Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Bad situation - don't know what to do(35 Posts)
I'm new here, and posting because I am in a really difficult situation and getting desperate. I'm married (have been with DH for almost fifteen years) and we have a daughter who has just turned five.
My husband is an alcoholic. He's tried to get sober several times in the past few years. He managed about three months a year or so ago, but since then it's just gone steadily downhill. He isn't an evil person, but he can't seem to beat this addiction - I've been hanging on in there trying to support him and hoping he can quit for years, and I don't think I can cope with it any more. We have a good week, then a terrible week. Another good one, another terrible one. It's a roller-coaster over which I seem to have no control. Our daughter isn't hugely conscious of it yet - the most she notices is that in his bad patches he sleeps a lot - but I know this will change as she gets older and I badly don't want her to live the up and down life I'm living.
I am pretty sure that if a friend told me she was in this situation I would advise her to leave, but in reality it feels almost impossible. He has no job, no supportive family, has mostly cut himself off from friends. We rent our flat, but although I pay 100% of the rent we are joint tenants on the contract so I have no more rights than he does, which means I can't throw him out even if I could feel ok about doing that. If we split up, I have no idea what he would do. I think he would basically be homeless and I literally cannot bring myself to put the father of my child (and a man I still love despite it all) in that position. But nor am I prepared to live this way for the rest of my life.
I just don't know what to do. In his good patches he is great with our daughter and she is very attached to him. I can't imagine any way in which a separation between us would be smooth and I am really worried that she will get badly hurt emotionally. And when things are good I am so thankful that I get over-excited and tell myself it will all be fine... but it never lasts.
I don't want to paint myself as a victim - I am no angel in this situation. I had an affair two years ago which lasted for about six months - I was miserable and turned to a friend, not that that excuses it (we are not in touch any more). He knows about it and has been very forgiving. Maybe I feel I owe him because of this, but part of me thinks privately that he has only been forgiving because he knows he needs me financially. I do think he loves me, but equally I'm not sure what that counts for if he can't stop drinking.
Putting this down on paper it feels pretty unlikely that the relationship can be saved but I just feel completely stuck and can't see how to move forward. Every time I reach the decision to leave (not that I even know how I would go about that) it's like he senses it and snaps back into being the man I fell in love with. I can't see an end to it. The worst thing is that we are both aware that if he could stop drinking we could be happy. I think the ideal solution would be for him to go into some kind of rehab to be honest, but as far as I can tell this isn't available on the NHS, or not without extreme difficulty. As the sole earner living in an expensive area I have no spare money so private rehab isn't an option. Even if we lived separately for a while to give him time and space to try and recover... but as he has no money I don't see how this could happen. Grateful for any thoughts, but please be gentle if you can as I am feeling pretty fragile right now!
Sounds really crap for you, I've just broken up with someone who has alcohol issues and it's no fun.
At the moment you are facilitating his behaviour, and as long as you carry on doing that it will be too easy for him to keep drinking. I think leaving him is the only way he's likely to sort himself out, he'll either sink or swim and that's up to him, but you can't keep carrying him through life.
Thanks. I think you are probably right, but I just don't know how to go about it. Like I say I have no more rights to this flat than he does, and I don't have any family near enough to stay with without causing my daughter a lot of upheaval, taking her out of school etc.
I can't imagine any way in which a separation between us would be smooth and I am really worried that she will get badly hurt emotionally.
You say he is great with her in his good patches, but what is he like with her in his bad patches? What kind of life is that for a child? What example is he setting? OK the initial upheaval might not be easy, but you would be protecting her from harm.
He is a grown man and responsible for himself. He could choose to stop drinking, or seek out help to stop, but he has not. It's up to him.
The school thing is an excuse. She is five, not in her gcse years. Disruption now is not the end of the world. Otoh growing up in an alcoholic household is shit.
what comes through in your OP is how much time you devote to him, his life and his feelings and how little to your life and feelings and those of your child. You are going to have to let him sink or swim while you look after yourself and your daughter. You really are. It is lovely of you to be so caring but it's not the right thing at the moment. The joint tenancy seems to the be the thing weighing on your mind, so could you terminate that and find somewhere else in your own name. If you are the earner this should be easy and you are in a much stronger position than many women who have to split. The notice on the place you are in will give him time to sort something out. If you feel badly about him you could even give him some financial help to get started. I bet you will have more money without him around.
In his bad patches he isn't really anything with her. He just lies around sleeping basically. He isn't abusive but it still isn't the way I want things to be for her.
category12, I am not intending it as an excuse, just don't know how to manage it. Is it even legal to just take a child out of school? My parents are the only people I could stay with and they live too far away to make getting her to school and me to work doable.
pog, that is kind of what I am thinking at the moment. We are locked into the contract for a couple more months but after that I can give notice (if I am entitled to? - would we both have to consent to it?) and could move by the end of July. I could find somewhere else, and I suppose you're right in that he would have a few months' notice to sort something out. This is probably the solution that makes most sense, and it's only three or four more months. I suppose I have been scared to do it but rapidly realising I don't have a lot of choice.
If he doesn't work, how is he buying alcohol?
I assume you give him the money for it?
Stop that right now.
It may seem harsh and a tad financially abusive but you are facilitating this.
Gain control of all money until he is getting help for the addiction.
If he can't buy it then he hopefully can't drink it??
I've no idea about withdrawal or anything so get some advice on that.
You can contact Al-anon if you haven't already and get support for yourself.
But this is no life for you or your DD.
It will damage her long term so you need to give him an ultimatum.
Shape up or ship out.
No I don't give him money. I can only assume that either he has money I don't know about (unlikely) or he shoplifts. I don't know, but alcoholics tend to find a way.
He is in AA and at times it has worked well for him but the problem is he only engages with it when he is feeling ok really, which doesn't help much in the long term. I will contact Al-anon though. He's been to the doctor, got referrals, but it all moves so slowly and none of it seems to stick.
I am not really in any doubt, I know this can't continue and typing this out has reaffirmed that for me, but what I am struggling with is the "how". It sounds sensible saying I should tell him to sort it out or leave, but what if he doesn't want to leave? I don't know how to make him.
I wouldn't tell him to sort it as I bet you've said it before.
I'd actually find him a flat or move out yourself with dd while he sorts him self out. I'd probably go under the guise that you are still together and he has as much time with dd as they like but you don't actually live together.
Why will he ever sort stuff out when he doesn't really need to?
It's ok not to want to live with a drinker/alcoholic. What your feeling is very much acceptable. You don't have to take this shit because you are married.
My friend has a similar issue with her dh buts it's smoking weed. She won't leave and is so fucking unhappy
I think your plan to give notice on your current rental and then find another place for just you and dd sounds sensible.
Check your rental contract about the procedure for giving notice. If you are still unsure, you could contact Citizens Advice or Shelter for help.
Thanks. I have indeed told him to sort it out before, many times. He is always very convincing in saying he wants to, and things are good for a while, then it changes again. I don't think he is doing this maliciously - I know this is an addiction and not something he's doing for fun - but equally I do think that if I wasn't there then he would have to make some major changes.
Do you know how i would go about finding him a flat? Should I go to the CAB? There's no way I could afford to pay the rent on two flats. I do think what you say is the way to go. Like I say I can't legally move out before July but I guess that is not too far away.
Crossed with you aginghippy - yes, I will try the CAB. I have looked at my contract and it doesn't really say anything about whether one person on the tenancy can give notice on their own, but having searched online I think it is possible.
Do you know how i would go about finding him a flat?
You do not need to find him a flat. I know it is your habit to do everything, but as pp have said you are facilitating his behaviour. He is an adult and responsible for himself.
Concentrate on finding a place for yourself and dd. She is a child and needs your care and protection.
He needs to find a flat or a room and apply for benefits and housing benefit. He can apply for ESA if he's not able to work at the monent. You can give notice on your flat and move or ask if you can then be given a tenancy in your own name. You don't need his agreement give notice.
Why are YOU finding him a flat?
Is he a grown adult with some intelligence?
Can he use a computer?
Walk to the local estate agents?
You are enabling him!!
It's not what he needs.
I don't think you should try to find him a flat. Tell him you're leaving him because you can't live with his alcoholism anymore and that you've given notice on the tenancy and leave it to him to sort out what he's doing. He will either need to find a means of paying the rent at your current place on his own or give notice on the tenancy in his own right and find himself somewhere else.
It sounds brutal but the only way he stands a chance of focusing on his recovery is if you pull every bit of support out from under him. He will either sink or swim but that has to be his responsibility because all your support will do is enable him to is continue as he is and that will, ultimately, kill him, not to mention the damage he will do to you and DD along the way.
I say all this as a recovering addict, not alcohol in my case but the concept is the same. You can offer him a listening ear if you feel inclined and a degree of practical help with things he finds particularly difficult but he has to do the vast majority on his own, you really can't give him any financial support or put a roof over his head because that's what enables him to keep living as he is now.
You need to get strong, definitely find an al anon or adfam group, they will help you but you need to detach while he gets clean and learns how to stay clean. You can leave the door open, stay in touch and let him know you would consider getting back to together when he's been sober for a decent period (12 months min imo) if that's what you want but he needs to do this on his own. As you've already found, if you're still around to pick up the pieces he will keep making half hearted attempts and recovery won't stick, you need to get strong enough to pull the rug from under him and stop being his safety net.
You also need to prepare yourself for the fact that he might not make it and absolve yourself of the guilt and responsibility you may well feel if he sinks rather than swims. Your job is to protect DD (and yourself) from his addiction so you cannot afford to let him drag you down with him, DD deserves a better shot at life than watching an alcoholic drink himself to death.
You have a tough time ahead OP, you need to learn to live a life where everything isn't geared around being responsible for him and that will be a big change for you, learning to say no to him will be really hard especially if he doesn't do well in recovery. I think you have to take this opportunity though, with your tenancy ending when it does it gives you both time to get yourselves sorted so you don't have to feel you didn't give him fair warning. Get some support for yourself in place with the services mentioned asap though, the stronger you can be from the outset with this the more chance there is it will have the outcome you want. I wish you (and him) all the very best for the battle ahead, it's really hard but it can be won
I don't think it's my job to find him a flat, but I suppose I'm thinking that if he doesn't take steps to put some of this practical stuff in place then I'll have to?! I suppose you're right though that if I give notice then he will have to find his own solution. I can just imagine that he'll sit doing nothing, and then the landlord will have to evict him and my own references may be compromised...but i guess I shouldn't be worrying about worst case scenarios and just need to bite the bullet.
Hidingtonothing, thank you - what you say makes sense. I won't be giving him any financial support - I can't afford to! I earn a decent salary but I'm pretty stretched as it is. I used to have money in the bank but I don't any more, and that is basically because of him. I need a fresh start.
This may sound simplistic but the question that keeps going round my head is whether it will hurt DD more to be living with an alcoholic parent or to be a child of divorce. I have researched all I can and the after-effects sound very similar, which makes me feel like shit because it feels like I'm going to be failing her either way.
solar I understand why you would help fund him a flat. I'd look for a shared house so he would be renting a room. Much much cheaper. Sometimes ripping the 'plaster' off isn't the best thing (for your kids) so the softly softly approach can work if your determined and sensitive.
Your not failing anything - he is. But it's and it has a knock on effect. You also need to think about what role model your dd will be watching, will she go for a man that has lots of troubles and won't get his shit together OR will she not stand for that and get her and her kids to a stable healthy place. Even though she loves him to bits she will be absorbing everything you both do.
its not easy on kids when parents split up and I think if a lot of focus is spent on making things easier and more positive for them - you and then will be ok.
You know you need to be apart from him you just need to get a plan together
I guess the difference is that growing up around addiction can mean the child emulates what they've seen when they're adult. Divorce may mean she struggles in other ways (although that's by no means certain) but alcoholism could ruin or even prematurely end her life, I know which I would choose for my DD.
Modelling a healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships is what's important and she will have neither growing up with an alcoholic father and a mother who enables that alcoholism. If you leave you would be showing her firstly that she is top priority for at least one of her parents and secondly that it's ok to walk away from someone who is dragging you down, both of which will be a better example than what she will see if you carry on as you are.
You won't be failing her if you leave, it's not your fault that his addiction means your marriage can't continue. You would be failing her if you stay, she deserves more than a childhood which revolves around his alcoholism. Away from him all your emotional energy can go towards giving her the best start in life you possibly can instead of you being constantly exhausted by trying to live alongside his addiction.
You can do this OP and it's the right thing to do for DD and for yourself. Get that support from al anon/adfam though, they will help you navigate all this stuff, the practical and the emotional and help you stick at it when it gets tough. You know this is going to be hard but staying with him (and trying to bring up your DD in this environment) would be harder and much more likely to cause lasting damage to you and DD.
Yes, it's the marital home but would he really kick up shit if you told him to leave? You can contact the letting agent and tell them you want to continue the tenancy alone. They will need him to give his notice in writing but will he not do that? What's the alternative? You serve notice for yourself and leave him to pay all the rent?
You can't take her out of school without his agreement but again would he obstruct that?
Personally I think you should try to stay in the house and he moves out. What alternative is there? Your dd may not realise the reality now but she will as she gets older. Far better to end it now when she's young enough to bounce back.
My ex was an alcoholic. He loved his kids too. This is what his daughter witnessed from the age of 3 to 14 (she is 14 now)
1: her dad pissing himself drunk regularly
2: Her dad embarrassing her by shouting and swearing obscenities in front of her when he is drunk
3: Forced "serious convos" with him (basically him verbally putting her down) when drunk
4: Watched her dad hit me for years and hid under her bed
5: he dropped her in the road giving her a piggy back once walkin g home from the pub because he had spent the taxi money on 2 last pints
6: The worst: He fell asleep drunk and set the lounge on fire with a cigarette when the kids were in bed (luckily I was awake and staying there that night ) or all 3 WOULD have been dead
OP, why are you making it your lifes mission to support this man? Whilst you are supporting him he has not got to make any effort to change. Your making it worse (easier ) for him to be like this by not making him own up and sort it out. LEAVE and don't let your daughter see this kind of bahaviour
Divorce doesn't damage children, the behaviour of their parents does. A friend of mine struggles with alcohol on a daily basis, alcoholism killed her mother and is in the process of doing the same to her brother. Removing your child from this cycle is the right thing to do.
He has to hit rock bottom and sort himself out. Don't go falling for it when he sobers up because you tell him you're going - it will be temporary and he will get his feet under the table in your new place.
You cannot fix him. Only he can do this.
Staying with an alcoholic father is far more damaging. My DH will tell you that. Stepping over his DM in a puddle of her own urine passed out drunk to try and get into help her. Taking his DH to hospital because he'd four his arm through a window drunk through a window and seriously injured himself then gone to bed to drink more.
All his holidays as a child ruined by their drunk behaviour. All his birthdays. No friends would visit.
Join the discussion
Already registered? Log in with:
Please login first.