In this counseling answer:
“I can advise you to continue to be supportive of her efforts, yet set up boundaries within this support. Try reconnecting her to the Islamic community and encourage her to develop a closer relationship with Allah. Connect your children with other Muslim children and take care of yourself as well. However, if your wife cannot do things that will lead up to having a normal family life, you may need to re-evaluate your options for you and your children.”
As-Salamu ‘Alaykum brother,
Thank you for writing to us with your concerns. I am sorry to hear about all that you have been through with your wife. Addiction/alcoholism is never easy to deal with. I am sure it came as quite a shock to you to find out your wife had a history of drinking and then to see her life taking a turn for the worse concerning alcohol.
It is my feeling, and I may be wrong, but it may be that your wife had a drinking problem before you met her and quite possibly kept its severity hidden until it was triggered by the possible guilt she experienced after the abortion/post-partum depression. She lost all control and did not care anymore. As she did reveal to you after your wedding that she had experimented with alcohol (and other drugs), perhaps she did not reveal to what extent she did so.
As you know, alcoholism causes much pain for the families. From the loss of trust, manipulative behaviors, lying, false accusations, harming of self or others while intoxicated and so on, the devastation upon a spouse, children and other family members is intense. You have experienced some of these results such as her lying to the police about you hitting her, attempting to pick the children up from school while intoxicated, getting into a car accident while intoxicated and so on.
Alhamdulillah, brother, your wife is now in treatment. However, she is still in the very early stages of recovery/treatment. During the early phases, one realizes there is a problem and they need help. They realize they need to change. They then usually move on and desire to enter rehab and begin to learn skills and coping mechanisms which will help them to remain substance-free for the long term.
I am not clear on how you got your wife to go into rehab, whether it was an ultimatum or if she finally realized she needed help and went of her own free will. This factor is important because if she went into rehab just for the sake of “keeping peace” or to be able to see her children, she may not truly be committed to recovery.
Part of recovery is learning how to manage emotions without alcohol as well as how to make amends with family members and others who have been hurt because of the addiction and its ensuing behaviors.
This relates to the 2nd stage of recovery which entails consideration. “The consideration stage is important because this is when the addict begins to look beyond himself/herself and to understand that friends, family members, and colleagues have been negatively affected by his/her choices and behaviors”.
You stated that she expects your children to visit her on school days. She also refuses to come to your parents’ home. You stated that she accuses you of bullying or manipulating her when you speak of your need to help your parents care for your children or discuss something that opposes her viewpoint. This is not indicative of consideration but in fact, suggests she is still utilizing manipulative behaviors.
At this point, dear brother, your wife appears to be angry, holding on to toxic emotions and not taking responsibility for her past behaviors as well as her current emotions. I would kindly suggest, dear brother, that if a counselor or psychologist is not involved in her recovery, you may want to talk to her care team about getting her one.
You mentioned that she does have a sponsor, yet sponsors are not trained, therapists. Addiction Resources state that “it’s important to keep in mind that sponsors are not trained, psychotherapists. They cannot or should not assume this responsibility. It is essential to see a psychotherapist if you have continuing care or aftercare as part of your overall treatment program. If not, call your treatment facility and ask for a referral”.
By having your wife seek to counsel, she will in sha’ Allah learn how to deal with her emotions, develop a sense of responsibility to not only herself but to those around her as well such as you, your children and family. If she is getting counseling, you may wish to discuss with her therapist your concerns about her anger, emotions, and manipulative behaviors and statements.
Brother, you ask how to be patient and keep the peace. You ask how to deal with the accusations of being manipulative and a bully when expressing your viewpoints and standing up to your wife. These are not easy situations. There are no clear-cut answers.
Brother, by looking at all you and your family have done to help her as well as your dedication to her recovery and your willingness to continue to be there for her, she is very blessed to have you as a husband and your parents as in-laws. May Allah reward you and your family for your efforts.
I am not going to say to just continue to be patient and everything will be fine. It may not be. This will be up to your wife and the amount of sincerity and efforts she puts into her recovery. I can advise you to continue to be supportive of her efforts, yet set up boundaries within this support.
If you need to be home to help your parents with the children, then that is where you should be. Instead of catering to her demands to see the children on school days, perhaps you may want to pick one day on the weekends wherein you and the children to visit her and spend quality time as a family. I am sure your parents would greatly appreciate this.
During the week, your wife should be busy with her own activities, especially concerning her recovery. This would include (but not limited to) meetings, counseling, educational classes, skill-building support groups and so on. I am aware that she misses her children and desires to see them. However, at this point, her main focus should be on her recovery. The fact that she is bad mouthing you and your family who is taking care of her children is indicative that she still has a lot of work to do.
Assure her you are there for her and you love her, but that you are also taking care of the finances and helping your parents with the children. While she may not react in a peaceful way, you can negate her responses by not responding to her negative remarks. If she becomes disrespectful, you can tell her that you love her but you will not tolerate her negativity. You can tell her you will talk to her at some other time when she is kind and reasonable and hang up or leave. By doing this consistently, over time she will learn that her old negative ways of thinking and interacting with you no longer work. As a result, in sha’ Allah, she will begin to apply what she is learning in recovery regarding communication, making amends and expressing gratefulness.
I would kindly suggest that in addition to setting boundaries, you also attend Al-Anon meetings as your time allows if you are not already. These meetings can teach you more about the recovery process, what to expect, how not to enable your wife as well as how to handle her manipulative and undesirable behaviors and accusations.
Much of what you are going through is still a result of her addiction and her learned behaviors. I would also suggest that when you are able, you, your wife and children go to the mosque for prayer, social events as well as Islamic studies. By reconnecting her to the Islamic community as well as encouraging her to develop a closer relationship with Allah, the greater the chances are for her in recovery as Allah is our life, our foundation, and our ultimate healer.
Connecting your children with other Muslim children for fun activities and education will also be of great benefit to them during this difficult time. If your children appear depressed or otherwise affected by all of this, please do get them into counseling as well.
Brother, you are a wonderful husband. You have invested much hard work and sacrifice to save not only your wife but your marriage. Please do take care of you. Go out for fun social activities with brothers when you can, take up a hobby or join a gym to relieve stress. Attend the mosque for spiritual support and make du’aa’ for Allah to grant ease and to comfort you in this trying situation.
Marriage counseling will eventually help you determine if this is a situation that you and your wife can resolve to each of your expectations, or if you need to let it go and move on for the best outcome for you and your children.
While I understand you love your wife very much and do not desire a divorce, she also must love herself, you and the children enough to make the needed changes in her life to ensure it will be a healthy, happy, Islamic home. It is still very early in her recovery. However, if she cannot do things that will lead up to this, brother, you may need to re-evaluate your options for you and your children.
We wish you the best.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.