Become a member of Allies in Recovery and we’ll teach you how to intervene, communicate and guide your loved one toward treatment.Become a member of Allies in Recovery today.

He’s Left Us With Nothing

Bare bones of building with sunlight peeking through

Gardenmom1 is in despair as she faces the wreckage of her husband’s out of control use and spending. He has left them with nothing, and she has faced extreme challenges getting support from numerous agencies. She feels shattered, and says it's like she doesn’t know him any more.

© Dominik Dancs via Unsplash

Hello, I have tried my best to follow the Craft method but I lost my ability to control how upset I was. I’ll briefly try to explain what has happened over the past year and what lead to my verbally lashing out.
My husband went from abusing pills orally to IV heroin//fentanyl mixed with some other chemicals mixed in. He spent all his retirement money, I emphasize "his" because as he said, he earned it, it was about $120,000.00! after taxes. I got stuck paying the taxes by the way. The IRS said I am responsible and should know what my husband is doing! I had to take the little IRA I had to pay the IRS and bills. He has taken out loans in his name only and spent his monthly pension check too. I’m out of work with a fractured neck, so I barely get $500.00 a month. I have no rights to have a representative payer applied to his retirement account, even under these circumstances. I made a separate checking account when my husband lost his sobriety because he took that money too. Read Gardenmom’s full comment here.


Your story is heartbreaking. Your husband relapsed after 20 years of sobriety and is now using opioids. You describe him as someone you just don’t know now. He has wiped out your finances and left you in danger of losing your house. Your many efforts to protect yourself have largely failed. You sound very very low. How utterly exhausted you must be. These feelings you describe are all valid. Having endured all that you describe, it seems inevitable that you're experiencing a wide and complex range of emotions.  

After 30 years of marriage, you want out. Your question for us is how to get out. You feel like you have nothing left to give your husband in terms of support or CRAFT or anything. This makes sense.

We have said it on various occasions and when we say it we mean it: If CRAFT fails, know that you have tried your very best to help. It’s time to walk away and concentrate on regaining your own balance, and on reclaiming your own life.

Your situation reminds me of the family tragedy caused by people who gamble. Here is Massachusetts’ gambling help line: 800.426.1234. Ask them about financial counselors that are willing to help pro bono.

Much of what you find online in this field can seems trite when you’ve been living with deceit and spending on such an outrageous level. Here is a list suggested by one site. Although you may have gone through many of these steps, perhaps looking through this list will point you towards another few steps to take to protect yourself.

  • Throw away applications for credit cards or loans that come in the mail
  • Pay all bills yourself
  • Cancel any overdrafts on bank accounts
  • Set up a separate bank account
  • Remove your name from shared credit cards and bank accounts
  • Do not share your passwords or PINs for credit cards, debit cards or other personal accounts
  • Do not leave credit cards or money around
  • Put valuable items in a safety deposit
  • Put savings in bonds that you can’t access
  • Ask the bank to cut off access to credit and not to allow your home to be remortgaged
  • If the other family member is willing, get a power of attorney that puts you in charge of all property decisions
  • Arrange for your wages or salary to be paid directly into your bank account
  • Warn family, friends and co-workers not to lend the person money
  • Give the person an agreed-upon weekly allowance
  • Get legal advice so you know your rights and know what legal steps to take

You have two fronts that need attention simultaneously: the need to address your very hard feelings and loss of interest in life AND the need to address your finances going forward.

If you aren’t talking to someone, or even if you are talking to someone and you know deep inside that you could use even more support, we can help. Let us know and we can have someone work with you for free, on the phone, right away. Many of us in this field are offering services for free during the Covid crisis. Send me a message through the email on this site or through the “contact us” link at the bottom of this page.

We also firmly believe that, just because some treatment or a civil commitment didn’t work before, doesn’t mean it won’t work the next time. Each treatment episode is new and has the potential to reach a person in a meaningful way despite not working in the past.

As for your husband, consider sectioning him as many times as you feel it’s called for. It’s hard to swallow what happened with that initial sectioning (here is the complaint line for the state: 617.624.5171, they should hear about your experience). But this avenue does have the potential to steer him in the right direction as well. Sectioning may still work in terms of his drug use AND it gets him out of the house and unable to access joint accounts.

We feel your despair acutely. We are grateful that you reached out here. I hope it provided even the smallest bit of relief just to express some of what was weighing on your heart and mind when you wrote in.

I hear what you are saying about how sharing all of this is such a stretch for you because you are usually a private person. It is the right thing to do to share this struggle, though. Just getting those thoughts you have down and being able to release some of them can be healing in itself. Have you written in a journal, either in your private journal here on the site, or elsewhere? There are many studies that indicate there are significant therapeutic and physiological benefits to writing about stressful events.

I’d also invite you to let go of any sense that you should have done anything differently – in what you describe in your comment above, or otherwise. It’s ok to reflect on past decisions, but it won’t help you right now to cast doubt over actions you have already taken. You have been fighting hard with every tool you have. You don’t need to beat yourself up over losing your patience recently, trying to save your marriage years ago, or any other decision you made in the past. At least you can shift your perspective to see past behaviors, choices, etc. as opportunities to learn. Either way, right now, you need encouragement, not discouragement.

Have you read any of Brene Brown’s books? Two favorites are I Thought it Was Just Me and The Gifts of Imperfection. Have you checked out any of her TED talks? We find her work to be brilliant. Especially in her formative research and work in the field of shame. Speaking of encouragement (vs. discouragement), here is a quote from her:

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart." Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds…” – Brene Brown

I think we can all agree that it can take extreme bravery to share what it in your heart. But it also provides a surge of energy and healing. It may not be pretty, but it’s far more advantageous to let it out than to keep it in. Carrying all of this around can feel literally crippling. However you can find it, we encourage you to seek healing, not just from the external situation, but from internal wounds you have borne. Here is an inspiring post from Annie Highwater about boundaries that addresses some of the internal healing needed for those in your situation. That healing takes time and patience, and plenty of compassion for yourself

You have been fighting so hard for so long. And your frustration at the lack of resources available and extreme challenges presented to someone in your situation is palpable and valid. There is a sense that these avenues that seem promising on the surface all lead to dead ends. I believe this is a concept that many members on the site can relate to, in one way or another. But there is help out there. See what the help lines I've listed above suggest. There may be avenues worth revisiting or alternative approaches to consider. 

There are significant, dramatic life decisions you are facing and grappling with right now. But don’t underestimate the power of small shifts and actions. Commit to taking some time to yourself: for prayer, meditation, seeking out something that you enjoy for no other reason than that it lifts your spirits – no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. These gestures are powerful and can gain their own momentum when repeated day after day. Anything you can do to help shift your perspective, even incrementally, can open up new possibilities that hadn’t been available in the past.

Please spend some time in the Sanctuary, reading posts by whoever inspires you, carving out moments of time that are free from worry, free from the weight of the world you have been carrying. It won’t make the challenges go away, but it will create some new space to help build strength and resilience for whatever comes next. And it can help you to see things in a different way where you may have previously felt stuck – both in your internal landscape and with external circumstances.

It is natural to lose your patience. You are only human. No one here is practicing CRAFT perfectly. I don’t think that is a reality. That’s why it’s called practice. Please be kind and compassionate to yourself. Check out the helpline I’ve listed above. It is a blessing that you do have some support systems in place. We are glad to be part of that network. We’d like to help with a free phone call to someone on our team, so please reach out to us. We are ready to talk more with you to provide some one-on-one support.

Sending you our love and strength. We are all in this together.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Hello, I wanted to check back in with you in an open forum to express my sincere gratitude for validating my feelings and sending me additional options for support.
    Writing my heart out publicly was one of the hardest things I have done in life. Even though my true identity is anonymous, I was and am still worried about someone identifying me. Even though the current theme is that addicts and their families are accepted is out there, experience has been otherwise. Professionally I’ve worked with people who parade around acceptance, but in reality they don’t allow their children to hang out with “Tommy’s” because one of his parents is an addict. I have seen it happen in my family too. I don’t think I need to give more examples of how some people still judge others.
    In saying that, I was very inspired watching and listening to Brene Brown’s TED talk about Shame. The shame we feel to open ourselves up completely to others is definitely a factor in society. It is painful to feel so vulnerable, as if one is standing on the town common for all to judge us. I am not sure how long it will take for human beings to embrace Brene’s words and actions, but it is a start.
    I have done a lot of journaling of my fears, my pain and my anger, just to try and free myself of those burdens. I did feel more relieved to write about the pain I was going through in the blog, even though I was afraid to do so. I must have written the post 5 times before sending because I was afraid of being judged or shamed. Very few people in my family or friends know about my husband’s addiction and the stress my son and I have been under. Not keeping secrets about or covering for our addicted love ones is the best policy, but I only felt safe, and still do, sharing that with very few people. I hope someday none of us have to feel such vulnerability in discussing addiction and the struggles the addict and family go through.
    I have my days of despair, but try and keep myself busy and clear my mind of negative thoughts, by reading, listening to the TED talks and going outside for walks. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so I focus on the here and now. Thank you for your support!

    1. Dear Gardenmom1,

      What an incredibly honest and relevant comment you sent in. What you express here is so true, so real… Thank you. For going out on that limb and sharing what is in your heart, in all its complexity. This is something that everyone on the site can really learn from. It is inspiring.

      We are so glad you found Brene Brown’s talk on shame to be so resonant and illuminating. This is wonderful to hear. It is such important work, and you’re right, we have a ways to go as a society, but her work points us so clearly in the right direction. As you say, it’s a start; these conversations are a start. Good for you for keeping the dialogue open and for continuing to share – even that which is painful and frightening. I appreciate how deep of a challenge this is. You are heard, and you are a valuable part of this community. It truly is a gift to have a safe space such as the one we have here, to share with one another in this way. It takes a village, and you are a part of it.

      Thank you for being here. We are all here for you.


      1. I am not sure if I am asking too many questions or if I should start a new entry? Not thinking clearly makes it hard to decide what to do sometimes. I settled on adding my question to my ongoing post because it contains a little background to my situation with my husband. Also, the Allies members might have input that I can’t see myself right now.
        My husband is not speaking to my son or myself, except for an occasional hi, only after we have initiated the greeting. My husband leaves everyday, without a word and comes back at night or sometimes not at all. If I let him know I am glad he is safe once he returns, but he says “mind your own business”. So I don’t say anything anymore because I get emotional and don’t want to lose my patience.
        I received an anonymous note in the mail saying “You are a nice person and I hate to see you being screwed over by (husband’s name). He has applied for a mortgage so when he divorces you, he won’t have enough money to pay you alimony You will have to sell what you own and give him half. His lawyer is a good coach.” I didn’t say anything for a few days and tried to make sense of recent things that have occurred. Two real estate agents had called for my husband a few weeks ago and a large envelope came from a mortgage company. When I asked my husband about the calls after they came in, they were dismissed as a marketing ploy. When calm, I let my husband know that I needed to understand what was going on. The answer I got was “I’m going to need sometime to answer.” I am in total shock. Any ounce of trust I had left is gone. The writing is on the wall, as I perceive it right now. I contacted a few attorneys for a consultation and were told it would cost an enormous amount of money to go through a divorce. I applied for a low cost attorney, but was told our household makes too much money. Maybe my husband makes too much money but he only contributes for the mortgage. I have all the other expenses and have $20.00 in my checking account.
        I am lost. I don’t know what I should say, if anything to my husband or just sit back and wait for the final blow. I appreciate any guidance you may have. Thank you.

        1. I forgot to add, that my husband is not drinking or using narcotics as far as I can tell from his behavior. I did see him smoking marijuana, which is a new substance. I believe he is still going to the clinic for MAT, but the marijuana would show up.

        2. Dear Gardenmom1,

          This news is heartbreaking. Thank you for reaching out, even with this painful and baffling turn of events. You have tried everything. It’s little wonder that you aren’t able to think straight at times. I don’t know if anyone could in facing the situation you’ve described. Any trust you once had is long gone at this point. You are in an extremely trying situation, and at this point the number one goal for you should be to protect yourself in any way you can.

          You aren’t able to know what your husband is doing behind the scenes in terms of mortgage applications, finances, etc. It sounds as if you don’t even have a baseline of civil-enough communication to find out any more, and you avoid bringing anything up now because you are trying to maintain a semblance of patience at home. 

It is so deeply disappointing to hear that you have been stuck with all of this. What a strain, on every level, for you to endure all of this.


Protecting yourself, and your son, emotionally, mentally and financially sounds like the number one priority right now. You aren’t able to work this out on your own, so you absolutely need support wherever you can find it. You’ve had little luck finding that support due to the family’s collective income.


Unfortunately, giving legal advice falls outside of our scope. Your husband’s use has left your family in financial ruin, and even though he does not appear to be in active use right now (except for the marijuana, which may be new for him), your household has essentially been destroyed by the repercussions of his past use. In a very large-scale view of the CRAFT method, this would be a negative consequence of his use, and it is a massive consequence. But ultimately, this is his consequence to grapple with, whether he faces that today or twenty years from now.

          In the previous post ( we outline ways to protect your assets based on suggestions for family members who have partners with a gambling addiction… in some ways this situation is similar, at least in terms of steps you can take to protect yourself.

          Our understanding is that filing for divorce “pro se” would provide you with an advantage in the situation and more resources to support you in the process. Please consider looking into this. We fully support your seizing any opportunity that is available to protect yourself. Filing pro se may allow you access to certain court resources, and the opportunity to set some of the terms of the action (cause versus no-cause, kinds of relief sought, etc.). In this sort of situation, where there may very likely be contested issues and even a potential trial, our understanding is that it’s in your best interest to be playing offense rather than defense.

          We pray for you to experience the relief of having a third party who can take charge of communications and rally for You. Documenting the ins and outs of your story, financial and otherwise, seems prudent – including the details of your attempts to secure support and advice in the past.

          Other than this, given all that you have tried, and the direction in which your situation appears to be headed, it is quite possible that there will not be a way to resolve this outside of probate court. Again, we are not able to provide legal advice here, so this is really just a speculation. You could consider seeking a 209A restraining order if you can articulate to a Court why you and your child are at risk of physical abuse. Though this does not appear to be the case, thankfully, please keep this avenue in mind for your safety and protection.

          Your efforts have been heroic, and the years you’ve put into this fight have worn on you so heavily. At this point, I would give yourself permission to look ahead to the relief of cutting ties with your husband – to see a bright light in your future that you can anticipate and that can guide you in these moments of pain and confusion. There are untold opportunities that await you when this chapter of your life has come to a close.

          We are sending you all our love and support, and heartfelt thanks for sharing what you have shared with us. We know this in itself is a challenge, and you have the support of this entire community in continuing to speak up for yourself and voice what is needed as you work your way through this.

        3. Hello, thank you for taking the time to answer my blog and give me additional support. Part of me feels like I am being a bother by continuing to reach out to you. That is my own anxiety and nothing Allies has done to make me feel that way. Maybe other members who are worried about contacting the blog, will see it is “ok” because our struggles are not easily solved in one blog post.
          I can not get a free or low cost lawyer because of household income. Unfortunately monthly expenses and college tuition do not count. That’s ok, I will find another way.
          I wanted to add that even though I am furious and hurt by my husband’s behavior, I continue to go back to Module 4 on “How do I talk to my loved one”. I could easily lash out at him when he is rude to me, but then I would be mirroring his attitude and two negatives don’t make it right. It’s easy to fall into that kind of response, but if I can find one ounce of positive communication between us, I feel successful. Does that make sense? I always look for hope that something might click in my husband and that he can find some peace within himself which will lead to recovery. We have been together for so long, in a substance abuse free marriage, that his behavior is foreign to me. I will continue in my journey of self care and securing my future, that’s all I can do. Thank you again.