After long years of waiting, praying, and most likely a crisis your husband is now substance free. Did you see large changes in the beginning and now old familiar patterns are starting to creep back into your married life? Are you married to a dry drunk?
Addiction is Only a Symptom
Bill W., one of the founders of the Alcoholic Anonymous movement and writer of the AA Big Book, puts it this way.
Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions. AA Big Book, p. 64
People use alcohol and drugs to numb the pain of life because they work. Without the pain-numbing, a person (who is not used to dealing with their feelings or life) may act out in the following ways suggested by Psychology Today:
- Anger and resentment at the person they perceive made them stop drinking
- Frustration with the process of recovery realizing they must change habits and often friends to stay sober
- Facing lost dreams, broken relationships and often financial hardship based on past drinking or using behavior
- Difficulty accepting routine adult responsibilities for their lives and families
- Enhanced fear of failure. Reluctant to try new things because of this fear.
- Emotional Outburst or Emotional withdrawal. Having muted emotions with alcohol or drugs, anger, intimacy, closeness and true friendship are often new experiences.
- Self-obsessed especially with a medical issue that may be real or imagined.
- Replacing one addiction with another(food, sex, internet, work).
Definition of a Dry Drunk
A “Dry Drunk” one that abstains from alcohol (drugs), but is still grappling with the emotional and psychological maladies that may have fueled their addiction to begin with, and continues to have a stranglehold on their psyche. Psychology Today
The foreboding sense that something is not right in your relationship with your recovering alcoholic/addict husband is right on target, if the above behaviors are happening.
Bill W. certainly believed that emotional sobriety required the continual practice of the twelve steps.
Resentment is the “number one” offender. From it stems all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. AA Big Book, p. 64
An AA Old Timer shared with me that recovery becomes truly difficult around the 3 rd and 4th year of sobriety. He felt the honeymoon phase of recovery could last as long as 2 years, after that the former addict/ alcoholic begins to look at their world and access whether the fruits of their new sober life are really worth the trouble.Instead of asking why the addiction?
New work by Gabor Mate, MD In the Realm of Hungary Ghost: Close Encounters with Addiction asks a different question. Why the pain?
Dr. Mae defines addiction as
any behavior that a person craves, finds temporary relief or pleasure in but suffers negative consequences as a result of, and yet has difficulty giving up. In brief: craving, relief, pleasure, suffering, impaired control. Note that this definition is not restricted to drugs but could encompass almost any human behavior, from sex to eating to shopping to gambling to extreme sports to TV to compulsive internet use: the list is endless.
When you take away the “temporary relief” the only thing left is dealing with unresolved trauma or pain. Without the addition, the “dry drunk” may choose another form of relief a more socially acceptable addiction or may choose to face the trauma that caused the pain in the first place.
What is a Dry Drunk Missing
A dry drink is missing the spiritual healing offered by Jesus. There are three things each person needs:
- to be unconditionally loved and accepted
- to know that they are never alone
- to be made worthy
All the AA Steps point to a relationship with Jesus–the only one that can do all the three statements above. Then and only then (not by our will, but by God living through us in a daily relationship with us) can we began to experience the fruitful life God has designed for us.
Praying for your husband is a way to release his healing to God. Remember you did not cause it, you can’t cure it, and you can’t control it. These Powerful 30 Second Prayers for Your Husband are a way to get started. Dropped in your email box each morning. No Spam, No Sales Just Relief-
The Apostle Paul tells us that the fruits of the spirit are:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26
In all earnestness, a recovering person may have sought to develop these fruits. For a while, anyone can muscle themselves through life behaving in the way described above; eventually, their strength gives out and the old behaviors creep back into their lives.
The Apostle Paul loads us with what he calls an obvious list of not following God’s plan for our lives.
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity,promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. Galatians 5:19-21
This sounds familiar to the Psychology Today list of dry drunk behaviors? Bill W. says the “Bottles were only a symbol.” A symbol of deeper issues that lead each person to numb the pain of living with an addiction of their choosing.
Transforming The Dry Drunk
If you are married to a dry drunk please be kind to yourself. No one can transform another person. What you can do is take care of yourself. I found the two biggest challenges of this different yet same relationship was:
- The time and resources consumed by the “new addiction” whether it be work, church, sports, or AA. The new love of the recovery addicts life is taking time from you, the family and can become just as obsessive.
- The inability to regulate moods and emotions. For a longtime addict, the emotions may be so raw and so painful that anger and frustration may cover everything.
I found the more I fell back into my old behaviors of nagging, complaining and not holding my boundaries; the worse our relationship got. I needed to keep working my program around codependency as much as my husband his program. I held more resentments than he did over the way life had unfolded the previous 10 years.
My choosing to engage in emotional sobriety was key to the transformation of our marriage. My sponsor also encouraged unending patience, trusting that God would make all things right in time. God promises to return the years the “locust have eaten”.
Releasing my resentments through 12 Step work saved my sanity–equally as important as understanding and creating boundaries inside and outside our marriage.
The re-negotiation of a previously doomed marriage takes time and commitment. More than that it takes Jesus as a full partner in the marriage to create true harmony.
Join me in praying for your husband with these Powerful 30 Second Prayers. Delivered each morning to your email box. Just breath and pray.