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Alcoholic husband, will someone walk this road with me?

(250 Posts)
PeggyGuggenheim Sat 12-Feb-11 14:11:19

It's been an issue all through our ten years together. A bottle of wine to himself, every night, is the least he would have. More like 3 litres of cider a night, or getting bladdered at the pub three times a week.

Anyway, he finally admitted to his best friend that he was an alcoholic and I thought we were getting there...he managed about six weeks without a drink and it was like we were newlyweds. Just such a relief, so much relief and love, and he was a changed person. Then bit by bit, drink creeps back in, and being the idiot I am, I think he's going to be able to be a sensible drinker! Why????

Now we are back to square one and all I'm asking for help with is - on Monday nights an Al-Anon group meets in my town, I have been threatening/promising to go, for about two years! I need to bite the bullet and just GO on Monday night. Is anyone else needing their "hand held" to take this step?

IngridBergmann Sat 12-Feb-11 14:27:47

Peggy, you are doing the right thing. Al Anon saved at least one marriage I know of.

The crunch was saying 'don't come back until you have stopped drinking' and it worked.

My on-off partner is an alcoholic but at the stage where he won't accept that's what he is. Luckily he doesn't live with us, but it can still cause problems.

He is DC's father though.

I hope you find the courage to go to the meeting.

PeggyGuggenheim Sat 12-Feb-11 14:48:25

Thank you Ingrid. I wonder if I can find a way to be brisk and motivated about it, rather than wanting to burst into tears whenever I think about it. Does it HAVE to be this dreadfully sad? I don't want to be this sad, that sounds so childish. Just want it to magically resolve, but after ten years it aint gonna.

HeroShrew Sat 12-Feb-11 14:51:37

He's admitted his addiction which is a really positive step, despite falling back into drinking. Do you think he would accept any kind of support? AA, for example?

IslaValargeone Sat 12-Feb-11 14:57:48

Peggy, at this stage it is sad, but that feeling won't last forever, so please bite the bullet and go to Al Anon, and as you get support and coping mechanisms, the sadness will ease. It will also help you decide whether it is a relationship you can continue with.

PeggyGuggenheim Sat 12-Feb-11 14:58:44

He really firmly rejects the AA idea, but I have found a one-on-one counselling service (FREE IN OUR AREA!) and given him the number, he puts it in his pocket in a half-hearted way and does nowt.

IngridBergmann Sat 12-Feb-11 14:59:29

Yes, it has to be this sad sad

It's imo the only way.

The people I knew - my grandparents in fact - she started going to al anon, he continued to drink, she threw him out, he started going to AA and he stopped drinking.

His life changed, his personality changed - he was less exciting, less passionate, but they were happy, and he didn't drink - he was a violent drinker before.

So it all changed but it was worth it and they stayed together till he died.

It's magical thinking to hope it will get better by itself. It's very rare. I'm sure it has happened spontaneously on occasion but I wouldn't count on that iyswim.

Sorry x

PeggyGuggenheim Sat 12-Feb-11 15:00:07

Isla I love your name. Yes I have to say "This is sad" and get on with it.

IngridBergmann Sat 12-Feb-11 15:01:08

So, sad temporarily but happy long term if he is able to do it. Doesn't sound like he is ready though.

He has to want to do it.

PeggyGuggenheim Sat 12-Feb-11 15:25:01

Hmmm, if he's "not ready" but I've finally found the courage to start going to Al-Anon, what does that mean?

How does he "become" ready?

I have no ultimatums to give him, can't imagine being a single mother. So what cards do I hold?

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 12-Feb-11 15:26:27


You need to go to this Al-anon meeting in your town on Monday. If you do not go you are a fool to your own self!. Do not be afraid, you will meet people just like you there. You need support for your own self, you need to realise that you can only help your own self here.

Sorry but him possibly going six weeks without a drink is nothing considering you have known him with a drink problem for as long as you have. It is no surprise to me at all that he has restarted drinking. He needs to go permanently without alcohol actually (he cannot drink alcohol socially as that ability is just not within him) but from what you write he is still not ready or able to confront his alcoholism properly.
You can only help your own self.

I can tell you now that 1 on 1 counselling won't really help him either (also what happens when it stops?). He has to want to seek the help for his own self. You cannot make him seek help or accept it if he does not want it. The fact he has not done anything with the information you gave him says again to me that he does not want to address his alcoholism.

There are no guarantees here, he may lose everything and he'll still drink. You are not responsible for him at the end of the day. I would ask where your own tipping point now is.

The 3cs re alcoholism are as follows:-
You did not cause it
You cannot control it
You cannot cure it

There are often elements of codependency within such relationships so I would suggest you read "Codependent No More" written by Melodie Davies.

Do you have children together?.
Does he work?

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 12-Feb-11 15:33:56


Re your comments:-

"Hmmm, if he's "not ready" but I've finally found the courage to start going to Al-Anon, what does that mean?"

It means you are now ready to admit to the world there is a problem within your home rather than trying to hide it away from everybody. Alcoholism is a family problem, the whole family need treatment. I would put money on it as well that hardly anyone in your circle knows he has a drink problem. If they do have suspicions they pity you and give you knowing glances or don't know what to say.

Did you know he had a drink problem before you married him?. Did you marry him in the hopes he would change?.

How does he "become" ready?
He does not.

"I have no ultimatums to give him, can't imagine being a single mother. So what cards do I hold"

Have you already made ultimatums then. You can only issue one ultimatum and once only; if you did not follow through at that time then he will know your threats are empty ones. You are not as powerless as you think you are. You're really both his enabler and a single mother now, he spends an awful lot of his time drinking so I would guess there is no real family life or time together at all.

What affect do you think he as an alcoholic father is having on your children?. Children who grow up in a household where one parent is alcoholic can bring them all sorts of emotional problems. BTW as well, they won't thank you for staying with him as adults either.

PeggyGuggenheim Sat 12-Feb-11 16:05:43

We do have kids, and he holds down a job. Our closest friends do know he has a problem, now that I have drummed it into them. But for years everyone just turned a blind eye, made a joke of it. But I became aware slowly of the "pitying looks" and now I have managed to talk seriously to all of our friends at some point...the women are more supportive of me than the men are.

Happily he doesn't go crazy with drink, quite the opposite, he gets quieter and quieter, loses the ability to string 2 sentences together then slumps over. Even at our own "dinner parties" (ie mates over for supper).

I say "happily" because of course I'm aware that many households with alcoholics suffer much more than ours. But anyway I've had enough.

Kids-wise, I think they suffer more from my rage than from his drunkenness; my rage at his drunkenness.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 12-Feb-11 16:45:08

Who buys the alcohol?. Do not drink alcohol with him at all or whilst at a friends house. If you drink alcohol with him this is enabling behaviour on your part. If you tip it away that does not work nor helps you either. You have likely enabled him far more than you realise over the years by making excuses for his behaviour or covering for him (hence me also mentioning codependency as a part of your relationship).

What you are getting out of this relationship now?. I would appreciate an answer to that.

So your H is a functioning alcoholic. He may go very quiet but that does not make it any better does it, he is still an alcoholic. That is still no life for you and your children to be witness to or a part of either. Alcoholism is a family disease, you're all caught up in this as well. You all need help and support.

Do attend that Al-anon meeting on Monday. You need their support.

How old are the children?. They have seen and heard an awful lot from both of you; you cannot fully protect them from the ravages of his alcoholism. What lessons are you teaching them about relationships here?. That also needs your consideration.

There are no guarantees here when it comes to alcoholism. His primary relationship first and foremost is with alcohol - everything and everyone else comes a dim and distant second.

Did you marry him in the hopes he would somehow change?.

PeggyGuggenheim Sat 12-Feb-11 17:14:50

Attila, I am finding your tone rather hectoring.

I stopped drinking three years ago, for other health reasons, so in that sense I am not enabling him. But in the sense that you are trying to encourage me to go on Monday, I appreciate that and appreciate that having this discussion online is myself getting ready to go to that meeting.

I suppose I did imagine that he would change...or rather, my head was in the sand, and it has got steadily worse. His drinking, not my head! Well both actually, lol

IslaValargeone Sat 12-Feb-11 17:42:08

Peggy, I certainly wouldn't presume to speak on Attila's behalf, but I'm sure she wasn't hectoring, but I can understand your defensiveness. The thing is, when you have been deep in the s*** of how an alcoholic can drag can drag everyone down with them, you can get quite passionate about not wanting to see anyone go down that road.

PeggyGuggenheim Sat 12-Feb-11 18:58:14

Thanks Isla. Attila I'm sorry, you are speaking from experience I suppose. And trying to help, which is after all why I'm here

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 12-Feb-11 20:25:21

Thank you Isla.

Peggy, I feel bloody strongly about this as you can probably tell!.

You are enabling him because you are his crutch. You're still there you see, bailing him out. Where are the consequences for his actions?.

There are alcoholics on both sides of our families. One of them is in jail as a result. My cousin is now drinking heavily to drown his sorrows. Alcoholism wreaks family life and getting back to you, you are all being affected by it. Its the big bloody elephant in the room.

If you do not go to the Al-anon meeting on Monday you are a fool to yourself.

lyra41 Sat 12-Feb-11 20:37:03


I do not have any wisdom to offer, just a real encouragement to go on Monday night, you have nothing to lose and you could start to feel more in control.

Really hoping you will go.


TheFutureMrsClooney Sat 12-Feb-11 21:16:55

Peggy, I lived in a marriage like yours for 24 years. I felt unable to take charge of the situation because his alcoholism wasn't "bad enough". He wasn't violent, never really noticeably drunk, just never entirely with me and our DDs and a total embarrassment at dinner parties. Friends just seemed to regard him as a bit of a joke and me as a bit of a nag. I spent many lonely years with him asleep on the sofa next to me from 8pm every night. I rarely saw him drink but could smell it on him constantly. Our shopping bills were inexplicably high. I started to doubt my own sanity he was so good at hiding his drinking.

Two years ago I went to an AlAnon meeting after advice on this site. I cried the whole time I was there. Everyone there appeared to be in a worse situation than mine, but at the end of the meeting one woman came up to me and said I had described her situation exactly. I finally felt I was justified in feeling the way I did.

He was furious with me for going and said that the problem was entirely in my imagination. It took another year for me to summon up the courage to tell him our marriage was over. He now lives alone in a house full of bottles. Our eldest DD is considering stopping contact with him because she can't bear to watch him destroy himself, our youngest is about to start counselling arranged by her school because she feels she must cure him. I regret not acting sooner but have to say I have never been happier.

To this day he still won't admit he has a problem.

Sorry, not necessarily what you want to hear but you have nothing to lose by going to at least one meeting.

Patienceobtainsallthings Sat 12-Feb-11 23:34:56

Another vote here for Alan on ,everyone in the room has had their life affected by alcohol,so not only do they talk the talk they have walked the walk.u don't have to speak u can just listen but it helped me learn about alcoholism and my behaviour as a wife to an alcoholic.I also recommend melody beattie co dependence no more but maybe not right away ,go to a few meetings and see what you think.I think I got to a point that I realised I was never going to be happy in my life if my husband didn't address his drinking.I had 2 young dcs and they couldn't choose their upbringing,as the sober parent I had to make the choice and accept my husband may choose drink over me and the kids .

Wormshuffler Sun 13-Feb-11 14:37:07

Hi peggy
Regarding the advise given to you about giving ultimatums, I would like to urge caution with this....
My DB brother was a functioning alcoholic, he drank every day on the way home from work followed by wine at home with their tea for 20 years odd.
When he became depressed due to his money problems, he was pescribed medication which attacked his liver and he was eventually hospitalised with liver failure.
At this point his doctors said his future did not look promising but there was a chance he could recover if he immediately stopped the drink.
On his release from hospital his wife announced she wanted a divorce, she had found out about all the money problems while he was in hospital.
He was a broken man......he did try to stop drinking and even went to AA, but because of the situation with his wife he used it as an excuse to start drinking again and died 4 months later.
My DB loved his children more than anything in the world but he still wasnt able to stop even knowing it would kill him.
He needed support and didn't get it from his wife who didnt care what damage he was doing to himself just that he had spent all his money doing it.
If I could turn back the clock I would have had him move in with us an help him kick it, and give him all the support I could.
The doctors who were with us when he died said alcohol is more addictive than heroin and being able to kick it without support is impossible.

Wormshuffler Sun 13-Feb-11 14:43:43

Sorry forgot to say, sorry you are going through this and I think it is great that you want to help him .

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 13-Feb-11 14:55:01


I am really sorry to learn about your late brother.

Would have to say though that even you as his sister would not likely have been able to help your brother kick alcoholism. He would have brought into your home his own set of problems.

Wormshuffler Sun 13-Feb-11 15:02:43

I kind of know in my heart that you are right attila there is just this nagging "if only I had" doubt.
The love he had for his kids wasn't enough to make him stop so why would he stop for me, I dunno, it just so unfair when I see drunks who drink all day every day and are abusive with it and still alive........

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