Recovering from addiction leaves marriage strained

  • Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dear Liz,

My husband and I have been married for 16 years and have two children ages 13 and 9. We are both successful and have a great life. Except, I finally recognized that my very socially acceptable drinking of alcohol ( with friends, dinner out, etc.) had become more of a problem than I’d ever thought possible or that I would (before starting true recovery) recognize or certainly admit.

I looked great, beautiful kids, great home, successful husband. Here’s the problem: now that I am actively and genuinely in the recovery process, I am finding that my husband and I are going down two different paths. I was warned about this when I initially went into treatment, but denial is denial.

He does drink “socially.” I never thought it would be an issue. But I notice more and more changes in his behavior during and after drinking. He has personality and mood changes, and a lot of defensiveness about it.

I have learned that I am NOT to focus on his behavior, especially around alcohol. I can only control myself and my reactions to things. But, it IS an issue that I see affecting our marriage and the children. I feel caught between a rock and a hard place.

Still codependent

Dear “Still...”

Thank you for such a well-written letter about a sadly common problem in our society and culture.

And yes, not being “OK” unless the other person is “OK,” and especially “OK” with you, can be the relationship addictive issue (so named codependency).

It makes life hard. The healthy part of that is the natural codependency between a newborn and mother. Other part, well, it makes life hard and complicated.

If you are actively in recovery, then you (should) have a sponsor who can give you immediate support with these issues. This also needs to be addressed in your after-care, and hopefully in good, solid marital counseling. When one person in the family goes in treatment, thus recovery, then the whole family should as well.

You are making solid changes and improving your lifestyle in many ways. Everyone needs to adapt to that and be making their own changes for the better. Great communication is at the forefront. It is difficult to accomplish this without professional help.

As you know, focus on what YOU can control. Seek help for the family. Stay in your recovery process. Congratulations for the courage to choose the right path! Resources: Alcoholics Anonymous East of the Cooper (www.area62.org/area62/lookup.php); Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs Clinical Services, MUSC (clinicaldepartments.musc.edu/cdap). Make sure licensed counselors have specific clinical knowledge and experience working with families dealing with alcohol issues. May you be blessed with continued healing and wholeness.

Dear Liz,

My husband has several serious ailments and refuses to follow his doctor’s orders, get proper care or go for required tests and treatment.

He is the stepfather for my children, who are grown and out of the house, so at least they are not living through the nightmare.

We are in our early 60s and retired. But this is so stressful and leaving me terrified.

Sadly not a nurse

Dear “Sadly,”

This is a silent epidemic which causes great heartache and hardship for the person who cares for the one ailing. Men, more than women, can be exceedingly stubborn when it comes to health, let alone health care.

Sometimes it is learned behavior from one’s family of origin, mainly their father/grandfather. It is seen to them as “being tough” or “being a man,” when actually it is being largely selfish! Sorry but true!

We owe it to our spouse to take the very best care of ourselves, to prolong our lives and quality of life by making good choices and engaging in solid preventative and intervention medicine and health practices.

Is he aware of YOUR suffering? Are you getting caring support from family, friends, or church? Do not isolate yourself. Do not blame yourself! You need to grieve, because this behavior is often a slow suicide when it comes down to it. Do what you can do to get your affairs in order (and his) and live your life. Make whatever arrangements you can to help him.

But again, it is critical to know what you can control and what you cannot. Bless you in this frustrating and difficult time. Please reach out to get all the help and support you can.

Please send your questions and comments to asksharpliz@ gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Masters-level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.

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