Ask the Stress Doc -- Q & A
Love & Relationships
1) How to "Let Go" of an Alcoholic Husband?
A. My husband is hopefully a recovering alcoholic. He has gone thru treatment 3 times.
He has been sober almost 30 days. He is on the drug that makes you very ill if you drink.
He says this time he is going to stay sober. My main concern is he has done a lot of
damage to our marriage. Now that he is sober I have asked him for some very basic needs,
like a hug a day, taking me to a movie I would like to go to. He has just decided to go
golfing and be into himself. We can't find a marriage counselor. Am I just wasting my
time? I know when I ask for so little and get absolutely nothing I get angry. Should I
just give up?
A. I certainly understand your feeling of having been burned several times. Can you
trust his recovery process? In fact, as you likely know, you (and he) can only take it one
day at a time. His sobriety is very new; caution needs to be high.
Perhaps before he can be a more loving and giving partner he has to acclimate to his
non-drinking status, to have further mind-body adaptation to his changing biochemical and
psychological makeup. He also needs to confront his shame and make amends for the damage
he's done. At the same time you need the opportunity to express your hurt and anger both
with him and, perhaps, with yourself, if you enabled his problem drinking in any way. All
this is best handled with a counselor trained in substance abuse.
First step, why don't you go to an Al-Anon meeting (for the nonalcoholic spouse) and
ask your to go to an Alcoholics anonymous meeting. I think both of you will obtain
valuable information about the stages of recovery. Also, you are likely to obtain the name
of a private counselor who can do couple's work. A counselor will also help you do an
intervention with your husband's friends and family members. People close to your husband
gather to share their concerns and confront your husband's self-defeating and hurtful
If your husband refuses an intervention, won't go to AA meetings and resists joint
counseling, then you still go to Al-Anon. Consider individual help as well. These actions
will help you clarify next steps in your life: you'll be more clear and confident of your
needs and wants, goals and direction with or without your husband. Seeing you moving ahead
with your life, may just be the "tough love" wake up call he needs.
It is very difficult watching a loved one suffer through alcohol addiction,
but you do have to take them for treatment at
rehabs in Illinois (Footnote 1; see page bottom) or wherever you may be in the United States before the
addiction gets any worse.
remember...Practice Safe Stress!
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, the Stress Doc, a psychotherapist and nationally recognized
speaker, trainer, consultant and author, is also known as AOL's and the internet's
"Online Psychohumorist" . Check out his USA Today Online "Hot
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