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How to have a healthy marriage in AA and Al-anon

Old 01-28-2011, 12:28 AM
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How to have a healthy marriage in AA and Al-anon

Can anyone give me some feedback on how marriages can stay strong if a recovering alcoholic spends most free time in AA and the spouse goes to Al-anon to focus on them selves? If this is a life long process how could the marriage ever be healthy if both people are only concerned with their own needs?

I was raised in a non-drinking family that all loved each other and things were done for the best interest of everyone in the entire family. This meant that there were times of give and take. We all had our own hobbies and outside interests. This concept seems much healthier than each person only focusing on themselves to me.

My husband has been sober for 6 months and I still am trying to figure out if there is even a place or time for me in my husbandís life. If your needs are being neglected while the person in recovery is emerged in AA isn't Al-anon teaching you to be indifferent therefore allowing yourself to be neglected? I completely understand and support that my husband needs to spend a lot of time in AA and also working on his program outside of the meetings. Last week my husband said he could set aside 30 minutes a week to talk or spend time together; this feels very minimal considering he is not currently working.
Any insight would be appreciated.
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Old 01-28-2011, 03:36 AM
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If he isn't working, 30 minutes a week does sound sorta, um, stingy. After six months I would think he could spare a bit more time than that.

Most healthy couples in recovery DO find a balance over time. It's tough to say, though, what's going on with him right now. Some people are so ashamed of the way they treated their partner while drinking that they aren't sure how to behave in a relationship now that they are sober. Have you gotten to know any of his AA friends and their families? In my AA groups there are a lot of families that socialize together.

The lifelong involvement in AA should NOT mean he spends all his free time involved in AA. I'm just not sure where he's at with his recovery right now. Some aspects of the Steps are more consuming than others.

Hope it gets better for you soon.
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Old 01-28-2011, 06:50 AM
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This is an excellent question. I've wondered the same. My AW is going to 3+ meetings a day. She doesn't work. She's using the cover of the meetings to drink. She often goes straight from the meeting to the liquor store. The deceit is now a complicated web of lies. Where she used to just be passed out on the couch at home. She now brags about being sober for 6 months. Ha Ha. Just last night I stumbled upon another receipt for a bottle, from 2 days ago.

She's learned much from AA about how to hide her drinking. It is a safe bet that the only times I know for certain she's slipped, due to unmistakable evidence, are not the only times she's drinking.

I see no way it will work out long term for us. Our home life is better certainly, as her behavior is overall improved. Only someone who has been shaped by years of Alcoholic behavior would think it is good. It is only improved from what it was. AA has become her focus. It is all about her. I'm glad she's trying to get help, and understand I'm powerless to effect her change. Reading through the posts here, it seems the most prevalent solution is to work up the courage to leave the Alcoholic. It takes the Alcoholic many many years and usually several attempts to get real sobriety. I am continuing to work my exit strategy.

You sure yours has been sober for 6 months? I think 6 months of sobriety would bring some welcome changes and a desire to be with family and friends. I think spending so much time at AA might be an indicator the Alcoholic is still drinking, trying to come to grips with his problem.
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Old 01-28-2011, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by zrx1200R View Post
This is an excellent question. I've wondered the same. My AW is going to 3+ meetings a day. She doesn't work. She's using the cover of the meetings to drink. She often goes straight from the meeting to the liquor store. The deceit is now a complicated web of lies.
My husband was just like this when he attended AA and in retrospect he says it was in large part because it was not a programme which was working for him. It left him feeling helpless, which upset him and made him want a drink, along with telling him he was powerless about the "need" which gave him the excuse he needed.

Have you talked to her about trying a different treatment path? AA is just one of many options. And as Franklin D Roosevelt said "It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something."
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Old 01-28-2011, 07:21 AM
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This is an excellent question. I've wondered the same. My AW is going to 3+ meetings a day. She doesn't work. She's using the cover of the meetings to drink. She often goes straight from the meeting to the liquor store.

My AH used to do this. Go to AA meetings and then go drink. An alcoholic will use whatever cover they can to drink, and if pretending to be in recovery works, then they will do it.
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Old 01-28-2011, 10:08 AM
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Anyone tried marital counseling during the first stages of AA recovery?

My 75 days sober AH is interested, but I am hearing its too soon. However, I don't really think its up to ME to determine his readiness for anything, so I told him to determine that for himself and let me know. In the meantime, I go to the counselor alone and work on my own issues, on top of Al-Anon and this forum.

I look forward to reading more posts on this thread because I have the same feeling of what the heck to expect now? Is it possible to pick up the pieces, put them back together into something resembling a healthy relationship, and move forward?
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Old 01-28-2011, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Tuffgirl View Post
Anyone tried marital counseling during the first stages of AA recovery?

My 75 days sober AH is interested, but I am hearing its too soon.
I know there's a general feeling that marital counselling should wait but there is certain evidence to show that it's actually very helpful in recovery. This is an oldish study, nearly 8 years, and certainly some of the medical findings are now outdated, but it rated behavioural marital therapy as the 10th most successful addiction treatment. What works? A rank order of effective treatments

Is it possible to pick up the pieces, put them back together into something resembling a healthy relationship, and move forward?
From my perspective, once my husband truly stopped drinking, everything in our lives just fell back into place. I'm not saying everything is perfect but they are far better than they have been in a very, very long time.
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Old 01-28-2011, 01:42 PM
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Kitty P is right. There are alternate programs such as SMART recovery and Life Ring. AA is definitely not the only way.
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Old 01-28-2011, 05:25 PM
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Everbody's recovery does not have to look the same...

...and it won't, even when both are using AA and Al-Anon to do it. It will either work for you as a couple or it won't. In my case, I go to Al-Anon, my wife goes to AA, and we co-parent a 15-year old. There is very little time for anything but our recovery and our daughter.

The thing is this-- if we don't put our recovery first everything else falls apart. Everything. Our only choice other than putting recovery first is to not be together at all, and today we choose to be together. That's not to say that I don't occasionally miss a meeting because of somethng family-related, but when I do I always make up the meeting as quickly as I can.

It was precisely because I used to put her first that I ended up in hell. Now my priority list, and my wife's is very similar, goes like this:
  1. Me and my recovery.
  2. My daughter and her needs.
  3. My wife and her needs.

Occasionally number 2 and number 3 change places, but number one always remains the same.

Some days I don't see my wife until I get home and get in bed. When I do we always do the same thing-- we look at each other and I say to her, "here we are again." And she says to me, "we made it another day."

I'll take it.

Cyranoak

P.s. It's not a race, and everybody heals (or not) at different speeds. You can't say that if they aren't more engaged with family in six months something is wrong. It takes as long as it takes! It's about sobriety and recovery. If they are still drinking, they are still drinking, and it has nothing to do with time at all.
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Old 01-28-2011, 11:40 PM
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My AW and I tried marriage counseling shortly after she got out of rehab. Because now that she was "fixed," she was ready to start working on me! I'm just thankful that I was in Al-anon by then and avoided getting too wrapped up in that particular drama.
So, we did marriage counseling once a week for 5 weeks and then twice a month for a couple of months after that. It didn't fix our marriage...but it helped. We both had the opportunity to talk, with a neutral moderator to nurture the process. We re-learned the art of conversation. I learned about boundaries, detachment, and even learned to be a little more open. We both said a lot of true things to each other that were hard to hear...but they were still true. The whole experience was useful.

My AW still spends a lot of time at AA. She believes that it's important to help her "guard her sobriety." I heard a guy talk about guarding his sobriety and he shared something that happened with his co-alcoholic partner when she tried to get him to choose between her and AA. He said "Without my sobriety, I can't help anyone." Word.
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Old 01-29-2011, 12:45 AM
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Maybe he is really struggling with keeping his urges to drink in check, more than he will admit to you. I wouldn't go so far as to say he is drinking again. It may take more effort and work in AA for him at this point. Recovery is different for everyone.

My RABF is going to meetings left and right and is in intensive in-patient treatment. I felt abandoned but now I am seeing the results of all the work he is doing. Our relationship has actually deepened and he is trying to do the right thing.

But it took a while. He was also kind of 'weird' the first few months. The weirdness I know now was him learning to adapt to interacting with me sober (again). He is more himself as time goes on.

The part that troubles me in your situation is that he doesn't seem to be acknowledging or understand how this is affecting you. I am not so sure that has to do with his recovery or just 'doesn't get it'.
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Old 01-29-2011, 05:13 AM
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I am not nor have evr been in a relationship with a recovering alcoholic - my ex remains steadfast in his dedication to alcohol-induced oblivion - so pinch of salt on all I say.

Everyone is different, he may be hanging onto his sobriety by a thread, and may continue to need those meetings and self-time for a long time, or forever, or it may ease off, no-one can tell, not even him. He may simply enjoy the excuse to focus entirely on himself, love the company, or be scared of the damage he's done and find interacting with you difficult because of his shame; again there's no way of knowing.

I can't imagine how difficult and frustrating this is for you, still waiting to find out if the relationship will ever be something that you can have your needs met in. What you need out of a relationship is something he can't give right now, and there will be some people who can never hang onto sobriety and be in any intimate relationship, and some who cannot be sober and participate in the relationship that you need. That doesn't make your needs unreasonable or his focus unreasonable.

FWIW looking at those people who seem to be happy in their long term relationships around me, they do appear to put themself first, but are fortunate (or wise) enough to have chosen a partner who does the same AND where their needs complement each other. I wouldn't be happy in some of these relationships, because my needs are different. Some of those I met in alanon had relationships that I would find so "joined together" that I would feel stifled or so seperate that I would feel there was no point, but they seemed happy in them and we all get to define what our own needs are.

the only way to know what the future holds is to get to it, and you get to decide how to spend that time and if at any point you've had enough waiting for the relationship to be one you can feel good in.
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Old 01-29-2011, 05:50 AM
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P.s. It's not a race, and everybody heals (or not) at different speeds. You can't say that if they aren't more engaged with family in six months something is wrong. It takes as long as it takes! It's about sobriety and recovery. If they are still drinking, they are still drinking, and it has nothing to do with time at all.[/QUOTE]

I agree with this completely. My husband has been in recovery for 16 months. The first 6 months were nothing like what the last 6 months have been.

I did not appreciate when we started the recovery journey how winding the road would be. First he had to get sober, then he had to start dealing with all the issues he didn't deal with during all the years of drinking. For him it is a slow process.
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Old 05-05-2013, 09:58 AM
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How did it work out for ypu?

I too am facing the same situation. My dw is in Al-anon as am I. We've Both rejoined after many years of being away.

My wife has been told by her sponsor to focus on her and that she isn't ready yet to take on counseling.

Originally Posted by Tuffgirl View Post
Anyone tried marital counseling during the first stages of AA recovery?

My 75 days sober AH is interested, but I am hearing its too soon. However, I don't really think its up to ME to determine his readiness for anything, so I told him to determine that for himself and let me know. In the meantime, I go to the counselor alone and work on my own issues, on top of Al-Anon and this forum.

I look forward to reading more posts on this thread because I have the same feeling of what the heck to expect now? Is it possible to pick up the pieces, put them back together into something resembling a healthy relationship, and move forward?
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Old 05-05-2013, 10:11 AM
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My marriage is awesome now.

Mon and Fri are my meeting nites and Tues/Sat are dh's. Thursday is family night (pizza and board games or movie). Sun and Wed are for family or other stuff that comes up. We eat sit-down dinner every night (even w/kids sports) and communicate openly as a family. The kids have a safe, nurturing environment and dh/I still keep recovery front and center (I am GSR of my home group and dh is web rep for the district).

We were in marital and family counseling for about a year in the beginning. The beginning is loaded with recovery stuff, but it is worth it and we settled into a great routine. Making drastic, permanent changes takes a lot of work, but it is well worth it.

We will be married 15 years in August. And it just keeps getting better and better. The solution is in the steps....the solution works if we work it!!
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Old 05-05-2013, 12:46 PM
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THis is all good advice. I've realized a few important things in my own relationships with As:

People go to AA and still secretively drink (I don't know why this shocked me, but I was completely blindsided by it).

I will never know for sure how his recovery is going, what he's doing, whether he's truthful--and this is true of all people.

I can only judge the quality of our relationship by my own experience...is the behavior I experience acceptable and satisfying for ME?

"Satisfying" is a key. If someone is honest & truthful and sweet and annoys the Sh** out of me, then that's acceptable behavior, but it's not enough. There are people out there that I really enjoy. That's where I try to spend my time (of course, we are all annoying sometimes, but I get to choose how much patience I have for being unhappy).

Good luck to you!
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Old 05-05-2013, 04:23 PM
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I'm sober almost three years, and one of the things I really didn't like about AA is how it took over people's lives, like a cult. I couldn't see how missing dinner with your spouse and children 5 days a week for 5 years was healthy for anyone. There are alternatives. To be "given" 30 minutes a week for together time is sad.

I used womenforsobriety.org online, which is wonderful. There are lots of,other programs, but if your husband believes,the AA lines about how you will drink without it, he may make it the focus of his new life. I don't really know what you can do, but I do think it is very common. I hope you can work it out.
Best,
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Old 05-06-2013, 07:28 AM
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Back towards the start -- some do and some do not.

Make it to Long-Timers, as it were -- in AA / Alanon as a couple, that is.

I am in Alanon about 4 years now -- with about a 1-1/2 year break, in there (MAJOR, MAJOR Mistake on my part), and Mrs. Hammer has been in AA since college, about 16 years ago, and our 10 year old daughter has been in Alateen about 3 or 4 months, now.

That seems to be holding us together -- the rubberbands holding us get stretched pretty hard at times, but that may be a case of us not staying prayed up, more than anything wrong with the program, per se.

My sponsor and his Mrs. were 34 years in. She was AA and he is Alanon -- his sponsor was from AA since there were no men in Alanon back then. She died this last year. He knew her 60 years and they were married for 56. Back when he started, there were no men in Alanon, so his sponsor was in AA.

I see a fair amount of other Long-Time couples, too. But most are with the wife in Alanon, the husband in AA. They all seem pretty happy in it. But then again I have my eye(s) tuned that way, and in life one may tend to see what one is looking for, and if you are looking for something you may just get it. At least that is my planning.

On the other hand, there are a fair amount of splits, too -- and most folks that start in do not stick around.

nbunderstanding, I follow the first six months can be rough. Mrs. Hammer is now back not quite 5 months from rehab. Eating Disorder on this round -- but that started with an Alcohol relapse. Alcohol, Drugs, Self-Injury, Eating Disorders -- all just about the same cat with different color fur as near as I can tell. Something to ease the pain in the addict's brain.

Funny you saying about how can you have a family together when they are all apart. After Mrs. Hammer came back from rehab, it was like her new addiction was lying. Just compulsively lying about anything/everything. You know they are supposed to do 90 meetings in 90 days. After at first being distressed about the all the lies, and winding up in Alateen, my 10 year old daughter and I started laughing and calling it 100 Lies in 100 Days. I guess all the lying was Mrs. Hammer's way of coping with her Eating Disorder being taken away.

Finally our daughter and I got smart and prayed that God would remove all the Lies and Evil from our home. About two days later, Mrs. Hammer got a job (she is an MS Social Worker) at a Long Term Rehab Center working with chronic relapsers. She is gone about 60 hours a week. My daughter mused about that and said -- now all the lying is gone from our home. She has some wicked dark humor.

Mrs. Hammer is now telling me that the chronic relapsers she is working with -- first thing she busts and hammers them on is lying. Daughter and I roll on the floor laughing over that one. Mrs. Hammer was also telling me that she met the owner of the operation last week and he called her a liar twice in the conversation. He was joking . . . but no he was not. God does really funny and good work when we ask and let Him.

In all this -- something that seems to get missed, or goes unspoken -- this is NOT just about Alcohol, Drugs, [pick your addiction]. It is often a genuine Mental Illness issue. Their brains are not functioning in what we in the Non[Alcoholic / Addict / Mental Illness] realm can really track nor understand. The [drug of choice] is being used to sedate their emotional pains.

But in all that long-rambling, you asked about what any/all of this should, or at least could be teaching you/us. Simple -- g.o.d. Good Orderly Direction. If you are on THIS path, that is the ticket, the road map, the doorway and the key. The whole enchilada, as it were.

hmmm, I would like a family sized order of God Enchiladas for the Hammer household, please and thank you. Wonder if that is on Mrs. Hammer's Eating Disorder Food Plan?
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Old 05-06-2013, 07:50 AM
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The couples I know that go to AA and alanon, and work their programs, have the best relationships. In early recovery we're taught to be somewhat selfish. We need to be. As we grow that becomes quite the opposite. A person truly working the 12 steps actually becomes much more selfless. That is in fact what recovery is all about. It just doesn't happen overnight. Takes a whole lot of time, but time goes much faster than we ever think it will.

AA isn't the only solution, but if someone is a hopeless alcoholic, and they're willing to incorporate the steps into their lives, it's still the most successful solution. Some might argue that, but I won't argue back. It's the only thing that worked for me. Oh yeah... My wife sometimes goes to alanon, and we still love and support each other after 17 years. Our relationship is not based on selfishness. It's based on loving ourselves so we're healthy and free enough to love each other.

I highly recommend AA and Alanon, just don't expect instant results... and don't expect a whole lot if all you're doing is attending meetings. If that's the case other solutions might work better. We have to grow and change if we want our lives and relationships to do the same.
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Old 05-06-2013, 07:52 AM
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AA won't always be as all encompassing as it is at the beginning. People in early recovery are fearful and many cling to AA as much as they did the booze.

My RAH is in his 4th year of recovery and at first I was resentful of how much time he spent at AA. I saw him way less than when he was drinking and I guess a part of me felt replaced. I would say it was probably 9 months or so in when he cut back from the daily meetings and we started to reconnect.
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