Spouse of a Recovering Alcoholic

Unfortunately, there are many substances that people get caught up in, one of which is easily accessible: alcohol. Many of us personally know an alcoholic, and realistically, some of us are the alcoholic. The life of an alcoholic takes a large toll on those around them; the person who may often take the brunt of the problem is their spouse. Wendy is the wife of a now recovering alcoholic and it has been quite the journey and will continue to be.

She says this has been a problem all their married lives but became more of a problem as the years went on.

“Being young, you’re having a good time going to parties and all so you don’t pay much attention to the intake. It’s more when you spend a few years of marriage together that you notice it to be an issue.”

Wendy had a young child when she met her husband, Adam., so making sure her son had everything he needed was her priority. She didn’t pay much attention to how much her spouse drank. It wasn’t until her son was much older and out of the house that it was something that was much more evident. Then her husband had a heart attack, approximately 10 years ago, which really put him in a bad place in which the drinking increased.

Being brought up with a father and brothers who drank excessively, Wendy’s relationship with alcoholics started long before Adam came along. That type of dysfunctional environment was what she grew up with, so to her this type of behavior was what a “regular” family was like. This made her much more tolerant and accepting of the situation with her husband.

“I believed alcoholism was the norm, that’s all I had known.”

People in situations such as this often blame themselves. But its important to note that in an alcoholic’s life, their first and most important relationship is with the bottle and it doesn’t make it your fault.

As the spouse or someone close to the alcoholic you may “…put on a facade for everyone because you don’t want to be judged. It gets very draining.”
After carrying this type of burden, you get tired of trying to fix your relationship and help get an alcoholic out of their rut. This is often when the tolerant person breaks.

The breaking point for Wendy was when her husband threatened her with physical violence. For years, she was mentally abused, there wasn’t much physical abuse but the threats to do so were there. This last threat was the last straw, she knew she had to do something about it. After a major altercation and the decision to separate from her husband, Adam finally became aware of his drinking habits and the chaos he had created. This was the moment he decided to put down the bottle. Now, Adam has been sober for eight months and hopefully will continue down this path.

Wendy ’s husband is making great strides in his recovery program and going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings four or more times a week. Their relationship has certainly gotten better since his sobriety but there is always a lot of uncertainty. There is an underlying fear that an alcoholic with relapse and go back to their old ways.

To cope with thoughts like those, Wendy regularly goes to therapy, drinks herbal tea, and prays.

“I don’t think I would have the confidence that I have now without my therapist. I’ve been going to her for almost 3 years and it has really helped both with this and all other issues.”

Wendy views her therapist as a friend; someone to chit chat with and let off steam. This is a healthy way to express your feelings and struggles and she suggests it to anyone who has something they are dealing with.

Wendy and her husband are actively working on their relationship. Naturally, they have their ups and downs but they are trying to improve both together and as individuals. Wendy is taking much more time for herself now and her husband accepts and supports her in this as he works on healing himself.

“I’m finally taking charge of myself. I’m going on solo vacations and doing things that I want to do. I’m finally putting myself first which has never been the ordinary.”

Substance abuse is a habit too many good people get lost in. As someone innocently involved in a relationship with another who has taken a bad path, it is important to know that you need to take care of you. Helping someone is a valiant act and sometimes all they need is a little push to get out of their abusive stage. But it is important to know, that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped and that you matter too. Be sure to take care of you.

Wendy, 60

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