How to Live Sober When My Partner Is an Alcoholic
Posted on 01/26/18: Addiction Treatment
Drinking begins as an integral part of one’s social life. Sometimes it starts in high school and escalates in college. Perhaps the preferred cocktail steps up to a more distinctive taste when putting on a “white collar” of professionalism where a more discriminating choice of libation is expected amongst professional peers. If part of your social journey included the meeting of your spouse or life partner, the party seemed complete. Until one of you decides to quit.
Ending your relationship with alcohol doesn’t mean ending your relationship with your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend. It could be the beginning of something better between you two. If you’re contemplating recovery or already in treatment and wonder “How can I live sober when my partner is an alcoholic?” the question, unfortunately, is a common one. While the answers aren’t cut and dry, the following will at least provide food for thought. This way, you’ll be better prepared for whatever happens down the road.
Addiction Recovery Is One of the Few Times It’s Okay to Be Selfish
Going through detox from long term alcohol use is taxing on the body and the mind. The first month will serve as a tough test, draining your energy as you physically long for restoration and balance at the cellular level. Each day will bring new highs and lows of the soul as every part of you searches for a new emotional place to call “home”. To turn the sobriety odds in your favor, everything in your life, I mean everything, will take second place to your quest for successful recovery. That includes your personal relationships and your partner.
Seeking a sober lifestyle isn’t about who will be beside you on the journey. You’ve got to be strong enough to go it alone. The negative or unsupportive influencers will need to be put on hold, allowing you the time needed to heal and get reacquainted with the “new you”.
Codependency Shifts the Relationship – So Does Sobriety
As you continue to restore to a healthier existence there will be many changes, some easier to accept than others. Food will taste different. Touch will feel different. Sounds will affect you differently and you may see people differently. Because your perspective about life, and priorities will shift to protect this commitment to sober living. With all of this, how you interact with your partner will transition to somewhere different than the past. That’s a good thing. Hopefully.
When You Restore the Real You, Your Partner May Seem Different
After treatment, settling into the comfortable day-to-day routines may be awkward. Familiar ways can suddenly be irritating. For example, the standard happy hour date night on Friday at your favorite sports bar (where you two met) may have lost its appeal. Your partner, who is still drinking, will do what’s always been done. Drink. Get drunk. Go home. Wake up and not remember much. What used to be fun, doesn’t seem fun anymore. But you don’t want to rock the boat.
You make adjustments and think to yourself, maybe he’ll change. Or maybe it’s me. Instead, you give excuses, feel guilty about your sobriety and decide that you are the one with the problem. Quietly, you agree to the next Friday happy hour and pretend to have a good time. After all, it’s for the benefit of the relationship.
On Sunday mornings, he gets ready for football on television. You make scrambled eggs with salsa, just like every Sunday. He chops up the potatoes and onion for hash browns. He wonders why you haven’t poured the first round of Bloody Marys yet. You hesitate. Shrug your reluctance off and go through the ritual you know all so well and perfected during the course of your 11-year relationship. But this time, everything about it feels wrong and you just can’t do it anymore.
You may start taking an emotional inventory about your partner and what the relationship offers. Each day living sober is another day to expand personal horizons, reassess individual goals and reexamine partnerships. Is there a middle ground?
Will the Relationship Survive Without the Old Me?
When there are two people in a codependent relationship (that’s what it is when there’s addiction), you enable each other’s behavior and reinforce an ideology that all aspects of the relationship are fine. Now that you’ve decided to step out of those behaviors, the enabling is altered.
Let’s illustrate what I mean. If you elect to not attend happy hours, you stop enabling or acting as if you are okay with your partner’s drinking. In turn, you are pushing back on the socialization of alcoholism, part of the 12-step program – putting potential relapse triggers at a distance.
In addition, there’s common sense to the admonition of not making any serious life decisions during the first year of sobriety. This initial part of recovery is much like a three-dimensional transformation from who you were to the person you are meant to be. Alive and ready for the good that awaits. The inner struggle you might face is how to move one step forward when your partner remains two steps back.
The Five Essentials to a Half-Sober Couple
There are no guarantees in life. The same goes for recovery, especially when your partner is still drinking. Stay in a self-supportive place as you figure it all out.
Use the following to remind you of what you can control and what to let go of:
- Personal recovery comes first
- Hope he or she will change but don’t expect it
- Reset boundaries
- Find new, healthy friendships
- Suggest couples counseling
There’s Power in Letting It Go
As you become more accustomed to your new lifestyle, self-confidence and self-awareness are more evident to you and those in your circle of family and friends. I can sum it up this way:
“I had this recurring dream. I was there, walking quickly on this beautiful path
full of lush landscape, vibrant flowers and wondrous scents. I could see
this wonderful world so clearly just up ahead. I’d stop. Waiting for you,
my beloved, to catch up. It didn’t matter how often I’d stop or for how long.
You remained too far behind.”
If this is what you’re experiencing, it’s okay. Talk to someone you trust about it. Talk to your partner if you can. Your sobriety is worth more than someone else’s addiction.
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