Granting a Voice to the Spouse in Alcohol Recovery

Granting a Voice to the Spouse in Alcohol Recovery

In May of this year, the Guardian started a column for the spouse of a recovering alcohol addict. Titled “A Marriage in Recovery” and written in a very personal style, the column offers readers an often pushed aside voice: someone caught in the tangle of a loved one’s addiction and alcohol recovery.

Abbreviating his or her husband’s name as R, in the first entry the unidentified author and spouse writes, “Within weeks of us being together, it seemed that R’s relationship with alcohol seemed so much more important than his love for me. But with a stubborn persistence, and some would say blind stupidity, we continued. We loved each other, after all.”

What makes this column so strong is its serial nature. A reader can follow the problems and questions that the anonymous author asks him or herself, and continue reading through the weeks to see how, if at all, such problems or questions are resolved. Plus, a serial column allows readers to see the tediousness and long-term hard work of alcohol rehab that otherwise might be lost in a one-time released memoir.

The second entry of the column jumps from the beginning of the couple’s marriage, where the writer realizes his or her loved one’s addiction, to his four-month anniversary of sobriety. In this episode, it becomes clear the myriad of emotions family members of alcohol abusers experience. While the husband in alcohol recovery is praised for every small sober activity and can eschew his household duties, the author feels neglected and miserable:

“He can leave his dirty dishes on the sideboard, excuse himself from parental duties by coming home from work at 9pm nearly every evening (‘I need to go to the gym straight after work so it’s probably not worth making the trip home beforehand’) and still be told he’s doing brilliantly.”

Unfortunately, the most recent entries chronicle R’s relapse. Just like an addict’s own struggle, as readers we soar with hope during R’s four-month sober stint and come crashing down when we read that he leaves home on the premise of a camping trip and ended up drinking in a pub.

“I learn of the relapse at two minutes past midnight. Four months of sobriety is over, just like that. My husband’s work phone – the one he left behind – rings loudly and I find it at the foot of the bed. I see the time beside the name: Pete. Usually when someone calls so late it’s a mistake or an emergency.”