Would like input from Recovering Alcoholics

Old 07-27-2015, 03:11 PM
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Would like input from Recovering Alcoholics

My husband has been in alcohol rehab for 2 months. He is due to come home in less than 2 weeks now. He doesn't seem to have made near as much progress as what I initially had expected. He is still easily agitated, and we have been undergoing joint counseling sessions over the phone. When the topic is about something he doesn't like (which it always is), he will either walk out on the session, or divert the conversation so that the issue is never really discussed. I was looking online today and I came across a post on wordpress from a woman who said that a woman she knew had a husband that had just gotten out of rehab. This woman had spoken to one of her AA/AlAnon friends about the fact that her newly sober husband didn't want to do anything productive. He would lay around, watch TV and spend his time with his new sober friends. She said he no longer helped out around the house and never wanted to go anywhere with her. The advice she received from her AA/AlAnon friend was Sit Down, Shut Up and Smile. Basically she was advised that for the first year of her husband's recovery, he would be spending all of his energy finding ways to get by in his new life without substances. And because if this, she was to not make any demands or have any expectations. The only exception is if she saw her husband engaging in behaviors or going down a path that might lead him back to his substance abuse again. In those circumstances, she was to speak to him about the facts only (no emotion) and boundaries and then stop. For wives that have endured years of feeling like they are on the back burner or sometimes even nonexistent to their husband, this advice seems very unfair and almost sounds like enabling behavior. It's like we don't matter when they are drinking because they come first. They still come first in rehab. And then afterwards, nothing changes? I just want to know if this is an accurate portrayal of how things are supposed to be for a husband in early sobriety. Like I said, my husband doesn't sound to me to have made a lot of progress yet, so it sounds like a scenario like that would be similar to what's going to happen when he comes home. Would this no demands/no expectations strategy actually work over time to get them to do what they should be doing at home or would it just teach the recovering alcoholic that no matter what happens they will always be able to do what they want and someone else will always pick up the slack? I am confused and my husband is coming home soon. Advice?
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Old 07-27-2015, 04:04 PM
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Hi there! I'm only newly sober, and don't have experience of rehab so I can't be much help to you. But if you start this thread in the Alcoholism section, you'll probably get a lot more advice. I don't think many recovered alcoholics come to this section.

Either way, I wish you the best of luck
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Old 07-27-2015, 04:12 PM
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I am the partner of a recovering alcoholic who has been on and off the wagon a few times. In my experience, it's the best thing for ME to leave his recovery to him.

After years of drinking, they have to learn how to live all over again, this time without alcohol. Think teenager. Learning how to manage moods and others expectations whilst figuring out who they are. All of that takes time. If he is serious about recovery then yes, there will be days when he is hanging on by the skin of his teeth to not pick up so might well do things to distract himself, like watching TV all day or programming something on the computer.

But this is a positive thing for YOU because all the time he will be learning how to stay sober.

The alternative is your feeling like you have to manage him and chase him to do things. You will feel more stressed and he will be more likely to pick up. At least that's been my experience.

The situation shouldn't be indefinite, but for the first few months, certainly, you're both going to need to be very forgiving with each other and look after yourselves separately.
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Old 07-27-2015, 04:54 PM
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I can't possibly tell you what to do about your husband. I can tell you that two months sober is an eternity for a recovering alcoholic, and I can imagine aboutdarnedtime for things to improve for those who love us. But in terms of actual recovery (not just "not drinking"), it's about two seconds.

Most of us didn't become alcoholics overnight. Even if some of us did, hardly any of us stopped drinking soon after realizing we had a problem. I drank alcoholically for 10 years. At two months sober, I was a complete mess. It only takes a week or so for alcohol to completely leave our system. But it takes the body months, upwards of a year to completely physically recover. Emotionally, it can take longer.

At two months, Everything can still be very raw. In rehab, is he working some sort of program? Is he developing a recovery plan for when he gets out? Is he forming a relapse prevention plan, trying to set up a sober network for when he's out in the world again?

If he's doing all of hose things, and happens to be emotionally raw, there's a possibility he's just in early recovery. If that's the case, there's a chance he'll recover and be a better man.

If he's just going thorough the motions in rehab, not getting a plan together for when he's out, not working any kind of program now, he's quite possibly just dry.

The main difference between dry and sober to me, is someone who is sober is actively working to improve his or her life and the lives of those who love him. A dry person just ain't drinking. All the crap that led them to drink is still there.

Becoming and living sober takes time and a lot of perseverance. My partner stuck around, and we are happy. But it took me a good 6 months to feel better, a good year to truly change. She had to change, too. Our relationship was messed up by my drinking, her coping, and both of our sets of baggage we entered the relationship with had to be addressed. What we have now is very honest, real, loyal and kind in the face of each other's shortcomings. I treasure our marriage, but it wasn't an easy road.
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Old 07-27-2015, 05:40 PM
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@wehav2day. Thank you for your post. It is encouraging to hear from someone who made it with their spouse through that journey because I have read many things that say a lot of partners/spouses don't make it through. I guess just because the road to recovery is very long and hard.
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Old 07-27-2015, 05:54 PM
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I once had a counselor that tried to argue that there are a series of "buckets" in front of me to fill. One of them is the "sobriety" bucket. The other is the "wife and marriage" bucket. That if I put too much energy into the sobriety bucket, I would neglect the wife and marriage bucket.
I completely disagreed with him and still do.

For me, sobriety is a way of life. It is a way of interacting with the world. It is how I even produce the energy to fill even ONE of the buckets.

Without sobriety, I am not the husband I want to be. I am not the brother I want to be. I am not myself.

So, in that sense, sobriety is everything. Put it low on the totem pole and I risk losing everything.

I have spent years losing the battle against the drink. Even though I was in an earlier stage of the disease, it was winning, nonetheless. I was slowly losing myself.

Everything else I have done DID not work. I am on a slippery dangerous slope that even one slip could bring me tumbling down.

As was mentioned by another poster, change in recovery occurs over years. With almost 3 years of sobriety, I still see change within me little by little. Bit by bit. I watch too much tv. I play too many video games. I might even engross myself "too much" into meetings, talking to members, etc.

For me, addiction is simply that, "too much" -- too much of something to get my mind off of the stuff I didn't want to deal with it. Too much to none is a drastic change and extremely challenging to maintain.

At least a year of sobriety may bring some light at the end of the tunnel.

However, that's not in your hands. What IS in your hands is your own recovery. You do have control over that. In Al-Anon, we say that we will find peace/serenity whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not (or in some recovery, more recovery, or lots of recovery).

As for the advice you received to sit down, shut up, and smile....Hmm...maybe get some 2nd, 3rd, and 4th opinions (especially from someone in other groups). That sounds odd. Honestly, I don't like it. It sounds like something that could risk enabling behavior (being passive and assertive are 2 different things - and no, I don't believe assertiveness stands in the way of sobriety). Boundaries don't necessarily have to be "demands" or "expectations" - just something to help define yourself - to take care of you - which will be mainly about your choices. You would learn about working your own recovery in Al-Anon (have you tried that out? something similar?)
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Old 07-27-2015, 07:58 PM
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So your husband isn't out of treatment yet and you have projected in your head a years worth of fights and resentments. Go to alanon.
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Old 07-27-2015, 11:04 PM
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I'd make an analogy. If someone has a physical injury and is prescribed physical therapy, then it is obvious what success should look like: the patient does the work (keeps appointments, does exercises, etc.) and over time there is a noticeable improvement.

With sobriety, there is also work to be done (lying around on the couch is not it), and the noticeable improvement that should come as a consequence includes a better, more honest relationship with loved ones.

Recovery involves working on the self, but the result is not selfishness -- but rather its opposite.
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Old 07-28-2015, 05:33 AM
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I didn't have the luxury of time off from work for treatment, so I just quit at home
and kept up my "normal" schedule and life.

No, it wasn't easy, and my spouse also had a great deal of justifiable anger which came out in the early months.

Yes, it is hard to adjust to engaging emotions and not drinking them away.
Yes, you are an emotional basketcase and temptation is certainly there to drink.

However, life is life, and I was determined to stop drinking no matter what, so I did, as have many other people.

I wanted to repair my marriage so I dealt with the anger as best I could and got some cognitive counseling to process some of the emotional baggage.

I filled my life with other things besides alcohol and accepted what I had done while drinking and made what amends I could (I'm not an AA person by the way)

So at some level, you just have to really embrace recovery and not just stop drinking.
It is something you do for yourself and not to placate others, but
I also think alcoholics need to accept that their past (and current)actions have fallout which must
be understood and dealt with involving family, friends, and work.
Playing video games, watching TV, blowing up when confronted are to my mind avoidance strategies like drinking--not OK in my book.

I don't really agree with the notion that it is all about the alcoholic "doing what they want" just to stay sober.
My family needed financial / emotional support and care even if I was quitting drinking, so I did my best to be there and that effort,
hard as it was at times, actually helped my recovery. Alcoholism is so selfish it was a relief to step back and think of others.

So I guess I see some red flags if your husband won't even engage in discussing difficult issues while in rehab.
Maybe he still thinks it is all about him, maybe he is only there to get you off his back,
and maybe he isn't really done drinking but is just dry for awhile.

They say around here that "recovery looks like recovery" and even more it "feels" like recovery to family as well as themselves.
If you are still walking on eggshells, I don't think he is really in recovery, I'm sorry to say.
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