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johannaw's avatar

Living with an alcoholic spouse?

Asked by johannaw (15 points ) January 18th, 2013

I met my husband when we were 28 and 29. Had been out of a long 5 year relationship for 3 years with a 3 year old child. Met a very kind, sensitive man who fell in love with me and loved my child, We dated for less that 5 months and got married. We were very excited about making us a family so shortly after we were married my husband applied to adopt my son. Within a year after our marriage I became pregnant, we bought a house and had our second child. When I met my husband, I knew he liked to drink and many times we would go with friends and I enjoyed it too but not to excess. As the kids grew older his drinking became worse over time. In 1997 our first son committed suicide after several ears of gliding into the wrong track with drugs, alcohol and wrong friends, This started the slide of m husband really headed down the constant drinking path. I cried a lot he drank more. Over the past 15 years it has been a constant road of destruction for him. In and out of rehab. Many, many medical issues. He has completely alienated himself from all friends, family and worst of all his own son and myself. 1 and ½ year ago he left home in a fit of drunk anger and headed to Florida as we have a trailer down there for the winter. He has had a near death experience a year ago at which he was so far gone that he was in hosp. for 6 weeks and I was told mentally his brain was so deteriated that he would have to spend the rest of his life in a nursing home. Miraculously he did not stay in this state of mind and went into rehab again at the VA. He seemed to be doing well for some time but now is back in the same situation, still claims I am the love of his life after 38 years but has given up on life , feels he no longer even wants to try and it will probably only be a matter of time. As much as this has hurt me more than I can even explain, it is so very hard to tell him I can no longer live this life because it is destroying me, There are times I feel very angry at him because when you have a good life and a family that has tried so hard to help you get better, why are you still resisting. On other days I feel so helpless but also feel manipulation on his part jut to keep me hanging on. I don’t know what is the truth any more.
What does one do in a situation like this?

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14 Answers

gambitking's avatar

If he’s really an alcoholic, then he is suffering from an illness. It’s probably out of his control, and even more so out of yours. He needs help, whether it be AA or some other means. If you approach the situation from the standpoint that he is sick and needs treatment, it’ll abate some of the frustration and resentment.

You might seriously considering going to al-anon so you have time-tested resources and guidelines for dealing with the problem while anchoring yourself to a much-needed support community.

The thing you want to look forward to is, once this is over and things are better, think of how you’ll be well versed in handling stuff like this and the reward you’ll get from helping others who are in the same position down the line. You and your husband must then use and enjoy that opportunity to help others who are going through trials you’ve already passed, and in the end, that’s what keeps you both staying on the path.

He’ll have to admit he can’t control his drinking and that it CAN get better.
You have to admit you can’t control him and that he can get better too.

marinelife's avatar

I am so sorry for your very painful situation. I have been there myself watching while a loved one destroyed their life and hurt all of those around them.

The sad and painful truth is there is nothing you can do about him. Only he can help himself.

It is your job to salvage your life and the life of your child. I strongly suggest Al-Anon to give you the strength and the tools to understand the alcoholic and to make your own choices.

Please know that I am thinking about you.

pleiades's avatar

You asked: “What does one do in a situation like this?”

You take the snake by the neck and breathe life into it’s lungs. By this I mean, take control of the situation. It’s your life, force it into the direction you want. No compromising. Your way or the highway.

Shippy's avatar

Perhaps look up Al Anon, for the wives or spouses of alcoholics, this will at least get you some support. Plus help you to deal with him.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Unfortunately, statistically couples who lose a child rarely stay together. The pain and guilt are too much to bear together, as sometimes they each blame the other. I assume you’ve tried grief counseling or marriage counseling?

I would take care of myself, while continuing to reassure him that your love for him won’t change, but you have to take care of YOU, for mental and physical well-being, as well as the rest of the family.

As far as alcoholism, if he is depressed and self-destructive, it sounds like he will be the end of himself sooner rather than later, and you have to steel yourself against guilt if you do make the choice to leave.

If you are religious, this may be the opportunity needed to draw closer to your Deity as well, and ask for help. Good luck and bless you.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Al-Anon is for you.

AA is for your husband.

I am a recovered alcoholic. I’ve been sober over 13 years through AA. I have no advice. I can only share my experience, strength, and hope.

My experience is that you cannot control your husband’s drinking in any way, shape, or form. I suggest you give up the idea. Forget it.

You mentioned he’s in Florida, so he’s not living with you. Unfortunately, it’s probably best for you to keep it that way. Inform him that he is not welcome in a home with you unless he’s sober.

My strength is that recovery is possible. As long as you wish to recover your own inner wellness, then you can. You have been just as much a victim of alcohol as the diseased alcoholic is. Al-Anon can help you begin the process of healing.

And for hope I offer the knowledge that there are currently on this planet millions of people in every country recovering from alcoholism through AA and other types of therapies.

I drank for one reason. I thought it made me happy, but it didn’t work. Not once. Never. AA gave me a life that I didn’t know was possible. I’m free and happy today.

You can have that, too. It’s not easy. It’s emotionally wrenching, and the path is long. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone.

Good luck.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake Congrats and great job!!

Jeruba's avatar

You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. And you can’t cure it. Those are the “three C’s” of Al-Anon.

What you can do is learn to take care of yourself, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not. Many of us are amazed to learn how insane we’ve become as a result of the family disease of alcoholism. Working on our own problems and getting out of the alcoholic’s way so he can work on his is a path to serenity. Go to an Al-Anon meeting, or six, and listen.

blueiiznh's avatar

I am so sorry you have had to bear this pain.

Know you are not alone, know that it is nothing you did wrong. Along with the Al-Anon for you, seek out a good Therapist to help you through all this.

Take control of your life and live it moving towards your authentic self. Try to find yourself again.

You and your family are in my prayers.

Buttonstc's avatar

I’ll add another voice for going to Al-Anon. I’m not saying perhaps or maybe go. I’m saying definitely go and learn to salvage what’s left of your life and that of your remaining child.

When your husband tries to manipulate you, here’s one thing you can tell him which may help (or not, if he doesn’t want to hear it) but it will help clarify the situation in your own mind.

Obviously you still love him and he loves you. Make a very clear distinction between loving him as a person but despising the behavior (continued drinking).

Make it clear to him that you love him enough to not tolerate his continued self destruction.

His words are irrelevant. His actions are what matters. And the only acceptable action for him to be in your life in any way is continued sobriety.

It’s not called tough love for nothing. It is difficult. But it is true love for you to refuse to continue participating in his self destruction. It’s called enabling. Anything (money, a roof over his head, forestalling legal consequences) which ENABLES him to continue to drink in spite of consequences is participating in his self destruction.

You cannot change him. All you can do is release him and hope he gets tired enough of the consequences to seek help in recovery.

Find some meetings and some friends to help in your own recovery.

That really is all that you can do. If you can’t do it for your own sake, then do it for the sake of your remaining child. Bring him to meetings with you or encourage him to find his own group. (There is also Al-Ateen, if he’s in that age group).

Ela's avatar

A book that may be helpful is Codependent No More by Melody Beattie.
I am sincerely sorry for your loss

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Squadcar's avatar

The answers here are pretty good. I’m on this site because I live with (not married to) an alcoholic. A man who is a good family man when not drinking. He was injured about 9 years ago and lives with constant pain every day. The doctors have tried everything and he says he drinks because it’s the only thing that helps to relieve the pain. When we first got together 5 years ago he didn’t drink everyday and hardly ever got drunk but now the drinking is every day and all day and he does get drunk. The doctor told him he may have hemochromatosis and he tells me it’s caused by a gene from the parents but I looked it up and it’s also caused from long term alcoholism. He gets mad when you tell him he’s an alcoholic and he can’t say it himself. I love him but I’m almost afraid when I go home at night wondering just what condition he will be in when I get there. If he’s alone he usually drinks beer but if he gets with the neighbors he drinks the hard crap. I’m a NON drinker and right now I hate the stuff. The last time he got drunk he got really mean. I know I could ask him to leave because I pay the rent but I know I would miss the good man, but not the drunk.

Jeruba's avatar

That’s it right there, @Squadcar: we love the addict and hate the disease.

You can’t make him stop. You can only do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Sometimes the steps we take to that purpose also deliver the necessary motivation to the drinker or user. And sometimes it’s only that we get out of their way, stop interfering, and let them have the dignity of being responsible for living their own lives and cleaning up their own messes.

Sometimes it makes no difference to them at all (and that’s a pretty strong message to us, isn’t it?), but we are better off. And that’s really all we can be in charge of.

This isn’t my wisdom talking. It’s program wisdom. I’m still working on it.

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