Relationship Advice

In Plain Sight

Disheveled woman on porch

I am having a difficult time with my wife. We have two boys, 18 and 15, and I am a successful businessman. Our life is pretty good, but last year I had knee replacement surgery from an old football injury and during that time my wife became depressed as she said she could not handle the situation.

I have since fully recovered, but my wife has not. She has continued with her depression and seems to think it is okay to live on medication and pain pills. I am not a big believer in depression and was raised fundamentally different from my wife. I work for everything I have and my wife thinks it should be given to her.

The problem involves her constant use of pain pills, or sleeping pills, or depression meds. She will not get a second opinion and hides all the prescription meds from me, but since I have to pay for everything I do find out what she is taking. She sometimes lays around all morning sleeping and not even getting up to fix anyone breakfast but herself, then stays up late watching TV, only to start all over again the next day.

She has become lazy, so lazy she started a cereal box container next to the bread box for old recycled plastic, cans, etc. I asked what this was, and she says she is tired of walking 10 steps to the garage door and placing recyclables in the recycle bin outside in the garage.

This has also affected our love life. We used to be pretty passionate and many times would go out with friends or by ourselves and have dinner and a drink or two, then come home and maybe have another drink and go to bed and make love. We have not done this in over two years.

All of this is causing me to become frustrated with my wife that I love and the pill-popping, lazy person who does not want to work or keep a clean house, help our kids with studies, or be a loving wife to her husband.

I recently had to take away all her credit cards as she was spending $4000/month on clothes and shoes. This has happened more than once. I cannot trust her anymore as there have been several instances where she has deceived or lied to me. It started with my pain pills during my surgery.

I mistakenly gave her a couple of pills one time, only to have her steal them from me continually even after I begged her to stop because I needed them since I just had my knee replaced. This probably led to her depression as I quit the pain pills as soon as I could.

Once, after she got home from getting my prescription filled, I counted the pills and came up 14 short of the 100 count. I did this because the previous day I ran out early. I meticulously took only the advised number of pills each day and it was easy to calculate when I would run out. Her dishonesty with my pain pills, which I needed, was hard to understand.

Now she is dishonest in other ways. She went out and got her own credit card and she stole a credit card out of my wallet to use. I do sometimes give her the Sam's Club credit card for groceries, and when I do, she goes out to other stores and buys clothes, etc. She gets a $2500 allowance for her own spending money but still seems to have to steal from me.

Recently she got another prescription filled for pain pills from another medical doctor because our own family doctor would not refill her. She did this without my knowledge, and the new doctor's office charged my credit card. I have since ordered a new credit card number and will not put my wife on the card.

I believe she is out of control mentally and financially, and I am running out of patience. I don't want to think of divorce as I want my kids to have two parents together, but I long for female companionship, love, simple parenting, a clean house and a little bit of structure.

What can I do to start her on a drug-free relationship with me and the kids? Please give me good advice.


Clark, most of us don't have the experience or training to deal with a schizophrenic or a sociopath. As airport screeners, most of us would do a cavity search on the innocent, and smile at the fanatic and wave him through. We are out of our venue, unqualified to deal with the task at hand.

That's what we thought when we read your letter.

If addiction has not been in your world, you don't know how to recognize it. You are too close to deal with it. You are ill-equipped to deal with this kind of contagion.

You paint a portrait of your wife as a woman who won't walk 10 steps to the garage, who fails in her ordinary life tasks, who lies, deceives and conceals. You gave us the portrait of a junkie, a full-blown addict.

Because you tie her behavior to a relatively recent event—your knee replacement—you may have overlooked past signs. Perhaps you haven't had time to think about it, to incorporate it into your life or to reexamine the past.

We suspect her behavior has been out of control for longer than you realize. That's typically the case for someone living with a person gradually developing a chemical dependency.

Would you ever have imagined your wife would steal your pills or shop around to get more? No. You are 10 steps behind her. Could progressive alcohol abuse be her startup? Because it is cheap, widely available and socially accepted, her addiction may have started there, years ago, and alcohol addiction is easily concealed.

Usually, when someone does a lot of shopping, it is to buy moments of happiness. In the case of your wife, it appears to fit a pattern of addictive behavior.

Other questions you might ask yourself: Would I know $4000 worth of clothes if I saw them? Could she be returning some clothes for cash or selling them at high-end resale shops? How many other doctors might she have gotten prescriptions from? Are there other sources of pills?

A non-addicted person can't imagine the thought process of an addicted person. Without training or past experience, you have zero ability to deal with the deceit of an addict.

Any addiction is a contagion. It can affect children in ways which cannot be undone. It can affect your finances, your place in the community, and it can lead to the criminal court system. Anything between an addict and their addiction is the enemy.

You have to be as hard and as unyielding as the addiction, and give the addict consequences.

On the path to recovery, it would be wonderful if you could work together with your wife. But it appears she will stonewall you even on a basic step like getting a second opinion. That is typical. She has something to hide, and she will resist all attempts to shine a light on her secrets.

She has to participate and be working on her own treatment for there to be any chance for recovery. Otherwise your life must come to focus on yourself and your children.

What you need now is beyond the scope of an advice column.

There is a chain of help which probably starts with your family doctor and extends to those experienced with chemical dependency. That chain may include mental health specialists.

If you trust the family doc, and he or she does consults, that's a place to begin for a referral. Otherwise, check out agencies, treatment centers and individuals familiar with addiction and decide who you want to work with. Don't include your wife in the process. Work out a strategy first.

The path back from addiction is long, hard and frequently ends in failure. You may be right. This could lead to divorce.

We understand your need for female companionship. But don't cheat. It dirties the water. It can set a pattern for your sons. It can cause them to lose respect for you or set a pattern for their own behavior. It also can give your wife a post-divorce excuse. "After Clark cheated I started to take pain pills to cope..."

The best strategy is to follow an honorable course, then make a realistic decision about the future.

Wayne & Tamara

Four days later:

Wayne & Tamara, Thank you. I have a lot to think about and evaluate. Wow! Clark

A month later:

Hi Wayne & Tamara,

FYI, my wife admitted yesterday that she is a drug addict. WE are seeking help and taking the appropriate steps to assess her current condition, detox if necessary, and then move forward to get back to normalcy.

I wanted to send you this note as thanks and as a compliment to your correct assessment of both her and my awareness of this problem. You were absolutely correct about my wife being an addict and correct about me as well, not seeing or probably not wanting to think that my wife was a drug addict and being 10 steps behind her.

I thank you again, but if you remember my first response was Wow!

I did not believe you then, but I do now.