Breakups and Recovery

Getting Back Together After an Addiction

“Almost a year ago my husband moved out of state due to an addiction problem. We have two teenagers still at home. We do talk about every month or two and when he does call its all about missing me and wanting to come home. I know we love each other, I just asked him two weeks ago if he wanted a divorce and said no I want my wife back. Really I am struggling with this, my heart is breaking I truly love this man. Just wanted some good advice, I enjoy reading your articles and they do help.” – Carolina

Hi, Carolina. I know you’ve been through hell with this, and I applaud you for taking the time to consider this carefully before you make a decision.

Before I say anything else, you should know I’m NOT a professional therapist or healthcare provider, and I don’t even specialize in this area.

I hope you will consult someone who is trained in the very specific area of addiction and marriage/reconciliation.

Until then, I do have a few simple thoughts about how I might approach this, for what they’re worth to you.

1. Want him to come home for the RIGHT reasons

My very first thought is that I hope you want him to come home for YOU. Not for “his good” or “the good of the kids” or because he’s begging and pleading, but for you. Because you love him and want to spend your life with this man and are willing to work through an incredibly difficult mess with him to get to the good stuff.

Addicts can wreck lives. Before you allow that back into the world you’re holding together with work, children, and so on, you need some reassurance that he’s not going to wreck yours.

2. Let him get and keep a full-time job near you

He needs to show you he’s stable by getting/keeping a regular job. Has he been working where he currently lives, or has he been in detox this whole time?

3. Date before moving back in together

Consider letting him move back to his own apartment near you, or move in with a family member or roomate, and let him get a job first and establish himself a bit.

Then you can “date” for a while to give the two of you time to get to know each other again.

Hope4. Make sure he’s still going to his addiction support groups on a daily/weekly basis

You should go to some, too. There can be some very helpful information and support in these groups that you can get no other way. Addiction recovery groups often have “Spouses Of” and “Children Of” groups they can refer you to. Ask at a local church or community center for meetings near you.

5. Expect a high level of appropriate treatment from him

You don’t want to be in the full-time business of “taking care of” an addict. That’s what detox is for. Marriage is about a connection between partners, not a “mommy” and a grown man who is behaving like a child.

Also – and you already know this – abuse is never acceptable. If you’re getting hurt, or suspect you might, you need to get out and protect your own safety and that of your children.

6. Understand that your marriage will be DIFFERENT if he comes back

So be ready to create new habits, systems, routines, and expectations. That’s why I like the idea of letting him move back to a small apartment (or in with a family member or roommate) and dating for a while so that the two of you can make a fresh start without all the immediacy and intimacy of a live-in situation.

7. Get the best kind of help you possibly can

And by that I mean from a licensed therapist or coach who specializes in addition issues. Even a trusted friend or mentor would be better than no help at all. This can’t be all on you; you’ll need support! So plan for that.

rebuild trust8. More than anything else, you’ll need to rebuild TRUST

You need to know that what he SAYS will match what he DOES.

It will take time, of course, but that’s the main thing you’ll need to get you two through this — lots and lots of trust-building.

You want to be married to a man of integrity and a RECOVERING addict, not an addict with addiction-related behaviors.

Please share your story and resources…

Remember — I’m not a professional therapist. This are just my basic thoughts on the issue. I hope they are helpful to you in some small way.

If you’ve been in this situation, I hope you’ll leave a comment and any helpful resources you can recommend! Many thanks…

xoxo Claire

4 comments on “Getting Back Together After an Addiction

  1. This is so insightful and real, Claire. Nice work. I especially liked the point you made about not being the addict’s caretaker. So many women fall into this role almost without even realizing it’s going down.

  2. Get yourself to Alanon. The dynamics of dating or being married to a man in the grips of addiction or in early recovery are much different than any other. Al anon is a fantastic resource for learning to navigate this. Please learn to truly honor yourself and understand that you are a familiar comfort zone for him as he probably is for you too, but he really will need to work through this (and it will be uncomfortable for him) if he is ever to be his whole self for you!
    A great book if you are feeling codependent on him is called Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. Above all PLEASE try an Alanon meeting! You are never alone in this and there is such specific help that will really make a difference. I have been through the SO in rehab and in and out of recovery for years. What got me through is the support I recieved there! Sending soo much love! ♡

  3. Claire Casey

    You know what, Elizabeth? I think women in general fall often into the trap of mothering and taking care of men because we’re raised to be nurturers. And it can be so damaging. BOUND to be worse if a couple is dealing with an addiction…

    Liz, thanks so much for adding your voice to this. I don’t know whether Carolina’s husband was an alcoholic, but my experience with those support groups has been very positive, too.

    Thanks, both of you, for taking the time to read and comment. xoxo

  4. Hey ladies , thought it might be fair to mention that after a period of time the wife or husband of the addict becomes just as sick as their addicted partner. I was married to an enabler for 22 years. Every time I started to recover she would intentially find ways to push me into drinking! Now it was my choice but if you know anything about the program of AA , it clearly states we are powerless over the first drink in early recovery. The way my deseas effected my spouse ?? Well after I started to function (keep a job and pay my own way) she did not know where she fit in my life at anymore because she was so use to taking care , nursing me back to health that she was lost with out that control . Divorcing her was the best thing I ever did. The sad part was she never went to alanon and she stayed sick. Every man she has had sense me she has picked addicts.So read the family afterwords in the AA book and it explains some of the struggles of rebuilding a relationship. The good news is if the addict is serious about being done. ( and trust me ,every time they cried and said I’m sorry I’ll never do it again , they really really ment it) the recovery process is very fast , and you can move from being sick to fully recovered in a short period of time. (30 days) . Lots of people argue this fact but in the forward of the AA book ,the first one hundred said they have seen 1000s RECOVER. Its a spiritual program and the only purpose of the AA book is to get you in contact with God . it also talks about once this happens you will see results in his behavior. Warning is if they start making excuses to miss meetings they have already relapsed ,it happens in the mind before it happens in the body. So look for these three signs and you can predict the future … Restless, irratible and discontentment. Sorry about my spelling. And I believe your husband will get well and stay well if he does these three things on a daily basis. Its a promise in the book. Trust God , clean house (internal ) and help another addict , the obsession to use will never ever return.

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