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He’s Rewriting Our Past, It’s Delusional

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AB123 is disbelieving. After years and years of closet drinking, her husband is now 8 months sober. He maintains a narrative in which he was a great dad despite all the risks he took, and the state he was actually in. How should she be responding to such delusional claims?

I have a question. I feel this may have a clear answer, but I am struggling to decipher what is reality and trust my instincts.

My husband was a closet drinker and the primary parent at home for many years (I enabled him by stepping in when he didn't fill his obligations). He is currently 8 mo sober. He insists as a core principal that whatever problems he had with "mommy and our relationship" , his solace was that he was always a great father to the kids. Worse than just believing this, he has told this to the kids.

What? How can this be true? It is not a true-ism that a person in active addiction, engaging in secretive behaviors to obtain and consume their substance, renders them emotionally unavailable because their focus is on obtaining the substance. This is the behavioral neurobiology of addiction as a disease. Let alone, the short-temperedness, the lack of a soothing bedtime routine, the lack of being present or emotionally available. His place of drinking was his truck, in between driving the children to their activities- placing them directly in harm's way.

He believes and holds on to his assertion that is has always been a great father with fervor (must be a coping strategy). I will note that each of my children have manifested – and are just manifesting – the impact of living with a person in active addiction.

I am writing today to seek expertise and guidance – I think to validate my very unclear perspective. I am so uncertain as what to believe, but I think it must be the case that (while he may love his children dearly) it can not be true that a person in the grips of addiction can be a good relationship partner – either husband or father.

What can you share with me to help me understand if I am thinking clearly or not about this?

Is this – now at month 8 of the sobriety journey – a point at which I start to identify the harm that trying to work with someone who is not working a recovery program can cause?

You’re asking whether someone in active addiction can really have been a good father, or for that matter, perhaps a good “anything.”

It is true that addiction has a huge lifestyle component to it, both while active in addiction and for its treatment, while in recovery.

That lifestyle component is responsible for so much stigma being hurled at people with addiction. No one wants to see their teen crawling through the neighbor’s window in search of drugs and money. No one can believe that a husband can drink in his truck and then drive the kids to sports practice and think himself a good dad.

Diabetes doesn’t lead to this socially unconscionable and dangerous behavior. Addiction does.

It just does.

Your husband is 8 months sober. For as long as he was drinking and probably up to the present day, you have been managing, shoring up, and generally living with a partner in active addiction. This is truly worthy of a huge resentment, especially when he boasts of having been a good father, despite it all.

Forgiveness is the answer for you. This is not something to hang on to. You are right in that your husband took unacceptable risk with the children, and that his drinking affected your relationship.

At 8 months sober, the fog of the past for your husband is starting to lift. He is hopefully getting recovery support. That recovery support should focus on the present and the day-to-day work of staying abstinent. Let him say what he wants. Let him gain the insight to see his past more clearly.  He will come to the realization in his own time.

It is hard to imagine just how blind those with addiction are to their role in past circumstances. Stopping the drink doesn’t provide instant insight. This is a longer process.

We are very happy to hear your husband has stopped drinking. 8 months is a good length of time. Hurray for him and for your family.

You can’t underestimate the changes that are going on in your family. Couples go through a profound change when one of them stops using drugs and alcohol. The family has waited for so long, has lived through so much craziness and fear, frustration and anger, and it is such a relief when they finally stop, that you expect everything going forward to finally let up.

Here comes the long hard slog of watching your Loved One, baby step by baby step, start to unravel the past and learn how to not use for today.

Deep breath. Let go of what you can let go. It’s a new day without alcohol in the picture. Hold steady. My hunch is that your husband will come to know how dangerous what he was doing with the kids was, despite being incredibly well meaning and loving his children. Let him come to this….in the meantime, enjoy this day that you have as completely as you can.



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. I do want to add that I completely understand and relate to your difficulty! I struggle with my own — disbelief is a good word — at how my husband interprets past events. It defies reason sometimes. I think it actually does defy reason because the behavior was the result of altered brain states.

  2. For what it is worth, I just spent some time with two adult daughters and their father, who earlier in their life had been dangerous and out of control while drinking. They had shared the fear and pain his behavior caused than, but also now said “he is a good father.” They had forgiven him, and he, now sober, was clearly acting like a good father. It was really beautiful to see and gave me hope. When I first heard about their father’s behavior while drinking, I had assumed their relationship was damaged beyond repair.