I don’t get it… I got sober and did all this work on myself and completely changed… I literally performed a miracle act, and now my wife doesn’t even like me!
This is one of the many false assumptions we addicts fall prey to, as do our spouses. We think that once we get sober and repair ourselves, we will finally have the relationship we always dreamed of. To add insult to injury, our spouses get all excited while we’re away at treatment, fantasizing about our new life together. And then what happens? We come home and it hits us both like a ton of bricks. That old person, as demented and sick as he or she was, is usually the person our spouses met and fell in love with, not the person who has come home from treatment.
Suddenly they realize, Wait a minute, I’m not sure I even like you anymore. And yikes, I’ve suddenly lost some of my desire for you. Shit, maybe I don’t really love you, this new person you are.
Why does this happen? Most likely because when the alcoholic or addict recovers, he acts and behaves like a completely different person. His behavior changes. His thoughts and actions change. Even his speech changes.
Needless to say, this isn’t always the case. Many of us met our spouses long before we mutated into useless drug addicts. Others were already gone. But either way, hope isn’t altogether lost. Both the addict and his or her spouse can decide to continue changing individually and therefore grow together.
When I came home from treatment, my wife was absolutely miserable. Not only had she been preoccupied with my insanity and the mess I made, but to top it off, it was ME who got to go away to my cushy, cozy spiritual retreat. I come home glowing with my newfound peace of mind and she has a volcano of involuntarily repressed grief, despair, heartache and stress beginning to erupt inside her. She knew we wouldn’t make it unless she changed too. So she took Steps as well, embarking on a rigorous program of action. She’s not an addict and yet she decided to go through the same process I did. Our spouses can and probably should take Steps as well.
But what are they powerless over if they’re not addicted to drugs or alcohol? For one, they are powerless over our addiction and over the ability to fix us. They may also be powerless over their own feelings – their depression, their anger, their grief. We can become powerless over many things.
Back to the point. Often times a sober person just isn’t the same person as the addicted one. Sure we owe it to our spouses to do everything we can to make it work. But if she just doesn’t like you anymore, there isn’t much you can do. To note, it is usually the dry drunks who become unbearable. If we actually do some work on ourselves and change in the real way, there is almost always a chance to heal our relationships as well as retain all of the good stuff about our former personalities. So definitely keep your sense of humor. No one likes a hyper-serious, hyper-sensitive, boring as hell sober person.
One way or the other, good relationships require work, sacrifice and trade-offs. Don’t expect to just float around and keep the flames going.