How do I rescue my marriage when my husband deserts me and the family for AA?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on December 8th, 2010 - Last updated: April 13th, 2023
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I believe that my husband has replaced his drinking with AA based on these facts:

  1. He goes to meetings daily plus twice on weekends and once nightly during the week on a regular basis
  2. He goes to “the club” where the meetings are held for additional 15-20 hours per week
  3. He does not interact with friends at work, mutual friends or family anymore
  4. He does not interact with our children anymore
  5. He wants to leave, feels empty, lost and worthless.

I believe that AA has turned into a kind of cult for him (although I do believe it can serve a purpose for some) based on what information I have read so far.

I am desperate and terrified of losing him, please HELP!


Dear Ellie:

Obviously, AA did not do this to him itself – your husband was lost and searching beforehand (and this was of course connected to his alcoholism). I don’t know how badly his drinking was affecting you before he began to attend AA. But you may have to undergo a marital reinvigoration/marital therapy to restart your relationship. Such therapy could include;

  1. Reviewing together what made you love one another in the first place,
  2. Setting aside time together alone for pleasurable interactions
  3. Systematically reviewing the elements of your shared life (e.g., child rearing, finances, household responsibilities, sex, etc.) to rate how you are doing and how you agree to each improve.

You would also have to increase the positive nature of your interactions, making sure to praise one another before offering any suggestions or criticism.

Can you get your husband’s attention long enough to offer him to undergo such a program? If the marriage is worth saving, it will take some investment of time.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.


  • Anthea says:

    My husband joined NA after 35 years of drug addiction. He became obsessed with meetings and prioritised them over everything else. Mostly attending 4-6 meetings a week and doing very little around the house as all his energy is spent on his “recovery “. His behaviour did not change and he was still abusive and became more self-centred and continually bemoaned how hard done by he was. He has replaced his drug addiction with the 12 steps and has repeatedly returned to the first step never really moving past the third. The 123 Waltz of addiction. The fourth step has made him angry, judgemental and nasty.
    In truth he needed to be doing the 13 steps here:

    He recently ended our marriage of 21 years and left me and my daughters for a woman from NA. It’s like a cult. We know none of the people he spends all his time with. He is still just as abusive at home and displays all the signs of a true narcissist.

  • Christa says:

    My partner of 10 years finally started taking AA seriously but I, too, am finding that AA appears to be all he cares about. He had an inappropriate relationship during the height of his alcoholism & says he wants to “fix” things but doesn’t actually follow through. He is constantly getting texts from his AA buddies, goes to meetings at least once a day & seems to have no room left for anything else! I’m all but out of his life & am focusing on healing.

  • TThomas says:

    I feel that AA is used as a type of religion for those who have no belief system of their own. They can’t draw on their faith because they believe their life depends on being in that meeting. I’ve attended some meetings and I can see how they can be helpful. My point is this: if you have gone to AA meetings almost everyday for 30+ years, it is probably no longer therapeutic but yet another addition for which you neglect your wife (me) and household responsibilities.

  • Disclaimer says:

    I agree with you. Sadly, my husbands whole life revolves around AA meetings, I cannot take it anymore. 20 years of this is enough…

  • Michael says:


    I empathize with you. My wife has been sober for over a year now. She chose NA over AA because she thought it was “less religious” or dogmatic. However, I feel that she has become married to NA. We’ve been through a 5 month trial separation and are (or so I thought) trying to make amends. However, she has spent 6 full days with her NA people out of town and less than 5 minutes talking about marriage counseling with me. I’ve called them a cult to her, which obviously doesn’t get received well. But I truly feel there is something about these places that can take over a weak mind. Sure, she is sober. She probably wouldn’t be alive without NA. But… at what cost? I try to convince her that she is no longer marriage material. While her real loves (NA) seem to get not only her words, but the follow-through of her words… I seem to only hear words she thinks I want to hear, and they are almost always empty promises.

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