DH is an alcoholic - now what?


After struggling for many years in an unhappy marriage, I had my eyes opened by my MIL. She knows it, and although I had been in denial for years, my DH is an alcoholic. Right now, I’m trying to take things one day at a time, looking into Al-Anon meetings, and putting myself first (strangely, hard for me to do).

DH hasn’t been told that he’s an alcoholic, but I think he knows. My MIL has said that she’d like to break the news to him, as her husband was an alcoholic, and she could explain the similarities between her relationship with her husband and ours. I have written (not given yet) a letter to my DH as well as an explanation of my feelings as of late ie.: I feel xxx because xxx. All we have to do now is wait for a good opportunity (sober) to tell him.

Although I believe I’m taking some good first steps, I’d appreciate additional advice about how to go about this. How should I act around DH when he’s drinking? How do I break the news to my mother? Is it OK for me to tell acquaintances that he has a problem to lessen my embarrassment when he’s drunk around them? Must I remain in an emotionally dead & abusive relationship or are annulments allowable in this case? I never imagined I’d consider such a thing, but I fear my children’s and my own well being. While he has never hurt me physically, I live in fear that he will someday… I don’t want my children to grow up thinking it’s okay to control people and treat them like garbage.

Any thoughts, advice or prayers are welcomed.


How about, “You have to leave the family home until you are sober and no longer abusive. You must attend anger management counseling in addition to either AA or inpatient rehab. After one year, I will be willing to date you and have you prove to me that you are safe to be with. If you can win me back after a further year of dating, prove to me that you are a safe and loving person to have in my life, then we can talk about you moving back in and resuming our life as a married couple. If, at any time, you show controlling behavior, explosive anger, or make me feel fear in any way, I will civilly divorce you and pursue annulment. If you are actively engaging in your addiction, I will request supervised visitation from the courts, because I cannot trust a drunk to drive my children around or to supervise them safely.” If your MIL has any backbone at all, she will back you up in court for the safety of her grandchildren.

Draw a line and stick to it. End of story. Two years is not too long to ask in the fight for a lifelong marriage.

You need to examine and evaluate yourself, too. Al-Anon is a great idea. You need to figure out why you chose to marry an addict. There were red flags, behaviors you ignored or minimized, comments from friends or family that you wrote off… the information was there, you just didn’t accept delivery of it. You need to figure out why so you do not repeat your mistake. With him or anyone else.


Actually, before he married he wasn’t an alcoholic. He was the greatest man in the world as far as I was concerned. Then I married him - what a mistake! He immediately became controlling. If I didn’t have sex with him every night, then I wasn’t fulfilling my marriage duties, and was therefore “sinning”. Then about 2 years in, he started “drifting away” from the family, spending a lot of time on the computer, video games, and later on he started drinking. I had just had my second child, had a hard time with my first who was autistic, had had a miscarriage, was burnt out, dealt with illness (debilitating heartburn/possibly gallstones), and PPD. His reaction to this was to tell me that I was “crazy”, that I needed professional help, while he would totally ignore me and not show any empathy whatsoever.

Trust me, if I had seen any signs of alcoholism, I would have run the other way. This is NOT the way I meant to live my life.


Oh my gosh… you should do a search for Liberanosamalo and read her posts. She knows exactly what you are going through. Your last post sounds just like what she describes in her marriage.

See this current thread: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=371580


Both of my parents were alcoholics, so I commend you for wanting something better for youself and your children.

A couple I know had a similar situation. There was a physical altercation when the wife tried to take the children and leave. She applied for a protection order through the court and one was granted. This was the wake-up call the husband needed. They lived apart for several months, while he got treatment and got shored up through AA. Then they went through Retrouvaille. Months later, they renewed their vows and resumed their marriage.




To immediately go to these behaviours after you were married, is highly unlikely. There
were probably signs that you did not recognize and hopefully when you go to the meetings
you will be able to spot what you missed then.
I had the same impression with my ex but when I began to look at our relationship before
we married, I realized that there was an emotional issue there with him. Won’t go into them here, but they were serious.

Have a friend dealing with these issues of alcoholism with both her husband and her son.
I’ll keep you all in my prayers.


I’ll be praying for you all. You’ve taken good first steps. Please go next to speak to your priest. He should be able to guide you on Christian/Catholic counselling for you and possibly your children. You will also want him to be aware of what is happening so that he can guide you thorough any decisions you make about separating. You may also want him to be present at the intervention.


It’s good that his mother recognizes the problem behavior. I would definitely recommend talking to your priest first, then some counseling, and perhaps some al-anon. What will probably happen is that the relationship between the two of you will probably spiral downward rapidly once you start being firm and develop some healthy perspectives. I am telling you this not to discourage you but just so that you know what to expect. Likely he will also try to promise you a number of things that he will do to change. He will make any short term changes needed in order to secure long term status quo. Chances are good that you will find that you need to separate. What happens during the separation will give you a very good indicator of whether or not you have a marriage that can be saved. Remember focus on having long term verifiable changes in him. Don’t settle for immediate “miracles” in which he has seen the light.

Be strong. You will encounter some hard times, but seeing this through is absolutely the right thing to do. Praying for you. Some things I recommend to give you the strength that you need: confession, adoration, and praying the rosary.


Prayer would definitely be in order, regardless of what you do. However, I also agree that you need to be serious about pushing him to sober up. Have you talked to anyone about planning an intervention?


My MIL is planning to have a serious discussion with him, I don’t know if that would be considered an intervention or not… I need to meet up with her first so we have it planned it out better. Trouble is, DH is really good at filling up the calendar with “fun” things HE wants to do so finding time is difficult. I’m going to see her later this week. I did convince him to stay at home this weekend (he has to go camping each week - it’s his “excuse” to drink!) so hopefully we’ll be able to get through to him. IF he’s not drinking… Which lately, has been daily:(.

Oddly, prayer seems on some days to be a relaxing, pleasant experience. Other times, the thought of reciting one Hail Mary seems daunting… I guess it’s just part of living life with an unpredictable spouse!


I don’t know if this will help you or not: I am an alcoholic and active in AA. I have been sober for 17 years. My experience has been that you cannot force anyone into AA, but you can issue any ultimatim you want, as long as it is one you are willing to stick to and not cave in under the pressure people like me can put on people like you. I would get yourself to Al-Anon, your kids to Al-Ateen and find yourself a black-belt Al-Anon sponsor. Start working those steps and listening to the men and women who have walked the path before you. And I will keep you in prayer.

Hang in there.


taye, i advocate ***everything ***LSK wrote to the hundredth degree, OK?

in October, I’ll be sober 25 years, I thank God. nothing you’re hoping will “work” will.

in order of appearance, get:
a priest
a lawyer (just in case, looks like just in case is coming quick)
that blackbelt AlAnon sponsor LSK mentioned
family therapy for you and the kids
an al-anon homegroup.

manipulations like, “I’m leaving if you don’t sober up” bring only temporary relief, then ***wicked ***backlash.

if you leave, do it because it’s best, safe, sane. NOT because you’re trying to coerce a few weeks of sobriety out of the guy.

another poster wrote two years isn’t too much to ask. absolutely. anybody who moves back in with a sober drunk after 4 months (9 months, 13 months, 20 months) of sobriety doesn’t understand alcoholism.

understand alcoholism. understand it’s bigger than you. understand that if ultimatums worked, AA rooms would be empty. they’re not. AA rooms are full of people who can’t/ won’t get sober.

finally, your mother in law had zero power over her husband. she has zero power over her son. don’t let her codependency fool you into thinking you and she together have any power over your husband’s alcoholism. you don’t.

(and a guy as mean as you’re describing doesn’t care a hoot what his mothert thinks of his drinking. i promise you that.)

i don’t care why you married a walking red flag. neither should you, just yet. at this moment, “why” is irrelevant and it wastes time. it takes your attention away from “what now???” your only business at hand, the only area where you can make real actions, real choices is this, “what do i do about it now…?” can’t figure that out? then say, “what’s best for my kids?”

then do that.

pray. pray. pray. pray not only for miracles of sobriety only, but for miracles of your strength and grit. this is not gonna get better any time too soon. this is the long haul you heard tell about.


I am pretty sure that your friends & acquaintances know when he is drunk and are polite about it. You should lovingly tell you husband about your concerns for him, you and your family and help him get the help he needs. Does he actually physically abuse or do you feel that he may physically abuse you or the kids? If he doesn’t then now then he probably won’t.
Being an alcoholic does not equate to being an abusive husband or mother for that matter. I
know because I grew up in an alcoholic household and it does stink. Pray and get someone that your husband respects to talk with him and get him into a program so that he may become the man God wants him to be and you and your family need him to be. It may be a long road. I will pray for you and your family. God Bless!


He never hit me, but the emotional wounds are deep. He doesn’t seem to understand what feelings are… Unless he’s the one experiencing them. There definitely is emotional abuse going on. I’ve been called “crazy” so many times just because I spoke about my feelings that now I NEVER cry in his presence. It’s just too painful…

I do fear that because his is drinking more often (daily!), he may become violent someday. The children are usually pretty good for me during the day (I’m a SAHM), but when daddy comes home, they are very difficult and out of control. He does work hard all day, but coming home to this isn’t exactly fun for him. That’s understandable, but he drinks to escape the stress and then yells at them all evening. His anger is what scares me.

I’m hoping to have a “normal” life someday. I’m 28 years old, and have suffered 20 years of abuse (it was verbal abuse growing up). It’s a miracle that I’m still alive after all that. Growing up, I was very suicidal… Now, I have God and it makes it a lot easier.

Thanks everyone for your concern and prayers.


join al-Anon we will help keep you sane and teach you how to live with an alcoholic


If he doesn’t then now then he probably won’t.

this isn’t true. alcoholics live in a chaotic system of “not yets.” we measure our problem by some elusive and flexible standard. we say, “my drinking’s not that bad. i don’t miss work. i don’t hit my wife.”

not yet.

after the job’s gone and the wife’s bruised, we ***change ***the standard and say, “my drinking’s not that bad. I don’t get DUIs.”

not yet.

and so on.

every measure that indicates controlled drinking, alcohol takes away. alcohol takes away one thing or many things at a time. then the alcoholic casts about for a new standard. why? because drunk alcoholics want to appear sane/ sober/ in control, but we don’t want to give up drinking to do it.

puzzleannie, i think good AA and good alanon are very, very good. why should anyone learn to live with an abusive alcoholic?

i understand there’s much process of self discovery involved, but for the alcoholic, that can only come AFTER sobriety has been established and maintained. why is this not true for the alanon? shouldn’t the alanon’s priorities be 1. regaining safety, 2. learning interior and emotional detatchment, then 3. God discovery and self discovery through a spiritual program ?

how does learning how to live with an alcoholic (assuming abusiveness-- but in this case it’s assumed; this guy is a monger to his wife and kids) measure into safety/ detachment/ discovery?

aren’t learning to live with an abusive alcoholic and sanity mututally exclusive? doesn’t one cancel out the other?


What exactly is a monger?

DH has never laid a finger on me, and if he does, it’s goodbye! The abuse is emotional. Although he no longer pressures me to have sex, he does still occasionally pressure me to do other “things”, but I won’t ever give in to him again. He has never raped or used force on me. But he does use guilt to try to get what he wants…

As much as I’d like to walk out the door most days, I don’t think that would be fair. We’ve had fights about his drinking, but I haven’t had a serious discussion with him. If he’s willing to admit he has a problem and correct it, it would be fine, but I doubt that he’ll believe me. If he’s not willing to do anything soon, I’ll have to leave, for my own sanity.



I lived through this almost exactly. For years I justified it I guess in much the same way that the alcoholic does…it’s bad but it could be worse…at least he doesn’t do “X”. Finally when I went to my priest about it he told me that I needed to leave. I said I wasn’t quite ready to give up. He made me set a deadline of 6 months to give him the opportunity to change, but telling me I had to be firm. During that time I stopped putting up with everything and started telling him things weren’t acceptable. Before the 6 months were up, the sex went from being coerced to an incident of force and he threatened to stab 2 of our sons and me.

It honestly really is not going to get any better based on your efforts. It will be up to him, something that you have no control over. For now I would work on a short term plan of becoming firm in your resolve and finding a safe way out. Please do talk to your priest, a counselor, and al anon.



i didn’t suggest anything about rape.

monger= war monger. he comes home angry and yellls. the kids are stressed and chaotic; you’re ignored, humilated and accused of being crazy.

that’s what you wrote.

from what you wrote, it sounds bad. but if it’s not that bad, then it’s not that bad.

as per this

I haven’t had a serious discussion with him. If he’s willing to admit he has a problem and correct it, it would be fine,

so, have the serious discussion with him. so far, though, he hasn’t been too concerned with your perception of things. he thinks you’re crazy.

i think you’re not crazy. i think you’re trying to do something that you don’t have the power to do-- to turn an alcoholic mean guy into a sober nice guy.

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