He’s Sober. Now What? A Spouse’s Guide to Alcoholism Recovery

He's Sober. Now What? A Spouse's Guide to Alcoholism Recovery

I’ve found statistics that indicate a 20% increase in divorce rate for couples dealing with alcoholism in the marriage. That number is not surprising to me. The overall divorce rate in the United States is roughly 50%, and it makes sense that addiction to alcohol adds significant challenges for couples to overcome in order to stay together.


But those aren’t the important numbers – not to me, anyway. The statistic I’m interested in doesn’t exist. At least I can’t find where this subset has ever been studied. I’m curious about the rate of divorce in marriages where the alcoholic gets sober. Based on the stories I know, and our personal experience, I’ll bet that divorce rate is over 80%. I thought getting sober was the hardest thing I’d ever do until I experienced the damage recovery did to my relationship. Recovering our marriage from alcoholism is the challenge of our lives.


Sobriety doesn’t fix anything. When I quit drinking, our relationship got much worse before it could begin to get better and recover.


Social media is full of what I refer to as rainbows and cotton candy posts about sobriety from addiction. I don’t get much out of the unicorns and bubblegum inspiration about how everyday is perfect in sobriety. And I imagine those posts are insulting to the spouse of an alcoholic in recovery who is dealing with the reality of resentment and distrust. Recovery is so hard. A picture of a sunrise with a snappy caption is an indignity to the couples trying to hold their families together in sobriety.


My wife, Sheri, and I, have recorded Untoxicated Podcast episodes about our relationship struggles, and they have both been downloaded over 400% more than our third top rated episode. Couples are hurting, and marriages are dying at the hands of this ferocious disease. Al-Anon is a great resource, but just like AA is not a good fit for everyone, couples need options in the ways they find help recovering their marriages from alcoholism.


That’s why we wrote a new ebook that we are announcing today. It’s about our struggles to survive alcoholism recovery and hold our marriage together. Titled, He’s Sober. Now What? A Spouse’s Guide to Alcoholism Recovery, Sheri and I worked together to write our new ebook from her perspective. It is her story of learning to love me again, and it covers topics we never imagined we would face when I got sober and started on the path to beating my disease.


Alcoholism destroys trust, intimacy and our ability to forgive. It leaves the collateral damage of resentment and the spouse’s defence mechanisms in its wake, and enough pain to last a lifetime. When I stopped drinking, I told Sheri I got sober for her. I thought she was selfish because she wasn’t instantly grateful and loving. I didn’t know what more she wanted from me. I didn’t understand the devastating amount of damage my 25 years of heavy drinking had done to our marriage. I just could not comprehend.


When I most needed my wife’s love and support, it was most unavailable. It was all my fault, and I didn’t have the capacity to understand. Now I know.


Getting sober after years or decades of alcoholism was like promising not to pour gasoline on the charred remains of our house after I burned it to the ground. After I crushed my spouse’s soul, I asked for loving support in exchange for promising to not crush it again.


We learned so many unexpected lessons in sobriety, and our marriage is surviving. After years of going backwards once I stopped drinking, we are making progress and recovering our marriage. We want to share what we’ve learned for free. We encourage you to download He’s Sober. Now What? A Spouse’s Guide to Alcoholism Recovery. Don’t let the title fool you. The lessons we learned are not gender specific, and the ebook is applicable for husbands of alcoholic wives in recovery, and same sex marriages as well.


Just as connection is required for successful recovery from addiction, connection is vital for the spouse of an alcoholic to recover as well. We hope you’ll share your experience in your alcoholic relationship in the comments, or by email directly to Sheri or me. You are not alone. The stigma associated with alcoholism envelopes marriages and families, and we must connect in order to survive. We are all in this together. Let’s replace shame with hope.

Download Spouse’s Guide to Alcoholism Recovery

Losing Everything: Kyle’s Story of Fading Hope
November 6, 2019
Hear How Sobriety Can Result in Divorce
January 31, 2019
Thinking or Drinking
October 13, 2020
  • Reply
    January 17, 2024 at 9:03 am

    It was 4 years ago that we met, and he told me that he had 9 years sober. His first marriage of 24 years blew apart because of alcohol. It destroyed his family, home, career, everything. I believed that 9 years sober meant he had put it the past and was in a place in his life to move forward together. We made plans, did everything we could together. Our first 2 years were lovely. I sold my condo to make the commitment, both feet in, trusted him completely. But by the 3rd year, he began drinking again, in secret at first. I never imagined that he would take another drink. He’d had it beat. But by the time he confirmed what was happening… alcohol had a grip, and it was the worst 2 years of my life. He drove away family and friends, lost work, wrecked equipment, drove intoxicated all the time, lied to protect the addiction. The initial hope and support I tried to express gave way to the realization that there was nothing I could say or do that would change what he was doing. Eventually, resentment and distrust for all the lies and the awful things he’d say and do drinking became greater than the good memories that we’d created in the first 2 years. I begged him to get help, stop drinking, see a doctor, return to meetings, anything that would give me hope. But I had to move out for him to realize that he was really losing everything. And while I have not given up, and I see him trying… I don’t know if we will make it. I don’t trust his judgement now, or believe him when he says he’s not drinking. Because he lied to me about everything to hide something that was glaring, and I still see it in little things, even though I’m not there daily now. I found your blog more than a year ago, and I still read, because hope is all I have sometimes. Thanks for helping, sharing your own journey.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      January 18, 2024 at 7:39 am

      Wow Char! This is a powerful story very well written. Thank you for sharing. You deserve support for your own recovery from what you’ve been through. We hope you’ll check out our Echoes of Recovery program.


  • Reply
    Weller koe
    March 25, 2024 at 11:18 am

    thank you for this blog…We’ve been married 17.. he was an alcoholic since he was 17, as he hid the majority his drinking I’ll really never know. I drank socially with him too, but he was a violent drunk.

    now he is 22 months sober, i quit with him immediately, and he has changed his life so dramatically, I am confident in his ability to maintain sobriety as he is.
    however we still have SO many communication issues and so much, to be honest, horror to work through; we both hope it’s worth it and we have four children and we want to keep going through but it seems all of our conversations end in heated screaming matches.

    he never asks me questions or expresses concerns for me. I have been his primary talk therapist, which had been hard.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      March 26, 2024 at 7:42 am

      Congratulations on sobriety for you both! Unfortunately, sobriety doesn’t fix anything, but it is a prerequisite for both individual and relationship recovery. We encourage you to consider joining us in Echoes of Recovery. The group can help you work through the communication issues we all experience.


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