Veteran actor Shabana Azmi has shed light on a deeply personal challenge she faced in her marriage to celebrated lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar, in the teaser of actor Arbaaz Khan’s talk show, The Invincibles.

Azmi recently opened up about her experience dealing with her husband’s alcoholism, describing it as a “difficult” period in their relationship. Recalling legendary actors such as Amitabh Bachchan and Mithun Chakraborty, she added, “In the process of becoming a star, you move away from life.”

Her honest account provides a glimpse into the complex journey of supporting a partner through addiction and the subsequent process of rebuilding a relationship after recovery.

Gurleen Baruah, organizational psychologist and executive coach at That Culture Thing, tells about the challenges and intricacies involved in reconstructing a partnership that has weathered the storm of alcoholism.

Most common challenges partners face when rebuilding their relationship

Baruah says, “First, it’s crucial to understand how alcoholism works. It’s an addiction disorder where an individual drinks more than they can handle for a prolonged period and becomes dependent on alcohol, impacting their personal and professional life, health, relationships, and overall well-being.”

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alcoholism Individuals recovering from addiction often go through withdrawal symptoms (Source: Freepik)

If a partner overcomes alcoholism and stops drinking, that’s commendable and great news. However, she adds, here are some of the most common challenges partners may face when rebuilding their relationship after one partner has recovered from alcoholism:

Fear of relapse: Families often witness what outsiders cannot. The painful, hopeless feeling of seeing a loved one destroyed by addiction. The fear of relapse can loom in the back of their minds, creating anxiety and tension within the relationship.

Unacknowledged pain and trying to move on: Families of alcoholics often endure tremendous mental and physical harm. The memories of these experiences can’t be easily erased, and dealing with the grief and pain that came with the addiction is a significant challenge.

Dealing with withdrawal symptoms: Individuals recovering from addiction often go through withdrawal symptoms, which can manifest as anger, frustration, depression, and irritability. These emotions are often misdirected at family membersmaking it demanding for partners to cope with the misplaced anger and frustration at home.

Rebuilding trust: Trust is often eroded during periods of active addiction. Rebuilding this trust requires time, patience, and consistent behavior from the recovering partner to show they are committed to their sobriety and the relationship.

Practical steps to address and resolve lingering issues from the past while working towards a healthier relationship dynamic

Addressing and resolving lingering issues from the past is crucial for couples to move forward and build a healthier relationship dynamic, says Baruah. Here are some practical steps they can take:

Start with acknowledging the pain: The first step is to acknowledge the pain both partners have experienced. This involves recognizing the hurt and trauma caused by past events, such as alcoholism. Both partners need to validate each other’s feelings and understand that their pain is real and significant.

Then, try accepting the pain: Accepting the pain means coming to terms with what has happened. It’s important to accept that the past cannot be changed, but it can be understood and processed. This acceptance allows both partners to stop fighting the past and start focusing on healing.

Communicate openly: Couples should create a safe space to talk about their hurt and past issues. This involves open, honest, and non-judgmental communication. Discussing past hurts and grievances can be therapeutic and can help both partners understand each other better.

Therapy and counselling: Seeking professional help through therapy or counseling can provide guidance and support. Therapists can help couples navigate their feelings, teach them effective communication skills, and provide strategies to cope with lingering issues. Engaging in art therapy or other forms of expressive arts can also help individuals share their pent-up feelings. Activities like painting, writing, sports or music can provide an outlet for emotions that are difficult to express verbally.

Compassion and understanding: It’s crucial to see the partner who struggled with alcoholism with compassion and understanding. Recognize that alcoholism is a disease, and it is often a way for individuals to numb their pain. Approaching them with empathy can help rebuild trust and support their recovery.

Focus on the future: While it’s important to address the past, couples should also focus on their future together. Discuss how you both want to grow as individuals and as a couple. Set goals for your relationship and work towards a shared vision for the future.