How Losing Control Can Help Your Partner Get Sober

How Losing Control Can Help Your Partner Get Sober

When we love someone suffering from addiction, we may become fearful of our future. And when we become fearful, a natural reaction is to grasp for control. When I was in a relationship with a good man suffering from addiction, I tried to control everything. I thought that if I could just control, ‘squeeze a little tighter’, it could help him get sober. Can you relate?

The more your loved one drinks or uses their substance(s) of choice, whatever they may be, the more out of control your life can become.

You may even develop a fear of the future. And that fear can create a strong desire to get your loved one sober.

In this post, I’m going to share a very personal story from my past about letting go of control.

When we’re able to let go of our plans and ideas on how exactly to get our loved ones sober, it allows us space to find something else.

We let go of the control.

We may find a path to our own healing, or just allow our partner to find their own path to sobriety, without our plans and ideas clouding their view.

Here we go: One night I got a call at 2:30am that my now ex-husband had been arrested again for a DUI. After I hung up the phone, I quickly got dressed, woke up our three young children who were peacefully sleeping, and buckled them into the backseat of our minivan.

When I was driving to the jail – and I think this was the fifth jail I had been to over the years – I was excited.

Now, to someone who isn’t married to an alcoholic or substance abuser the idea that I was feeling excited because I received a phone call in the middle of the night from the police informing me that my husband had broken the law (he had not harmed anyone, thank God), would seem crazy.

But I was excited.

I was thrilled because he got caught by someone other than me. I was so grateful that he totaled my car because there was physical proof that he had a drinking problem.

It made me joyful that someone else (the law enforcement) was mad at him. That he would have to answer to the judge for his bad choices. I was excited because I thought maybe this was rock bottom for him.

I looked in the rearview mirror at my sleeping children in their pajamas and I had hope. Maybe this would be the night my children would get their father back. I would be able to love him deeply, unconditionally, with total trust and without fear that he would lie to us or hurt us again.

He would finally be the man I always knew he could be. We could have the family and marriage I craved.

I wouldn’t have to control everything. It would just be right.

Can you relate to that?

And I would love to tell you that he did get sober. That a police record, a totaled car, jail time, and a lost job would result in him finally saying “enough”. But, as you know, this disease has a very firm grip on the good people we love.

And as much as we want to help and hope that the latest “crisis” will be the last, we must let go and let them lose control.

Because I’ve never heard of an alcoholic getting sober by being comfortable.

Lasting recovery is usually started by a crisis. And we have no control over that. So if you’re going around rescuing your loved one, throwing out the bottles, reminding them to take their medicine, covering up the disease for them, bailing them out of jail…


At first, you won’t feel like you can get through it. You’ll feel a strong temptation to fix, solve, and get your hands dirty with your partner’s issues.

But that’s prolonging their sickness. You know what I should have done that late night? Left him in jail. Rolled over in bed and let my innocent children sleep. Let him call one of his drinking buddies to bail him out. Let go of control.

But instead, I “saved him.” A week after that late-night and bailing him out of jail, I had a pivotal moment that began my healing and I started refusing to rescue my husband. It didn’t help his recovery, but it was the beginning of mine.

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.

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