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Post Rehab Life with an Alcoholic Wife

by Peter
(Melbourne, Australia)

My wife has been out of rehab now for 4 days, we have spoken about some of the things that she went through and had to confront while in there. Things were looking optimistic for 2 days in that she was telling me how she felt, in general what some of the other patients in rehab were experiencing, etc.

We had even started lovemaking again and that was terrific, she even said that it felt so wonderful that she could experience it sober. The problem was that I had the temerity to let her know how I was feeling, mainly that I was scared that my religion might come between us even though it was what helped me have the strength to endure her drinking and self destructive behaviour.

Somehow she translated this fear into 'THIS IS THE END OF OUR RELATIONSHIP' and will not back down from this stance(she is also excessively stubborn). No matter how much I have said that I want to work on not only her maintaining her sobriety and our relationship she feels that I have said we are over.

Her coming to this conclusion is tied in with her sense of worth (or lack of it) and in very strong terms "How bad a person she is", "How selfish she is", "How uncaring she is" (these are all her words not mine). I have been battling this lack of self esteem she has for the 8 yrs we have been together(5 yrs married) and in the space of one comment her self-esteem plummeted.

There is always so much more to say to give you a more accurate idea of the actual situation but my lack of writing ability prevents me from saying all that has happened.

So my question is "What do I need to do now to repair the situation?"

I also understand that I can only do my side of things and only she can deal with hers. I also understand that this is still very early days and don't/didn't expect that we would immediately be on track to a happy life together. I knew/know that it would be long hard struggle, so what now?

Thankfully Yours Peter (AUS)


Hello Peter

Your wife is at an extremely vulnerable and sensitive stage and so you simply need to be extremely patient with her.

Poor self-esteem and being insecure is one of the reasons that leads people to look for refuge in alcohol - and since your wife is very much still in the infancy stages of her recovery, all those inner demons that contributed to her alcoholism will take time to be healed.

The most important thing for her now is to work an active alcoholism recovery program - because that will ensure she keeps working at herself and that she keeps on the path of sobriety. So encourage her to do that, but also give her the space to find her own way in her new life of recovery.

But at the same time you're right - you aren't responsible for your wife's feelings. You both have to be responsible for your own stuff. So if she's mis-interpreted what you've said, despite your reassurances, she has to deal with that because you can't walk on eggshells around her constantly.

The bottom line though is that you just need to be patient. While your wife is working on her recovery, you should also look at going to a group like Al Anon, which is for family members of alcoholics. Understanding how to deal with your position from others who've been there can make a world of difference. Plus I'm sure your wife would appreciate the effort you're putting in to better understand what she's going through by doing that.

Your wife has been to rehab and that's great because that's step number one in beating alcoholism. But to ensure lasting sobriety and to really change those self-destructive patterns that led to her life of alcoholism, she now need to work hard at her recovery. And as long as she's doing that, she'll be fine in the end.

So I'm sure given time your wife's insecurity will pass. There's nothing you can say that will 'fix it.' She just needs to do 'her work' and things will start changing. Good Luck and God Bless.

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Sep 25, 2010
Reassure her
by: C-P

Yes when you say something that upsets her in the moment - reassure her that wasn't what you meant and try and re-clarify your message. But there isn't much else you can do because if she continuously interprets something you say as 'negative' when that's clearly not the message you're conveying - that's her stuff and something she needs to work at. So right now while she's extremely sensitive and vulnerable, be very conscious of what you say and how you say it, and hopefully once she's more embedded into her life of recovery, she won't flare up like she is currently and you can start getting some stuff off your chest too.

Sep 24, 2010
Stay Positive
by: Anonymous

Hi Peter,

Believe me there is always something you will say that an addict will use as an excuse to start drinking. It is easier for them to blame someone for picking up the alcohol. All I can say is make any statement or suggestions positive. As far as her recovery AA is vital my husband keeps saying AA does not work and I told him it does not work because you already put it in your head its not going to work. That is why I'm telling you to stay positive.I am going to be honest it is a long hard road and so what i have seen is that those who stick with the program stay sober and relationships improve, those who chose not to work the program never improve. My husband is a good example, went to detox three times rehab once came out believing in the program 6 mos later he stopped believing and he is back to drinking one year later. Stay positive and go to AL-Anon meetings they help us as co dependents.

Sep 23, 2010
Thank-you for the advice
by: Peter

First and foremost thankyou for the advice, I guess I said the wrong thing when I said 'fix this' because what I meant was that when I say something which I feel is harmless and she reacts badly how do I handle it? Do I walk away and leave her to mull it over and then come to me & talk? Do I try to talk to her and try to explain it better? Thats where I am struggling. She has told me that she wants to know how Im feeling, yet when I do, its immediately, 'I knew I shouldnt have come home', I knew this was a mistake', etc.
I am more than happy to work on this with her and to put my feelings aside while she does the 90 meetings in 90 days and whatever she needs to do subsequent to that. Because she threatens that theres no point to doing anything(like AA,staying here at home, etc), she also threatens to kill herself. Again there is so much more to say.
I just need to know how to handle this.
Regards, Peter

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