Life After

livingYesterday I wrote on the struggles you can face when addictions no longer have their old power.  They’re not always the ones you expect.

Here’s a great example from ‘A Marriage In Recovery’, published in the Guardian, May 2013

Life after rehab: my husband, the alcoholic:

“As I pulled into the sweeping drive of the Priory to collect my husband after he had completed the 28-day recovery for addiction programme, I was elated. We hugged, cried and did all the things that friends, lovers and film stars do when they are reunited. This is the beginning of something new, wonderful and untainted, we thought. A future where all the major creases and folds have been steamed away and we can continue on solid, even ground.

Three months have passed and my husband is still sober. It feels like a miracle, and I am incredibly proud of all that he has achieved. Things, however, have been far from plain sailing. On reflection, the last few weeks have been the toughest in our relationship.

Alcohol had been at the centre of every one of our arguments. Restless nights where we lay side by side but distant from one another, were interrupted by the feeling that something was eating away at the essence of what a stable relationship should be: trusting, predictable to a point and, most importantly, underpinned by love…

Every ounce of resentment that lived within me and all the anger that burned in the pit of my stomach was because of my husband’s addiction.

Or so I thought. Now my husband is sober, I have to face up to the fact that our relationship was flawed before addiction became the focus of our attention. I had chosen to neglect the other issues…

I have been prepared for most major events in my lifetime. When I became pregnant for the first time, I was given advice from do-gooders, experienced parents and health professionals. I was handed manuals: some of them useful, and others immediately dumped. Whether I chose to eschew it, the practical advice was out there.

Had I been handed a book for how to cope in the period after rehab, I probably would have cast it aside for another day. I am terrible at following instructions, but manuals are there to refer back to when things go wrong. They offer practical advice, a bit like those annoying leaflets that the bank sends telling me how to avoid unnecessary overdraft fees. Boring? Yes. Sensible? Certainly.

For some reason, nobody had told us that life after rehab would be quite so challenging – or if they had, we weren’t listening. We were too busy dreaming of our perfect marriage, alcoholism tightly shut away in a box marked DO NOT OPEN, and in its place a harmonious family that had conquered addiction…the alcohol had gone, but the issues we thought had disappeared were as present as ever.

…We didn’t discuss what was happening with our friends or family. And this was the problem. All of this was going on in secret, out of sight of those who had been so supportive. We felt we owed them something. The treatment had been the magic bullet, but it hadn’t hit the target and we were struggling to keep up the facade that everything was OK.

And who was responsible for putting the pressure on? We were. My husband has always been tough on himself, and alcohol soothed his overactive, hard-to-satisfy mind. I had always held up an idealised notion of the perfect marriage, and I constantly compared our relationship with seemingly more effective unions…

It is difficult to consider the future when you are told to take each day at a time. And although I feel positive about many things that the past few months have revealed to us, I am still smarting over the past. My husband is not drinking, but it is sometimes hard to see how much of the behaviour that befriended the booze has changed. This sounds like failure on his part, but it is not. I have to take responsibility for my actions, too, and remove the blinkers to see life for what it is…  

When rehab opened its doors to my husband, I took a deep sigh of relief. That chapter of my life was over. What I didn’t prepare myself for was the next one. What I am slowly learning now is this: the alcohol that I thought was the only real problem was a manifestation of other major flaws in our relationship. Our marriage will always be a work in progress that requires attention and maintenance. Rehab was a start but our family is learning, the hard way, that it has certainly not been the cure”.

 Those who have fought addictions have spent years trying not to die. The real trick for recovery – and the one that takes us all by surprise – is learning how to live.

8 thoughts on “Life After

  1. “The real trick for recovery – and the one that takes us all by surprise – is learning how to live.”

    That is so, so true. Three years on I am still trying – pray for me please.

  2. it’s actually the part I find most scary about recovery – I’m not sure exactly who I am without these eating issues. I hate it, but – yeah. it’s scary.

  3. “The real trick for recovery – and the one that takes us all by surprise – is learning how to live.”
    This brings tears to my eyes. Actually. It’s true – learning how to deal with the insecurities and anguish and perfectionism that drove me to an eating disorder in the first place has been the hardest part. I’ve broken over and over, more now than when I was starving myself (or maybe I’m just more aware now; I don’t know).
    Thanks for your encouraging posts. :)

  4. Thanks Kelley: I can really identify with your experience of breaking over and over – and it’s horrible. But I think maybe, it’s sometimes good. And God does something in the vulnerability that the hardness of an addiction can prevent.

  5. I came across a chilling article once called Can Recovery Kill You? I will not give a link as the conclusions were to avoid recovery (stupid). But it was about exactly what this couple found: remove the hell of addiction and what do you find? The hell of life without God. We are addicts because we fashion our own gods to save us, remove the gods who fail, and we are still godless!

    …Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24

    You are right, the breaking is the important part, though it’s very hard.

  6. Very true: makes me think of Jesus talking about the strongman – if you take the ‘one thing’ out – something – Someone – must takes its place, or you often end up worse than before.

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