Update: When Daddy’s Been Drinking
An update from one of our most memorable Advice Smackdown columns: The pregnant mom faced with a husband in rehab on her due date.
First of all, I wanted to thank you for posting my letter. It was such a relief even just to write it and send it off to you – within hours of sending the email I had the wheels in motion for my husband to go to detox and then rehab, but it really helped me clarify the issues by writing to you.
After he went in I read (and reread and reread) your response and all the comments. They really helped me stay grounded through the whole experience. There were many times when I wanted him home so badly and I would minimize the hell we’d been through, or convince myself it wasn’t that bad, that I had just overreacted because I was pregnant, but those reminders in the comments of what it is like to grow up with an alcoholic parent made me reaffirm my conviction that we had done the right thing.
We found a great rehab facility relatively close to our home, who were really flexible about our situation. The rehab staff agreed that missing such an important life event would not help his recovery, and being able to be there could be really good motivation so we were all on the same page. The rehab staff were so supportive – they brought him to the birthing center but I was sent home since I wasn’t dilated enough, and when it was time to go back it was 2 in the morning, and they brought him out again. He wasn’t supposed to have phone privileges for the first three weeks, but the day I spent in labor they let him call as much as he wanted, so I got to talk to him a lot, which was so helpful. (My labor was 36 (!!!) hours of awful awful awfulness, but I got through it without any interventions or pain medication.) I kept just wanting to give up and he would call and cheer me on and support me. He was so great through labor and delivery – so supportive and encouraging and I was so glad to have him there. It was certainly hard that just a few hours after our baby was born I went home without him and he went back to rehab, but it was such a haze anyway it was okay. He wasn’t supposed to have any contact with family (no phone calls or emails or visits) for three weeks, so he didn’t see me or his baby girl for another week after she was born. After that we got to visit once a week and I took videos everyday to put on an ipod so he could at least see her sweet face. He could also call once a day, and it was so great to have that time to talk about what we were both going through.
The rehab we chose was a 90 day program, and he came home about two weeks early (with the support of his therapist). He was so ready to be with his daughter and I, and it really was the right time. While in rehab he got into yoga and exercise, he had therapy every day, we had couples therapy once a week, and he even got off his medication. He had some amazing breakthroughs in therapy and got into much better eating and exercise habits, found an AA sponsor and started a AA meeting regimen that really works for him. It was a great environment for all kinds of good changes, a place to learn coping skills and establish new healthy habits.
I kept waiting to write this because I kept thinking the other shoe would drop, and although it has been a really short time, it feels so good I wanted to share with everyone who reached out to me when I needed help. He has been home about two months now and things are better than ever. I cannot believe the transformation some days, it is amazing. He is his best self. He is such an amazing father, he is eager to get up in the night to feed the baby or change her diaper, he can get her to sleep better than anyone, he sings to her and plays with her and reads books and takes baths and all these wonderful little normal everyday things that just feel like icing on the cake to me. I am so happy that he got help. Now when I see him with our daughter I just feel so lucky and blessed, I think all the time about how I could be doing this without him, and where he might have ended up. I am so grateful for how hard he worked to get back to us and that he somehow saw, even in the haze of the downward spiral he was in at the time, that going to rehab was the best decision he could make.
I was so afraid of having a newborn alone, but mostly afraid of having a baby at all! I had been so consumed with dealing with his decline while I was pregnant that I was totally distracted from my own worries and fears and waiting until the last week of my pregnancy to face them was not enough time! It worked out just fine though – she was such an easy newborn, she is an easy baby. No health problems, no major sleeping issues, no breastfeeding troubles – I think she knew I needed to be cut a break, so she has been a sweet, calm, easy little angel. My husbands mother came to stay for about two weeks after she was born and waited on me hand and foot – it was amazing to have her there and she was so supportive of the whole complicated situation. I had tons of meals delivered by family and friends, help with dishes and laundry and groceries, help with paying for rehab, – our friends and family really stepped up and I am so glad I just told everybody what was going on. The weight of the secret was just crushing me, and it was such an incredible relief to see that we had so many people rooting for us, so many people that believed in his recovery, that believed in my mothering abilities, and that we were not going to be left stranded – it was amazing.
I actually think that being alone with your newborn for two months has a lot of upsides – I didn’t have to worry about anyone else’s sleep schedule, I didn’t have to worry about how my crazy post-partum hormones were making me emotional and taking that out on anyone, I had a sense of confidence and authority I don’t know that I would have developed otherwise (that is, I had to make executive decisions about when she should eat or sleep or when to call the doctor, since I didn’t have anyone to discuss or debate it with I had fewer doubts). I could sleep all day and watch tv and eat ice cream while she was up at night and not worry about judgement! She slept for most of those two months, so in some ways he didn’t really miss as much as any other two months of her life. The daily phone calls too were so great to really get us both to focus on each other and talk about what we were going through. Having him home reminds me that it is easy to sort of get stuck in the grind of work and dishes and laundry and take the others’ presence for granted; you think you’ll get around to talking as soon as the email is checked/the baby is asleep/the kitchen is cleaned, and then suddenly its midnight and you’re exhausted and have to get up for work and it gets put off. The phone calls really helped us make sure to have those conversations. Since they were our only chance to talk we didn’t take it for granted.
I have been attending Al-Anon meetings and they have been wonderful, it is great to know there are rooms full of people who know just what I am (or was) going through, I really recommend them to anyone who has been affected by alcoholism.
It has been an amazing gift that we both got to take a break from real life, take a few months off work, off family obligations, off of our marriage, off of everything and just reset. We reordered our life, our values, our priorities and really had a chance to get back on track. We had all kinds of ruts we were in that we wouldn’t have gotten out of without an experience like this and it has been wonderful, absolutely amazing.
We have had a few bumps since he has been back, working out some kinks of leftover resentments, we have a lot of work still to do to earn back trust, but it is still light years beyond where we were in January, or even where we had been the year or two before that. I feel like we’re really a team, a partnership that we hadn’t been in a long time.
Anyway, thank you so much for your kind words of support and to all the commenters who offered their stories. It was so so helpful and I really appreciate it. I am so glad to offer a positive update too!
Oh, you guys know how much I love getting updates, right? (HINT: PLEASE TO SEND TEH UPDATES.) And this letter right here is whhhhhyyyyy I love getting updates. OP, you have been in my thoughts on a fairly regular basis since I first read your heartbreaking letter, so thank you so much for taking time to let us know how things shook out for you. (I’m guessing your letter is also what prompting several other questions from moms struggling with alcoholic family members and spouses.)
I’m so glad things are going well. OBVIOUSLY. I’m also going to admit I did a little upward fist-pump here in my office while reading the section about how kick-ass you were during your time alone with your newborn, and the fact that you found it so empowering. Because YES. I hope someone out there who needs to read those words reads them, someone who may be contemplating staying in an unsafe or less-than-ideal situation simply because “doing it alone” seems scarier than giving an addict an ultimatum, or cutting ties with an abuser.
(Also, I want to send your family members Christmas cookies this year, or something. Thanks for being awesome, OP family!)
Again, thank you for writing back with an update. The Internet is still cheering your little family on and will continue to send good vibes for the long-term recovery for your husband. And enjoy that delicious baby!
Photo source: Thinkstock