What is it like to keep working your recovery program after divorcing?

Pat joined Spencer to talk about her experience.

She fully recognizes that both she and her ex-husband contributed to the factors leading to their divorce. She says that she “did not want my relationship to be the example to my children of what a relationship should be.” When they separated, she was fully confident that they would eventually re-unite. That didn't happen.

When they first split, she had been in Al-Anon about 6 months. This is what it looked like:

  • Initially, she tried to work through it
  • Their son refused to stay in the same room with his father, when they tried to have family meals
  • When her husband said that he should get the house, she shocked herself by saying “OK, I'll get an apartment for me and our son.” She says “This is Alanon all over the place. That never would have happened before.”
  • After about 6 months, she realized how much happier she was.
  • Some Al-Anon principles that helped during this time and afterwards include compassion, detachment with love, self care, choosing how much and when to trust, and dealing with drunk calls/dry drunk behavior.
  • It was a real struggle, while still young in Al-Anon and learning the tools and principles

Even though the relationship “ended”, only of course it didn't, there are so many aspects to a relationship that need to be addressed and are ongoing despite a divorce.

Pat used her program learning to accept her children's different choices that they made about how they would be in relationship with their father (both were adults at this point.) One chose to cut off contact, the other let his father move in for a time, saying “I don't think in this country, we support our elderly enough. I think it's important to take care of our elderly.”

She did quickly “dive into” a new relationship with the person who is now her husband. She says that it is “Absolutely essential to use Al-Anon … to have a healthy relationship.” That includes “to continue very actively going to meetings, to work in my program, to have a sponsor, to work the steps, traditions and concepts,”

Pat's ex-husband did die of his disease. With the support of Al-Anon, she was able to be with him, to love him, as he was dying. “Two years after his death, I had a sense of incompleteness. I had to do a step four around my relationship with him – eventually I had to remember that while I contributed to the problem of our marriage, I didn’t cause his drinking and I had good reasons to leave. It was okay that I did.”

Readings and Links

Pat read from the book Opening Our Hearts, Transforming our Losses: pages 81-83 on divorce; 83-34 on relationship with our adult children; and 97-101 on death of a loved one.

Spencer mentioned two articles from the New York Times, one on languishing, and one on flourishing.

Contribute your voice

Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecovery.show with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Music from the Show

Aretha Franklin – Respect
The Presidents Of The United States of America – Lump
(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay feat. Jack Johnson

1 comment on “Al-Anon after Divorce – 358

  1. Mary Zapczynski says:

    Hi Spencer and Pat,
    Thank you for episode 358 on Al-Anon after divorce.
    I have been married for almost 40 years. I worried about my husband’s drinking for years (read – nagged and fretted and threatened to leave). He retired 9 years ago and is now deeply into the disease and mostly non-functional.
    I began my recovery in Al-Anon 3 years ago.
    Pat, your experience with divorce after 25 years of marriage has helped me look beyond some of my fears about leaving. You talked about setting an example for your children. My children, grown and with families of their own, have asked me why I haven’t left him. I took off my wedding ring a year ago.
    Thank you for sharing your experience, strength and hope. Mary

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