Sobriety not answer to all problems

Q: My boys and I were excited last year when my husband decided to quit drinking. He was serious this time. 


He joined AA and spent every night working with his sponsor on his 12-step program. He was a heavy drinker for years, for most of our married life, but he has stuck to it and in a couple of weeks he will celebrate his first year of sobriety.


The problem is that he is not all the peaches and cream I imagined he would be once he quit drinking. He is often irritable and is more impatient with our animals than he used to be. I think something needs to change. What do you suggest I do?


A: Alcoholism is a family disease. During those years when you were making compensations for your husband’s addictions and struggling to keep your house in order, you may not have followed a healthy lifestyle. 


Attend a few sessions of Alanon. It is structured to help spouses and children of alcoholics deal with them better both while they are drinking and once the drinking has stopped. Often, people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs had problems long before they caved in to their addictions. 


Drinking did not solve the problems but sometimes it masked them. When the drinking stopped, those problems sprang back to the surface. 


Now that your husband is dry, he could consider talking to a mental health counsellor to make sure the issues in place before he hooked up with alcohol will not come back to haunt him. 


If his anxiety, inability to focus, high expectations or bouts of depression have resurfaced and they are not challenged, he is vulnerable to another round of alcohol abuse.


You could consider joining your husband in counselling. The relationship that the two of you developed to survive those years of alcohol abuse is not likely going to survive his sobriety. It has to change. 


I do not know the statistics but I know from the many clients I had in counselling that a number of couples separate once the addict has cleaned up. 


If you and your husband start now rebuilding your marriage, you might not only save it but find peace in his sobriety.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor 
from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.