Other Stories of Addiction/Recovery

Soldier, Father loses Wife to Overdose

I was young, and met a girl, as the story always goes. We very quickly were married, in the summer of 2012, and almost immediately after the wedding I was told I’d be going to Afghanistan. We had about 5 months before I left. Looking back now, there signs I should have recognized. Mysterious pains and excuses to go to an emergency room, even during a holiday vacation.

Prior to my deployment, we became pregnant. I was ecstatic at the thought of getting to be a dad. Missing every appointment while I was gone was difficult, but I knew it would all be worth it. When my son was born, my commander made it so I could have uninterrupted access to some internet so I could attempt to watch the birth of my son on a video call. We were scheduled to come home 7 weeks after his birth.

3 weeks after he was born, my wife passed in her sleep on my mother’s couch with our newborn next to him. I was sent home through the Red Cross, and prepared myself to bury my wife, and be a brand-new dad. When I returned home and started going through all of her things, I discovered multiple bottles for prescription narcotic painkillers, all issued two days before she passed. Every bottle was empty. Only after she passed did her father decide to tell me that they knew she had a problem. I found out that while I was gone, she was spending hundreds every few days on pills to share with her mother, who has been off again on again with addiction her whole life. It took me several years to come to terms with the fact that she overdosed. The coroner knew I was military, and in his report, he stated that the cause of death was undetermined. It became clear when I could finally admit that she overdosed that he marked it that way thinking he was doing a favor of some kind to me, perhaps to make sure I got the life insurance.

I returned home to a funeral, a baby who was very underweight and being weened off methodone, and an emptied bank account.

My son is now 10, and struggles with behavioral issues and is diagnosed autistic. I always wonder what aspects of the challenges he faces in school with focus could possibly have a link to her active abuse of painkillers while pregnant.

I still have a good relationship with her family, with the exception of her mother, and more recently her brother, who himself has been in and out of abusing fentanyl and other opiates for the past 6 years.

Thank you for providing this place, where we can share our stories of how addiction has affected our lives, and for working so hard to make a difference in people’s lives. I didn’t realize how much this all really meant to me, didn’t understand the magnitude of it until I started hearing other’s stories, and seeing how candid Josh is about his own story.

5 thoughts on “Soldier, Father loses Wife to Overdose”

  1. It’s almost the realization of the betrayal after the fact that hurts more than the actual loss. I can only speak from my own experience at least. I’m so proud of you for sharing your story and for the strength it takes to keep going after that and be there for your son. There’s power in feeling and processing our experiences, there is strength after the breakdown. Never be afraid to feel things, just don’t let them own you.

    Forever proud of you

  2. First and foremost, it took a lot of bravery to share this with us and I’m so proud of you.
    Second, my heart goes out to you and your son. This is an incredibly tragic thing to happen; I can’t even imagine the strength it took for you to carry on and parent after that. I’d like to touch on how you said you “should have recognized” the signs prior to deployment, because this is not your fault. When someone you love is battling addiction, the signs aren’t always recognizable. I hope you carry with you that fact, and don’t place any responsibility on yourself for the loss of your wife. I hope time is helping you heal and continues to do so, and I hope your son knows how incredibly lucky he is to have you in his life.
    Thank you again for sharing!

  3. This is beautifully written. Your son is so lucky to have a dad that can provide an example of what it is to be both strong and vulnerable. The fact that you can still carry on a healthy relationship with her family proves that you’ve done everything right. I know the weight of guilt that happens when tragedy strikes from far away and I hope that you balance that with the pride of continuing on, even in the face of such a momentous change and challenge so young. Your story is going to help others, has helped others, and will encourage others to share theirs as well. Thank you for posting.

  4. Wow. This one hits home for me…

    I’m currently deployed, and I recently had a heart-to-heart with my brother who admitted he’s been struggling with addiction again. It was a tough conversation where confessed to the lies he’d told to keep his addiction hidden from his friends. I urged him to speak with his friends, seek counseling, and join a recovery group, and I’m grateful that he took everything seriously seriously even if it did take a couple weeks. However, my worry lingers.

    He assured me that his drug use has been minimal and that he just slipped into some bad habits, but I can’t help but think that he might still be hiding the full extent of his struggles from me, as he once did during our childhood. While he was in prison , he shared a few stories that brought his fight with addiction to light, so the fear of him ending up back in prison or worse, losing his life to addiction, is frightening. I think it’s difficult for every deployment member of the armed forces knowing you might be called back home for a devastating reason, but I have this devastating reason in view now. It’s not just a hypothetical because he started using again.

    My reason for sharing this is to let you know that I understand how challenging it is to be far from home and deeply concerned about a family member. I’ve seen firsthand how well addicts can conceal their addiction, which is why I believe in the power of honesty and seeking help. Josh says, “you’ve got to come clean to get clean” because an addict can be very good at hiding the truth from the people that love them.

    Your courage to share your story here is immensely valuable, and it’s a testament to your strength. It’s given me a place to process some of my own feelings about my brother. I want to thank you directly for that. You’ve already helped one person.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing. I am sure someone, somewhere is going through something similar and does not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Your dedication to being a good father and your empathy are incredible characteristics.

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