Partner's Workshop: Stage One; Lesson Four
Life Beyond Addiction and RecoveryThough it may be hard to see now, there is life after addiction...and there must be life beyond recovery. From where you currently stand, you have two general directions to travel. One is forward — where you come to accept the reality of the situation you face, take inventory of your strengths and what has been weakened...and challenge yourself from that step forward to manage your life. The other direction is in a circle. This happens when you become so enmeshed with your partner's recovery that you can think of little else. And so, your life goes round and round and round within the circle of recovery and with each pass — what is outside of that circle gets further neglected. the consequences of your partner's addiction — even after that addiction has ended — continue. It is your responsibility in the wake of such a traumatic discovery to clear away the fog and embrace what remains of your value system.
Life Beyond Recovery
In stage three of the healing workshop, you will develop a temporary vision for your life that extends beyond your partner's recovery. For now, it will be enough for you to acknowledge that you have the responsibility to manage your life beyond your partner's life and/or recovery process. This means that you cannot fall into the trap of becoming so overwhelmed by the trauma of his addiction that you abandon or neglect other areas of your life. Areas such as the role you play in your children's lives, your career, your family and friends, your personal health, your spirituality, etc. You don't have the luxury of giving up responsibility for maintaining these other important areas of your life. And in fact, it is critical that you don't give them up.
Recovery is your partner's domain. He must want it. He must embrace it. He must hold himself accountable throughout it. He must take full responsibility for not just going through the motions of recovery, but to use it to develop into a healthy person. You have no control over any of this and what's more, the more responsibility you take — the less responsibility your partner has to take. Now, this doesn't mean that you should remain aloof throughout your partner's recovery or that you will play no role in that recovery. Not at all. It only means cannot be your primary focus in regaining control and stability in your life. That focus must exist beyond his recovery.
Life After Addiction
It might seem strange to discuss a topic that is still so far away. The purpose of sharing this information now is to allow you to establish realistic expectations in your decision-making, your monitoring and even in the commitment you make to your own healing.
There is life after addiction. And if the recovery process that has been undertaken has been a healthy one, then the quality of that life will far surpass anything that could have been accomplished prior. Consider a man who for 20 years developed and sustained a secret life. Think of all the time that was wasted. Think of all the potential that went unfulfilled. Think of all the energy, all the anxiety, all the shame, all the deception... do you really believe that this person was "having his cake and eating it too"? Not a chance. Oh, he may have experienced events that when taken out of context, provided him with a level of stimulation that you haven't experienced in a decade. But it is not accurate to examine these events until you put them into the context of what was lost. Integrity. Respect. Honor. Serenity. Stability. Peace. Potential. The list can go on and on.
Now consider that same man with the addiction removed. Consider that same man with not only the time and energy to invest in those areas that are most important to him, but with the insight and maturity to take advantage. This is the man that you will be rebuilding your life with. This is the core of the man that will evolve after the addiction ends, a man that, for the first time in his life, will have the foundation to actualize his potential. But understand, life after addiction involves all of the same challenges that incorporate anyone's life.
...any and every other possible life experience.
In other words, 'life after addiction' is just life. It's not some magical place you will both reach — akin to heaven on earth. It is real. Real pain, real love, real stress, real anxiety, real joy, real loss, real mistakes, real accomplishment. In fact, it will likely be harder right after recovery than it will be at any other time in your future. The holes that have been dug within your relationship must be repaired. The baggage from the addiction must be overcome. Your partner's recovery won't take away the memories of what he did. It won't even take away the pain — to a point. It will however, allow your partner to detach that addiction from his identity and live a stable, committed, engaged life.
Without this awareness, it is foreseeable that you might fall into the trap of 'life after addiction' never living up to your expectations. That somehow, it wasn't worth the pain that it took to heal your relationship because your partner is still the same asshole now as he was before he began recovery. There will be disappointment that 'recovery didn't change him'. Well, that is accurate, it won't. At least in terms of dramatic personality changes. What a healthy recovery will do is enhance the existing values of a person. And so, if your partner valued your relationship but significantly lacked the skills to maximize your relationship's potential...that will change. If your partner even remotely valued spirituality, but lacked any insight into developing that aspect of his life — recovery will free him to pursue it. On the other hand, if your partner never valued you to begin with, he won't value you after recovery, either.
1) Make a list of those values in your partner's life that — in your gut — you believe is a part of him. Set aside the addiction and the behaviors that were a part of that addiction. Focus on what values you believe will survive the recovery process. Post these in your Healing Thread. If there is a time when you are feeling close to your partner, share these thoughts with him — so that he knows that you are beginning to separate the addiction from his core identity.
2) Make a list of those qualities in your partner that you believe will continue to pose as obstacles throughout your relationship.
For example: "He doesn't have a sensitive bone in his body and I don't expect this to change. The way he acts when he is around his friends. His laziness around the house." There is no reason to share these with your partner. They are only your best guess, as it is impossible to directly identify just how significant a transformation some people experience.