Entering an alcohol treatment program is often a necessary step for people with a severe addiction to alcohol, but as anyone who has been through recovery can tell you, is only the first in a very long road to sobriety. The real challenges begin once the person completes his program, and must navigate the ‘real world’ in a whole new way, a way that does not include his once primary coping tool.
As the spouse of an alcoholic, you have been there for the whole ride. That your spouse has gotten help for his problem and is no longer drinking is great, but again, is only the beginning. Here are some tips to support the recovery process.
Things Might Not be as Great as You Hoped and that’s Okay
It is understandable to think that your spouse sobering up will fix everything. He is sober now, and things will be great. Your marriage will improve dramatically. And while things will likely improve to some degree, don’t expect sobriety to magically transform everything. You may find your partner is a completely different person, someone you feel like you don’t even know. Their personality, tastes, hobbies and the like may totally change, and the process of getting to know this new and improved version can take some time.
You may still have lots of major issues, and come to realize the drinking was not the sole contributor, and work still needs to be done. It is important to manage expectations and take things as they come. Don’t become attached to things unfolding in a certain way.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
One of the most important pieces of advice to the family of an alcoholic is to remember to take care of yourself. Your spouse’s drinking problem wreaked havoc on you in countless ways, and he is not the only one in recovery. You are too. Find support groups for family members of recovering alcoholics. Go to therapy if you think you need it. The more you tend to your needs and stay in good mental and physical health, the better position you will be in to support someone in recovery. Remember there is nothing noble about being a martyr, or completely sacrificing our own well-being for someone else’s. Don’t fall into a pattern of giving, giving, and giving without replenishing the well.
Encourage Open and Honest Discussion
If you have not been through addiction yourself, you can’t possibly know what your spouse is going through. And that is in no way your fault. But, that does not mean you can’t have deep and meaningful discussions about the struggles your spouse faces. Just listening can make a world of difference to the person in recovery. Always make him feel it is okay to talk to you. And, always talk about how you are feeling about everything happening in your relationship. Bottling things in leads to resentment and other toxic emotions that will cast a cloud over the whole recovery process, and make things more difficult for the both of you.