Advice please: my husband is abusing alcohol


#1

I am hoping for some honest, good advice from devout Catholics. My husband and I have been married almost 9 years. We have three kids, aged 8, 5 and 2. I 'think' there is another one on the way, but it is too soon to be 100% sure. We have had a lot of difficult things happen to us, but our relationship has always remained strong. Until now...

About a year ago, he got laid off from his job and became very depressed. He was starting a business, and that was providing us with a small income, but I was forced to start working part time to pay the bills. Also, during this time, my grandfather died, with whom my husband and I were very close. He started drinking more. Before all of this, we might have a drink once a week. It has turned into every day with him. He also has disrupted our family life by going to the bar, not coming home because he was too drunk to drive, and choosing to go to the bar rather than come home to his family. He also hides it as much as he can from me.

To make a very long story short, last night he called me, disoriented. He didn't know where he was or how he got there. The phone call got cut off and I couldn't reach him after that. I was worried that he was having a reaction to a new antibiotic he had just been put on so I called 911 and they found him and took him to the ER.

Much to my surprise, the doctor told us that his B.A.C. was twice the legal limit. My husband also apparently experienced fragmentary blackouts during this binge as he insisted that he had only consumed 3 beers and left the bar at 6 (he called me at 7:20 to say he was leaving and called me lost at 8:30).

At this point I don't know what to do. The last time he screwed up because of drinking he went to the Dr. to be treated for depression and has seen the counselor twice. I told him then that he could leave until he figured out his problem, but he stayed and said he could handle it. I am seriously considering filing for legal separation at this point until he completes a treatment program, gets tested for STI's, (if he blacked out, he may have no memory of what he did and I no longer trust him, even though infidelity has never been an issue with him) apologizes to our children, and stops drinking entirely.

Is this too dramatic? Is it necessary? I need to protect my children from this behavior. My priest is apparently unavailable for counsel until October 1 and I just can't wait that long. I would appreciate any thoughts.

Thank you


#2

Your husband is using alcohol to hide from his problems, and he needs to know, NOW, that he must stop immediately or you will take the children and move out. Tell him if he chooses counseling you will be there to support him through it, but you will not be there to watch him ruin his life and set a bad example for his children. Drinking and driving is asking for trouble with life long consequences it is just a matter of time that will come to the attention of law enforcement.


#3

[quote="rmbrulotte, post:1, topic:212249"]
I am hoping for some honest, good advice from devout Catholics. My husband and I have been married almost 9 years. We have three kids, aged 8, 5 and 2. I 'think' there is another one on the way, but it is too soon to be 100% sure. We have had a lot of difficult things happen to us, but our relationship has always remained strong. Until now...

About a year ago, he got laid off from his job and became very depressed. He was starting a business, and that was providing us with a small income, but I was forced to start working part time to pay the bills. Also, during this time, my grandfather died, with whom my husband and I were very close. He started drinking more. Before all of this, we might have a drink once a week. It has turned into every day with him. He also has disrupted our family life by going to the bar, not coming home because he was too drunk to drive, and choosing to go to the bar rather than come home to his family. He also hides it as much as he can from me.

To make a very long story short, last night he called me, disoriented. He didn't know where he was or how he got there. The phone call got cut off and I couldn't reach him after that. I was worried that he was having a reaction to a new antibiotic he had just been put on so I called 911 and they found him and took him to the ER.

Much to my surprise, the doctor told us that his B.A.C. was twice the legal limit. My husband also apparently experienced fragmentary blackouts during this binge as he insisted that he had only consumed 3 beers and left the bar at 6 (he called me at 7:20 to say he was leaving and called me lost at 8:30).

At this point I don't know what to do. The last time he screwed up because of drinking he went to the Dr. to be treated for depression and has seen the counselor twice. I told him then that he could leave until he figured out his problem, but he stayed and said he could handle it. I am seriously considering filing for legal separation at this point until he completes a treatment program, gets tested for STI's, (if he blacked out, he may have no memory of what he did and I no longer trust him, even though infidelity has never been an issue with him) apologizes to our children, and stops drinking entirely.

Is this too dramatic? Is it necessary? I need to protect my children from this behavior. My priest is apparently unavailable for counsel until October 1 and I just can't wait that long. I would appreciate any thoughts.

Thank you

[/quote]

rmbroulette I am an alcoholic myself. yes you need to take action. depression can be a cause and/or will be a sympton. blackouts are common and most alcoholics can hold a conversation with someone and have no recolection of it at all. even though at the time they don't seem overly drunk, ususaly happens with spirits.from a financial and for your own sanity you need to tackle this head on. personnally i didn't find AA of any use but some do. there is also tablets than can be taken called antiabuse. that leave the person unable to drink. but doesn't take the longing away although i found them of great use as the descision not to have a drink or not is gone. although they need to be administered by you. YOU need to be strong. for yourself your kids and your husband. it's a long road. the hardest part is when you have been sober for a while and you get asked to a wedding or birthday party or whatever there is no such thing as it's okay today but we start again tomorow. it doesn't work. GOD bless i will pray for you.


#4

I agree with Saveusfromhell, and would like to add my two cents here.

Remember, that alcoholism is a disease. It is an addiction. There is no known cure for it. People may stop abusing alcohol, but that does not mean they are cured.

My brother died several years ago from alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. It was not a pretty thing to watch by any means, and was a roller coaster ride like nothing I can describe.

Forcing someone into rehab, or counseling, etc., will never work. The person themselves need to come to the conclusion that their drinking is out of control. Otherwise, they are simply going through the motions.

You are in a tricky situation, especially with kids. Your first concern should be that you you, and your children. Emotions can play havoc with your reasoning on how you handle different situations that arise, and alcoholics can become master manipulators. Do not let your judgment in this area get clouded at all.

Do your best to convince him to seek some sort of professional help, but try to avoid nagging, or ultimatums, especially if they are intoxicated, because that can make your situation worse, and possibly put you at risk.

Does he have any friends (outside of drinking buddies) that could help you in convincing him to seek treatment? In many cases, people will listen to their friends before they listen to spouses or other family members.

You yourself should seek some professional guidance with this too. A professional can of course help you deal with the emotional fallout from this, but, they may also be able to help you in convincing your husband to seek treatment.

You have my prayers.


#5

[quote="rmbrulotte, post:1, topic:212249"]
I would appreciate any thoughts.

[/quote]

I recommend calling Dr Laura Schlessinger's radio show, 1-800-DRLAURA (1-800-375-2872) Monday through Friday, Noon-3pm Pacific / 1pm-4pm Mountain / 2pm-5pm Central / 3pm-6pm Eastern. You are not the only person in America with this problem, and I would hope you'd have the charity and generosity to discuss it with her on the air so that people who likewise aren't sure what to do about their own situations can benefit from yours.

Dr Schlessinger is Jewish, not Catholic, but she is right almost all the time, especially in practical matters like dealing with situational alcoholism in a marriage with children.

(Her website: drlaura.com/)


#6

My mother has never let my stepfather out of her sights. When he gets off work, he comes home, eats dinner, and spends time at home with the family. Set a rule that you will only go out together as a family for awhile. Part of the problem is he can make bad choices and has no supervision. I know.
It is an addiction, that can be brought on by depression. I know. However, you can substitute one bad addiction for better addictions. Such as exercise.
Make him exercise for an hour or so a day, also spending time with family and making him things that he likes(desserts) etc. making him feel welcome at home and that things can be good between the family.
Divisions within the family also makes him probably be driven away further. Express your love to him and get him back on the right track. May God be with your family.


#7

I am an alcoholic myself. Please go to the website www.aa.org and read the book Alcoholics Anonymous for yourself. At least the first 164 pages. There is a chapter called "To The Wives" that will tell you how many women dealt with their husband who are alcoholics.

I'll be praying for you!

If you'd like to PM me feel free to do so.

Steph


#8

Alcoholics Anonymous saved my father’s life - perhaps it could save your husband’s life, too.

Meanwhile, even if he doesn’t go, you start going to Al Anon and get the help and support you need, as the spouse of an alcoholic.


#9

[quote="jmcrae, post:8, topic:212249"]
Alcoholics Anonymous saved my father's life - perhaps it could save your husband's life, too.

Meanwhile, even if he doesn't go, you start going to Al Anon and get the help and support you need, as the spouse of an alcoholic.

[/quote]

I agree!!! AA has saved my life as well.


#10

rmbrulotte

I am the wife of a long-time alcoholic, and I want you to know you are not alone. October 1st seems like a long time away. It’s not. Spend the time in prayer and contemplation that God’s will may be made known to you. Write - list the reasons for leaving and the reasons for staying. Ask your church for the name of a marriage counselor and make/attend an initial appointment for yourself alone. Pray for your husband.

Ultimately it comes down to these two points:

  1. Is your husband a man of good character who has fallen into bad habits, someone who still genuinely cares for you enough to turn his life around for your sake and the kids’ sakes? Or does he brush you off and live like he is accountable only to himself and his choice to drink or stay sober is only for his own sake?

and 2: Are you harmed more by staying instead of leaving? Are you the victim of alcohol-related domestic violence? Is he taking the money you need for rent, utilities, and basic necessities and spending that on booze? Or are you still able to get by and compensate to provide for the kids, even though you are living with a man who is sucking the joy out of your life?

Fortunately, my husband is not a vicious or ugly drunk, just an incredibly narcissistic one who neglects his surroundings and relies on get-rich-quick pipedreams. If he had been ugly and vicious, I’d have been gone a long time ago.

Whether I stayed with him or left him, there were no winners. If I chose to stay with him, I knew we would have to put up with and compensate daily for his alcoholism. If I chose to leave him, I knew that once he claimed his share of the marital assets I would no longer be able to afford paying the mortgage, have a nasty and expensive fight over child custody, and end up filing bankruptcy.

I did try the single mom route for about a year and it was awful. So I ultimately chose to put the kids first, do the best I could to protect them, and keep a roof over their heads. I stuck it out with him until the kids were grown.

I got to see what happened to a good friend of mine who divorced her ex when her two kids were preschoolers. Her 2nd husband adopted the kids and raised them. But when they became teenagers they saw the “carefree” life their bio-dad was leading, then rebelled against their adoptive dad’s supposed strictness of disciplined work. “You’re not my real dad. I don’t have to do things your way any more, and I’m moving in with with my real dad.” The police refused to do anything about it. At least by staying with my husband I avoided that problem.

I cried and prayed over the situation, and I felt strongly that God wanted me to find a way to make it work until the kids were grown. It’s been an up and down ride. The bad times have been miserable. The good times have been mediocre at best.

AA tells us that that an unrepentant alcoholic can be shocked into sobriety by hitting rock bottom. In most cases, that means the loss of his health, his job, or his family. My husband lost the first two, and wound up going back to the alcohol anyway. I haven’t left him yet, but I’m putting things in order so that I can. Now that the kids are grown I’m ready to move on. If it is God’s will that I finally be free of the bondage which is my husband’s alcoholism, I pray that God will facilitate my departure.

My experience with AlAnon was not good. When I talked to AlAnon counselors they all told me the best thing I could do was leave him and file for divorce immediately. They weren’t interested in anything about my personal or financial situation, nor any other reason I might have for staying. In fact they went so far as to tell me that I was mentally ill simply because I was married to an alcoholic,even though he was diligently attending AA meetings and make a serious effort to stay sober.

AlAnon meetings weren’t much help either. They weren’t moderated by anyone knowledgable who could help us separate fact from fiction. We never had time to discuss how to best support and work with our sober alchoholic spouses who were at the AA meeting in the next room. All the meeings ever dealt with was the “crisis du jour” - the spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend who had been beaten up, or lost the rent money, or …


#11

Seek out an Al-Anon meeting for yourself, ASAP!

These meetings will give YOU the strength to help your husband in ways that you should, without enabling his drinking.

I let my husband know that I was attending meetings and he straightened up on his own. I know this may not be the case for you, but let your husband know that you love him and you will be attending these meetings, maybe he will then start attending AA meetings at the same time.

It is a disease ....

Praying for you!

Dana


#12

[quote="Nan_S, post:10, topic:212249"]

AA tells us that that an unrepentant alcoholic can be shocked into sobriety by hitting rock bottom. In most cases, that means the loss of his health, his job, or his family. My husband lost the first two, and wound up going back to the alcohol anyway. I haven't left him yet, but I'm putting things in order so that I can. Now that the kids are grown I'm ready to move on. If it is God's will that I finally be free of the bondage which is my husband's alcoholism, I pray that God will facilitate my departure.

[/quote]

No amount of shocking can help a true alcoholic. Unrepentant? I don't understand your use of that term. As an alcoholic myself, the only way I achieve sobriety is a lot of hard work and the Grace of God. One day at a time.

My experience with AlAnon was not good. When I talked to AlAnon counselors they all told me the best thing I could do was leave him and file for divorce immediately. They weren't interested in anything about my personal or financial situation, nor any other reason I might have for staying. In fact they went so far as to tell me that I was mentally ill simply because I was married to an alcoholic,even though he was diligently attending AA meetings and make a serious effort to stay sober.

AlAnon meetings weren't much help either. They weren't moderated by anyone knowledgable who could help us separate fact from fiction. We never had time to discuss how to best support and work with our sober alchoholic spouses who were at the AA meeting in the next room. All the meeings ever dealt with was the "crisis du jour" - the spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend who had been beaten up, or lost the rent money, or .....

I'm sure your experience was not typical. There are no Al Anon "counselors" Just other spouses or significant family members talking it through with someone in their own situation. I have heard that some meetings are more healthy than others. I've been to AA meetings that are unhealthy as well, but there are enough good meetings around that you can pick and chose. In my experience, these crisis are best dealt with by a sponsor and not in a meeting as a whole.

Steph


#13

I am sorry to hear you had a bad experience with Al-Anon. My first concern is that you mention Al-Anon counselors. There are no counselors in Al-Anon, it is a peer support group. They offer no advice but are simply an ear to listen. You hear other people’s stories and work the steps. I went to Al-anon years ago and sort of felt the same as you do, but I was looking for answers, a quick fix, and I didn’t work the program. Now I am back in program and working it. I hear how other people deal with it and I realize that I have been affected by this disease and I need recovery. We try not to discuss the alcoholic in meetings, but focus on ourselves and what we can do to regain serenity whether the alcoholic in our lives is drinking or not. It took awhile for me to come to terms with the fact that yes, this disease made me sick as well. Working the steps is a good thing, and while my situation at home is still a mess, I am in a better place.

I can relate to much of what you are saying and it seems we are pretty much in the same situation.


#14

I certainly can’t speak for everywhere, but in the places where I’ve lived AlAnon has been very anti-family. I think the quality of the AlAnon program in a region depends on who is currently overseeing it at the local AA office. Unfortunately, it’s inconsistent; there doesn’t seem to be any general set of guidelines for whether AlAnon should be pro-family or anti-family.

My first contact with AlAnon was when we went to joint counseling at a family services center; they also hosted their area’s local AlAnon meetings. I was newly married and didn’t understand much about this alcoholism thing yet. Our counselor was a recovering alcoholic who bluntly stated that the best thing his wife ever did to wake him to his alcoholism was divorce him. Even though he knew next to nothing about us, the counselor then looked me straight in the eye and told me the best thing I could do for my new husband was divorce him - immediately. Then he referred me to the AlAnon meetings, where I heard the same thing.

As a Catholic who had just made a solemn vow of marriage before God and the church, this was advice I could not abide.

After we moved to a different part of the country, I went to the regional AA Central Office looking for help and information. I talked to one of their staff members, a recovering alcoholic, who said the same thing I’d heard before: the best thing his wife ever did to wake him to his alcoholism was divorce him. Then I was contacted by one of their AlAnon sponsor/counselors who kept telling me I was mentally ill because I even considered staying married. It didn’t matter that he was attending AA meetings and trying to stay sober; she told me that the mere fact I thought there could be a future in my marriage was evidence of my own mental illness, and the only cure for that illness was to get a divorce. Needless to say, the AlAnon meetings I attended in this area were not family-building.

I had three young kids at that time. I had quit my job after a disasterous year living out of state and trying to be a single mom, was trying to put the family back together, and was financially unable to consider a divorce. AlAnon was not helpful.

Another time I went to an AA regional convention where one set of guest speakers (from another state) explained how they implemented a family-building coordinated AA-AlAnon program in their local area. They talked about their program as if it was a unique idea.

I got a lot more help and guidance from counseling by my Catholic priests and the professional counselors they referred me to, than I ever got from attending AlAnon meetings.


#15

[quote="Joannm, post:13, topic:212249"]
I hear how other people deal with it and I realize that I have been affected by this disease and I need recovery. We try not to discuss the alcoholic in meetings, but focus on ourselves and what we can do to regain serenity whether the alcoholic in our lives is drinking or not. It took awhile for me to come to terms with the fact that yes, this disease made me sick as well. Working the steps is a good thing, and while my situation at home is still a mess, I am in a better place.

I can relate to much of what you are saying and it seems we are pretty much in the same situation.

[/quote]

I think the only reason I have survived this long and kept the family functioning is because of the one piece of useful advice AlAnon gave me shortly after we got married. The advice: Make a life for yourself. Do not let your life revolve around the alcoholic merry-go-round, alternately covering up for and running away from the effects of the alcoholic's behavior. Become your own center of stability, both for your sake and the sakes of the children God gives you.

I know the idea that alcoholism is a disease is widely entrenched. Psychologically, the disease theory helps the recovering alcoholic to move forward by focusing on living for today and tomorrow, because it removes the obstacle of accepting fault for past behavior.

I know I'm going to get disagreement here, but I think this needs to be said. Alcoholism is an addiction. Cancer is a disease. There is a difference. Addictions and diseases both have devistating effects, but diseases are treated with medical intervention. If alcoholism is a disease, it's the only disease you treat with a support group instead of medical intervention.

You're not really sick. You don't have a mental disease like schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder. You may be feeling overwhelmed and depressed, but this is because you are dealing with an unreasonable or unworkable situation. You don't need medical intervention to become your own center of stability.

You are a mentally sound and strong person who got blindsided and boxed into playing alcoholic psychological games. You just need to recognize the psychological games which are damaging your life, then make a positive decision to stop playing them. Do it both for your sake and the sakes of the children God gives you.


#16

Nan,
I am going to disagree with you to a point. I struggle with defining alcoholism as a disease myself, although I am afflicted by it. I like how the book of Alcoholics Anonymous calls it "an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind". To me, that fits my experience. I also suffer from depression and had a hard time with that diagnosis of disease as well. Now, I find it all a moot point. I know that my family has been affected not only by my drinking, but my behavior surrounding my drinking as well. I know that I raised my kids in the best way I knew how at the time but there is a lot I could have done differently. In recovery I have learned that I cannot use my alcoholism as an excuse for anything. I must make amends to all those around me to the best of my ability. That is what the steps are for. Daily inventory of my thoughts and actions keep me more connected to God and therefore keep my alcoholism in remission. Without this work, I will not be in recovery. I will be dead. Either dead spiritually, emotionally, or mentally. I will destroy those who I love the most.

Deep down, your husband knows this too.

I know there are some who stay sober without meetings, but for me, I can only go about 72 hours between meetings. It takes away from my family, but without those three hours a week, they would not have a Mom they could depend on.

I am praying for you and your husband and your children. Keep your eyes on Jesus. HE is the only source of strength in all of this.

Steph


#17

Steph,

You have worked hard to overcome your afflictions. You have embraced all 12 steps, and are making a conscious continual effort to apply them all. In doing so you have gotten beyond the “not responsible for my problem” crutch which accompanies the disease theory of alcoholism. You’re on the right road and you will do well.

Depression is a symptom. It doesn’t always mean you have a disease. Sometimes it is a symptom of an underlying disease where the brain chemistry is messed up, which needs medical intervention. And sometimes it is a symptom of unrelenting and unmanagable stress from external sources. The determination of whether your depression is due to external or internal causes is something that can only be done between you, your doctor, and your counselor.

Thank you for your prayers. My husband never got past the 7th of the 12 steps. He rationalized that if God had removed his shortcomings, he had no need to make amends for his past actions. Eventually he dropped out of AA and resumed drinking. At the moment he’s been sober again for about a week; how long it lasts this time is yet to be seen.


#18

I would have given you the same advice. Being served with divorce papers can be the rock bottom that some people need, and the song and dance of “saving the marriage” by negotiating with his addiction - because that’s really all that an alcoholic has become, he’s not a real person anymore, just an addiction wrapped in skin - is just a waste of your time and is hard on you emotionally because it’s always an uphill battle that the alcoholic is always in control of. Plus you are forcing your kids to deal with it in their environment. If you want his alcoholism and the chaos and heartache that comes with it to be part of your children’s lives, then you are an unfit mother. Poverty in a peaceful household is better than being forced to play a role in Dad’s alcoholic drama. And they will be forced.

An argument can be made that *staying *married to an alcoholic is a sign of mental illness. And an alcoholic can string his enabler along for as long as he wants by playing the “serious effort” game, that endless cycle of luring his enabler with tearful promises to be good but then falling off the wagon knowing she will be there to clean up after him and give him another chance. People who see through this manipulation before it becomes a lifestyle often write country & western songs about it youtube.com/watch?v=5jTWY7nXGBQ

AA is not a training program for self-appointed helpers. The role of spouse’s meetings is to help each other stop playing into the alcoholic’s hand. Given enough repetition of their own crisis-du-jour stories and listening to those of others who still don’t “get it”, smart people eventually see the pattern for what it is. Alcoholism is his problem, not yours, and if he needs someone else’s help, then he’s not committed to overcoming it. You help people who cannot help themselves. You don’t help, support, pity, or work with people who make themselves helpless.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Apollos


#19

Thank you for your kind reply Nan. Check out Apolos reply as well!

Steph


#20

[quote="Apollos, post:18, topic:212249"]
If you want his alcoholism and the chaos and heartache that comes with it to be part of your children's lives, then you are an unfit mother. Poverty in a peaceful household is better than being forced to play a role in Dad's alcoholic drama.

[/quote]

I just want to comment on this part. I think you are assuming that all alcoholics act out in flamboyant ways when they get drunk. In my case there was no violence, no late night screaming arguments, no regular run-ins with police, no brandishing of guns, no hurling of objects down the stairs. If there had been I would not have considered staying, not even for a moment. No, when he drank he just shut down and withdrew from everyone and everything.

I had no enforcable grounds to get a restraining order aginst him, or terminate his parental rights, so between the kids and me, the only one of us which could have avoided - sometimes - "being forced to play a role in Dad's alcoholic drama" was me. If I left him the kids would still have been forced to play, only it would have been without a sober adult in the household.

As far as the poverty thing was concerned, you are not aware of my situation and what I was facing. Our income was a military pension - my pension, not his. Period. Under the law, he was automatically entitled to half of it without question. The other half would have either gone to the divorce lawyers or, if I lost the child custody battle (because he was NOT a violent drunk but WAS a very smooth salesman) the other half of my pension would have gone to him as child support.

The chances of my getting child support out of him were virtually non-existent. I was not entitled to unemployment compensation or welfare benefits either.

Net effect: home mortgage foreclosed, no means of support, family ripped apart. Given a joint custody arrangement, three young kids would have spent half or more of their time "supervised" by a drunk with no sober adult around to watch out for them. The nearest grandparents, aunts and uncles were 800+ miles away, so I didn't have that resource either.

Faced with that dilemma and that outcome, I chose to stay and find a way to make things work instead. It wasn't the best way, but it was an effective way.


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