Relationships and Recovery
I will not use. I will not use. I will not use. I will not use. I will not use. I will not use. I will not use. I will not use.
You’re cool with that. You know you have no place else to go, you have to stop or die.
And for a reason you can not explain, your significant other has let you come home. You lucky guy.
But your significant other, your S-O, is furious. She's always down on you. She's not letting you off easy, even though you're sober, even though you're going to Cocaine Anonymous, or Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous. Even though you SAY you're straight and sober, she's distant. She won't have sex. She'll barely let you hug her. She acts like she'll never let you in, like she has an inventory a mile long.
And she does. Her memory is FULL of things you've done and not done.
And she's yelling at you ALL OF THE TIME!
All you have to do is look guilty (and you always look guilty) and she’s on top of you like butter on toast. She's mad.
G-d forbid you should buy something. YOU’VE ALREADY WASTED ALL OF OUR MONEY. WE CAN’T BUY A HOUSE BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU’VE DONE. HOW CAN YOU SPEND $11.00 ON A PAPERBACK?
Or you're late. YOU WERE WITH HER!
Or you bump into an old friend. YOU'RE USING AGAIN. YOU MUST BE. But you're not.
You say, I bought a book.
But BECAUSE my therapist told me that reading is better than snorting coke somehow doesn't cut it.
I was late because I had to work late.
I saw an old friend at a C.A. meeting!!!
SHE WANTS NO BECAUSE.
Tell her she’s right. You'll return the book. You'll take books out of the library from now on. You'll try to be on time. You will NOT see that friend outside of meetings and you will NOT be using drugs with him.
Repeat after me. She wants no BECAUSE. SHE WANTS NO BECAUSE.
You can’t defend yourself anymore. You don’t WANT to defend yourself anymore. Even if you have an excellent answer to her questions, even if you think you’re a hundred percent in the right and she’s way off track and she doesn’t get you and she’s unfairly maligning you and she’s exaggerating.
YOU’RE NOT TO DEFEND YOURSELF. Probably not for a few years, make it two years, best case scenario.
AND YOU’RE NEVER TO CON HER AGAIN, OR EVEN CONSIDER DOING THAT because
You want her. You want your kids. There will be no next time. There will be no more chances. So you’re going to work your program. You won't use. You'll hear her criticism, her anger, her sadness.
You’re going to let her tear you to pieces, beat the living emotional daylights out of you if that’s what she has to do, if that’s what feels good to her.
Should she get therapy?
Will therapy help her anger?
That all depends upon how angry she is AND whether or not you own what she’s talking about. But again, don’t think of conning her. She’s not letting you in so fast this time. You’re in the house, but there’s no way she’s letting you into her heart. She’s not stupid.
I’ve talked to partners of users who have been angry for so many years that there is no hope of them getting over it. They do not make it through the guy’s recovery marriage in tact. They have to leave. Oh, and sometimes, another guy has already taken your place.
What did you think?
So there’s no saying that you can really keep her, just because she said, “You can come home.” There’s no assurance in this post that even if you follow all that I’m about to tell you to do that she will not kick you out of her life. She might do it tomorrow, and honestly? Who could blame her? She’s been through so much more than you know.
That’s why you’re going to listen to every word she tells you.
Here’s the short list, the very least you can do to try to salvage your relationship.
1. You should not expect sex. Forget about it. Take care of yourself, do not cheat on her. Try to share a bed with the both of you fully dressed. Work on having a friendly relationship. See if at some point you can get kissed. Enjoy the kiss. Pretend it is the first kiss you have ever had in your life. Don’t make it a sexual kiss. Don’t make it passionate. Express your love softly. If she’ll let you.
2. When she’s yelling at you listen and own every word that comes out of her mouth. Do not argue. Validate what she says. Repeat what she says. Ask her if she minds if you write it down. Say things like, “I’ve been such a jerk, such a selfish person. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I don’t want to hurt you anymore.” And mean it.
3. If she’s repeating the same rant over and over again it is because you haven’t responded to her complaint in a way that makes her feel you HAVE heard her. You’re probably responding defensively, telling her facts you think she’s missing and should know. This is not what she needs. She doesn’t care at all about your excuses. She needs you to hear what she’s saying and to grieve, as she is grieving, the insensitive, selfish, out of control human being you have been for as long as you have using, and perhaps before you ever started.
4. Do not hang onto that, “I’ve got a disease,” excuse. I love A.A. as much as the next doc, for sure more (since I like the religious/spiritual intervention, whereas not every doc does). But “It’s my disease” makes it seem so irrevocable, like a death sentence. It may very well be true that you will be an addict until you die, even many years after your sobriety has begun, but she doesn’t need to be reminded of that. It’s so negative. This is not about you, okay? It’s about the person you need to be to be in a relationship with HER.
5. You can’t ever, ever, ever, ever be in denial and think that indeed, you have this licked, that you can control your drinking, using, sexing, spending, whatever. Your mantra for the rest of your life is that you really can’t do it on your own. You will always need friends to help you, a community, probably A.A. , C.A., N.A, or a similar support group to keep your coping strategies operational. Getting a therapist and going to therapy once every couple of months for the rest of your life is a fine idea.
6. If she’s given you the chance to live with her during your recovery, you owe it to her (and to yourself) to become her MAN. You have to take care of HER. I’ve focused in this post upon you letting her vent. You’re to take in her anger, HEAR her words, VALIDATE her feelings, OWN the error of your ways. That's taking care of her.
This is all very hard. But it’s what a woman wants in a relationship with a significant other. She needs and deserves honesty. This means that you have to take a good look at yourself and match what she sees to what you see. She deserves to be heard. The anger you hear is her pain.
I know that when you listen to her vent that you want to shout back, WELL, WHAT ABOUT ME? I’M THE ONE WHO HAS TO COPE WITHOUT MY DRUGS AND IT IS SO FREAKING HARD, BABE, YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD.
She doesn’t want to hear it. She doesn’t care, honey. She just doesn’t care. She might have wanted to hear it at some point while you were using, maybe after your first relapse, but after a few years, after you’ve squandered good money after bad, after she’s slept alone knowing you’ve slept with others, and that you’ve lied a million times, deceived her in a million ways? She doesn’t care.
And you’re going to tell me that having to take that kind of beating makes you want to get high. I know it does. That’s why you have a sponsor, right? That’s why you go to meetings, maybe every day in the beginning, maybe many times a day. That’s why you see someone like me.
When you get those thoughts, especially the ones that tell you that you can’t stand it anymore (her attitude) and that you simply HAVE to use; if you’ve lost your sponsor, if you’re not in A.A., if you have no sober friends, then stop and think about why you’re really using.
She wasn’t there when you started. You’ve probably been using since you were a little kid. Maybe you were rebellious, maybe depressed. Maybe you wanted to fit in and had no idea how susceptible you’d be to substance abuse and dependency.
At the end of all those maybes is the simple truth that you needed something to do, something to change the way you were feeling, something to fill in your emptiness, loneliness, or bad to horrible sense of self.
Your using was never about her and it is STILL not about her.
You want her back? Shut up and listen to what she says and take it like a man. Take care of her. And don’t ever lie to her again. Oh, yeah. And don’t forget your next appointment.
P.S. After I posted this I saw an alcoholic in recovery. He goes to A.A. meetings twice a week. He would go three times a week but SHE wants him home (I told her, since it's a marital therapy, that she should kick him off to meetings as often as possible, but okay.) ANYWAY, he said that if he attended a meeting and complained that his wife was yelling at him too much that his group would say, DUDE. YOU DESERVE THAT AND SO, SO, MUCH MORE. JUST LISTEN.
Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc