Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I’ve been with my husband for 16 years. We have three children.
He became addicted to cocaine and prescription medication about three years ago when I was pregnant.
The problem escalated, and we separated at the start of the year for five months. He went to rehab and has now been in recovery for three months.
The problem is I feel terrible. I'm so down. I find it hard to forgive him for everything he's put me through.
I never thought he'd do this to me, and I'm struggling with my feelings and how to move forward.
I'm proud he's in recovery and that my kids now have a sober dad. But I'm so hurt at everything that has lead up to now.
I don't know how to move past this.
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Being a partner to a person struggling with addiction is challenging, to say the least. I know. I have been the one in rehab, and I’ve been the partner of the one in rehab. It can be stressful and painful for both partners.
It is understandable that you feel hurt and don’t know how to move past this.
In my experience, the relationships we have when drinking or using are not healthy, and the unhealthy behavior usually comes from both parties. That may be hard to see from where you stand, but every relationship I had while using drugs depended on my partner’s codependency or other unhealthy relationship behaviors.
Neither of you knows how to operate in this new dynamic, but you can learn to do so. Going back to what you had isn’t a real option. The relationship you had was broken.
If you move forward together, your relationship will be an entirely new thing, built on a much healthier foundation.
And I do think it is worth trying to build something new. You have three kids together. And, no matter what the outcome is, you will need to co-parent peacefully.
Right now, your husband’s priority should be his sobriety. And your priority should be getting help for yourself. At the very least, you need some way to process what has happened and separate your relationship from his behavior.
I always think therapy is a good idea. For now, you should each be seeing a therapist separately. Later, I would highly recommend a marriage counselor so that you can take the work you’ve done individually and figure out a path forward together with the help of a neutral third-party.
Before you make decisions about your marriage, you need to sort out what you feel, what you want, and who you are, as an individual, separate from your partner.
It’s hard to do that inside our brains, all alone. A therapist is there as a guide to help us figure out things we already know but are clouded by trauma, heartbreak, and, well, life.
Now, I understand that therapy is not always an option for everyone, for a few reasons, but usually financial. Another way to get yourself some help is through a 12-step program such as Al-Anon or CoDA. Both of these programs can offer a lot of support for anyone struggling within a relationship, but especially for those with a partner who has substance use problems.
This is not going to be figured out overnight, but I promise it won’t feel this painful and confusing forever.
Focus on yourself — your wants and needs. Make some time for self-care, even in microdoses, which is often how it is when you have kids (I know!). And stay open to getting to know who both you and your partner are now, as you walk the walk in recovery. You might surprise yourself with what you learn about each other.
Lastly, recovery is a process, and there are no guarantees that he won’t relapse again. This is why I want to emphasize again how helpful a 12-step program of your own (or other types of support groups, even online) will be for navigating this journey.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Gaspeite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo