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relapsing - off to treatment - dare I hope

Old 03-28-2013, 01:40 PM
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relapsing - off to treatment - dare I hope

Well, I have been reading this forum for a few years, it's a great help. I had posted a couple years back, when my alcoholic wife of 26 years was making a now-familiar, yet another apparently-sincere effort to get sober. Looking back, my posting from those days seems so quaint and naive, as I actually had some hope that it would stick and she would stay sober. As before, it only took a few weeks or months (I don't recall at this point) for her to relapse again.

So for the past few years, this has been the pattern: She relapses, I confront her, she promises never again, she wants to quit, she goes back to her AA meetings with a new vigor. Then, after a time, she begins to get a little complacent about going to meetings and talking to her sponsor (too busy, too tired, whatever) and gets defensive and irritated if I ask about it. Then, there is some stress - family drama, job issue, whatever, and she relapses again. She drinks in secret, at home, and from what I can tell, typically drinks a lot of wine or vodka in a pretty short period of time, and then tries to present to me as sober.

It's usually not difficult to tell, she begins to slur ever so slightly, then take to speaking very carefully so as to not slur, but it's a dead giveaway. Still, we have had many unsettling and/or aggravating conversations as part of the episode, with me suspecting she is drinking, wondering what the hell she is on about, and getting a quite annoyed before I finally twig to the fact that she is hammered. This had been happening a few times a year for the past 10 years, though a couple times she was able to go a year or more between relapses.

Over the last year, the frequency of relapses increased. When she relapsed again during the holidays in December, I decided I had had enough, so when I confronted her about it, I told her my patience was at an end, and we had to do something different - she agreed. I told her if she relapsed again, there would be consequences, and that she had to go to treatment, and she agreed. I suggested that she talk to some of her AA friends who had been to rehab, and explore the local options, she also agreed.

Well, surprise surprise, she relapsed again a couple weeks ago. This time, it was a little different. I came home from the office, and we got into a conversation about something, and it was clear she was impaired. I asked if she had been drinking. She denied it, and the conversation continued in the same strange vein. She was saying things that made no sense, and were sometimes so bizarre, several times I had to ask again what the problem was, and she insisting she was fine, had not been drinking. Usually, she will admit to drinking when confronted - but that night, we went to bed with her still claiming to be sober, but of course, it shortly became obvious (no way to hide the smell). But she had been so adamant that she was sober, I came seriously close to considering that she might have some other kind of mental problem.

I confronted her the next day, and she admitted that she had been drinking. I said "Okay, you know what this means. What have you found out about rehab facilities?" Her response - er, um, they don't work very well, I don't know, etc. etc., it was obvious she had not done any serious work to find anything out. I said, okay, but this was our agreement. I told her that the days of no consequences for her drinking are over, I have had enough. To her credit, she said she understood, what happened was unacceptable, and she really really wants to quit drinking. I said, great, but as we agreed last time, there would be consequences. I told her she would move into our guest room until further notice, and would have to go to treatment. She said she did not want to go to treatment - I told her that's fine, she could just move out of the house then. She said no, but she wanted to go to couples counseling - I said ok - find a counselor today, set an appointment, and we will go, but she had to honestly tell the counselor what was going on, and had to agree to abide by what the counselor recommended - even if that included treatment - and she agreed. I told her she would not be re-admitted to the master bedroom until she followed whatever course of action was recommended by the counselor.

We got in to talk to the counselor the next day, and I have to say - I let her do the talking, and she gave an accurate rendering of what had been happening, and expressed a sincere desire to get sober, but admitted she just could not stop relapsing. The counselor naturally asked - have you been to or considered treatment? Er, no. The counselor said getting treatment is a priority, there is no purpose to doing other couples counseling with an ongoing alcohol problem (never saw that coming, ha ha). The counselor also suggested that we could consult an addiction medicine doctor who practices locally. In the interest of brevity, let's just say - doctor's recommendation was also for treatment (too bad we had to spend real money to get the obvious, but at this point, I tell myself that getting her to buy in to the idea is worth spending some money).

I booked tours at a few local treatment facilities, and told her we were going to look at them, she could see what it was like. My hope was that actually seeing them would diminish whatever her fears of treatment were. She came back from the tours with a much more positive view of the concept, and actually expressed the thought that it would be a good thing for her. Afterward, she began talking to her sponsor and some other AA friends and got some firsthand info from people who had been to these places, and with their encouragement, she seems to have rounded the corner and is now looking forward to going.

Since then, things have taken a turn for the better. Naturally I feel better since I myself have drawn my line in the sand and have exerted the control that I have to get this nonsense out of my life. She is saying the right things, often expressing the desire to get sober for good, thanking me for my patience, and apologizing for her behavior. In the days after the incident, I called her family and told them what was going on. I half-expected her to be angry that I had done so, but when I told her what I had done, she expressed relief and gratitude that I had done it. Since then, she has been open with our friends about what is going on (whereas in the past it was a dark secret and/or the awkward elephant in the room that shall not be discussed), and of course, she has encountered nothing but love and support from everyone, which I think has been something of a surprise to her. So, the sea change is great, but of course after ten years of what feels like placating ********, it is a little hard for me to take seriously and believe in it.

She commented the other day that the way I am acting, it doesn't seem like I like her very much. I told her, well, to be honest, today, I don't like you very much, I am at the end of my tolerance for your behavior. I told her I was still here, because I made a commitment when we got married, and I believe that apart from the drinking, she is a good person and she loves me, but really, that is all I am hanging on to at the moment. I told her I still care about her, but our marriage is in sad shape - I don't know if there is a road back from here, but if there was, she was going to have to get sober first and stop the relapses, or we would never know, because I cannot live like this any more, and that first step was up to her. I told her I hoped that the time apart will help both of us come to an understanding of what we want going forward. She said that was really hard to hear, but she knew I meant it, and she feels badly that things had come to this.

So, she is off to rehab tomorrow. I think she is approaching it the right way, and she seems determined to get the most out of it. I just wish I felt more upbeat and positive - instead of simply exhausted. I know that in many ways, by not acting sooner, I have enabled her to continue to relapse, and have paid the price with my own misery. At the same time, I know that alcoholics are very good at exploiting everyone's reluctance to rock the boat.
By waiting to reach my wits end, I may have compromised my own ability to be respond positively even if she comes back sober for good. But - that is for another day - for now, I am glad to have stood up for myself and communicated honestly. It is up to her now, and she knows where things lie, there are no hidden surprises in store. If she comes back from rehab and continues to relapse, my path is clear. I know it is my own fear of that outcome that has prevented me from acting in the past, but it is an outcome I believe I can now accept, if that is where this is headed. I plan to go to some Al-anon meetings while she is gone, and go the the family days during her rehab session, and we will see what happens.

As I write this, I can't help but wonder if I am being delusional in thinking that this can be repaired. I continue to hope we can turn it around, but from where I sit, it sometimes feels hopeless and nearly impossible. I feel like I have to give it every chance, but it is difficult for me to anticipate success - at least for today.

Thanks to all for listening,
jmartin
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Old 03-28-2013, 02:17 PM
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You sound tired. I hope she goes to treatment and you can get some rest.
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Old 03-28-2013, 03:26 PM
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So, she's never been to rehab? She will learn some tools, get some good sober time in, but ... she still has to really want it.

My son went to rehab and sober living last year and relapsed. He finished another rehab in January. He's been sober since then and he says this time he gets it and that he really has accepted that he is powerless over alcohol. That really seems to be key- they have to accept the powerless of it.

Unfortunately, sober he still has the same issues/personality that caused him to cope with life by drinking. Now he has to learn to cope sober. So, there are no quick miracles ... ;-)

Enjoy the break. I always said when he was in rehab were some of the best sleeps I'd had in years.
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Old 03-28-2013, 05:03 PM
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jmartin, I'm so sorry to hear what you've been going through. A LOT sounds so very familiar. The promises, saying all the right things, and the giant drunk elephant in the room. Sigh. It's hard, so so hard. I have TOTALLY had the same adamant "I'm not drunk" conversations with my husband...he was so adamant that the hadn't been drinking, that there were times when I also had to wonder if there was something else physically/mentally wrong with him! It's maddening at times.

I hope for her sake that she commits to sobriety and recovery. I hope for your sake that you allow yourself recovery as well. We go through so much as partners of A's, and we can lose ourselves in the process. We're human, we make mistakes, but there is no going back - there is only forward. Try not to dwell on the past. Look to the future. Work on you, and let her decide if she wants to work on her. Allow yourself the opportunity to be you again and to be happy. There is definitely hope for that!

Sending you strength, hope, and hugs.
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Old 03-28-2013, 08:47 PM
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Dear jmartin, the most promising part of your post is that you already have plans for attending alanon. Your recovery program is just as important as hers.

You are prudent to be cautious about getting your hopes up too high. Even those who do seek permanent recovery often relapse--sometimes more than once before they "get it".

A red flag is if they are saying all the "right things". That can be a manipulation to get everyone off their back.

Please don't drive yourself crazy with the "What ifs" at this point.

There is a good reason for the saying: "One day at a time".

sincerely, dandylion
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Old 03-28-2013, 10:09 PM
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Thanks all for the replies. Stella, you are perceptive, I am exhausted, physically and emotionally, by this whole thing. I am very much looking forward to the break while she is away, I am just sick of talking about it, sick of dealing with it, and just so unwilling to give it much more of my energy, it has just sucked the life force out of me. I had an epiphany the other day as I was driving - it was a beautiful spring day in Texas, and I realized I was consumed by thinking about this awful situation and what I needed to do, when I thought to myself - I am in the time of life when I should be changing gears and enjoying it, not spiraling into misery over my spouse's drinking. Into every life some rain must fall, to be sure, but I so much feel now that this is not my battle, and I need to set limits on how much it will affect me.

There are times when I am grateful that she is not as overtly destructive and downright awful as some of the others I read about here, but I also realize that they are talented at knowing just exactly what we are willing to tolerate, so that is truly a two edged sword. It is too easy to spend years just on the edge of one's tolerance limit - they seem to know just exactly they can get away with. So dandylion, I hear you completely on saying the right things being a red flag. After ten years of broken promises and lies, I am not going to take anything for granted.

Again, thanks.
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Old 03-28-2013, 10:47 PM
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We sure have a lot in common. As I type this my wife of 26 years is in the basement drunk on the couch. Same place she has been for the last 3 weeks. 4 treatment programs, several wrecked cars, several trips to detox, a week in the mental unit, and countless other screwup have not been enough to make her quit drinking. I drew my line in the sand nearly 2 years ago and started filing for divorce. She was then diagnosed as bipolar and begged me to give her another chance. The meds worked for a little over a year but last November she started drinking again. She refuses to do what she needs to do to take care of herself. Instead she prefers to self medicate with booze. Our children and I now want nothing to do with her. She knows it and still drinks.

I am in my busy season at the moment but as soon as work slows down I am going to start the divorce process. I absolutely hate the thought of divorce but I don't have any options left. I will be creating a wealthy drunk divorcee that will likely drink herself to death but I won't have to witness it. I am also at the age where the kids are grown and I can afford to start slowing down and enjoying life. A divorce is going to affect my finances and it's gonna hurt. But I can't go on living this way. The detatchment and seperation from her is easy though. In my mind I have pretty much do it. Even though we are living in the same house we have barely spoken to each other during the last 3 weeks.
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Old 04-01-2013, 03:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Hayfmr View Post
I absolutely hate the thought of divorce but I don't have any options left. I will be creating a wealthy drunk divorcee that will likely drink herself to death but I won't have to witness it. I am also at the age where the kids are grown and I can afford to start slowing down and enjoying life. A divorce is going to affect my finances and it's gonna hurt. But I can't go on living this way. The detatchment and seperation from her is easy though. In my mind I have pretty much do it. Even though we are living in the same house we have barely spoken to each other during the last 3 weeks.
I can't tell you how many times these exact thoughts have crossed my mind. I really don't like any of my options.

By way of an update, I have been trying to collect my thoughts, figure out how to say this. I went to an Alanon meeting years ago, when my AW first got started. For various reasons, it was very off-putting. Well, this weekend I thought, ok, I will give it another try, and went to a different meeting in a different part of town. Nothing has changed, I could not wait to get out of there.

I have been trying to sort out what it is that bothers me. (Both meetings were discussion meetings). The people are friendly enough, but man, going around the room reading the steps and traditions out loud feels like I am back in third grade. Off to a bad start. I am already gritting my teeth. Also, I am just not a touchy-feelie, hold hands and pray, kum ba yah kind of guy. I know many people seem to be able to draw strength from that, to me it feels false and creepy. The discussion part was of course better, but god help me, at the stage I am at, there is enough borderline self-indulgence in what people are sharing that I find myself losing patience. Now I know this can all be traced to faults in my own character , but where I am at right now, I just do not need that aggravation. Now I know they suggest you go to different meetings, go to six before making up your mind, and so on, but I just don't know if I have it in me to do that.

I do find this forum extremely helpful, so I am convinced that the meeting concept is probably good because it can be more personal, so there is something of a self-imposed guilt trip about my negative response and impatience with Alanon. I feel like I need to give it a chance, but that feels so much like the same reasoning i have used to convince myself to hang in with the AW all these years (maybe this time it will really be better) that it rings false.

Am I alone in this at least initial revulsion to Alanon? I hear over and over how great it is, but I just don't quite see it.
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:21 AM
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jmartin, thanks for your soul baring posts. They are not exactly comfortable to read but they have a stark honesty that can help others in a similar position. It sounds as if you have been strong for a long time and carrying a huge burden and now it is bringing you to your knees emotionally and psychologically. There is a terrible erosion of hope and love that is a consequence of living with an alcoholic. The constant cycle of sober, relapse, sober, relapse, sober promises - this is the time, relapse. It eats at the soul. For many people in this position they, emotionally and socially, haul up the drawbridge and hide in their castles of secrecy, telling no one because of the stigma and shame. But they can't do it alone, they need support otherwise they burn out.

It is good that you have come here to share and get support. If you don't like Alanon try some other support group where you can learn to detach and find a bit of peace and serenity and make the decisions you need to make.
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:45 AM
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I know a lot of the "ritual" stuff in Al-Anon can seem off-putting until you get used to it, and understand it. The meetings are intended to help you apply the Al-Anon Steps and underlying principles to your life. They aren't feedback sessions or group therapy. You can get feedback from other members one-to-one before or after (or in between) meetings.

We all have similar, though unique, problems in our lives and relationships. What might be a good practical solution for a particular situation might be different for one person than it is for another. The PRINCIPLES, though, of the Steps can be applied to virtually any situation--and not only those involving the alcoholic. Once you get a good understanding of those, you can run most problems "through the Steps" and figure out what to do that is best for YOU and your personal situation.

It's sort of like the difference between getting advice (being given a fish) and learning how to solve problems yourself (learning how to fish). The readings and discussion are to deepen your understanding of the Steps so you can improve your own life.

As for the opening/closing prayers, you don't have to participate. You can stand quietly and respectfully silent. I felt weird about them at first, too, because I'm not such a touchy-feelie person, myself. My comfort level with it increased, though, and I now find it a "nice way of closing."
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Old 04-01-2013, 07:15 AM
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I had a lot of initial resistance to attending Al-Anon at first. I did a lot of research up front to understand what I was dealing with.

A few things I did learn; (1) Yes there is hugging (with strangers no less), (2) They never told me to divorce or split with the RAW, (3) They all had the same problem I did and (4) they helped put some structure back in my life.

The structure piece is what I was missing, things are not perfect everyday but they are better than they were six months ago. The hugging thing took some time to get over, but I finally did and I hug the people I want to hug. I also got over the initial feeling of being new, feeling like I had been labeled a loser for the situation I was faced with.

I attend a small meeting, usually 5-6 people. Being near a rather large military base I thought the groups would be larger but they are not. The small group thing has been awesome, we are able to have discussions that are meaningful and full of insight in addition to the reading of daily literature.

Shop meetings if you have to, speak or don't speak, pray or don't pray; bottom line to attending the meeting is to listen.

Hang in there, it will get better over time.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by jmartin View Post
I can't tell you how many times these exact thoughts have crossed my mind. I really don't like any of my options.

By way of an update, I have been trying to collect my thoughts, figure out how to say this. I went to an Alanon meeting years ago, when my AW first got started. For various reasons, it was very off-putting. Well, this weekend I thought, ok, I will give it another try, and went to a different meeting in a different part of town. Nothing has changed, I could not wait to get out of there.

I have been trying to sort out what it is that bothers me. (Both meetings were discussion meetings). The people are friendly enough, but man, going around the room reading the steps and traditions out loud feels like I am back in third grade. Off to a bad start. I am already gritting my teeth. Also, I am just not a touchy-feelie, hold hands and pray, kum ba yah kind of guy. I know many people seem to be able to draw strength from that, to me it feels false and creepy. The discussion part was of course better, but god help me, at the stage I am at, there is enough borderline self-indulgence in what people are sharing that I find myself losing patience. Now I know this can all be traced to faults in my own character , but where I am at right now, I just do not need that aggravation. Now I know they suggest you go to different meetings, go to six before making up your mind, and so on, but I just don't know if I have it in me to do that.

I do find this forum extremely helpful, so I am convinced that the meeting concept is probably good because it can be more personal, so there is something of a self-imposed guilt trip about my negative response and impatience with Alanon. I feel like I need to give it a chance, but that feels so much like the same reasoning i have used to convince myself to hang in with the AW all these years (maybe this time it will really be better) that it rings false.

Am I alone in this at least initial revulsion to Alanon? I hear over and over how great it is, but I just don't quite see it.

Your not alone. I didn't like Alanon either. Just like you I am not a touchy feely person and hugging strangers is not something I do. I do really like this board though. I have made my decision about what I am doing. She will eventully be out of my life. Either she will drink herself to death or I will get a divorce. Owning my own business has given me the strength and ability to be a hard ass when needed. The only thing that is holding me up at the moment is figuring out the property settlement finances of a divorce.
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Old 04-01-2013, 04:53 PM
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I still have some hope, since she seems prepared to accept help at the moment, but like you, I am taking some steps to prepare for the worst. It sounds like your AW is quite a ways beyond mine in the progression.

I will probably stick with Alanon just a bit longer to give it a chance. I like this board also, it lets me move at my own pace, and I don't have to interact with others in person. On the other hand, I think that to some degree, the alcoholic in my life has made me apprehensive of trusting and being around other people, and I want to conquer that. I don't know how long I will stick with it, but as annoying as it is, I think it would be easy for me to spiral into depression, and i did feel better afterward, better than if I had just stayed home and done nothing.
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:31 PM
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Dear jmartin, I am so glad that you are able to find help by being on this forum--no doubt, you help others who are having experiences similar to yours. Just knowing that our problems are not as unique as we think--that we are not alone--always seems to be of some comfort.

I agree that you need as much support as you can get, right now. Good that you are willing to hang in there a bit longer in alanon (many people feel the same way as you in the beginning). Just curious--were all the members female? Any guys there?

Some people find that individual counseling gives them individual attention that is badly needed. In addition, if you can find a long-recovering alcoholic (I mean several years), who has worked all the steps--they can be golden to discuss your situation with. Nobody understands alcoholics like another alcoholic.

I hope some of this is of some help to you. Congratulations on your courage to move forward.

very sincerely, dandylion
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Old 04-14-2013, 08:45 PM
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By way of an update, I have been pretty busy since my AW left for rehab. Did some travel to visit family, I have been getting together with friends, doing some projects around the house (partly motivated by the feeling that it might need to go on the market soon). I have been reading a lot on the forum, but kind of stopped posting and responding - It began to feel a little odd, I would get part way into a reply on someone's thread, and suddenly feel like I really had nothing to add, but just venting my own complaints. I found it sometimes useful as a thought experiment to compose the reply, a way of sorting out my feelings, but got self-conscious about rambling and just gave up many times, clicking back to read another thread without finishing it.

I had the best of intentions of going to an Alanon meeting or two this weekend, but ended up not doing it. The thought of going through the rituals and sitting there for an hour just made me want to scream. You know, I am just fatigued by all the recovery-speak sometimes, I just want this all to go away. I think I get the essentials, and I know there is value in going over them, but I still find it mind-numbing. It is not that I think "I got this" or know how to deal with it all and return to a healthy world view, I don't. But I do feel there is a triteness to the slogans and steps and serenity prayer that grate on me. It is all too reminiscent of the alienation I felt during my parents attempts to instill religion, I am quite sure, just saying.

Anyway, I did get a call from my AW in rehab the other night. We did not talk about much other than the bare facts about what she is doing, how I am doing, and my attendance of the family part of her treatment in a week or so.

I have to admit, even this short conversation didn't make me feel very good. I realized that I am so used to conversations with her being downers rather than uplifting (or even neutral) that it is difficult for me to engage in a positive way. Even when I feel hopeful that she will recover, I don't see how we get back to a healthy marriage that I feel upbeat about, and I don't have it in me to pretend otherwise. Of course, it also doesn't help that she has been active in AA for a long time, and have grown so used to relapses that I take all of her talk of truly getting sober this time with a grain of salt.

The time away has also given me time to reflect on the problems i have had with detaching. i have for several years had mixed success with this - i try to take care of myself, do activities I enjoy, have fun, get together with friends, and do things alone if she is not willing or interested, or if I feel like doing something by myself. The rub is, she is not a very social person, and has few if any close friends. Almost everything she does is either alone at home, or with me, so if i am not home, she is there by herself. She says she has no desire to cultivate her own friendships or do things without me.

Friends have commented to that I am different when she is not around, partly because she will not leave my side, and if she does she sits alone by herself and talks to no one. She claims she neither has the want or need for close friends, yet obviously resents me doing my own things without her, and engages various manipulative, passive-aggressive tactics if she feels I am spending too much time away from her. As a result, our evenings together usually consist of avoiding interaction - TV, web surfing, reading.

I thought when she left for treatment, I would have some time to clear my mind and get some distance, and I have, and this is good. The TV is mostly off, I am taking dogs for exercise more, and so on. The trouble is, I am beginning wonder how to repair our marriage if she does sober up, and wondering if that is even possible. Everywhere I look there are huge problems - her social anxiety, her professional insecurity, her difficulty communicating with me in a normal way as a healthy adult. I sympathize with her plight, but know these things all make it very difficult for me to feel attraction to her and see her as an equal partner, which is really what I want.

The idea that our marriage might be over, whether she recovers or not, makes me incredibly sad, despite the fact that it has hardly been happy for quite a while. So while I am resolved to carry on regardless of where things lead, I am sometimes overwhelmed with grief at the realization that it might be over. I am ok with going through this process right now, but it is daunting.
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Old 04-14-2013, 09:37 PM
  # 16 (permalink)  
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Location: Northern CA
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jmartin - I'm so sorry for what you are going through.

I hope you continue with Al Anon - I have found it so very helpful.
It has really helped me focus on me.
Al anon has also taught me to not step in the gorilla cage.
I like the daily reader "Courage To Change."
This forum has also been a great help - just reading through all the posts and seeing other people's experiences and all the wonderful feedback.
Sending good thoughts your way!
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