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Alcoholic husband - help

(34 Posts)
Puffykins Wed 24-Aug-11 21:40:47

My husband, whom I love, is an alcoholic. When we got together he was sober/ in recovery, though of course he told me about his problems. Perhaps naively, I thought that they were in the past. We got married. I got pregnant. He started drinking again. And stopped again. And started again. And stopped again. And started again. Etc. The bouts usually last around six weeks to two months.
He's neither violent nor abusive when drunk. "I'm not a bad drunk," he'll claim. But he's a different person. I can tell, immediately, when he's been drinking - even after one beer. His speech slurs. His eyes go funny. And he becomes repetitive, confused, argumentative, defensive, and not at all amusing. He's also a non-functioning alcoholic, so, towards the end of the bout, he starts drinking all day, every day. I'd come home from work to find him passed out on the sofa, time and time again. Since having DS (now 13 months) I've been working from home - I thought that if I was here, he wouldn't be able to drink. But he can. He hides it from me. Bottles under the bath etc. And denies it and denies it until I think I'm going mad, before finally he breaks down and confesses what I knew all along.
And then we'll get through three/ four/ five/ six months of blissful happiness, when he's not drinking, and we're happy, and I'm lulled into a false sense of security about its never happening again. Or at least, not for a while.
But it's just started again. And I don't know what to do. It terrifies me, on a number of levels:
1.) He's freelance, but if he screws up, the same company aren't going to hire him again, and word will get around, and he won't earn anything, which means that I will have to manage everything.
2.) It's really bad for his health. All three alcoholics I have known of have died young, in their forties/ fifties. I love him. I don't want him to die.
3.) While I say I love him, I don't like him when he's drinking. He's no company. And it screws up my life - I'm unable to make plans, i.e. invite people around, because I don't know what state he's going to be in. I can't ever go and do what I'd planned to do in the evening, because I won't leave him alone with DS. Which means that I'm home, all day, alone (DS adorable but not a great conversationalist, yet) and have nothing to look forward to but a drunk,messy, argumentative husband appearing at some point and passing out.
I always vowed that I wouldn't bring my children up in an alcoholic household. But I love my husband. And I don't want to be a single parent. I don't think that I can afford to be a single parent.
DH has been to AA (which he hates), had cognitive behavior therapy (which he dissed), had a session of hypnotherapy, etc. etc. I no longer drink myself, ever. There's no alcohol in the house (at least, none that I've put here.) I been angry, I've been understanding, I've cried, I've laughed, I've ignored him. I don't know what else to do. Nothing seems to work. DS is still too young to be aware of what's going on, but in the future?
I don't know what to do.

FabbyChic Wed 24-Aug-11 21:43:22

He is not going to change. My sons father was an alcoholic, he gave up just like that, after three days he collapsed and was taken to hospital, his liver is damaged beyond repair and he is now a diabetic.

Drink kills.

Do you really want to bring a child up in the environment he creates?

You would be better off out of it, he is selfish and cares no for anybody but himself.

DontGoCurly Wed 24-Aug-11 21:54:40

Hello OP,

I saw this recently recommended on another forum for alcoholics that don't want to go to AA. Supposed to be very good.

Also you yourself should go along to AlAnon or get some online support if you can't get out of the house.

Wish I could do more to help. My ex was an alcoholic, I left in the end but I know how hard it is.

Hope things get better soon.

Puffykins Wed 24-Aug-11 22:02:10

Thank you Don'tGoCurly. I've just looked at the website. I'll encourage my husband to look at it too, next time he's sober and contrite.
I need to find an AlAnon group to which one can take children.
I just wish I could fix him.

ImperialBlether Wed 24-Aug-11 22:19:45

Your husband has to reach his own rock bottom, unfortunately. You cannot make him stop drinking.

If you leave him, he will reach that stage quicker than if you stay.

If you love him, you will stop enabling him. It is incredibly hard, I know, but if you stay there and help him out of his scrapes, you are not actually helping him at all.

Perhaps you can help him best by living separately. This is what your son needs. Please, please, help your son. Your DH has to find his own way out of this; nothing you can do will help him.

Fairenuff Wed 24-Aug-11 22:42:46

Puffykins, I am so sorry to say that Imperial Blether is spot on. Nothing, absolutely nothing will make him stop drinking until he wants to. He will put it before you, your child, his health, everything. It's not something you can control in any way. If he thinks he is going to lose you and his child that might be enough for him to take his problem seriously. Once he is ready there is plenty of help and support out there for him.

Puffykins Wed 24-Aug-11 22:58:52

Between times, he knows he can't drink. And then something happens, and he drinks again, but every morning he wakes up and vows that he won't drink that day, and promises me that he won't, and yet he does. Until he doesn't anymore and if we can get 5 days or so sober then we've got several happy months ahead of us. This time, he found a half-drunk bottle of vodka that he'd hidden and forgotten about. He drank it on Saturday morning while I was at the gym. And now he's passed out somewhere and he's not coming home tonight. And I don't know how long it will last.
And I know, I KNOW, that leaving him is probably the best advice that I could receive. I just hope against hope that it won't come to this.

Fairenuff Wed 24-Aug-11 23:04:38

He will vow every morning not to drink because he really, really, doesn't want to. But he has an addiction. A compulsion to drink and he needs help to overcome it. It's a shame he didn't get on well with aa. Have you considered going to al-anon for relatives of alcoholics. You will meet people who know exactly what you're going through and how to help you.

Puffykins Wed 24-Aug-11 23:08:28

Thank you Fairenuff. I have been to Al-Anon. I stopped when I gave birth. I suppose because the thing that terrified me the most was hearing testimonies from people who'd grown up with parents who were alcoholics. That is what made me vow that DS would never need to go to Al-Anon when he was older. But time is running out for DH to overcome this. DS will soon be too old for me to be able to hide it - for I do, totally. He doesn't see his father drunk. Not if I can possibly, possibly help it. Of course, if his father doesn't even come home at night, there's no earthly way he can see him, drunk or not.

bejeezus Wed 24-Aug-11 23:11:31

And I know, I KNOW, that leaving him is probably the best advice that I could receive. I just hope against hope that it won't come to this

what would have to happen for it to come to this?
are you prepared to live like this forever?
do you have a deadline for him to change before you leave?
how long will he have to be sober for before you trust he wont drink again?

you need to take care of YOURSELF and YOUR DC.
Your DC already has part of his parental input from his father removed/ affected by alcoholism. You shouldnt waste your time and energy trying to help your DP-you cant help him, it will drain you, your DC needs all your time and energy

Puffykins Wed 24-Aug-11 23:19:49

Bejeezus, I don't know. I don't know if
1.) I should leave him (after all, I married him 'in sickness and in health', and this is sickness, right? - and anyway, I LOVE him, and when it's good, it's amazing and wonderful.)
2.) If I decide to leave him, what the deadline should be. Tomorrow? By the end of the year? By DS's 2nd birthday?
3.) I don't know the answer to this either. Ideally, I'd like him to be sober forever. I'd like him to just say "Okay, fine, I can never drink again." I need him to complete the first step, to admit that he is powerless over alcohol.

I just don't know what to do and nobody can make this decision for me. Not my parents, not his parents, not friends, not a therapist. And that's the hardest thing of all.

Fairenuff Wed 24-Aug-11 23:23:36

I can only suggest you start making plans to live elsewhere with your son. You do not want to still be in this situation in 2, 5, 10 years time waiting for your DH to change. You can still be there for him, love him, support him but make it absolutely clear that you will not tolerate his addiction. It's down to him to sort that out I'm afraid. You can research it, give him the contacts, but in the meantime build a life for yourself and your son.

He is so lucky to have such a loving wife and you can be sure he knows it. He will hate himself every time he puts the booze before you. He has to really, really want to stop before he can.

bejeezus Wed 24-Aug-11 23:32:46

That IS the hardest thing of all.

It will get harder to leave as your DC gets older and you see them bonding more...but he will becoming more and more aware and therefore it becomes more important to remove him from the situation. WHat Im saying is it is hard now, but it will get harder.

Are you going to go back to Al-Anon?

this is where 'alcoholism is a sickness' falls down for me. I think that has been coined so that we can seperate the person from the drinking and 'love the person but hate the disease'. It makes it easier to detach from people that we love. I do NOT think it means that we owe it to our marriage vows to stay in that situation. It will destroy you and your DC

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 25-Aug-11 07:50:54


The 3cs re alcoholism:
1. You did not cause this
2 You cannot cure this
3. You cannot control this

Points 2 and 3 are ones that need to be rammed into your skull because you seem to be not fully accepting of those.

Your H's primary relationship is with alcohol. That will not change. Everything, absolutely everything else, comes a dim and distant second to alcohol even if you did figure on that list. Alcohol too is a cruel mistress.

There are no guarantees here re alcoholism; he could well lose everything and still choose to drink. He is not at all serious about wanting to address the root causes of his alcoholism; the will is just not there and may never be there.

You being there with him is not helping him, you or your son and you're as caught up on this merry go around of alcoholism as he is. You are codependent within this relationship and that itself is not healthy either.

I would go back to Al-anon and seek their support asap. Do read too the book "Codependent No More" written by Melodie Beattie.

You mention knowing two other alcoholics; did you yourself grow up within an alcoholic household?. You do not of course have to answer that but if you did it explains a lot as to why you are with an alcoholic now. Children of alcoholic parents become super responsible and are more likely to end up with alcoholics as partners themselves.

Love alone here is not enough in these situations. He loves alcohol more than you, your son, your life together. Means nothing to him, alcohol is his sole focus and purpose in life. Let him go, don't let him drag you down with him.

Your son too when older would not thank you for staying with such a man; he could well ask you if you did stay why you put your H before him and why you were so weak. Is this really what you want for yourself?. Financial reasons and perceived difficulties financially (this seems to be the only reason you cite as to not wanting to become a single parent) are not good enough reasons alone to stay with such an individual. All you are to him is his enabler; the person who props him up and you have and continue to enable him. A state that neither helps you or him; enabling just gives you a false sense of control and that state is also very damaging to you.

What happened to the bottles under the bath; did you remove them?.
What if your son starts finding the empties?.

How many people in your real life circle know about his alcoholism?. Start talking to others, alcoholism as well thrives on secrecy. Any sense of shame or embarrassment on your part is very much misplaced; you need Al-anon again.

Leaving him does not mean that you have yourself failed in any way re him. You feel (like many codependents do) very responsible for him but he shows you no such consideration. He is continuing to deny (they do denial very well) and be extremely selfish.

You are already bringing up your child with an alcoholic household; you want your son to be as damaged as you have already been?. Apart from anything else an alcoholic parent is really no ideal role model to follow. Even at 13 months your son sees you unhappy; they are perceptive and pick up on all the tensions within the home.

You have a choice re your H; your son does not. He has to start any journey towards sobriety on his own; you as his wife are the last person who can help him and I do not mean that at all unkindly. You are way too close to the situation to be of any help and your own actions to date have not worked.

KinkyDorito Thu 25-Aug-11 08:11:59

My Dsis was married to an alcoholic. He kept 'changing' then falling off the wagon. She gave him chances, and a final ultimatum. I didn't think she'd leave him as she loved him very much, but she did. She decided her life was worth more than the constant uncertainty and worry. She also didn't want to have a child with him as she couldn't trust him.

He did stop drinking when she left. Then started again.

I understand you have a child, but I see children of alcoholic parents in my work. All that stress and worry you feel, your DS will feel as he gets older. I have met children who are scared to leave the house in case their alcoholic parent drinks them self sick, throws up and chokes. They feel responsible for them.

I really feel for you. It is an extremely tough decision to make. If he hasn't shown that he will change, do you really want the next twenty years of your life to continue like this? I know you love him, but you need more from him than that, as does your DS. You should be his partner, not his carer. You are worried you can't afford to be a single parent? If he loses his job, you will be sole earner. You would also get more financial support as a single parent. I struggle to see any positives for you if you stay, unless he gets proper, professional help and sticks to it.

nje3006 Thu 25-Aug-11 08:42:46

I was with my alcoholic XH for 22 years. Like you I thought I'd signed up for sickness and health and he was sick right? It was only when I started to read about enabling codependence that I recognised MY role in it all - my actions were not helping him, they were preventing him getting to the bottom where he could make his decision to stop - or not. This is not one of those stories where I changed my behaviour and he stopped drinking and we lived happily ever after. Well it sort of it b/c I did change my behaviour, I left and after a number of years he did stop drinking but he fell a long way before he did that and he's now facing bankruptcy as a result of those choices when he was falling. But I'm about to get married next year to a wonderful man and he has a new partner. So hopefully we are living happily ever after - just not with each other.
I truly believe that being the two people we are, he could not have stopped drinking with me there. And it's taken many therapy sessions for me to get to the bottom of what my role was (big). We didn't have children, I always knew he would be a poor father. Don't underestimate the affect of alcoholic parents on a child, however young.
I hope you find a way to protect your child - and yes, that probably means removing him and you from this situation. Leaving my XH was the hardest decision I had taken, it took many months but in the end, I could see it was the only thing to do.

Puffykins Thu 25-Aug-11 19:01:52

Thank you so much, all of you, for all your advice and understanding.
I am very open about his alcoholism, at least with my closest friends. It helps me, and I refuse to lie to them. I didn't grow up in an alcoholic house, but my Godmother was an alcoholic, and, unbelievably, as I child I was regularly sent to stay with her, as apparently 'it helped her not to drink, if I was there.' (!)
I am going to order the book Codependent No More.
Thank you again, all of you.

poorlybear Thu 25-Aug-11 19:13:05

I am in the same ish situation as you. My dh until recently had been in recovery for five months. Recently he had a one day blip that resulted in him collapsing in London and being found in the gutter. It was awful.

We are in recovery again. I don't see leaving him as the answer, it is too simplistic.

We are in recovery again and back at AA.

You have my sympathies.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 25-Aug-11 19:55:44


re your comment:-

"I didn't grow up in an alcoholic house, but my Godmother was an alcoholic, and, unbelievably, as I child I was regularly sent to stay with her, as apparently 'it helped her not to drink, if I was there.' (!)"

Nice - notshock!. Presumably your parents did that; did they know or infact care about any possible consequences to your own self?. I think not. Did you ever take the people responsible for that crass decision to task over it?.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 25-Aug-11 19:58:39


re your comment:-

"We are in recovery again. I don't see leaving him as the answer, it is too simplistic".

Was wondering why you think leaving him is actually too simplistic. What about you in all this?.

Puffykins Thu 25-Aug-11 20:52:10

Attila, no, I haven't ever taken my parents to task over it. What is the point? What's done is done. My parents don't have a concept of what living with alcoholism is actually like. One doesn't really, unless one comes into very close contact with it. My parents simply thought that my Godmother was apt to drink a few too many gin and tonics, because she was lonely - and that if I was there, she wouldn't be lonely, and therefore wouldn't drink. And, as a child, I had no concept that what she was doing was odd - that was just the way she was, as far as I was concerned. At least until I got to fourteen or so, anyway. But I wasn't living with her the whole time, I was just staying with her every so often.
Poorlybear, I empathise. So much. I hope that it goes well.

poorlybear Thu 25-Aug-11 20:58:29

u2 puffykins
only you can decide what to do there are lots of fanatics who always pop up on these threads and will happily tell you how to run your life

good luck you will find many who will support you on MN and let you decide what course you take

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 25-Aug-11 21:07:42


What your parents did was unforgiveable actually; how dare they put you in such a position in the first place. You were but a child. I can see why you would not want to challenge them on it as you probably don't want to rock the foundations of your relationship with them.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 25-Aug-11 21:10:16


Fanatics you say - I see no evidence of that on this thread; just realism. Writing that too comes across as defensive and gives a bad impression.

Denial is a powerful force. Alcoholism does not only just affect the alcoholic; its very much a family disease.

Puffykins Thu 25-Aug-11 21:18:36

To be honest, it's not that I don't want to rock the foundations of my relationship. Believe me, I've had arguments with my parents before! It's just that I don't have any anger related to that issue. I loved my Godmother. I loved staying with her. She was fun. She had a sheep farm. There were lambs to bottle feed. And she was an alcoholic.
I do not relate that to being married to an alcoholic now. I have known DH since I was 12. We were at school together. He was my first boyfriend, when we were 17. Then there was an interim period of about 8 years when we lost touch - we were living in different countries. That is when his drinking became a problem. He came home. He went to rehab. Then he called and we got together and got married and I got pregnant and THEN he started drinking again. And he's funny and talented and kind and generous and I love him. And he's an alcoholic, and sometimes that is hell. But it's one part of him, not his defining characteristic. And I suppose the reason that I find it so hard, the reason that I umm and err over leaving him, is that I still feel that I'd be losing more than I would be gaining.

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