Evolution Series: Releasing Control

Releasing Control

When the bottom drops out of your life, you learn really fast you don’t have nearly the control you thought you had. Releasing control means accepting that the once wonderful marriage I had is gone.


It means looking at who John has become without the filter of who he used to be or who he is capable of becoming. To do so means I had to accept I have lost respect for him and the choices he’s made.


I’ve learned that my partner may choose not to get well. Sober, yes. Emotionally well? No. As hard as that is to accept, it is good information to have about our current level of compatibility. He doesn’t have to change. But I don’t have to accept it.


Even now in sobriety, John’s MO is to walk away, to lie low and hope problems disappear. It hasn’t worked well for him but it’s something he doesn’t seem prepared to change. I can release that too. Ignoring problems doesn’t work for me, but it’s his life. I’m not attracted to someone who doesn’t want to face his problems and keeps making the same mistakes.  


He thinks that with our separation, I’m going to miss him. He doesn’t realize that the one I miss is the version of him who had been my best friend, but that man left our marriage years ago. 


I don’t miss who he’s become.  


Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that a mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions.


What I learned when I finally had to surrender and ask for help is there are people who show up and it’s not always the people you think. They see you at your worst, when you can no longer pretend your life is not a shit-show. They give you space to acknowledge that your world has come apart, and then they pick up a bucket alongside you and say “let’s do this.” They remember to check in on you when you have to do hard things.


I learned that the feeling of being broken wide open, more than being so painfully vulnerable, was a source of real connection to new people in my life – people who have the biggest hearts. People who can really hear all of what I’m saying and never judge the ugly parts of my story. They don’t turn away or pretend they have something else to do. They let me ugly cry because sometimes that’s the only thing you can do. These are beautiful women who so don’t deserve the shit that alcohol has brought into their lives. Yet they keep showing up, looking for the good in themselves and their alcoholic loved ones, holding on to hope when everyone else has given up.   


Experiencing an alcoholic marriage is not something I’d wish on anyone. But I do appreciate the way I’ve grown through this. Deepening my compassion for what others are going through is a gift of connection that I’m glad I have now. It feels good to show up for others when they need it, to be the one who checks in on them long after others have turned backs to their lives.  


Releasing control now means I have time for rewarding friendships and doing my own healing. While I am no longer under the illusion I can control his bad choices, I do have control over what comes next for me.


If you are the loved one of an alcoholic, and you are ready to find people who will show up for you, please consider joining us in Echoes of Recovery.

SHOUT Sobriety

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He’s Sober. Now What? A Spouse’s Guide to Alcoholism Recovery
October 23, 2019
  • Reply
    Tara Probeck
    September 30, 2022 at 9:42 am

    As always Kathy, your words are inspiring and so empowering. I’m proud of you! Keep your chin up.

    • Reply
      Kathy McDonald
      September 30, 2022 at 12:07 pm

      Thanks, Tara! I appreciate your kind words of encouragement.

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