I appreciate his efforts, but I don't know if I can really ever trust him again.
You can't, clearly. He cheated in his first marriage and now again in his second. Seems to me that he learned nothing about himself or anything like values from the first rodeo.
My H doesn't consider himself an addict anymore, so he isn't trying to "do" anything to fix an addiction. Would he just be called a recovering addict if he hasn't used for years? And to be clear, these are "legal" substance addictions, but addictions nonetheless.
My mom was an alcoholic for most of my formative life (and I could tell you a LOT about being the child of an addict and how that profoundly shapes you into adulthood). She got sober in Jan 2013 and is coming up on 11 years of sobriety next year. But those 11 years didn't just happen because she 'doesn't consider herself an addict', she absolutely does consider herself to be an addict. And a huge part of how she has stayed sober and thrived in her sobriety is by nurturing it - she goes to AA, she works her steps every single day, she still has a sponsor after all these years that helps her work through things, she surrounds herself with like-minded people who are also nurturing their sobriety, she sponsors others and helps them achieve sobriety. IOW, she saturates herself with sobriety now every bit as much as she used to saturate herself with whiskey. THAT is what a recovering addict looks like IMHO.
Your wh doesn't sound like he's doing much to get down to the root cause of his addictions, and that doesn't bode well for falling back into it - the drug-taking is a cope for addicts, and unless they actively develop healthy coping mechanisms, sooner or later they are gonna fall back to the coping they know. And let me be clear - "legal" doesn't matter one iota with addicts. Alcohol is legal too and it was every bit as damaging as any other drug.
I'm not leaning towards R at this point, but I want to give myself some time away from WH to make a good decision. I'm thinking of consulting a lawyer or two soon instead, so I can understand my options.
This is an excellent plan of action. You don't have to decide one way or the other right this minute, but gathering info and giving yourself time and distance to get some clarity is really healthy and will help you a lot.
I guess I did a good job of ignoring the red flags.
Girrrrrl, me SAME. I not only ignored the red flags, I knitted a onesie of them and got in it for a decade. Don't beat yourself up about it - learn from it and let it help you to set firm boundaries for yourself and for your kids.
Now that we've S, WH is sending me messages about how much he wants to R. I suppose that's typical. Honestly, that worries me most as I have found I tend to try to fix things for people.
You know, I see a lot of similarity between addicts and cheaters. With my mom, I put up with her drunken shenaniganery for years, years and years. Because I was "helping" her by not leaving, by not being mad, by answering the phone when she was on one of her drunken tirades. But you know? I wasn't helping her, not at all. By not putting my foot down and refusing to tolerate intolerable behavior, all I was doing was enabling her to stay in her addiction.
With my xwh, it was much the same. He wanted an "open marriage" you see. And I suppose his definition of that was that I would pay all the bills and do all the adulting things while he fucked teenagers on the side. Thankfully it didn't take me years and years to connect the dots. I remember sitting with my feelings and wondering why this felt familiar, and it hit me - this felt familiar because I was trying to wrap my mind around how I could change and act to make him be happy, when the truth of it was I was NOT okay with what he was doing, and (here's the revolutionary thought) I didn't HAVE TO be okay with what he was doing because what he was doing was NOT OKAY. It felt just like the day when I finally set the boundary with my mom and told her that I was no longer prepared to tolerate her behavior because it was, in fact, INTOLERABLE to me. Thankfully me doing that with her was a large part of what made her go to AA.
With him, me setting that boundary is what ended my marriage. I can say with hindsight though, whichever way he went after me setting that hard boundary was a WIN-WIN for me. If he got serious about fixing things? Great - I have a happier stronger marriage. If he wasn't going to get serious about fixing things? Perfect - then I won't waste years and years more of my life trying to bend myself into a gordian knot for a cheating douchcanoe.
Some things I learned from both of these situations:
1. Boundaries are GOOD. Having healthy boundaries for yourself is vital to your well-being.
2. You cannot "fix" anyone except yourself. You can support someone as they fix themselves, but you cannot do it for them and it is folly to try.
3. Tolerating bullshit and poor treatment isn't love, not of yourself or of them either.
4. I want and deserve peace and I no longer have to allow anything in my life that disrupts my peace.
Regarding D, for those of you that ended up going that route, did you end up in a contested or uncontested divorce (US terms)? If you tried for uncontested, how did that work out? If I go toward D, I'd obviously prefer uncontested if it's possible, given it's much cheaper and faster, but I'm not sure how feasible it would be.
I did not have kids with my xwh thankfully, so that simplified things quite a bit. But we did an uncontested divorce that we filed ourselves and it was done in 91 days and cost about $450. You can self-file and do uncontested with kids too (at least you could where I lived at the time), there's just some extra cost because you had to take parenting classes. I think the general wisdom is the more you can agree on and the less the court has to be involved, the better. If you and your wh can hammer out a separation agreement and use a mediator to help fine-tune it that would be best. Also, not to scare you (cus I was primary breadwinner too) but he may be entitled to alimony. If you're talking to lawyers, you might ask about that versus a lump-sum arrangement - like you'll give him x amount of your retirement for him to forgo alimony (which SUCKS but it usually cheaper that way in the long run).
My advice for D, if that is indeed the way you are going, is to get an agreement in place, file, and get 'er done as quickly as possible - firstly cus the sooner it's done, the sooner your healing can get going, and two, the less time he has to start seeing dollar signs the better that is for you.
If it helps you - I was so scared of getting divorced. It is not ever what I wanted. But life on the other side of it has been amazing! My life is peaceful and calm and predictable. I get to make all my own choices. The people in my life are loving and supportive and authentic. I am emotionally stronger than I ever thought I could be. And I do not regret divorcing at ALL.
It sounds like you have a really good head on your shoulders and that you are handling this very well for where you're at. You're gonna be just fine however it shakes out. Hang in there!