Recently a dear sober sister- Ashley from Bloomin’ Ash – asked me to serve as a guest blogger. I was absolutely tickled, as she’s been an inspiration to me from the start of my journey. Seriously, this chick is so real, so strong, and so funny! You MUST check her out and follow, as she provides great insight on how to maintain a life of sobriety through all the ups-and-downs of life.
As she and I prepped for the post, she posed a simply question for me-
“Is there any part of recovery that has been the hardest thing for you?
As soon as I read the question, I immediately knew the answer- my marriage.
Then before I knew it, Marriage. Soberly Divided: Part II, or as Ashley accurately titled it, “Staying Sane in a Soberly Divided Marriage,” was created. (You can read Marriage. Soberly Divided: Part I here).
(Below is from my post from Bloomin’ Ash, which was originally published on January 6, 2018 on her website.)
What’s the hardest part of recovery for you? Anytime this question is asked, I immediately think- my marriage. Hands down, it’s what has rocked me the most because my husband and I are and will always be soberly divided.
I’m sure most married folks would agree that marriage involves a lot of work and fine-tuning as the years stack up. Marriages must adjust to life’s circumstances like moves, kids, new jobs, family issues, losing loved ones, etc. Sobriety just happens to be one of those circumstances for us, and I fully admit it’s been the hardest hurdle yet!
Drinking has always played a huge roll in our relationship, which began at a bar (surprise, surprise). We drank through the courting phase, the engaged phase, the newlywed phase, and even the new parent phase. However, my husband was able to slow his drinking down quite a bit when our kids entered the picture. Me? I amped it up!
When my heavy weekend drinking started to trickle into the weekdays, my husband expressed concern. When I was drinking more often while he was away, my husband gave me ultimatums to not drink. When I was drinking heavily (like the blackest of blackout heavy) the few times I went away, we both agreed I should stop drinking altogether. My snowball had full momentum, and that snowball hit it’s final wall in late January 2017.
Prior to January, I’d tried the sober gig a couple of times- once for over 100 days and last year for almost eight months. Both periods were very freeing, and I learned a lot about living life on sober terms. However, I think I always knew in my the back of my mind that I’d drink again because that’s what my husband and I did. We drank. A lot. Together.
However, when I crashed and burned into my wall in January (you can find my story here), I knew something was different. I was getting sober for no one else but myself. I was sick of who I had become and was ready to live life on my own terms.
Gratefully, not picking up the bottle becomes easier and easier as the days pass, but what still brings me to tears is living this new life with booze still being a huge part of our marriage. It feels like the elephant in the room a little too often.
So what have we done to try to boot the elephant? Well, we’ve done a dry house, which resulted in resentment (from both parties). We’ve done a normal routine of my husband drinking as he pleases, which has also resulted in resentment and feelings of rejection (from both parties). We’ve talked. We’ve fought. We’ve tried to figure out what is best for us, but we realize over and over there is no black-and-white answer.
How then do you maintain sanity in a marriage that is soberly divided?
I don’t have any concrete answers, but here is what I’ve learned, thus far:
Respect for one another is HUGE!
My husband has slowly accepted that not everyday in sobriety is roses for me. He respects this and does his best to support my mood swings. I, on the other hand, respect the fact that he is not on the same journey as me. He is a “normal” drinker and will most likely continue drinking “normally” for the remainder of our marriage. I cannot force my ways on him, nor can he force me to not embrace my sober life and all that comes with it.
Know your own boundaries.
For the most part, I have no issues being around my husband when he drinks. However, there are times where I just don’t want to sit next to the smell of whiskey. Therefore, when I have hit my max of being around it (which usually tends to be two nights in a row), I simply excuse myself and indulge in self-care. Also, if we’re going to be out with friends, he understands that when I say it’s time to go, it’s time to GO! Or if I randomly walk away from a gathering, he fully understands that it’s me collecting myself for myself.
Communication is key!
I cannot expect my husband to understand all the thoughts and feelings running through me, so communication is vital. How can he express empathy if he has no clue that today is just not a good day for me to be around booze? How can he possibly know that I’ve been triggered and have been overcome with ugly memories of my past unless I tell him?
Empathy goes a long way.
Sometimes random feelings, like resentment, seem to just pop up out of nowhere! Practicing empathy towards each other is huge in these moments. I cannot expect him to completely understand why I want to punch him in the face because he’s drinking around me on my emotionally off-day. Nor can I completely understand what it must be like to be on the receiving end of my cold craziness. However, if both parties try to understand each other and work together, those unexpected moments don’t have to turn into anything more.
Finding a balance that works for both parties takes a lot of work and a lot of patience. This is a lifestyle change of great magnitude for the one getting sober. It’s also a lifestyle change for the one who is quite possibly meeting a brand new sober spouse. Being kind and patient with all the changes happening will make the process that much easier. Plus, I firmly believe it will make the marriage that much stronger.
What words of wisdom do you have if you, too, are in a marriage soberly divided?