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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 behavior.

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 alcohol rehabs in Illinois (Footnote 1; see page bottom) or wherever you may be in the United States before the addiction gets any worse.

Just 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 Site" website - www.stressdoc.com  and his page on AOL/Online Psych, Keyword: Stress Doc

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Footnotes

1.  Rehabs.com:  The Nations Best Rehabs