Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Some alcoholics still have families when they get to AA. This is a place to ask questions and share experiences about relating to family members sober, especially when newly sober. (If you are not an alcoholic, please use the "Our Friends and Families" forum.)
sober42day
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Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by sober42day »

Hi All, I'm Lori and I'm an Alcoholic.

I'm not new to recovery but I am new to AA. I was in a CODA group for years and stopped going years ago, and then found myself an alcoholic. Accepting this fact; {drinking a pint of vodka and then some more for six years, every evening, was a pretty good indicator} I stopped drinking about 8 days ago & started daily F2F meetings {Right now a day feels like a birthday!} and my husband went into recovery too; we developed into little more than drinking buddies in the last six years. That said; my real question is I am so very angry at him and I know step four and five will take me through all of this. In the last six years he has lost all creditability in my eyes and I think the opposite is also true. He {while both sober and drunk} for the last six years is very nit-picky, abusive, insulting, always right, controlling, sarcastic, etc... And I played floor mat - a drunken numb one. The victim. Nice. : )

After a week of detoxing I've found myself furious when he does this to me still. {He by the way stopped and started meetings too.}

I'm kind of wondering if marriage counseling would help? Today he said something and I just started crying. Part of that is actually mourning the only real friend I've had in six years, which happens to be vodka. That's my new honest self kicking in - hope no one get offended. : ) Another part was "Wow, Lori did you let him talk to you this way you're whole marriage with him? How humiliating!" And lastly, it was, "I have had enough!" Which is what I actually said and then some more....

I'm very glad to be sober today but I'm realistic enough to know I'll go back if I don't allow myself to grieve it. Anyhoo... just the question about marriage counseling? Anyone try it and was it helpful?

I've got two things running around in my head. My next drink will be my last {in that I will never quit again and it will surely kill me} so this has to work and second, I'm probably kidding myself that this marriage is going to work. : ( Makes me a little sad but I'll let it go to stay sober.

p.s. I've been to about six meetings so I'm still getting to know people before I ask someone to sponsor me - working on that....
p.p.s. We have three teens; which are going to Alteen for the first time tomorrow night; alone they have talked openly to me about my shortcomings but won't talk to their step-dad at all. We all try to avoid him pretty much at all costs.

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by Lali »

Welcome, Lori. I have not been in any substantial relationships where alcohol was involved. I was going to AA when I met my husband (who was not big on drinking). He too was very demanding, loved to start fights and then give the silent treatment for 2 days, a game player, so he might as well have been an alcoholic. I tried to get him into counseling to no avail. Anyway, we split and I am very involved in AA and I can say with complete certainty that counseling would not have worked. I am thankful that the last time I left, I stayed gone. There was no room in my life for his "sickness". Anyway, I would never tell anyone else that marriage counseling would not work for them, HOWEVER, your number 1 priority must be working on YOU. Also, remember that you have teenagers who are having to deal with this, something that is not their fault.
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Karl R
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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by Karl R »

Hello Lori,

Karl-alcoholic in Oregon.

I've no real opinion on you and your spouse's chance at marriage counseling. I have however learned something from my experience.

My wife (a normal drinker) and I were reunited as friends and allies due to several factors. Before I quit drinking she set a final boundary on my behavior and left me. That was the final external factor of hopelessness which led to my getting sober. Second factor....I got sober with the 12 step program of alcoholics anonymous. Without that program I may have been sober but would have been left without any clue as to a design for living which works in rough times and good. Third factor.....As we reunited she was consumed with anger----an unremitting anger which had no end. At that point I set a boundary that the anger which she was expressing to me was standing in the way of my usefulness to myself, God, my children, the rest of the world, and indeed her. I suggested counseling. She agreed. We happened on a high quality marriage counselor. Fourth factor.....I/we would not have been able to benefit from this very good counselor's help if I hadn't taken the suggested steps to recovery....all of them! Because of the 12 steps I had taken my own inventory. I had learned not to take other's inventory. I had learned that my problem centered in my own selfishness, self centeredness, and self will. Without that last bit of knowledge I would have been unable to benefit from the process. Today we work together as spouses, parents, and in other ways. But only because I worked/continue to work the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous. That program and the graces of a higher power in my life make this new relationship with family possible.

And so, when pressed my thoughts would be that marriage counseling can benefit if approached with willingness, honesty, and openness to change.
And so, when pressed my thoughts would be that sobriety through the 12 step program of alcoholics anonymous can benefit a marriage if approached with willingness, honesty, and openness to change.

I say this because I have firm knowledge that my higher power's Power is infinite---even in the face of my own finite power. The 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous gave me a chance to connect with that power for sober living.

best wishes Lori,
Karl

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ann2
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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by ann2 »

Hi, good to read you, glad you found us. I was ready to leave my husband after 4 years of marriage, one child and 16 years of sobriety. The thing that changed that was finally taking step 4 and the steps that followed. It was amazing how nice my husband became after that :-)

I think we would benefit from marriage counseling, but that isn't in the cards for us right now, and maybe never. I've accepted that I have ideals about "love" which reality will never match, and that despite my husband's many imperfections (almost as many as mine), he is really the best thing that ever happened to me AND possibly more wonderful things are in store for the both of us together. So instead of dwelling on the things I would nit pick about (which I still do, but I try not to dwell on them), I concentrate on the positives, on my own side of the street, and on helping others, things I learned in AA and which make my sobriety possible.

If your life would be better packing up and leaving, upon rational consideration, then don't let me stop you by my story. I just know that my life would become extremely complicated, full of regrets, and full of trying to repair the damage. Am I a doormat to him? yes, sometimes, just as he is to me sometimes as well. You know, two people help each other the best way they know how and sometimes that means taking a bit of guff. But think of where you two are -- just stopping drinking -- and don't expect the most considerate, friendly or understanding behavior -- from either of you!

Counseling of course if you both agree -- but as in my case, it's possible to be happy without it as well, given that the program is applied.

Ann
"If I don't take twenty walks, Billy Beane send me to Mexico" -- Miguel Tejada

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by Steven F »

I have no experience with marriage counseling, but I can tell you about the programme of AA and about being in a relationship with kids (mine are toddlers).

First, how it was. I met my girlfriend (we are not formally married, but as good as) while I was drinking. She herself never drank much, and I managed to be functional enough in my drinking career so as not to be too emotionally abusive, too much out of work, or to much of a bum. What did happen however - and I am acutely aware of that - is that I was emotionally very disconnected. I could play any role that was expected of me, but I couldn't commit, or be honestly empathic. So, I was a good "husband" in terms of having a man in the house who took up the role of a man, but I wasn't that good of a friend, or father. I would clean up a wound when one of the kids had a cut or something, but I wouldn't feel the healthy rush of desperation and anxiety parents feel when they see their kids getting hurt. Or I would ask "how was your day" and let her talk, but I wouldn't be really interested in the answer when that made reference to how the events of the day made her feel. And I do now.

How it changed is very simple, and the answer any alcoholic will get from me: I started working the steps. I'm no saint, not am I now the perfect husband and father, but I am involved, I am awake, and I am aware. I can feel along with my family, and take their needs into account. I say "can", because the reality is that I don't always do it. All that came about by doing exactly what the book tells us to do. I looked at my life as it was and conceded that I couldn't handle drinking, nor a life without drinking. I also conceded that, since nobody else had been able to help me (and not for a lack of trying), God was pretty much my last option. And I decided to let God help me. At first hesitatingly, gradually with more confidence and - dare I say it - faith.

That confidence came from working the rest of the steps (at first "willing to believe" was more or less all there was for me). In step four, I examined all the trash that was on my mind and on my heart and that shaped my image of the world and of others, and found that there was a lot of past in there. I also found that, where my focus had been on people (people I was angry with, people I wouldn't want to meet anymore, people I felt uneasy with because I had harmed them), it was actually about the events and facts connected to these people. And then, further down the road, when I looked at my own part in all that, I found that my perception of reality and reality itself are a lot different. And in the steps after that, I managed to get free from all this baggage. As will you and your husband. If you both stick to the programme and take the action.

Today, when irritations pop up, I have tools to deal with that. The main difference, I would say, is that I do not have to be a victim now. I can more clearly see what is my part, and can let go of the need to judge the other. And I can see that things don't all revolve around me, and that people do things for their own reasons - not because they get up in the morning thinking "what shall I do today to annoy Steven?". And the same is true if I get annoyed with something my housemates say or do. I must remember that it is not about me, and that I have to follow my intuition instead of my ratio.

This is somewhat of a short answer, and I could back all of this up with specific and precise everyday examples if it were my intention to fill a few pages. But suffice it to say that, no matter how unreal that may sound to you now, the steps are nothing to be afraid of. Your mind will resist, and is most probably already doing so. That is because you are basically enrolling it into a programme which will let it loose its domination over your life. Next thing you know you will think that you can't possible put energy taking the steps in the environment you are in now, or that you don't have the time, or that it wouldn't be worth it. Get over that. Throw yourself into the programme and recover first, and get to that point where your decisions are made in serenity, with your mind as a tool, not with your mind as a tumour crowding out your spirit. If you need a few days away to do that, by all means do (I did, and it helped tremendously).

If I were in your shoes - but of course I am not - I would focus on taking the steps. Not one a year, but quickly, as I believe was intended by those who wrote down this programme (years ago, they took people through the steps in about four sessions of a few hours - you can still find tapes of that on the Internet). It is not that hard - you read the book like a manual, understand what it says, and do the things that it asks you to do. Meetings help, but should not slow you down. A sponsor helps, but should not slow you - you do not need one to get started. And anyone in here can help you with the mechanics of inventory, and with a lot of other questions. In fact, the only time you really need a tight-lipped other person is at step five. You seem to be in the right state of mind right now, so my advice is to take advantage of that. If your husband does the same, you will see how you both come out on the other end. And then you can, with awareness and empathy, decide if you want to make this spiritual way of life work together, or apart.

I personally don't see how counselling would work at this very moment. A counsellor, right now, can only suggest things from his or her own experience, and it might very well confuse your step work. Better to both commit to taking the steps, and a few weeks down the road you will have made inventory and will be able to make amends to eachother. After that, any counselling you both may decide to have will probably be a lot more beneficial, and you will be able to frame what you hear there in the solution that works for alcoholics like us.

But I have to repeat what Ann said. My life is not yours. So if you are in a dire situation, don't let reading my thoughts stand in the way of removing yourself from harm. Only you can decide what to do, and if you ask God what to do and take some time in silence to let the answer come, I'm sure you will receive the appropriate guidance.

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by Lali »

Wow. Steven, I am impressed by your honest appraisal of yourself. You are a good example of the growth we can attain by working the steps. I too, benefited immensely by working the steps. I will say one thing about the length of time one spends on the steps. I do not think our minds can retain what we are reading if we do the steps in one weekend. (And correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that at the time the steps were done that quickly, in the early days of AA, there were only 6 steps.) In my little town here, most people I have talked to complete the step work (well, you never "complete" the step work) in approximately 8 months.
Step 1: I can't
Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by sober42day »

Hi: lori again and still an alcoholic,

I with all sincerity want to thank all of you for your sharing yourselves and your experience with me. I feel deeply honored and I can state that honestly because I actually do feel now. : )

I have read and re-read all of your replies and I'm seeing brilliant bolts of truth light up and I can say honestly each one of you handed me something really valuable. Stick with my program is one example. I have been concerned at the possibility that making any attempts to focus on his shortcomings is really my alcoholics means of trying to get me right back to the misery of drinking. {i.e. cunning, baffling, powerful...} I also see that letting go of the victim status is another thing that is absolutely necessary. Each meeting I go to and I watch people take full responsibility for their lives and decisions I am simply amazed, encouraged and stunned as well. Now that's new to me, but a hope-line I'm completely willing to grasp on!

Just so you all know; My DH is neither physically abusive towards me or my children. That is not to downplay emotional or verbal abuse but it seems to me that the man in recovery I first met many years ago is not the active alcoholic I've lived with for the last six years. And of course the reverse is also true that the lady in recovery is not the alcoholic he’s lived with for the last six years either.

I just want to thank all of you for your kind words of support and wisdom. I'm going to do just what was suggested, first, keep in mind it won't be easy but it just might be worth it. Focus on my shortcomings and responsibilities and not concern myself with his. Work my steps with diligence and after reading many of the posts on the forum Steven I have come to believe that since I have worked them once before going through them quickly make sense to me, {sorry if there was a bit of crosstalk there.}

I cannot tell you all how much I really appreciate the many light bulbs that went off over my head while reading your posts and I can say honestly I've found precious nuggets of truth in all of them. Thank you all to the bottom of my heart.

p.s. I'm pretty blown away at how respectful, honest and how very real you all were in answering my question. {Proving once again this program works!!}

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by Steven F »

That is great to hear, Lori. I was just thinking of a reply on the matter of using the "fast track" when yours came in :-). We all do no more than grabbing the hand that reaches out to us, but I imagine we all are excited and relieved when it turns out we were able to provide actual help or advice.

What also helped for me was to listen to tapes by Mark H. and Joe H., and from collections of a group called "fellowship of the spirit". It showed me, when I needed it, exactly how, why and where my cart was going downhill.

And, please, do check back to this forum when you can, to read and to post how you are doing. We very much like to hear all that. Or as someone once told me: don't come back - just stay :-).

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by sober42day »

I'll look into those tapes Steven thank you. My DH and I live in a very rural area so we have to split the areas meetings {it seems very unwise to attend the same meetings - unless it's a light-hearted pot luck event or family affair} so finding 30 for 30 days is a bit of a trick. I've managed to find five a week for myself - when I discovered the meeting issue, my first day of abstaining, I decided that I would look for a place online to keep my mind on track daily besides reading the BB and working on the steps. Tag! ya all are it! :D For the last three days I've been reading post after post and I'm sure some of the things some of you all have posted and perhaps even forgotten you've written has been helping me quite a bit!

I'll totally stick around; heck, I got no where else to go. {I've been such a pain in the hind end few will have me and I do not blame them one bit...} :wink:

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by Blue Moon »

Hi,

Marriage counselling can help. But I think it important to take things one step at a time. You just quit drinking, and are just now dealing with "feelings" that were suppressed for years. He just quit drinking, and is just now dealing with "feelings" that were suppressed for years.

With that combo, I'd be astonished if everything was sweet'n'light around the home. It takes time to recover from the sickened state of mind and body.

So I'd suggest give yourselves a break, each focus actively on your own recovery, and then in a few months you can sit down an reassess the marriage etc. goals with a clearer head.

It's not easy, but it's about priorities.
Ian S
AKA Blue Moon

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by sober42day »

I agree completely. I think at this point it would be very difficult/impossible to sort and sift; what is my alcoholism and what are just communication issues between a married couple?

My husband tells me this story when he did recovery over twenty years ago. He said he went to a counselor and said, "I'm pretty dang sure I'm crazy." The guy said, "well, first quit drinking, do recovery and then we'll figure out if you have other problems later."

We'll I didn't meet him in a loony bin; that story represents to me how crazy I; life; circumstances get when drinking is a part of our lives. What I'm experiencing now I think is repercussions of the bad decisions I've made. That and constant reminders of why not kicking it in recovery was a bad decision. I've heard many say, "yep, still an alcoholic" or "nope, not cured yet." I can relate deeply.

I'm okay with that; my junk decicions belong to me and I'll completely own them. And we both {including the kiddos} deserve time to heal in a home where alcohol is not more important then any one individual who lives here. My intentions were never bad but my means of acting on them always sucked.

Thanks again Ian, I really am starting to see a lot more clearly and much thanks to you all and my HP: everyday it gets better.

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by Steven F »

One thing I often remind myself of: you are not behind. Just jump right in where you are ;-).

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by tasman »

And I can see that things don't all revolve around me, and that people do things for their own reasons - not because they get up in the morning thinking "what shall I do today to annoy Steven?".
This made me smile.

Hi Lori
I'm Kerie, alcoholic. I don't have any advice about marriage counseling, I just wanted to say "Welcome"

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by avaneesh912 »

for me counseling did not do any good. I was more pissed off coming out of the sessions. All she did was play us against each other.

What worked? Power of now. There are couple of chapters at the end of the book. Enlightened Relationship and meaning of surrender. But it all boils down to welcoming the partner as is. I heard a Enlightened Master talk about difference between Acceptance and Welcoming. Accepting is in a way judging others and labeling their short-comings and then putting up with it (which usually turns out ugly after few days, months...) but, welcoming is something, you take as a whole, good and bad. Then you can create a room for both the good and bad of your partner/spouse.
Show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism.(Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

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Re: Newbie to AA: Marriage Counseling????

Post by ShaneL »

Karl R wrote:I/we would not have been able to benefit from this very good counselor's help if I hadn't taken the suggested steps to recovery....all of them! Because of the 12 steps I had taken my own inventory. I had learned not to take other's inventory. I had learned that my problem centered in my own selfishness, self centeredness, and self will. Without that last bit of knowledge I would have been unable to benefit from the process.
Karl
My wife and I have found marriage counseling beneficial and my experience reflects that of Karl's.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

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