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Treatment Didn’t Fix My Marriage, but It Healed My Family

Young boy swinging on a swing and smiling.

Coming out of my first round of treatment, I thought if I could stop drinking, then everything would go back the way it was. I was wrong. It took me years to discover that drinking really wasn’t my core problem and, if I wanted to live in recovery, there needed to be some major changes in my life. Unfortunately, one of the changes was the end of my marriage.

When I left Caron, I finally understood things couldn’t be the same, but I still very much wanted my marriage to work. My husband, Frank, also saw the need for change, and he acted on it. “I’m not ready for you to come home,” he told me when I was coming out of my final-and-so-far-successful stint in treatment. “I love you, but I’m afraid of you taking care of the kids right now.”

Frank was right in asking me to not come home: I wasn’t ready. I’m grateful now that he was looking out for the kids and gave me the chance to work on myself. There’s no way I would have had time to focus on my recovery if I had come straight home and gone right back into the routine of being a mom and wife.

Instead, I went to a recovery house. I went to meetings. I had a retail job for the first time in my life. I started my blog and began journaling. I started working the 12 steps extensively. Eventually, I rented an apartment and slowly started to integrate into my children’s day to day schedule, but it wasn’t an overnight transformation. If I hadn’t had that opportunity, I wouldn’t be who I am now.

Life in recovery

Our lives have stabilized as we live our new normal.

Frank and I get along really well now, but before we got to this new place together, it was tough. Going to marriage counseling sometimes felt like debriding a wound every week. But our motto during all of this has been, “Let’s just love each other through it.” And we have. Even if we’re no longer living together, we are still a family.

At the moment, the kids live at Frank’s house during the week. I live two miles away and stop by all the time. I’m in graduate school, so I’m not always available in the evenings. The evenings that I am available, I’m often over there or attending the kids’ sporting events. Sometimes, we’ll all have dinner together, or Frank will go out and I will spend time alone with the kids. During the summer, it’s much more fluid because the kids are not in school. We switch back and forth.

So, no, my marriage didn’t last. I’ve come to realize that divorce didn’t make Frank or I bad people or that treatment failed. In fact, we were healthy enough to make a choice that was in all of our best interests.

My son made a comment one day that really brought things home for me. Frank and I had already split up, and I was picking up Frank and the kids at the airport after a trip. Leaving the airport, I immediately made a wrong turn. We were all talking and laughing, and I didn’t even notice. After a bit, Frank quietly says, “You know, you realize you’re going the wrong way.” He was right, and I asked him why he hadn’t said anything sooner. “Well,” he said, “that’s the kind of thing that would have gotten me in trouble in the past.” I started laughing and said that he was right about that too. My son said from the back seat, “It’s really nice that you guys are friends now and that you can laugh about things like this because, before, you would have been arguing.”

Our son now sees us as friends, whereas in the past, even if he didn’t see us fighting all the time, he felt the constant tension. Now, he feels relaxed and safe.

Our family looks different, but it’s better. It might once have fit a societal norm of what a successful marriage was supposed to look like, but it didn’t fit well with us. It’s better to live honestly, as congruent as possible with our values and emotional needs, whether or not the outside world understands.

Addiction can be hard on a marriage, and many people think that treatment and recovery will somehow “fix” their marriage. But I can tell you that if your recovery is to be successful, you will no longer fit into your old life in the same way. You will change, and your life will change -- and that’s okay. Treatment helped me, and, while it didn’t “fix” my marriage, it did empower us to evolve in a healthy way.

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