Husband started rehabilitation program. I still feel anxious and I do not trust him fully. How to keep my expectations in check?

ask-a-professional
alcohol
husband

#1

My husband just recently started to motivate himself to get better. He has been sober a week (I know it’s not much but it is something). He is going to counseling and also AA meetings almost everyday - or at least that’s what he says.

I’ve been away for a while in Spain. I left because he just focussed on drinking and wanting to fight. I didn’t engage on them and just took care of myself and avoid him. When I left, his parents stepped in and saw for the first time what I have been dealing with regularly. This also made my husband think about all the things he has done so far and through an email I explained to him that I was done mentally and physically with all this - that after all, it was his choice, and no matter what I say or do, it is up to him to make the change and get better - that my only option for my own self care, and for my own mental health was to leave.

With all said and done, he decided he didn’t want that and has been sober for a week and doing what I explained earlier. I’m about to go back and he has asked me to tell him how I feel about it, and to be honest. Well I was, and sincerely I do not know how to feel about it. I do not want to get my hopes up if this ends been another lie and a way to get everyone off his back, or he relapses. I feel anxious and I fear that it’s just gonna last a few days and then everything will blow over and I will notice he is drinking again. He doesn’t understand how I feel, and gets angry that I’m not excited or super happy to see him. That in a way I don’t want to go back.

He also feels that he cannot trust me because when he was drinking himself to death, I reached out to his and my family for help, since I didn’t know how to handle the situation. I just do not know how to proceed with all this “new recovery phase” he is trying.

Do not get me wrong! I am happy that he is actually focused on recovery, but I just do not want to blindly believe is gonna be all good and then shatter myself when it does not, since that has happened so so so many times, and the more I hope and believe the more it hurts when it doesn’t.


#2

I absolutely know this feeling of “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” I spent a long time in that place. It made me feel anxious, but I think it was also an OK place to be in. I had gotten my hopes up too many times and then it really hurts to be let down. So I stayed cautious, and celebrated small wins! Like, he’s been sober for a week! He remembered this thing! We went on a walk! This helped keep me present, without getting too far ahead of myself and anxious about what might happen in the future (be it tomorrow or 6 months from now).

It sounds like you guys are communicating and he’s open to hearing honesty, which is great! As you prepare to go back, you might want to check out this digital workshop hosted by Village Coach @erica all about how to have conversations that actually work. You can still access it on demand here. It’s about 60 minutes - and free (of course)!


#4

I have to agree with @katie. When my fiance finally started getting serious about getting clean and turning things around after a year of dealing with lies, stealing and all around bs, I found it hard to feel anything but apprehensive about it. I wanted to feel excited and happy, it was in there but it was hard to dive in and express for fear of being made a fool of again and just feeling like I’m an idiot for believing and ultimately being manipulated and enabling. What I found though is like Katie said, celebrate those small victories but continue to remain cautious and make sure to take care of yourself. Definitely support and celebrate his decision as much as you can and hopefully he’ll stay motivation and inspired :blush:


#3

thank you! This really helped me and yeah i will start celebrating small wins :slight_smile:


#5

Hey there @jfh, welcome to a great place to learn how to “proceed with all this ‘new recovery phase’ he is trying”! The early stages of recovery can be rough: ups and downs for us and our loved ones, many new intense feelings, uncertainty, questions, and learning how to be supportive in a way that encourages positive change! Him making a decision to be sober and go to meetings for even one day is actually fantastic! I know you said “It’s not much, but it is something”, and I want to emphasize how much it actually is that he has found the motivation, been sober for a week, is going to counseling, and AA meetings! That’s a win in my eyes, and an indication that he is willing and able to work on changing his life for the better! I’m also glad to hear you were able to get away for a bit as you noticed the situation becoming too much for you - you taking care of yourself is also so important!

What I hear you saying is:
You are happy that your husband finally gained the motivation to do something about his problematic drinking, but you are also anxious about what comes along with that: fear of relapse, navigating trust, and being mindful of both positive and negative feelings you experience through this.

Our professional perspective on the topic of managing expectations during treatment is:
Treatment (in any way: rehab, counseling, meetings, exercise) is part of the process, and not destination. Ambivalence is normal. If your husband becomes ambivalent about his desire to change, this is to be expected. It can be a good thing if your husband is willing to express any ambivalence he has, as he is being open and vulnerable, which allows you to help troubleshoot. Keep in mind what is involved in your husbands recovery: his brain is beginning the healing process, he is learning how to enjoy life without alcohol, and is most likely experiencing intense feelings and is hopefully learning how to manage the new feelings. By keeping these things in mind it allows you to manage your expectations of the pace of change.

Let’s practically apply it:
Try to keep your perspective focused on the trajectory of change, instead of on wondering if it will work this time. If I were to ask you to draw a straight line from where your husband started when you both recognized there was a problem to where he is now, does the line tend to point upward (even the smallest amount) or downward, or is it flat? Today could be a terrible day relative to last week, but if you can visualize (or even draw) the entire line and see if it’s going upward, that is perspective. Perspective can help you: stay calm in a moment of crisis, balance optimism and realism, and evaluate the significance of any setback experienced.

Because you have been through this experience with your husband and you continue to want to help, you are showing resilience. This quality helps you bend without breaking, maintain mental calmness, health, strength, not shatter, and gives the ability to bounce back after a setback or disappointment. This is gained through self-care and recognizing what you can and cannot control.

Let me know what you think, @jfh. I’m here and happy to help!

A note from Village :love_letter: : Our Coaches are trained in the leading evidence-based methods. If you’re interested to learn more about Coach Erica, click here.


#6

thank you so much for this. This actually helps me a lot and I will share part of it (the line example) with my husband since i think it would help him greatly to keep going up too. I will take note of this.
Thank you so much.


#8

Wholeheartedly agree on this one :raised_hands:


#7

@jfh <3 specifically on the point about talking to his parents/family etc. Sharing from my own experience with my husband…I found that the more people we got involved and the more we shared openly about what was going the better things got and the easier it was to normalize the situation. So I think it’s awesome you spoke to them.

My tactic with my husband was to always say something like “I’m sharing this with / reaching out to (friend / family member etc.) because I love you and we need help through this.” This resonated with him because I think deep down he wanted help and he wanted his family and friends to care and stand up for his well-being too.

100% recovery is a windy road. In my experience there are slip ups just like if we try to quit sugar or go the gym every day something might throw us off our game. So know this! Relapse doesn’t mean it’s over. 3 years into recovery my husband relapsed and it was completely different than ever before. We were able to talk about it calmly and it was not a downward ongoing spiral. He had build strength over time and was able to lift out of it! So know that healing is possible.

Also know that connection and support is key. The more connection he can rebuild with friends, family, you and community the more he will regain his connections and stability. And this goes for you too. It can feel at times like we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders supporting a loved one through addiction (at least I know it did for me) so making sure we have good support around us is key too. Already I can sense you have some good instincts around talking to his family and taking a break yourself (self care is our first goal so we have enough strength to support others!)

Keep chatting this through with us. We’re here for you and your husband!


#9

@jfh I’m so happy this helped you! Let us know how everything is going this week :slight_smile: