Enduring His Wife’s Addiction

wife-and-husband-sunset-holding-hands-featured-w740x493Shuffling through the mail, Brad Kremmer pulled out several envelopes from credit card companies and ripped them open. His muscles tightened as he skimmed over the new balances. “She’s lied again,” Brad realized. His wife, Jennifer, had promised to stop gambling at the casino and going on out-of-control buying sprees. Instead, she had gone through at least another two thousand dollars.

“Jennifer, you’ve got to stop. Can’t you see we’ll end up going bankrupt?”

“I’m stuck home all day with nothing to do but take care of Kristin and housework,” she yelled. “All you do is complain and treat me like a child. I’m sick of it and I’m sick of you…I’m leaving!

Brad looked out the window as his wife sped off in the direction of the casino, where so much of his hard-earned money had gone the last couple months.

Dear God,” he prayed. “Watch over her. I’ll do whatever it takes to help her, but I don’t know what to do anymore. Please help us so Kristin and I can have her back the way she was.”

“Daddy,” his two-year-old daughter’s voice broke his reverie. “Where’s mommy?”

“She’s taking a little break, Kristin,” Brad answered gently picking her up. “Let’s get something to eat and then we can go for a walk, okay?”

Brad smiled at his little girl and choked back his tears. There was a time when he and Jennifer delighted together in their daughter. Ironically, Jennifer’s addiction emerged shortly after he began getting serious about his faith.

Falling in Love

Brad and Jennifer were only twenty and nineteen, when they married on June 27, 1992. A physical attraction sparked immediately when they met and the emotional attraction followed easily. Brad was from a Catholic family with four children. Jennifer was Catholic too, but she had been raised as an only child of a single mom.

Brad started his own graphic arts business and Jennifer had her own shoe shine company. Life was good. Two years into the marriage, Jennifer discovered she was pregnant In spite of a twinge of fear, excitement over having a baby filled her. Brad was one-hundred-percent thrilled.

Within a few weeks, after Kristin’ entered the world, Jennifer began to embrace her new role as a mother. Jennifer and Brad agreed that she would stay home to care for the baby. Jennifer often delighted in buying pretty baby girl things and dressing Kristin up like a little princess. But as Kristin went from baby to toddler, life became routine. During February of 1996, Brad and Jennifer planned a trip to Disney World to escape the winter doldrums. At nineteen months, Kristin, was an easy-going toddler who would enjoy the vacation too. The trip turned out to be the trip of a lifetime, but when they returned home, Jennifer felt suffocated by the monotony of housework, a lingering winter and the demands of childcare.

Restless

A restlessness nagged at her. Anything associated with religion also became a bore for her at this time. “I feel like Catholicism was shoved down my throat as a child, ” she complained to Brad. “I don’t know if it’s right for me. Let’s take a look at some other churches.”

Brad had no interest in looking around at different faiths and she resented that he did not support her interest. “Do what you have to do,” he told her, “but I’m not going anywhere.” While many of his old friends had started turning to cocaine and dealing drugs, Brad began embracing his faith with a passion; even to the point of attending regular spiritual retreats put on by Opus Dei.

He could not share his enthusiasm with Jennifer, however. Even going to Mass was more than she cared to do. Occasional shopping trips brought Jennifer some relief from her boredom. Buying clothes was fun and it also made her feel good to dress up Kristin or herself in something new. Getting a sitter and going out with Brad was something else that Jennifer enjoyed. One of her favorite things to do was to go to the casino with Brad and her mother. They would take forty dollars and make an evening out of it.

As Jennifer’s restlessness grew, her nights out with girlfriends increased, usually at the casino. Before long, Jennifer started going to the casino alone when she could not find someone to go with her. Often she drove home feeling euphoric, with a few hundred dollars more than she walked in with. But more often, she had to keep feeding money into the insatiable machines that sucked up her coins.

The excitement and intensity of gambling made Jennifer feel alive while the dull hues of the rest of life was something just to get through. The only other enjoyment she had at this time was shopping. As the bills mounted, Brad took notice. “Jennifer, how many clothes do you need?” And your gambling is getting out of hand,” he’d say. “You need to stop.”

Jennifer would promise to stop but then the deep down craving to release her tension and pull herself out of the doldrums by gambling grew until she could not stand it.

Brad’s stomach began to tighten when Jennifer mentioned going out. “Is she really going out with friends or to gamble?” Brad wondered. When the credit card bills kept increasing, it was obvious Jennifer had started lying to him.

“Jennifer, this has to stop,” Brad demanded one day after opening the bills. “Our minimum payment is up to $1000 a month. Your gambling is ruining us.”

His patience had worn thin and he began raising his voice when confronting Jennifer. Getting yelled at, even a little was something that Jennifer could not stand. Her reaction was explosive and resulted in another trip to the casino. Sometimes, Jennifer would disappear for days at time.

Maybe being married was not a good idea, Jennifer began thinking. She loved Brad and Kristin, but began to think that she just was not ready to be tied down to such a seemingly dull life. In contrast, Brad became more committed to his marriage, attended daily Mass, and prayed the rosary to fight the evil that was tearing apart his family. Yet, the bills and the lies kept mounting.

The Last Straw

During the last week in December, Brad’s parents had arranged for a family ski vacation. “I’m not feeling well,” Jennifer begged off. Brad was not comfortable leaving her, but he could not physically drag her there.

“Okay,” Brad said skeptically, “I’ll see you in a few days.” But he was livid when he returned home to an empty house. He took Kristin to his parents’ house and he drove to the casino.

As his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, he frantically scanned the crowd for Jennifer’s face. What he saw terrified him. It was Jennifer and yet it was not Jennifer.   Her zombie-like face was fixated on a gambling machine until she noticed Brad. Then she instantly seethed with anger and hatred at the sight of him.

Something snapped in Brad. “I cannot take it anymore,” he told Jennifer. “You need to leave our home.”

“Fine,” Jennifer responded defiantly, “Then I’ll leave.”

In spite of kicking Jennifer out of the house, Brad still loved her intensely but he would not continue to enable her destructive behavior. And Jennifer knew she still loved Brad. It was the responsibility that went along with being a wife and mother that no longer interested her.

Jennifer was too proud to tell family or friends that Brad had kicked her out. She slept in her car for the next two nights and continued to gamble. On the third day, Jennifer won an $8,000 jackpot. She got an apartment and happily shopped for all the furnishings.

Staying the Course

Jennifer and Brad maintained regular contact with each other and he kept faithfully praying for her. But by the middle of February, Brad called a trusted priest who served as his spiritual advisor. “Father, I’m ready to throw in the towel,” Brad stated. “How long am I suppose to take this?”

He expected the priest to agree that maybe it was time to move on. Instead, Father’s response both surprised and comforted him. “You take it forever,” he said. “You are married to Jennifer forever. “A peace and strength filled Brad as he listened.

“But what if she ends up divorcing me?” Brad asked.

“Then you go on and raise your daughter without her but you will still be married to her. You are being crucified like Jesus and your suffering is being offered up for Jennifer with our Lord. It does not matter how long it goes on, you are saving her soul with our Lord.”

Brad suddenly found the strength and determination to stay the course. Father’s straight talk solidified his determination. There would be no quitting. His work and suffering would be offered up for her soul and he would pray for Jennifer now and forever, regardless of what her response to him was. Brad now fully understood the complete lifetime commitment he had made to Jennifer before God, and he was determined to keep it.

The Weight of the Cross

Shortly afterwards, Jennifer discovered she was pregnant. Like their love for one another, the physical passion had never left their relationship. Neither of them was surprised to learn of the pregnancy. But when Jennifer was just a couple months along, a phone call from a male friend of Jennifer’s led Brad to believe that the child was not his. Shaking, he drove Kristin over to his parent’s house and then stormed over to Jennifer’s apartment.

“How dare you!” he screamed so loud that it cut into his throat. Seeing Brad’s fury and hearing him scream terrified her. Through everything, Brad had never done more than raise his voice. “That baby is not mine, you whore!   How could you go to bed with another man?”

Jennifer was shocked and indignant. She had never been with anyone else. “You’re crazy!” she yelled back.

“You’re nothing but a damn liar!” Brad hollered at the top of his lungs.

Jennifer grabbed the phone to call 911. She was terrified that Brad had lost control. Brad grabbed the phone out of her hand and yanked it out of the wall. The screaming continued for several minutes until two police officers showed up. A neighbor had called.

Jennifer’s hand had been cut when the phone cord scraped past it. Since the police saw blood, they handcuffed Brad. “No, don’t arrest him!” Jennifer pleaded. “It was an accident.”   Anyone trained in domestic violence knows that typically the abused wife defends her abuser when the police show up. So, Jennifer’s defense of Brad fell on deaf ears. Brad was charged with domestic violence and taken to jail.

Sitting in a cell among hardened criminals, Brad was too exhausted and emotionally numb to care about the sneers and curious looks from the other inmates. He pulled out his rosary. “This is the cross,” he thought, “and I will carry it for Jennifer. In the name of the Father and of the Son…” The next day, his dad bailed him out.

An Old Boyfriend

After Brad left in handcuffs, Jennifer went to visit a friend in another town for a couple days. During this time, she started thinking about a recently divorced old boyfriend, Steve, who she had once thought she was in love with. She drove for two days to New Mexico to meet at a bar.

“Hi,” Jennifer smiled, walking up to Steve’s table. The two talked for a couple hours as if they were picking up from where they left off a few years earlier. Steve listened patiently as Jennifer confessed her troubles to him. His response did not fit the script she had written in her head. “You need to get your butt back home and save your marriage,” Steve said. “You’d be insane to leave your husband. Why would you want to leave a man who has stuck by you through all this? You don’t know how good you have it.” Hearing these words spoken by an old boyfriend was more than a rejection; it was an injection of reality.

Sitting across from Steve, everything began to sink in: her selfish lifestyle and the guilt for abandoning her daughter and husband. It was time to stop running.   The attraction of the single life, spending sprees, and gambling became intensely hollow. Brad and Kristin were the real treasures.

A Transformation

It was a very different Jennifer who drove back home. Her heart throbbed with love for Brad and Kristin. She cried for the mistreatment she had inflicted on them. And she did something she had never really done before. She prayed. There was no example of prayer in her home while growing up, with the exception of a few rare blessings before special dinners.   But now, Jennifer poured her heart out to God. “God, I’ll do anything if you give me my family back. Please let Brad still love me. Please help us recover from all the damage I’ve done.”

Jennifer expected that she would have to work hard to get Brad to accept her back. She trusted that he would still love her and knew he would want them to raise their children together, but she did not imagine that he could easily forget the hell she put him through. When she was halfway home, she called him at work. “Brad,” she said nervously. “I’m coming home. I’m so sorry for everything that has happened. I want us to be together again.”

Brad was quiet a moment. “Well,” he said flatly, “We will see.”   He wanted to believe in Jennifer, but she had disappointed him so many times before. He put down the phone and said a prayer.

Jennifer got back into the car and began pleading with God again. “Please let me have my life back again. I want to be a good Christian wife and mother. Help me to be the person you want me to be, Lord.”

Brad looked up from his desk when Jennifer nervously opened the door and walked in. She looked like a scared kitten. He walked over to her and they embraced. “Can you take me back?” she cried. “I do want to be with you for the rest of my life. I’m so sorry for all the things I’ve done to hurt you.”

“Yes, I’ll take you back,” Brad said through tears of joy. “I love you.”

Jennifer moved back that day. Kristin squealed with delight when she saw her. “Mommy’s back,” she announced.

“I love you so much,” Jennifer said, hugging her little girl. “I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long. But I’m back now forever.”

Brad expected that there would be an adjustment for Jennifer, but amazingly, they were able to pick up where they left off–only better. Waking up in her own home with her family made Jennifer feel like the luckiest person in the world. She had expected that she would need to work hard to prove herself, but Brad made it clear that he had forgiven everything and would love her for the rest of her life.

The week after Jennifer returned was Easter. Sitting at Mass, surrounded by family, tears of gratefulness filled her eyes. Jennifer truly rejoiced that Jesus Christ had risen that day. The following weekend, Jennifer attended a women’s retreat. She felt deeply embraced by God’s love and forgiveness as she spent the time praying, listening to speakers, and going to confession. Brad’s unconditional love brought her part of the way, and then God took over. Listening to speakers talk about God sanctifying us through our daily life brought the deeper meaning she had been searching for. Realizing that God was giving her another baby also filled her with gratitude and a desire to live in union with Him.

Six months after Jennifer’s return, she gave birth to another beautiful baby girl. That same month, the couple realized they could no longer keep up with their minimum $1,200 a month credit card payments. They declared bankruptcy. It was an unfortunate consequence of Jennifer’s past. But instead of lamenting it, it was a reminder to them that they had so much to rejoice in now.

Brad admits that there were many times when the past threatened to haunt them. “If these thoughts popped into my head,” he says, “I would give it to our Lord and ask Him to take it away. We need to ask for the superhuman ability to forgive, even ourselves, because it’s too big for mere humans.”

It’s been eight years since Jennifer returned home. They have five children ranging in age from eleven to one. As Brad and Jennifer look back over the difficult times and the healing, both say that the love they share now for one another, is deeper than anything they ever imagined on their wedding day.   “It feels as if there was an overall purification for both of us,” says Brad. “It did not come easy, but God was with us and gave us the grace we needed to persevere.”

Editor’s Note:  This post was adapted from Amazing Grace for Married Couples with the permission of the author, Patti Maguire Armstrong.

Print this entry

12 Comments

  1. Good story…until Brad’s name changed to Jay. Very confusing! I was going to forward to a friend who I was thinking would be uplifted by it…but it needs some serious editing- the message gets lost in the effort to figure out who is who!

  2. It should be Brad. Sorry, it’s getting changed. Most of the couples in the Amazing Grace for Married Couples book chose to change their names to protect their families. Sometimes names changed more than once depending on the names of the other couples. This version of the story had not been edited enough. 🙂 Getting on it!

  3. I see your editing is done, I never saw Jay!
    This is such a story of grace and forgiveness, I’m grateful to save it as something to share with others in times of troubled marriges and to reflect of the priest and Steve’s words myself. There are people out there that know the kind of commitment Brad has, more than we even know. This is what people need to hear! So many lose heart and quit but we all need to see the truth that the priest shared. Thank you for sharing this story, Patti! Now to buy the book…

    1. Thanks, Colleen. I have given the book to many with troubled marriages and others I have know have done the same. Thus far, no one who received the book has divorced. The elderly aunt of a priest in our dioceses gives the book to newlyweds and couples she knows are having trouble. She told me that one couple told her that the book was the very thing that saved their marriage. The most compelling testimony is that after all the unbelievable pain these 12 couples went through, all of them said they were more in love today than on the day they married.

  4. You made this up. There is no Brad/Jay or Jennifer. You invented characters for a poorly-written short story dressed up as real events.

    As for the message, do you really think God wants us all to be miserable? What if Jennifer had continued with her gambling or Brad continued to be violent? “Ruin your life because we say so” is an evil message, and no, my suffering doesn’t do one solitary thing for anyone else. If you are correct that Gid wants us to suffer then your God is a monster. Suffering is occasionally necessary for the production of a greater good, but if you can’t see the end of it or the purpose of it, then make it stop. Jesus “come to me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” He did not say “go out and find sometching that harms you and do it to make someone else feel guilty so some other thing will happen.”

    1. No, I most certainly did not make this up. I would hardly give my life to God and use my writing to serve him and then lie. All couples shared their stories and some used different names to protect their families privacy. The publisher had all the names and addresses of the actual people.. Remember, no one is glorifying suffering. Brad left because his wife would not stop her destructive behavior. He consulted a priest thinking there had to be a time limit to his patience but if it is a sacramental marriage, it is forever.

      When I was working on the book’s introduction, I received a phone call from a priest, Fr. Wayne, on another issue. One of the couples in the book he had sent my way so he was very aware of the project. I told him how wonderful it was that these couples had stayed together, gone through hell and back, and now were experiencing the resurrection. He told me to be cautious about giving the impression in the introduction that it was a guarantee. Not all stories have dramatic turnarounds. And the Catholic Church does not teach that spouses must stay in abusive relationships. There is no message in this story to “go out and find sometching that harms you and do it to make someone else feel guilty so some other thing will happen.” But for the 12 couples in the book, there were VERY dramatic turnarounds. This one was not even the most dramatic. There were several couples who have been through adultery, drug addiction, and one through same-sex attraction.

      All the couple went through difficulties–some very extreme–and are happily married now. Why that angers you, I’m not sure. This story is also abridged from a much longer original. The book is a Catholic best seller and some people liked this article, but I guess I can’t please everyone. God bless you.

    2. In reply to Karen’s comment, whether true story or not grace works. Prayer also works, though the answer may not be what we wanted. I’m a cradle Catholic and revert. We’ve all had our ups and downs. Certainly we all need good solid relationships outside of married life to help stay the course, be they a confessor or spiritual director or friends. Marriage tests true love. My wife has been diagnosed with psychosis and schizophrenia. Exorcized one time. Sometimes bad things happen in a person’s delicate childhood that spring up on you when you least expect it. We have to be Christ -minded and strong in faith. We have to ‘try’ to set an example true to the marriage vows. Suffering is redemptive and can be offered for someone. We are also one body in Christ. It’s a mystical relationship. Next year is our 20th anniversary. Last week I called my divorce attorney to file a motion with the court to stop/cancel the process. Grace came to me a couple of weeks late. Unfortunately for me, my confessor and spiritual director was reassigned out of the country before I filed. By the way, my new priest advised I go ahead and file. I can vaguely see the fruits of a possible marriage ministry evolving. My confessor , now gone, knowing my situation, asked me earlier this year if I’d be interested in giving marriage prep classes. I guess he saw the hidden potential. Please feel free to post/edit if you wish. I have also thought about starting a weekly blog or a self-help book for crisis marriages. I’ve gained knowledge in the spiritual and psycological aspect. Continued Learning is also key. I was surprised to learn last year-via a diocesan conference on mental illness – the staggering stats for our population. Which I share with whomever has a listening ear. God bless you on your ministry.

  5. Excellent article and God’s blessings to the couple for responding to Grace – and the marital Crosses of the “I Do”. Fr. Wayne’s comment about not expecting reconciliation for all is well said, as my wife’s divorce proves despite my repeated pleadings for her, our 10 kids and myself. Prayers can only do so much for a disaffected Spouse – they have to want to change, to choose to change. Many do not, unfortunately for themselves and the abandoned family. Their divorces solve no problems… it just places them upon the innocent to handle. That is the reality…

    Keep up the excellent writing and the stories that tell of the possibilities of renewal and reconciliation, but mainly of the necessity of honoring one’s first vows, as I have (and others) have done. As I’ve written numerous times, there is nothing within a marriage that cannot be forgiven, if we but remember Christ’s word’s from the Cross – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

    Can we spouses do any less?

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *