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I’m Working On My Own Recovery

Flower in Mud Crack

AB123 is frustrated with the lack of progress in her relationship with her Loved One. He is sober now, and she is grateful, but he hasn’t done anything to acknowledge all the pain and suffering her family endured.

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. It's like his addiction recovery therapeutic supports are giving him a big pat on the back (again I'm happy he's sober!) which makes him feel entitled to a big A+ from me too.

I am only now, in the past 8 weeks, starting to unwind from 10 years of being wound up so tight I was numb, and blind. I developed co-dependent behaviors of losing any sense of what I wanted, other than to do what needed to be done to provide for me and my children. I was in massive denial of the signals of alcohol addiction and I am just now grappling with asking myself how could I have lived with this so long? What does this say about me? What have I done to the children?

The struggle I have in this phase of my recovery is this – I am realizing that I am a basket case with many unexplored and unresolved issues. I am realizing this is the fall out of living with, and living around, an addict. I really just wish he would acknowledge the destruction his addiction has caused to 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.

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.

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 (See 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.

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.

You pay attention to you. Focus on your own recovery. 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.

We have just started a drop-in group on a video conference line with a top psychotherapist. Kayla Solomon is focusing on self-care and the needs of the family. Consider dropping in. It takes place Wednesday evenings at 6:30. Let Toni ( know you want to attend and she will help you get onto the conference. It is free. Kayla has helped so many people over the years, including myself, learn how to care for ourselves and how to navigate relationships. Please consider joining.

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?”



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 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?

    1. 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.

      Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response to AB123 here:

  2. AB123,

    You asked if anyone has a LO in recovery that does not participate in AA. My 23 year old son is 1 year and 10 months in recovery from opioid addiction that was active for 5 years. We had him committed to involuntary treatment that led to his willingness to enter an AA based residential program for 7 months where he attended meetings daily and worked the steps, albeit half heartedly. When he left the program, he began using marijuana to help with anxiety, appetite, and sleep and stopped going to meetings. He has been seeing a therapist continuously and is very open with everyone about his pot use. He continues to see peers he bonded with in the residential program weekly at least. He has a great job in a skilled trade, a wonderful girlfriend, and manages his time and money well.

    I was terrified when he chose this path and could not understand why he would not want to continue to follow a well-worn, time-tested program and risk losing all he had achieved. I felt he owed me this after all the hell he had put us through. But I had to admit that I wanted him to embrace AA because it provided me with security and comfort and support of like minded peers. He doesn’t owe it to me to do things for my comfort, in fact he doesn’t owe me anything. He only owes it to himself to fully own his recovery in his own way. He is the only one who can manage his craving, his demons, his life. Neither he nor I believe a higher power is necessary to do this. We have watched many of his peers from his program relapse while strictly adhering to AA. Two of them died of overdoses. A couple of others like my son don’t go to meetings and are doing fine. My take away is that relapse is a normal part of recovery and that there is not one single path to recovery. I wanted the reassurance that there is a formula out there that “works” but there is no such thing. That was always an illusion.

    While accepting that hard reality, I also work to come to terms with how fearful I am that he will relapse such that I cannot fully enjoy that he is alive and well now. My recovery involves learning to live in the present, which is pretty good, and be grateful for each day. This journey has given me this gift; that there is peace in living life moment by moment and that it is enough. I continue to work on personal issues of not feeling I am worthy of peace or happiness. That I deserved the chaos my son’s addiction brought into our lives because of my denial and inability to see him for who he was.

    I recognize our LO’s are not very similar, but I hope my journey can offer you at least the reassuring that you are not alone in facing these issues. I wish for you peace in your journey.

    1. Hello Momdog.

      I have not been on the AIR blog for awhile so only just saw your post. WOW your sons story is somewhat similar to mine. My son is not in complete recovery – he is now about 9 months since entering a 3month rehab program and he is still smoking marijuana and drinking once or twice a week – usually to excess – I believe he thinks its ok to do this because he’s not using coke which was what he entered rehab for. He does not attend AA or CA meetings but he does see an addiction councilor. He has an on again off again girlfriend who is very sweet but every time she confronts him about his pot and alcohol use he blows up at her and then tells her she’s to blame for making him angry and breaks up with her – typical addict behavior. I have learned through Alanon that I have no control over whatever drug he chooses to use. He believes that his dad and I don’t know what he is doing – I asked the councilor if we could meet together but she said not without his consent. I want to tell him some truths but I’m afraid of the poison that will come at me if I confront him alone- just like how he treats his girlfriend. And boy do I also know how you feel – the fear of relapse, trying to live in the present, being grateful for each day – is exactly like me. I attend Alanaon meetings twice a week and have my support group that help me maintain some sense of peace and serenity. But what you say ” That I deserved the chaos my son’s addiction brought into our lives because of my denial and inability to see him for who he was” is so true. I have several friends who do not have any LOs in addiction and I spend a lot of time thinking that they say just that – we deserve it. But I try to block out those thoughts when they come . It makes me sad to think that my son’s ego and his insecurity are what is hindering his true recovery – like AB123 says in her post. But I am continuing to put him in the hands of my higher power and to get some semblance of sanity and relief from this website and my Alanon group. Don’t give up on your own recovery – keep doing what you are doing. There are others out here just like you

  3. Thank you, Dominique once again for helpful perspective.
    I am in therapy, the kids are in therapy, me and the children are in family therapy, me and my husband are in couples therapy. I attend a weekly support group and get support form this forum.

    Part of my particular struggle is that my husband is not going to AA (he goes to therapy). He is by nature an isolater (set up for addiction), very proud (borne of insecurity), and not at all willing to share (he even told me he’s holding back from me). He has been to AA and thinks “they” are different. And, foolishly, he lets Higher Power concept be an excuse because he insists he is atheist. I know Higher Power is a concept, and one he could work with if he were only willing.

    It’s been made abundantly clear to me that I can’t “make him” go to AA. I believe in my heart that if he were working the 12 steps it would make a difference.

    I get so much value from my family addiction recovery support group, I know groups help so much. I have asked and suggested gently and I have shared the value i get from learning from others and getting support from others with shared experience. He is not willing. I believe this is a big part of what is hindering “recovery”.

    Does anyone else have a loved one in recovery who does not participate in AA?

    I am giving it time. I am witnessing the isolation and barriers and unwillingness to connect to others that led to the addiction. I hope he is willing to connect and engage.

    1. Wow, that’s a lot of therapy. Good, though. AA isn’t the only community for recovery. See our supplement for many others

      Don’t get too focused on AA as the only solution. I agree that he will appreciate having others to share with who have lived experience and that isolation is not good… Perhaps you dig up some of these other groups in your area, along with times and locations. Also, there are online meetings.