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Trusting A Loved One in Early Recovery

couple talking, woman's hands down

Husband sober for 90 days I'm still too scared to let him come home

My husband has been out of the house through detox, residential, sober living (didn't last) and now his own apartment and has 90 days sober (I believe it). We are in couples counseling weekly. As far as he's concerned, he's all better and the only issue is whether or not he's drinking, and since he's not drinking he wants to come home. I have learned a lot about the toll that 6 years of secret addiction has taken on me, and I feel it. I am scared, anxious, and fearful that he is still early in his recovery process and I fear that he is not sufficiently engaged with supports besides medications and a weekly group meeting. He won't even tell me what meetings / appointments he has because it's "his recovery" – and he doesn't have to answer or report to me. He can't come up with any ideas on his own on how he might rebuild trust with me. I am not opposed to him coming home – someday – but I feel there is a long way to go in terms of the actual recovery work. It seems to me that all the root causes of hiding, shame, secrecy and isolating are still there, even if the beer is not right now.

I can’t help but notice common threads between your question and the one that came in an hour earlier from another wife. The trust, love and compassion that you once shared feel eroded by years of the addiction. These feelings of deep anxiety and fear are at the forefront, and it feels like the trust is gone despite your husband being out of the house and in treatment.

It speaks to the emotional disturbance addiction plays on family members even after the Loved One is in treatment and abstinent. My heart goes out to you. Really, it’s a marathon for families; exhausting, painful, and very disappointing. It doesn’t subside completely once they enter treatment and are abstinent.

You’ve successfully gotten your husband out of the house and in treatment. You’ve lived through 6 years of active addiction. After 90 days, in your husband’s mind, he is good enough and ready to come home. Trust doesn’t return over night though. The couples counseling should help you navigate trust, AND your need to keep your protective shield up. It should help you navigate your need to defend your home and peace of mind until sufficient trust has been earned. You’ll know when this is happening, just like you know that right now it is not happening.

What if you suggest something like this:

“I love you and I thank you for addressing the drinking. You have given me hope that we can continue to be together. I feel shaky though, not yet trusting enough to have you back living with me (“us” if there are children). I’d like to take this month by month. Can we agree to visit this topic in counseling in thirty days. We need to talk about trust. We need to talk through what a relapse would look like and how we would handle it? I need to come at this centered, calm, and trusting. I need more time to recover this in my life. I had many moments when I thought we would never be at this stage — you in treatment, us working through problems with a counselor. I am proud of you – and I’m proud of myself too. Please, let’s take this a month at a time for now. I promise to do my best to work on my end of all this. Thank you for being here and for hearing me out.”

If I could I would build a wall (or a fence with slats) around your safe zone. Hubby in apartment and sober, doing what he can see to do right now to maintain his sobriety. You, living in a home where peace has been returned, free to think and take care of yourself finally.

If you butt into your husband’s treatment, asking questions about what he is or is not doing to maintain his sobriety, you are almost guaranteed to get push back. His defensiveness is making you feel shaky. It’s a sign of where he is in his progress. Let him take care of the details of his treatment. You get to respond to what you see in him in the moment. You just don’t know what is going to cause shifts in him.

Thank you for writing in. Your hesitation is valid, and this is a complex time as your husband manages his newfound sobriety. It is a lot to navigate, from both ends. You see his progress and yet you know that much more progress still needs to be made. Honoring and asserting your own needs is an important part of this…  as is acknowledging and appreciating what you have both managed to accomplish. You both need supportive space in this transitional time.

When I put your post together with the one from hope2006, it’s like a “triptik.” You get to look back to what it used to be like when your husband was home using, and hope2006 gets to see what progress looks like and how incremental trust is in any relationship.

I wonder what others on this site have to say on this topic of trust. What members share on this site is so valuable, shining a light on the different parts of these paths we are all walking together.



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’m struggling a bit… it’s been almost 6 mo and my husband has not had a drink which is great, but he is as closed off and isolated as ever. We can spend decent superficial time together… but we can’t and don’t talk about anything other than how great the kids are.

    On the one hand I understand this is a long road and he’s stayed sober and I should let him come back home but on the other he did admit yesterday that has been struggling and not doing his recovery work and that’s been a bit risky.. such that I feel I should trust my instincts that it’s too soon…

    If it were just me and him I wouldn’t be worried at all about timeframe but I have these three kids and already 6 months without dad at home.. I look at them and realize their life story will be when I was in 10-7-4 th grade my dad didn’t live with us that year.. that’s not the life I wanted for them!


    1. Your husband is living outside the family as he gains a foothold in recovery from alcohol. It’s been 6 months, and while he’s still sober, he seems to be retreating emotionally. He recently acknowledged to you that he is doing fewer recovery activities now.

      Your children are living without their dad under the roof. I’m sorry for them and you.… It’s hard enough raising a family without a serious condition like addiction tossing everyone around. Your children are getting an education about illness in the family and about addiction Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response here:

  2. Trust…that is something that returns slowly. My loved one is my daughter and she has done many things while in her addiction so that isn’t easy to forget. I will say the most important thing is when when someone is in recovery you should be able to see it and not have to hear about what they are doing. I don’t know if that makes sense but my daughter behaves very differently. She takes responsibility for her actions. She is helpful around the house and I don’t catch her in lies. She just doesn’t act like an addict it’s like I have my daughter back. I would ask you how is your husband acting and treating you now that he is sober? Have you seen any changes?

    1. Nicely put Shelleybobelly ” I will say the most important thing is when when someone is in recovery you should be able to see it and not have to hear about what they are doing. my daughter behaves very differently. She takes responsibility for her actions. She is helpful around the house and I don’t catch her in lies. She just doesn’t act like an addict it’s like I have my daughter back”

      I love this. Here is where your Loved One can land.