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The specter of past alcohol abuse

Dear Annie: My wife and I have been together for 30 years. The first 22 years of our marriage, I was drunk every weekend and some weeknights.

I'm not proud of the things I did and said. I'm not happy about all the quality time I missed out on with our children, who are now grown and out of the house. But I can't undo what's been done, and dwelling on the shame only leads me to the dark place that makes me want to drink.

So I try to focus on the positive. I thank the Lord for the second chance he's given me. I look to the future.

The problem is that my wife seems not to have gotten over the ways I wronged her in the past. Even though I haven't had a drink in eight years (thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous), I can tell she's still always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

She frequently nags me to go to AA meetings.

Sometimes she brings up past events and tries to tell me how much they hurt her. I've already felt horrible about it; I don't need her to remind me. I wish she would stop holding it against me. I messed up, but I'm trying to make it right.

I guess I'm not really sure what my question is, but I'm just looking for help erasing the stain alcohol has left on my marriage. Would appreciate your thoughts. -- Saved by Sobriety

Dear Saved: Alcoholism is a family disease. It impacts every member of the household. Although you are recovering, your wife is not. Please encourage her to attend an Al-Anon meeting, where she can hear from others who have learned how to stop "waiting for the other shoe to drop." You might also both benefit from marriage counseling, which would offer a neutral space to air your feelings and move toward understanding. I commend you on your years of sobriety and wish you many more.

Dear Annie: This is in response to "Still Interested" and anyone else who has the problem of having a wife who has lost interest in sex. As a wife of 40 years, I had the same problem after my hysterectomy and going through menopause.

I couldn't tell my husband that it was very painful to have intercourse. I avoided any type of affection for this reason. I was too embarrassed to talk about something so personal.

I finally got up the nerve to tell my doctor. She said this is very common and prescribed a medicine to help. What a difference! I can't believe I went 15 years before I said anything. My husband is much happier. Please, women who are going through this: Talk to your husband and doctor. -- A Happy Wife

Dear Happy: Thank you for opening up about your experience. It's yet another testament to the importance of communication in having a healthy sex life. If your letter encourages even one woman out there to talk to her doctor or open up to her husband, it's worth its word count in gold.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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