She is frustrated with the lack of progress in her relationship with her loved one. He is sober now, and she is grateful for his recovery. But he hasn’t done anything to acknowledge all the pain and suffering her family endured.
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“My husband is 8 months sober from 10 years of addiction. I am frustrated, scared and lonely because he gets to be sober “one day at a time” and gets an A+ from his therapist and addiction psychiatrist for maintaining sobriety. Of course that’s great. But despite being in couples counseling, we are making no progress.
Only now am I starting to unwind from 10 years of being wound up so tight I was numb, and blind. I developed co-dependent behaviors, losing any sense of what I wanted. I was in massive denial of the signals of alcohol addiction. How could I have lived with this so long? What does this say about me? What have I done to the children?
I realize now, in my recovery, that I am a basket case with many unexplored and unresolved issues. This is the fall out of living with, and living around, an addict. I just wish he would acknowledge the destruction his addiction has caused me and the family. But he is firm in believing he is an A+ recovery patient. It’s traumatizing all over again, because now that my eyes are open, I see the emotional turmoil I never knew I had.
I desperately want a happy healthy family, but I don’t yet know how to recover from the hurt, so I can be happy and healthy.
Thanks for guidance on how the spouse can recover.”
Dominique Simon-Levine reassures this member that her husband will one day realize the pain caused by the alcohol
Your husband is sober yet you’re feeling frustrated, scared, and lonely. You are rethinking your part in this 10-year marriage and how you could have missed and lived with active alcohol addiction for so long.
So, yes, one day at a time for you too. Your husband is seeing a therapist and going to AA. Trust me when I say that he will come to realize, if he doesn’t already, the destruction caused by the alcohol in your family. Both therapy and AA will ask him to look deep at his part and to make amends to you and the children. In AA, this comes with step 9, a step he may not yet have reached.
As we’ve said before on this blog, getting off the drugs and alcohol doesn’t immediately provide relational skills or insight. This takes time. It is a process. Your husband is in the right place to start gaining that insight. So, hang on if you can.
You also are gaining insight. With the active addiction now gone, you are left with the troubles that have existed in your marriage, and criticism of yourself for how you handled things in the past.
Show yourself as much compassion as you have shown the rest of the family
I hope you can put this down. Watch what your head is doing. You are questioning everything and may be putting undue weight on the negative (view this excerpt from Learning Module 7). Show yourself as much compassion as you have shown to the rest of the family. There is nothing you can do about the past. You and the children lived with alcoholism for 10 years. There is a world of hurt that needs repairing.
Repairing all this will take time. Are you seeing someone for yourself? Are the children taking part in counseling with you and your husband? Or are they seeing someone separately? Talking it through with help. Helping the children to say how it hurts, to understand that their daddy is ill but getting better, is important.
I’ve never been a fan of the term “codependency.” It’s a label that too easily comes down on anything and everything you did in response to your husband’s drinking. When someone struggles with addiction, the family focuses in, attention is disproportionally given to the loved one. Your needs aren’t met and you do what you know to be seen and heard, to protect your children.
You desperately want a healthy happy family. Getting alcohol out of the family is a huge first step. And it is a first step.
Your husband will need more time
It also creates a huge shift in the dynamic between all of you. You are going to have to give your husband more time. Let the recovery sink in. Let him pay attention to it. It is critical that he does so. He has so much to process still, but he is making strides in the right direction. It’s good that he’s getting strong encouragement. One day at a time gets us into places we never imagined were possible.
Considering the dysfunction he was living with, it’s safe to say that there are layers upon layers that he is working through. We all have these layers in our own ways. The process of looking deep within oneself like this is a huge undertaking. And the rest of the world goes on around you. It takes bravery, and patience, and time. It takes quiet. Let him find his way with this, with the supports he already has in place.
Focus on your own recovery
You pay attention to you. Don’t try and get from your husband what he cannot yet give. Find a way to accept what he is giving right now, and to appreciate the progress this represents. And in terms of the rest of what you need – recognition, empathy, a healing space to talk about what you’re uncovering – find a way to get these elsewhere. For now.
As you do this, and hold that vision for your family’s happiness and well-being in your heart, remember to keep finding ways to bring yourself back in to the present. It is here, in the now, where your awareness and choices will help bring that vision into reality.
Video conference for members
We have just started a drop-in group for our members (for membership details, click here), on a video conference line with a top psychotherapist, focusing on self-care and the needs of the family. Consider dropping in. It takes place Wednesday evenings at 6:30. It is free for members. Our psychotherapist has helped so many people over the years, including myself, learn how to care for ourselves and how to navigate relationships. Please consider joining.
You have done so well
I want to give you a big hug and tell you it will all be okay. You have lived through a level of stress that at times you didn’t even know was there. Your family has held together. Whatever happens from here out, you are being pushed to explore yourself at a deeper level. Take the time for this. There is calmness, hope, and even joy in this exploration. I still love the quote by Mary Oliver we put at the very end of Module 8.
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. So tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Since 2003, Allies in Recovery has addressed substance abuse in families by providing a method for the family to change the conversation about addiction. We use Community Reinforcement & Family Training (CRAFT), a proven approach that helps the family unblock and advance the relationship towards sobriety and recovery and to engage a loved one into treatment. Learn about member benefits by following this link.