A Wife Abandoned for AA

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on November 20th, 2023
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Dear Stanton,

My husband is an alcoholic that went through the treatment stages and he is now living in a sober house. He is working.  We have been apart as a result of his treatment.  He has been at this sober house for 3 months and we have maybe seen each other 3 or 4 times.  He is busy working, helping the guys at the house, going to AA meetings and meeting with his sponsors, visiting with his elderly mom. We have been married for 24 years and I go to Al-Anon.

However I have been so left out of my husband’s recovery. Is this normal? I feel like I’m in limbo waiting.  Because we are physically apart and have limited contact it has now become a marital separation.  He doesn’t have time for me.

My husband says he likes living at the sober home and doesn’t want to leave anytime soon.

Our relationship is deteriorating. He says he can’t come home because I’m the trigger.  I’m not an alcoholic – I don’t drink, do drugs, smoke – I’m 56 and in great shape and he is about to be 60.  I am seeing a therapist but the pain and devastation is real.


Dear Linda,

Let me start with your observations:

My husband says he likes living at the sober home and doesn’t want to leave anytime soon.  

He doesn’t have time for me.

It has now become a marital separation. 

Our relationship is deteriorating. 

He says he can’t come home because I’m the trigger.

He has declared his plans to stay put, with the consequences that the two of you are separated and your relationship has deteriorated, and his reason is that you (and your marriage) are the cause of (“trigger for”) his alcoholism.

As a result, having been married a quarter century, you are devastated and in pain.

Your husband has abandoned you for AA.  Is it different than if he left you to move in with a younger woman (although, presumably, his AA participation involves no sex — does it?).

Being abandoned by a husband for a new woman is such a cliche that you have probably thought of it.

What would you do in that situation?

We don’t know why you trigger his alcoholism. He hasn’t said. Do you have any suspicions?

You don’t say, but is this any indication?

“I’m 56 and in great shape and he is about to be 60.”

Are you challenging to him as he ages because you are younger, stay in shape, and are attractive?

Are there other ways that you may intimidate him?

We can’t tell from this distance. In marital or couples therapy we/you could explore these issues:

“John, Do you feel Linda is leaving you behind because of her good looks and youthfulness? Do you feel inadequate around her?”

These might be the triggers for his alcoholism that your husband means.

But you can only find out if this is true, or what else might be going on, if you had a frank airing out of your and his issues, which he isn’t prepared to do.

There are a variety of marital therapies that explore such issues.

But your husband prefers an AA halfway house and whatever therapy occurs there.

Although you might feel that your husband of 24 years owes you the consideration of examining your problems together, you can’t force him to do so.

And neither Al-Anon (nor apparently his halfway house) presents the opportunity to do such constructive relationship work.

Answering your question, I do feel this is typical for those operations.

So we are left with a situation where you are going to have to build a life of your own going forward.

That is a considerable task. But it is your best option for combatting your devastation and pain.

Yours with positive wishes,

Dr. Stanton Peele


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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