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Tired of Her Husband’s Intermittent Sobriety – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow…

06 Dec

This is not the first time we’ve gotten this excellent question from a very frustrated spouse or partner of a partner of a problem drinker. Perhaps it feels familiar to you too? Please read on!

Question:

I love your guided imagery. I use Anger and Forgiveness to deal with my exasperation over my husband’s constant battle with alcoholism. The man is able to stay sober for several months – sometimes nearly a year - and then he’s back to drinking again. Every time he slips, it takes that much more out of me.

Do you have any other tools or resources for the spouse? I am feeling desperate and I need more something... I use already listen to Relieve Depression and Help for Panic Attacks, but I’m hoping for something more specific.  

Thanks.

Answer:

Dear Vanessa,

Often it’s more difficult when someone you love goes on and off the wagon than it is when they’re just drinking all the time. It’s the disappointment that’s so hard to bear, after you’ve had a taste of what normal living with a sober guy is like.

You’ve probably already tried this or are currently doing this, but I’ll ask anyway: have you ever tried attending an Al-Anon meeting? Because if ever there was a bunch of people who would know exactly what you’re going through, who’ve come up with some practical approaches and solutions for coping with it, this is the group. Sometimes you need live humans to see you through this – not just a recording!

Maybe you need help with setting stronger boundaries with your husband – like he can’t live with you while he’s drinking. You could get professional help from a family therapist with special expertise in chemical dependency to help you set limits. 

Or maybe you could bring in a professional who does interventions. Then you would have the help and support of other family members, his employer, his friends and co-workers, carted him off to dry out.

On the other hand, if that seems too extreme to you, and his behavior while using isn’t too abusive or destructive, you may benefit from some coaching to help you get more emotionally detached from the whole situation.  

What’s great about Al-Anon is, they’re pretty committed to not telling you what to do. The whole ethos is to respect your timing and your choices. They get it - all the difficulties, ambivalences, sense of loyalty and burdens of feeling responsible, guilty and angry, all at the same time. 

If it’s getting worse, you may be doing both of you a real disservice by putting up with it, year after year. And you probably have a lot more clout over him than you’re using.

All that said, if you still want more guided imagery, then Relaxation & Wellness might be a good alternate for you, as well as Traci Stein’s Self-Esteem – either one can help you put the focus on caring for yourself as you deal with him. 

And you maybe you could put a little motivating gift of Alcohol & Other Drugs in his stocking for the holidays!

I hope this helps. 

All best,

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Belleruth

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award