Mean You're Still Married?
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., August 1989
married and staying sober. Sometimes it seems impossible
to do both at the same time. In the AA circles I travel
in, there are a lot of people, men and women, who are
no longer married to the spouses they were with when they
finally hit bottom. I understand why. In my early sobriety,
Ella and I fought more than when I was drinking. Or perhaps
I just remembered every word without my booze to ease
the misery. It seemed to me that living with Ella when
I was drinking had been hell, but trying to live with
her and trying to learn to stay sober was double hell
- with no pain killer.
was trying to follow the AA program and live one day at
a time. But every time I did one little thing wrong, she
would drag out the past and hit me with it. She was going
to some Al-Anon meetings but didn't seem to be getting
the program - in my opinion. All she appeared to be learning
was how to tell me how to work my program. I was sure
if she would only listen to me, I could straighten out
I got a sponsor who also had a wife. Tim had only a year
of sobriety and he and his wife were still capable of
getting into a good one. Maybe that's why I was attracted
to him as a sponsor. If he could work a program with his
wife, maybe there was hope for me. Meeting him at his
home, I found that his wife wasn't as bad as I'd expected.
But then I knew how Ella and I saved most of our bad stuff
for when we were alone. Over coffee, Tim's wife, Barbara,
asked me to bring Ella the next time I came over. This
sounded like a good idea. Barbara knew a bit about the
program. Maybe she could teach Ella something.
I got to know Tim and his wife better, I noticed that
seeing Barbara did Ella a lot of good. Ella was also asking
Tim about things. At first this burned me, since I figured
I could have given her the same or even better advice!
But I came to realize a difference. Ella was likely to
listen to Tim's and Barbara's views whereas she often
ignored mine. I also discovered that if Tim wasn't available,
Barbara could give me something to think about until I
could see him. Since many of my problems were with Ella,
I found Barbara's suggestions useful. I realized maybe
Al-Anon did know a few things.
and I began to attend more meetings - AA and Al-Anon meetings
held at the same time in different rooms or open meetings
where spouses could attend together - and we began to
know more couples in recovery. We were all having the
same problems. Both AAs and Al-Anons were finding it difficult
to get along with their unreasonable spouses. The resentments
from the past continued to disrupt our todays. Ella and
I could agree on the problems another couple was having
- usually contributed to by both partners, as we saw it.
But we were surprised at how difficult it was for us to
look objectively at ourselves as a couple. In spite of
the difficulties we were having (or maybe because of our
problems), some married people began to ask how we were
working our individual programs. This was embarrassing
because I realized that my understanding of what the program
suggested I do was better than I was actually doing. But
I tried to be honest in admitting this to fellow AAs.
As a result, talking over other people's problems taught
me more about what I had to do. Sometimes I had to go
home and make a newly discovered amends to Ella.
I read the Big Book more closely, I found that there was
plenty of information on family recovery. Initially, I'd
been unable to think beyond my own sobriety to the need
for family recovery. This included my need to practice
patience, tolerance, and forgiveness for my wife. From
the beginning of sobriety, I expected her to demonstrate
these attitudes toward me. I didn't realize how long it
was going to take both of us to learn to practice these
attitudes. In reading about AA and our co-founders, I
found that recovering as a couple was what Bill and Lois
W., and Dr. Bob and Anne S. had learned to do. Dr. Bob
and Bill had talked with their spouses as well as the
alcoholics they were working with. Lois and Anne also
talked with alcoholics as well as with spouses.
recovery is part of the AA program for those of us who
are still married when we come into AA. But recovering
together is as hazardous as recovering alone, or perhaps
even more so. If I'm recovering alone, I only have to
deal with my own dry drunks or slips, but if I'm recovering
with a wife I have to allow her the same opportunity for
mistakes. Together, we have twice as many opportunities
for slips and dry drunks as we have separately. But if
I can work my AA program and allow my wife to work her
Al-Anon program, together we have the potential for experiencing
the recovery as a couple that Bill and Lois, Bob and Anne,
individual recovery has to be a priority for each of us.
We each have our own sponsors in AA and Al-Anon. But we
also needed to know, observe, and talk with recovering
couples, and be available to new couples. We benefit by
realizing how much remains to be done in our own recovery:
"We are not saints." Perhaps what we have most
to offer is a recognition that our recovery as a couple
continues to be difficult. To "practice these principles
in all our affairs" seems hardest in those relationships
which are most important to us.
nine years of agonizingly slow recovery, we are more in
love with each other, and have a deeper love for our child,
than in the days before alcohol. This is a love that we
have had to relearn from each of you, married and single.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to follow the
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., August 1989
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