How do I fight my husband’s treatment with him?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on January 14th, 2013 - Last updated: October 11th, 2019
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Hi, Stanton…

My husband was admitted into a well-known treatment center for alcoholism after a family intervention.  I (his wife) was not told about the intervention until the day before it was to occur — it was planned by other family members.

He comes from an extremely controlling family and works in a family business.

Since I have tried unsuccessfully for several years to try to get him help, I accepted this.

He did go willingly into treatment, accompanied by a well-known interventionist in the corporate plane.  I was told he was to remain in the facility for 3 months. Okay…so here we are two and a half week’s later.

He is in a residential day treatment program and is able to drive, talk on the phone, etc…

The first conversation I had with him was 5 days after his arrival…his demeanor was remorseful, thankful, etc…

However, during every other conversation I have had with him since, he seems negative, angry, etc… He has put only myself on any releases, etc…not any other family members.  He has a lot of anger about the facility trying to get him to sign a release to the interventionist.  Also, the facility has told him that he was recommended to stay for 3 months on the recommendation of the interventionist.  This has depressed him, since he says he feels it is his program, his recovery, blah, blah, blah…

I am having a difficult time in that the facility has not been very forthcoming with information regarding his 12 step program and any other questions I have had.

I have spoken with his counselor on 2 occasions and have not received any satisfactory response.

I know I am what one might call an “enabler” but want to be here for my husband (in a healthy way) and will do whatever I can to help him in his recovery.

The interventionist had talked with our family about me attending a Co-Dependent week-long workshop.  This was ok, again at first, but then I heard from another family member that I HAD to go or there would be consequences for me as well.

Does this sound ultra-controlling to you?????

I have a series of questions:

  1. Is a set time for treatment without involving the addict dangerous?

  2. Is it normal for the interventionist to be involved after getting a client to treatment?

  3. If he chooses to leave earlier than the 3 months, what are the consequences for him?

If my husband stays for say 2 months, rather than the 3, am I whimping out if I support him?


A wondering spouse

Dear Wondering,

You describe a shocking but common pattern of the heavy involvement of nonprofessionals in a supposedly medical – but certainly a consequential – treatment. At the same time, family members who must understand and be involved – like you, a spouse – are ignored – as is the “patient” himself.

When the object of the treatment is seething with resentment, and the spouse is in the dark and feeling deep unease, can this intervention succeed? The odds are strongly against it.

The alternative, of course, is to have husband and wife in fundamental agreement – in fact, the primary object of therapy can be (as it is with the Community Reinforcement Approach) the relationship between the two people.

And codependent weekend is not going to get it. (In such weekends, in my experience, you are lectured about the “disease” of alcoholism, not given practice in dealing with a spouse in order to maintain sobriety.)

A family intervention still remains a voluntary self-referral, and your husband should retain rights in determining when he leaves. He should also retain rights to speak with you – and the two of you should take some important time to discuss events.

It may be that the intervention has taught your husband valuable things. But carrying them forward will be your and his work (along with the rest of the family’s).

Among other things, you might consider finding a family therapist to continue improving your intimacy and communication with your husband – to discover and agree on the ways in which your interaction can support changes the two of you agree he should make.

One thing that seems to be true is that you take a backseat in your own family – this is almost a separate problem, but one with substantial consequences for your life with your husband, as well as your husband’s life. It should also be addressed.

Take care,


Further Reading

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.

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