Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Secret

I carried a secret.  I couldn't tell people. No one could know.  My husband had addiction issues, and it was our family secret.  We put on our smiles and went to church each Sunday, and no one knew.  We visited his family twice a year and pretended everything was fine, and they never knew.

People only know what you tell them.  They may observe or sense that something is off, but in the end its still a secret.  And it eats at you.  Even though the issues weren't mine, I carried the shame and embarrassment.  I felt people would look at me differently if they knew how messed up our home had become.  I wondered if they would question my integrity and morals because of his integrity breaches and moral failures.  So I kept a secret from as many people as possible.  And I had to.  He was my husband and I couldn't publicly air his dirty laundry. I had to honor him, and protect him. After all, love covers a multitude of sins.  Or at least that was what I told myself.

A select handful of people knew, and I'm grateful that I had the courage to tell them. Because I needed help.  I needed support.  I needed encouragement.  I needed prayers.  The weight of that secret could have torn me apart without my friends knowing.  When my heart was broken, I was frustrated, or I didn't think I could handle one more thing happening, they were there.  They kept me from falling apart.  They carried some of the weight.  But they were the only ones that understood the intensity of the issues tearing our lives apart.

On the day he died of a drug overdose, I had a secret.  The secret killed him, but how could I share it now?  Was I ready? How do I air his dirty laundry at the funeral meant to honor his life? How do I explain to his parents that he died when they had no idea how sick he was.  And then there is my step daughter.  What would life be like for her, if everyone knew the truth of how he died?  Its hard enough for her to stand in the funeral home, staring at pictures of a life she can never again have, glancing across the room at the shell of what once was her hero; but to know everyone knew the secret? I couldn't do it.  Personally, I wasn't ready.  I carried the shame of his addiction.  I felt "guilty by association."  

So I didn't say.  I can imagine the confusion people must have had. The questions of how a young 38 year old husband and father could now be lying in a casket.  But I did what was right for my family.  I wanted to honor Jonathan.  His addictions may have killed him, but I would not let them define him.  I wanted my daughter to be free to grieve and deal with the loss without being concerned about people talking bad about her dad.  And I needed time to process.  I needed to process what had just happened, what we just lived through, and gain strength to share what was secret for so long.

And even though I didn't have the issues, I always felt that people would judge me for his actions.  If he was addicted to drugs and alcohol wouldn't I have been involved? Perhaps they would even judge the kind of wife I was, because of his problems. When they asked what happened at the funeral home, I simply said, "We don't have all the answers yet, the autopsy report hasn't come back yet."  And that was true.  Of course several government agencies needed the actual cause of death, and as I told them, I felt this need to say, "But I don't live my life that way."

Isn't it sad that I would feel the shame, even though the actions weren't mine? It seems ironic but thats what happens.  As wives, as mothers, we feel a need to protect.  I still feel the weight of the secret, even though I'm much more open about sharing what happened. I have had time to process, and I know that someone out there needs to hear my story, so they can make it through theirs.  I'm careful who I share with, and what I share.  But I've learned that secrets destroy.  I can not cover up his sins, his addictions, and his issues any longer.  But even as I share, I can honor him, and his memory.  I can help women find strength.  I can be free!  

A secret is bondage.  It ties you to the very thing you most want to be free of.  There is power in sharing and reaching out.  The power comes from exposing the secret.  What secrets are you carrying today? I encourage you, find a safe person to share them.  Don't carry that weight, to take on another person's burden.  Speak it out and find freedom.  I have.


  1. I don't comment on your blog a lot because I don't have much to say. But I think you're an amazing writer and an amazing woman. You're a great wife who is honoring your husband even now that he's gone.

  2. This is one my favorite posts of yours! So well said, my friend. So touching, so inspiring... it will set many free and empower them to remove the mask!

  3. know Pastor Dennis and I will always love you and Jonathan. I have been in your you know Kristopher has addictions also. So sad that you or I want to help but you really just can't. We have tried to help Kristopher on so many occasions. I love him and pray for him but that is all I can do when they don't want to get the help they need. By sharing with your close friends you are also keeping Satan from trying to remind you of that dirty little secret. When we expose the truth the devil has to flee. I pray you find such peace and joy in 2012. You are amazing...stay strong. Love Sandy

  4. Deanna, Thank you so much for sharing this journey with me. I always hope to reflect that honor despite the hurt and pain I have felt. Thank you for affirming me that I have!

    Elizabeth, Thank you. That is why I am sharing, to help women who are walking through what I have.

    Pastor Sandy, I'm so excited you have been reading my blog. :) I'm sure you can see the healing I've been walking out. I know you understand how you can love a person and see past their addictions. Its hard to do, and those who haven't lived it don't know how. I will continue to pray for your family!

  5. A wonderful post and what courage you have displayed sharing this. I have a friend who is in a marriage and she is doing the EXACT thing you talked about "protecting him". I'm going to refer her to your blog post.

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I lost my husband in April 2011 and your posts are very healing or me. Thank you!

  6. Kathy, I'm so glad you are finding healing here. That is why I share my most intimate thoughts, my personal diary, on the internet! Please send her here, and if she wants to reach out to a safe stranger who understands, she can email me -Jenn

  7. Jen, Everytime I read your blog I feel that you lighten something in my heart. I am hoping to have the opportunity to meet you at the Princess Half. The strength we find in others can only be by the grace of god! Robin

  8. Thank you Jennifer. I have come a very long way, made huge improvements to my personal life, since I met you at NWMC, but even more since joining the military. But my biggest helper in molding me into the man I am today is surprisingly my wife.

    Yes I was completely miserable for a solid 8 yrs. I stuck in there like most do, for the kids. I also had a faint hope that she would turn things around. After all she was a best friend to me while we were friends and dating. Then after we got married and had our daughter, she started slipping. When my son joined us, I saw a big change in her, negatively. Years upon years of drug abuse, infidelity, lies, extreme debt, sleepless nights, emptiness, a delicate sore heart longing for a deep passion that no longer existed. I thought I was doomed for eternity. I almost felt that I deserved this treatment. This was normal to me. Even growing up this was normal mental abuse. I didn't know any better. And after I finally stepped up to the plate and demanded freedom from this heavy bondage, it still took 13 months of a one-sided divorce for the inevitable to show itself.

    That night was the absolute hardest moment of my life. I couldn't stand, couldn't stop crying, I couldn't wrap my head around it. How could she do such a selfish act, not only for herself, family, friends.......but our beautiful children....the heavy emptiness that I have for my kids, is unexplainable. I know you can fathom these emotions. And when it would pass my thoughts, I always believed the very thing that she turned to, would eventually do her in. I knew how much baggage she carried deep down inside. I tried to help, but you can't help the unwilling. I couldn't stand by her side anymore. I seriously lost myself. I was not myself anymore. People would tease me all the time for being angry, short fused, bad temper, etc. But I knew that that was not me. That wasn't who I was, I was far better then that. I was screaming inside for warmth, love, compassion, a wife that I always envisioned in my thoughts. But I didn't have that, instead I felt that I had three kids. Two that were well behaved and one rebel. It felt like a roommate that refused to move out, that ate all of the food, didn't pull their weight around the house. It was pathetic. But I stuck it out because I thought that that was what I was supposed to do. I was raised in a Christian home that also hid a lot of secrets. But I was hoping for a day where I could stand up, and say enough is enough.

    Reason why I never left her, was because she always said that I would lose the kids. She would control that, and I had no chance to have sole custody. I was literally brain washed. Most say that I was crazy, how could she possibly keep them from me. But when you hear the same things over and over and over, you believe them.

    After these long tangents, what I really wanted to put out there was this. My biggest obstacle right now, is thinking about the loss my kids have to live with. Yes, don't get me wrong, I miss her. I truly do miss her, and would much rather deal with her stubborn mouthy self. That was her though. But what I miss about her, was the person that I met 12 yrs prior to her death. I fell in love with Rachael Jean Brown, not Rachael Jean Trimborn. Everyday I struggle with keeping my mind from wandering, from entering that desolate planet of thoughts. I try to wear a smile everyday. And I have been smiling more and more. I started finding myself again after I filed for divorce. I actually enjoyed going to work, and more so, leaving work and coming home. I was on the uphill to recovery, then I got hit with her suicide....

  9. ....I can only thank my support system. I am truly blessed to have such amazing friends, a brother/best friend, an amazing Dad and stepmother. These people, and all of the previous hardships that I've gone through have carried me through this. I am so thankful for all of those hard years growing up, the horrible experiences from the past, because that made it that much easier for me to cope and keeping walking forward.