Your husband has had a long-term drinking problem. The longer it went on, the more alone you felt. He may have been a good provider, but you felt neglected, because most evenings he was zoned out on alcohol.
It came to a head two months ago when you were ready to leave. He quit drinking and went to rehab, returning last week. He declares he quit for good this time. He looks the same, and you wonder…
The two of you have just entered one the highest risk periods of your marriage. If living with a functioning alcoholic was difficult, living with a recovering alcoholic may be temporarily even more taxing. It is no coincidence that many marriages end after rehab.
Below are three common post-drinking/post-rehab scenarios (without relapse).
All he changed was his drinking. If he smoked before, he still smokes. If he was grouchy before, he is still a grouch. If he wasn’t interested in sex in his drinking days, nothing much has changed. He hangs out with the same friends, only he doesn’t drink. He gets defensive if you try to talk about it, just like before.
He goes to a meeting every night, leaving you alone. He explains that his sobriety depends on it. His behavior is a little better, and he definitely smells better, but you’re still lonely in the evenings.
Addiction is compulsive seeking and consuming something. It was alcohol. Now it’s meetings. He has substituted one addiction for another. Just as he used to get agitated if he couldn’t drink, now he gets agitated if he can’t go to a meeting.
After a few weeks or months of this some men will shift into scenario three.
He may or may not go to a few meetings, but he sees a therapist who is helping him deal with the old demons that underlay his drinking. He is becoming more personally insightful, happier, more energetic and more loving. In short he’s experiencing a burst of personal growth. He wants to talk about things including whether he should change professions. His old friends are drifting away.
All three scenarios can be scary for you as the spouse, because a lot of personal change is required of you too, starting with an abundance of patience.
The problem was alcohol, you thought, but it turned out to be something much deeper. His dealing with his demons (scenario three) exposes your demons. Surprise! When something changes, everything changes, including you, if you’re still there.
Making it through the first couple of years after alcohol will at the very least make heavy demands on your reservoir of patience … and on his.
You can reach Registered Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill at 250-752-8684 or through
his website www.neillneill.com