Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When the drinking stops....

At the meeting last night, a lady shared that the problems in her relationship with her husband got worse when the drinking stopped. She said that "When a drunken a**hole sobers up, he's still an a**hole."

Unfortunately, quitting drinking can take away some behaviors, but basic personality traits are still going to remain. And then there's the added issue that brain dysfunction has been documented in 75-95% of recovering alcoholics.

I have found that living with my wife is much better than it ever was when she was drinking. Neither of us was without faults. We both needed to inventory our shortcomings. And coming out on the other side, I've found that taking care of my own recovery has been such a great gift to our relationship.

A major step for me has been to establish healthy boundaries. As one fellow shared, "My boundary was that I wasn't going to have anything thrown at me anymore." Some in the meeting laughed, but the reality was that it is a painful topic. I can remember a stack of plates being smashed to the floor. Thankfully none were thrown at me. My inventory showed that my role was to carp and provoke until the alcoholic had enough and went into a tirade. For some sick reason, I got satisfaction from provoking her to that point. So definitely I played a part in how I was treated by her.

I have heard shares from those who live with long-time sober partners who are still extremely self-centered, arrogant, and manipulative. Self absorption is indeed a big part of the alcoholic issue. But if I turn the tables, I can see that my own maturity needed a tuneup. I was often reactive, overly sensitive, and lost.

A solution for me is to ask for a pat on the back or for what I need when it doesn't appear that I'm giving or getting it involuntarily. I have also learned that cleaning myside of the street means giving before I receive. I ask myself "am I doing to others what I want done to me?"

We are now willing to discuss our feelings, rather than letting things fester. I am usually the one who brings up my feelings of rejection. I realize that I am sensitive about that. Yet, there are times that I need to discuss it. I am grateful that we can communicate on these issues.

Fortunately for both of us, we can be happy doing those things that we like to do. Not all of them are "together" things. I stay involved in those things that I like to do. I do my best to not rely on another to fill the hole within. If my wife would like to join me, that would be wonderful. If not, that's okay too.

Bottom line: I do not rely on her to fulfill my needs. That is my job. I rely on God to be there when all else fails. I also am striving to calmly convey my wants and opinions. It comes down to this: the alcoholic is going to do what they are going to do. It's what I'm going to do that holds the key.


  1. All I can say is, "AMEN TO THAT!"

  2. I am not sure why? but it seems when I need encouragement, I read your blog and it's all I need.
    God said the truth and only the truth will set us free.

    I am learning that I need to always face the truth about myself because I am the only person I can change it or me.

    Is feels great to hold ones KEY.. SMILES

  3. WOW. Yes, even when the drinking is done, they are the same person, with the same demons.

  4. This is a great post. I really appreciate you sharing your personal experience as well as your insights. You make such a great point on not relying on someone else to fulfill you. You are in control of your life and your actions and it's important to never forget that. This post really hit home for me so thank you so much for putting it out there.

  5. Loved this post, Syd. You're always so thoughtful in your writings. I look forward to them as part of my daily Al-Anon intake.

  6. Well said.
    There is always two sides to the story. I hesitate to take sides till I hear them both.

  7. As for me, I have nowhere to hide and no excuses, I'm both. I was an Al-Anon without knowing it and not knowing about a program long before I became an alcoholic and found Alcoholics Anonymous. I see myself in all you say about yourself and the alcoholic.

    All I know is every time I read your blog, I'm going "yes, yes, I get it, right on", etc.

    Thanks for making so much sense, Syd,
    Prayer Girl

  8. Your bottom line is exactly what I need to hear...over and over! For the last month I have worried over this three-day weekend as we have no plans, which very likely translates to three days at home with a drunk husband. Not my idea of a fun 4th of July holiday. Your post makes me realize I am in control of my choices, not my husband. He is going to do whatever he wants to do, which may or may not include drinking. I have the choice to do what I want to do as well. As always Syd, your post is just what I need.

  9. If the problem is alcohol and we quit drinking then the problem goes away.
    If the problem is alcoholism and we quit drinking - our lives go to shit.
    True recovery comes thru the 12 steps where we learn principles and then try to practice them in all our affairs.
    Abstenence from alcohol with no recovery sounds like an awful place to be to me.

  10. Getting stuff out on the table and dealing with it, rather than let it fester was a huge adjustment for us, and definitely created some rough patches to work through. But work through them we did, and we, and our relationship are all the better for it. But there were some times...

  11. Amen and amen...

    I have an article I think I need to write on what happens in long term recovery - thanx for the nudge..


  12. change only comes with working a program and wanting to be different, i too am learning to clean my side up and to ask for what i need. this is such a good read.

  13. Some powerful thoughts there Syd my friend. Thanks.

  14. Oh yes with the weekend coming up
    for the Holiday we have no plans, I need to care of myself. I am going to make some dates and hope my husband joins me ? He may not....
    I dont need him to take care of me taking care of myself takes care of us both.
    Need to turn it over and go to sleep
    Thanks Again

  15. this is definately a complicated issue. if, however, both parties are interested and committed to working it out, they can. but both need to play the game...

  16. I like what your bottom line is...I also suceeded in calmly conveying my thoughts this morning after my hubby slipped again last night.

  17. I missed this yesterday somehow...excellent post. The Big Book tells us that 'alcohol is but a symptom' and my problem is in the way I think. And if I'm depending on you to make me happy...I'm screwed. A very clear picture here of how we ALWAYS have a part!

  18. What an awesome post. Thank you.

  19. This blog makes me want to join Al-anon. Thanks for this post.

  20. SYD, I think self-absorption is in the centre of any recovering addict. It's self preservation and healthy boundaries we should seek ... and sometimes we find them.

    Have a lovely few days off. xx

  21. Thanks for this. I try and detach with love - and sometimes i slip - like today. My mother's addiction seems much harder for me to detach from than my father's or my girlfriend's - luckily, for today, they are both in recovery. I have to remember that it is pain that brings us to the rooms and i must allow my mother to feel her pain instead of rising and giving her a respite.

    Keep up the great blogging - i love reading our site.


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