How Can We Balance Recovery and Our Marriage?

Ask Angie: Hello friend in Christ…just wanted to tell you my husband and I have been having issues for a while now. He is in recovery and I am not (although I am not an addict) I need Alanon in my life but find it hard to arrange a ride (no car) and sitter for my 6 yr. old. My husband lives three houses away from our home. I try not to hassle him about time with us but he seems to need time with the AA family more and we really need him to show us emotionally he cares to keep the family together too. I understand he has to stay sober to be a dad/husband of any kind, but to me there is a huge vacancy in our life. I love him with all my heart. We need counseling terribly and church makes me so happy. I’m without a vehicle so life is kind of challenging now. I will survive this, with or without him.

Marriage Guidance: It’s great you are both in recovery. You may not be an addict in the sense you don’t “use” a substance but most spouses of alcoholics also need inner healing. Alcoholism is a family problem that affects almost everyone who is involved with the addict, especially a spouse. Many spouses go through detachment withdrawal once the alcoholic gets sober. It’s because everything is so very different once the alcoholic is sober. It’s the difference between night and day – doctor Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. It may take some time getting used to the adjustments of sobriety.

I’m sorry to hear you cannot find a ride or sitter for your six year old. If I were you, I’d ask some of the other mothers in Alanon if they live near you if they could pick you up. Of course you would offer to pay for half the gas. Perhaps if there are enough mothers with smaller kids in your Alanon meetings, you can all hire a sitter on the premises. It sure would make going to meetings easier for all the mothers with small kids.

Another solution to not having a sitter is online recovery groups. I just came across a great place called Christians In Recovery. They offer a vast array of support services to those who are addicted and for those who love an addicted person – From blogs to chat groups, and from live help to recovery books – you name it – they have tons of resources. All of their materials are scripturally based. You can check them out here:

You’re certainly right about one thing. Your husband does need to stay sober to be the husband and dad that God intends him to be. Right now your husband is going through a whole new aspect of his life. He needs time to understand “who he is” and to work on “loving himself” again so he can love his family in the proper ways. The reality shock of sobriety can be quite an eye opening experience for anyone. It is a learning period for your husband as he discovers how to live his life without drinking.

This period of time can take months, depending on how he prepares himself for the 12 steps of AA. Everyone is different. Some people whiz right past the 12 steps, while others take a little bit more time absorbing all of this new information they are finding out about themselves. This is what AA is. It helps the addict understand how to cope and deal with life’s stresses and problems sober. It wouldn’t hurt for you to read up about the 12 steps of AA yourself so you can get a better understanding of what the addict goes through.

It’s important that your husband have your support as he pulls himself out of the insidious depths of alcoholism. You say he spends a lot of time at AA? Well that’s because he is struggling to maintain sobriety, and for him, Alcoholics Anonymous is where he feels the most comfortable, least threatened, and tempted to drink. Everyone is different. Some people don’t lean on AA as much as others do – it just depends on the person. Newly sober alcoholics are very vulnerable people and AA is a safe haven from that kind of exposure.

When a husband suddenly gets sober, it changes things for his wife. He is now a different person – he doesn’t need you for anything, he doesn’t need for you to make him look good to the kids, he doesn’t need you to put him to bed, bail him out of jail, or to make excuses for his alcoholic behavior. Basically he doesn’t need you to keep rescuing him anymore because he has rescued himself! Hopefully with God’s intervention, if he accepts it, he will remain sober for life.

For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

This may leave you feeling apprehensive and fearful for what to expect. You didn’t say it in your email but I can read through the lines. I can tell you what to expect. Don’t expect any kind of a commitment from a newly sober alcoholic. They are still trying to make a commitment to themselves to stay sober. The newly sober alcoholic (one week to six months) is not going to think about too much of anything except for himself and his sobriety. And this is normal for any recovering addict.

You have to pray about this and ask God for the strength and courage to be as supportive as you possibly can for your husband. Do not take his distance to mean anything personal. What he needs the most from you right now is for you to be a loving, caring, and compassionate wife. Seek God’s presence in your life for the peace you need and ask him to watch over you.

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:25

Do not rush your husband through the 12 steps, or expect him to make any commitments right now –it’s too much to ask at this point. Be content that he is getting sober and understand that it was probably for his family that he decided to get sober in the first place. After six months of sobriety I don’t see any reason why you guys should remain separated. Your husband should move back into the home with you and the children where you can learn to be husband and wife again, reconnect, bond, become intimate and be a family once again.