abc123 has seen her husband through many years of SUD. It’s been a lot of ups and downs, but now he’s back home. He’s starting a new career path and going back to school, but while he waits for that to start he’s been slipping up more with alcohol. He is home caring for their son sometimes yet doesn’t seem to think the drinking is a big deal.
I am looking for some guidance and perspective on my situation with my husband. I have posted before but will give a quick background on my husband. He has a history of opiate dependence but has successfully been in recovery with the assistance of MAT for the past 15 years. He has however been struggling with alcohol use disorder for the past several years but it case become more severe in the past year and a half. He has also struggled with benzodiazepine use in the past. Over the last year he has been to detox on a few occasions and has also been to IOPs on five different occasions. He recently returned home from a 28 day stay at an inpatient treatment facility, about 2 months ago.
At first it was going fairly well. We both have had some challenges readjusting to him being home. The trust within our marriage has been the most challenging since his return home.
When he first returned home he was doing a lot of work on keeping himself busy. AA meeting pretty much every day, IOP in the evenings and spending time with our son during the day. He has not been working, as he has been able to collect TDI while getting readjusted. In the process of treatment over last year he has decided not to return to his labor job, as he identified it as one of his main triggers. He has decided he would like to go back to school and will work in another field while completing his degree. As the time to get a new job and start school gets closer he has been having more and more frequent slips with his drinking. At first he was being honest with me about it but over the last week has gone back up sneaking around and lying to me about his drinking. I found several nip bottles in the garage tonight and confronted him about it. He minimized the situation, saying it isn’t a big deal. He then followed that up by saying he was a good guy and doesn’t know why I’m so upset, as he doesn’t feel this has any direct effect on me. I am at a loss of how to move forward at this point. One of my boundaries was honesty around his drinking. I know it is not uncommon for someone struggling to lie but we have a young son and I can’t always be second guessing if he is lying about his drinking, especially because he sometimes cares for him while I’m at work. I want to support him but I need to think about what is best for our entire family.
It sounds like you have supported your husband through the trials of his addiction for a very long time. Medication helped your husband stop using opioids, but not benzodiazepines, and more recently he’s having problems with alcohol.
Trust is going to be an issue for some time going forward. It’s not all or nothing, and you will jump to mistrust whenever there is any sign he may be using.
Your husband has done a lot to address his addictions. He doesn’t sound able to completely give up the alcohol. Let your trust waver. It’s going to. Don’t put too much weight on it for now. It is what it is. Almost regaining trust in someone who has been using drugs and alcohol can take years.
Being home all day, unemployed, is not good. Too much unstructured time can really get the head swirling and the cravings kicked up. A career change that involves going back to school is fine, but something new really needs to start now.
You are concerned for your son now that you found evidence of alcohol. Is your husband the only option to care for your son when you are at work? I would suggest that you draw the line about this if you can. Your husband says those nips are “not a big deal,” but they are reason enough to worry that your husband shouldn’t be responsible for your son alone. A few nips can lead to full inebriation in lightening speed. People trying to quit drinking are rife with stories of being “struck drunk” …One moment they’re fine, the next moment they’re on a bar stool and won’t be able to explain exactly how it happened.
So, no, your son may not be safe with your husband at this point.
If your husband it still attending AA meetings, can you find one that starts first thing in the morning and suggest it to him? Tell him it is my idea. You sought some counsel and this was a specific suggestion. Those early morning meetings can help set the intention for the day; many long time AA’ers swear by an early morning meeting.
What’s next? Structure…..any job, school come January?
Even with the level of frustration you have reached, and the patience you have clearly shown throughout the years, CRAFT still asks you to communicate in a way that minimizes defensiveness. This means getting yourself centered enough to be able to let go of past wounds and transgressions. It means finding a way to talk openly and honestly, but without accusation and even without anger. You find a way to process this elsewhere, to work through it however you need to, so that you aren’t holding on to it when you approach the conversation.
Without focusing too much on the nips you found, perhaps you say something like this:
“You’ve worked so hard for so long to address your addiction to drugs and alcohol and I thank you. You’ve come so far. I love you and so does [son], but I cannot take the chance that you may drink during the day when you’re taking care of [son]. For now, [son] will need to be taken care of by X (sorry it’s likely an added burden on you to figure out X). My hope is that you will beat the alcohol like you have the opiates.
Staying home all day isn’t working. I’ve reached out for help and it’s been suggested that I hold on for now. That you may be chipping with the alcohol but that you’re still trying. I know this is not easy, but I believe in you. Can we come up with a plan that gets you out of the house and busy during the week days? Can we figure out the first couple of steps together? I know we both love our family. Please, can I help you to get out of the house and moving on your plans? There is an early AA meeting at XYZ. Some people swear by early morning meetings. Can you find some work or volunteering to keep you busy in the interim before starting school?
I don’t know – I’ve been overwhelmed recently, but we can at least try to make these shifts and see how it goes… I want to trust you and I love our family, I am asking you to redouble your efforts to get alcohol free. Thank you for listening to me.”
It’s not easy. And you have stuck by your husband for so long. He has come far, though many partners would have given up. You are on this site getting solid, well-studied direction on how to manage his alcoholism. We feel strongly that our approach is the best experts have come up with. Give CRAFT a chance to work. If it doesn’t, then you will know you have done everything you can.
We are here for you and appreciate your reaching out. We appreciate all of the work you have put into practicing CRAFT with your husband, and keeping your family together. You must be so exhausted. Try your best to spend a few minutes every day just taking care of yourself. Maybe it’s writing in your journal, sitting in silence, or taking a short walk. Maybe it’s listening, without interruption, to some music that brings you joy. Maybe it’s different from one day to the next. Whatever it is, it’s a gesture to that part of you that needs to be seen and heard and taken care of as well. Practice showing yourself as much compassion as you can. You need and deserve anything that helps bring some ease to your mind and heart.
All our best to your family.