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Old 05-05-2008, 12:07 PM   #1 (permalink)

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Unhappy My husband is an ACOA

My husband and I got married about 2 years ago and it has been a very difficult 2 years. My husband's father has been an alcoholic for at least 15 years. Their family has all the traits of an alcoholic family and my husband has all the traits of an ACOA. I have contacted this forum because I just can't handle the pressure anymore of being married to an ACOA. The expectations, the inconsistency, the rollercoaster of emotions, the drama, the irrational behavior, the mis-trust, the emotional abuse and the twisted way of thinking. The environment at home is so unhealthy. I understand that ACOA will be a life long struggle for him but I can't help but wish he could simply be "re-programmed". I always knew that my husband had ACOA but I didn't realize until now just how engrained and hard wired these behaviors are in his life. It affects absolutely every part of his character. Unfortunatly now all I see in him is ACOA. I feel like I've found him out.
The fact is that our relationship does not resemble a healthy marriage in any way. From the day we met, he always said and did the perfect things to make everyone including me believe that he's the "perfect guy" and has a "wonderful life". Shortly after our wedding, I noticed that he "talks a big talk" but doesn't follow through with anything and that he has 2 very different personalities. There's the perfect personality that's presented to our friends and family and there's the absolute monster personality that only I see at home.
We started seeing a marriage counselor about 6 months ago and he also started to see the counselor on his own to discuss ACOA. During these 6 months my husband learned a lot about himself and acknowledged the devastating effects of growing up in an alcoholic family.
I know his recovery will be a lifelong challenge however how can I be expected to stay in this marriage and support my husband when he still cannot control his anger/words and behaviors. At home I have conditioned myself to feel scared of him and walk on eggshells at home. I'm not myself anymore. I have lost contact with all my friends and family because I'm afraid to admit just how bad things are at home.
Lately I've been feeling like the marriage counselor hasn't entirely grasped the depth of my husband's ACOA. My husband spends hours in counseling giving detailed descriptions of events involving me that angered him since the last visit. It seems like the entire session is a time for him to vent about all these things that I do that make him angry. He has expectiations for how he thinks I should act or re-act and of course when I don't meet those expectations, he feels intense anxiety and blows up. It's at these times that he cannot control his words and actions. He raises his voice, says ugly things and harasses me with insults and accusations. There is nothing I can do to calm him down at these times. These episodes usually end with him storming out of the house and driving away in his car for about an hour. I can't help but feel so relieved when he leaves the house. When he returns home I once again feel nervous and sick to my stomach. After reading more and more about ACOA, I realize that his anger comes from a place very deep inside of him and perhaps he needs the help of a psychiatrist or psychologist. Rightnow my husband feels that I've given up on our marriage and that I've already made up my mind to leave. He says he's hopeful that things will get better and that he continues to learn about himself each day. To me, that's kind of like an alcoholic saying "I don't have a drinking problem" or "I promise I'll quit drinking". Why am I expected to trust the judgement of someone who has been trained to ignore obvious problems in his life. I feel like he is ignoring the reality that we have struggled for 2 years and it has only gotten worse. I don't want to hurt his feelings and I don't want him to feel bad about who he is and how he grew up. I don't want to look back one day and wish I had just tried a little harder to make it work. Has anyone else's marriage been destroyed by a spouse's ACOA?
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Old 05-06-2008, 09:22 AM   #2 (permalink)
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It affects absolutely every part of his character.
For the purposes of clarity, and speaking for myself only, it was not that being an ACoA affected every part of my character - it WAS every part of my character. I was who I was and behaved as I did not because I was being influenced, but because this was how I knew to behave towards others. I'm sure to an outsider, this mode of living has got to be not only overwhelming but probably completely insane. To those of us trying to change who we are at our core fundamentals, it is a very familiar thing.

Has anyone else's marriage been destroyed by a spouse's ACOA?
Mine almost was, except that *I* was the ACoA spouse. I didn't know how to set boundaries, I expected my husband to read my mind, instead of screaming matches, both of us would go silent, sometimes for 2 - 3 days because both of us were walking on eggshells.

We went to marriage counseling. I had to learn to say no. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. See, ACoA's aren't allowed to say no. So if we don't want to do something, we have no way of voicing it. So we say "yes", we do it, we get mad because the other person "made" us do it (even though we didn't say 'no'), the anger builds and builds until it explodes over some weird thing that baffles the more healthy partner, who then gets scared to say anything at all.

Our counseling was as you describe. Every session was me griping about 'everything he'd done wrong'. The counselor let this continue so that she could get a better idea of what was really happening. Then one day she "turned on me" (that's what it felt like). Suddenly there was a lot of "why don't you say no?" and "if you don't tell him what you want, how can he know?". The first 6 months of counseling was us airing all our grievances, with some input and homework from the counselor. The next 18 months was almost entirely work on me. THAT was a wakeup call.

My husband believes to this day that the only reason our marriage is still together (and now healthy and happy) is that we're both too stubborn to admit we made a mistake in getting married. So both of us worked very hard.

It has been 4 years since we last saw our counselor - we still occasionally have to use some of the tools she gave us to get through sticky spots.

One of the things that helped our marriage counseling the most was that we had a schedule where I met with the counselor separately, then we'd meet together, then he'd meet with her on his own, then together again. So each of us got one session without the other one there to say whatever we wanted and work on whatever without fear of things spilling over outside.

As for your husband's therapy, is he seeing someone trained in cognitive behavioral therapy? If he can find someone like that, I Highly recommend it. I also suggest that he take in the 13 common characteristics of ACoAs stickied at the top of this and give them to his therapist, with all that apply to him circled. This will help the therapist know what tack to take with the therapy and what he's dealing with.

I have been in individual therapy for 4 years straight now, 3 with a cognitive behavioral therapist. Best decision I ever made was to try out CBT (it sounds hokey online when you read about it, but it works really really well).

I wish you luck. The best piece of advice I can give you is to make sure you take care of yourself during this time, whatever decision you make. If you feel that seeing the marriage counselor "one off/one on" like we did, bring it up. I know it's hard to make your voice heard at home, but in the therapists office, you should be able to (at least if the therapist is any good - they'll control the situation to allow you to speak your mind).
There are no great deeds; only small deeds done with great love. ~Mother Theresa
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Old 09-26-2012, 02:30 PM   #3 (permalink)

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Toxic Para-Alcoholic friends of an ACoA spouse

Has anyone found a support group for people whose spouses are severely affected by an abusive alcoholic parent and who are attracted to para-alcoholics who control the spouse but will not admit they are toxic and need help themselves.

My wife does not see that she is in a toxic co-dependancy relationship with two very toxic people.
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Old 09-26-2012, 05:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I don't know of one specifically but we do recommend Alanon and the ACoA's support group. But this would be for you, not her. Not yet. She needs to come to this realization herself, it's pretty hard to get others to understand just because you do. Get some books and literature or print out some of the stickies above and lay them around. Maybe she will eventually look at them. I wish you well.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

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Old 09-27-2012, 04:15 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by bcon View Post
Has anyone found a support group for people whose spouses are severely affected by an abusive alcoholic parent and who are attracted to para-alcoholics who control the spouse but will not admit they... need help themselves.
EXACTLY. The original post is saying, "My spouse is an ACOA. Our problem is all his -- he needs to change, or the marriage won't work."

At one time, I thought the only issue in my household was that my wife drank -- if only she would address her problem, all would be well. Uh, nope. I needed some work, too -- in fact, after I started going to Al-Anon, things got a lot better at home, even well before she went to treatment for alcoholism. If I hadn't taken a look in the mirror, nothing would have changed.

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Old 09-27-2012, 10:11 AM   #6 (permalink)

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Acoa is a good group if they are active near you. Alanon are easier to find, but as and ACOA I felt like a bit of an outsider there.

The prior comments about the spouse recognizing the problem and wanting to change cannot be understated. YOU can't force the realization on you spouse. They have recognize it for themselves.

You could help yourself by attending Alanon. You can learn coping tactics that will help you from being drawn into the insanity. For your spouse to recognize thier problem, you have to not be there to catch them when they are making bad choices.
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Old 09-27-2012, 11:09 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by MrThekla View Post
The prior comments about the spouse recognizing the problem and wanting to change cannot be understated. YOU can't force the realization on you spouse. They have recognize it for themselves.
I don't want to come across as busting the original-poster's chops, which I have a tendency to do (as you guys know)... And the silver lining is that there is a lot you can do to make things better at home, even if the spouse doesn't do a thing (or even admit there's a problem).

I get my 17-year medallion (self-purchased) on Monday, as a reminder of when I started going to Al-Anon. My wife doesn't get her 17-year until next May. That's because I started going to meetings back when she was still drinking vodka like it was on special at Costco. She was very ill and getting worse by the day -- and we fought constantly, before I started in the program. But gradually -- and it didn't take long -- I learned some tools to deflect the anger, not get baited into fighting, and generally figure out how to deal with an active alcoholic, to the point where after a few months, we weren't fighting much at all anymore -- except occasionally about "that cult you go to, where you talk about me!" Not long after that, she had an acute bout with her illness (almost died), then went to treatment; that was at the end of May, '96.

So the flip side of this is that even if our worse half doesn't do anything to address his/her problems, there's a lot we can do by ourselves. And it does work!

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