that, he must have been lying about so much else during our relationship. It was as thought clouds parted to reveal a blue sky of clarity in my mind. I reached out to his ex-wife, and she shared with me his history of opioid abuse which started following bowel surgery. After our conversation, I got both a lawyer and a copy of his court records. Prior to the creation of prescription monitoring databases, my husband had forged more than 20 prescriptions for OxyContin, Klonopin, and Xanax. He pled guilty but never served time, likely (in my mind) because he is a middle-class white professional man. He was somehow able to have his records sealed so no future dates will have access to his history.
Things unraveled from there. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked, “How did you not see that? You’re a doctor and you didn’t recognize this?”
Apparently, love really is blind. Also, I’d never grown up around substance abuse. I had no idea what “nodding off” was. I took him to a neurologist, desperate for a medical reason for the strange things he was doing. I did everything I could to preserve his dignity when acquaintances asked what was going on.
If offered the chance, I would not change a thing. I learned to trust my gut when something doesn’t feel right. I learned to see red flags. I learned to listen – truly listen – when my family and friends are concerned.
Many will read this and say, “Wow, I can’t believe she fell for that.” Please feel free to judge me. I can promise that you will never judge me as harshly as I have already judged myself.
Lauren Roth is a family physician.
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