Weary looking young man lies on sofa extending a remote control.My husband just celebrated a year off alcohol. He’s on antidepressants, prescribed by his doctor. Things are better than when he was drinking, but he still doesn’t seem like his old self. His memory is iffy, he gets confused easily, he gets upset over little things. Is this the depression? Or is something else wrong with him?”

Impossible to know from a distance, but you could ask the physician from some additional testing to eliminate other factors that may be at work. Still, it isn’t abnormal for people to be having some mood and psychological disturbance a year after they quit drinking.

The best study of the course of recovery for alcoholics is probably the one summarized by George Vaillant in The Natural History of Alcoholism (Harvard U. Press, 1983). I believe that lasted some 40 years and unlike most studies, wasn’t based on retrospective review of past events. They actually followed two study groups from late adolescence deep into adulthood to see who developed alcoholism and what happened to them. That’s a far better way to learn about a chronic disease but it takes so long that you don’t see many such studies.

Vaillant concluded that alcoholics were generally better off after they quit drinking. Nonetheless he notes that they’re still far from normal on a number of psychological measures. They appear to improve a great deal during the first year but that improvement continues through three years of stable abstinence. It’s easiest to think of this as a result of lingering alcohol toxicity. As aftereffects of years of poisoning the body with excessive amounts of a toxin — alcohol.

So a better question to ask yourself would be, is he improving? As for a return to his ‘old self’, that may be a ways off in the future.


There is a great book that could help you understand the situation you are both living. It is called Living With a Sober Alcoholic and it is sold in Alanon meetings (you don’t have to be a member to buy the book).
Good luck and Blessings!

Comment by Martha — August 10, 2014 @ 10:44 am

Drinking wasn’t my problem, it was my solution. When I took that away I got crazy. AA gave me another solution to my “I don’t know how to live life sober” problem. Without that I would be a mess. Get a sponsor, join a home group and get involved, take the steps…that’s the path for those of us who recover from this thing.

Comment by John — April 1, 2014 @ 6:33 am

Good luck with your husband. From personal experience and what I’ve heard from other folks in recovery, the longer you spent drinking, the longer it takes to come back. My personal opinion that after quitting alcohol, it’s important to find the reason you started abusing in the first place, perhaps that will help with his temper?

Comment by Stop Drinking With Jaron — January 22, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

[…] That's because he's better, but he's still a long way from well. ("My husband quit drinking but he's still not himself." #Recovery from #alcoholism happens over time.  […]

Pingback by My husband quit drinking, but he’s still ... — December 25, 2013 @ 3:02 am

You did mention that his doctor is prescribing him “antidepressants.” You should make sure that they are non-narcotic. There are plenty of prescriptions out there that doctors can prescribe before they give someone medications such as Xanax, Vicodin, etc. Just because someone stops using their drug of choice doesn’t mean that the “old” them will come back. The “old” them is gone. Addiction changes brain chemistry sometimes to the point of not restoring itself. This is one of the reasons why there is a growing number of people using MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment).

Comment by Jose — July 23, 2013 @ 4:56 am

[…] That's because he's better, but he's still a long way from well. ("My husband quit drinking but he's still not himself." #Recovery from #alcoholism happens over time.  […]

Pingback by My husband quit drinking, but he's still not hi... — May 28, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

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