Alcoholic Husband Claims To Be Getting Better But Is Still Drinking Often
I have been married for 17 years to a very nice man who has been getting sicker and sicker every year of our marriage. It took me a while to recognize he was an alcoholic and while I'm not attending Al-Anon meetings, I am making use of the literature to help myself and our 15 year old daughter and 13 year son cope, stop blaming him and move on.
Now that we can all talk about and not deny the elephant in the room, I do think we are all healthier. Although I personally have much to do to gain control of my own negative behaviors and thoughts.
That said, my husband has attended AA meetings regularly (4 to 7 times a week) for the last two years and has been through two treatment programs in the last 18 months. After the first 30 day program, he was drinking within days of coming home which led to directly to another program six months later when, a week after getting laid off from his job, he had his first accident - DUI and spent his first night ever in a county jail (thankfully no one was hurt).
His entire family and close friends prayed this would be his rock bottom. He came home from the second treatment, spent 10 days in jail, but never really stayed sober from what I can tell. His longest stretch was 4 weeks and more often one a week at a stretch.
He is a good man, a good father, has never physically hurt us, occasionally has been emotionally abusive (and so have I, by the way--not good and something I'm working on). Basically he's a good man with a terrible illness that he needs to arrest or it will further degrade and destroy him.
I have tried to remain optimistic and turned my attention to getting myself in order (truly a job that will never be complete, but a welcomed focus). He is better emotionally, not in denial as much, not blaming others, but has not really been able to stop drinking completely. Luckily, we have both had good jobs that paid well.
Financially while we'd like him to be working, but are okay with just me working for now. He continues to look for a job and believes this will help him stay sober. I have told him while I think a job can help him stay sober, I don't think it is a panacea and will not help get him sober. He doesn't have an AA sponsor right now, because he admitted he drank without seeking his sponsor's help for a second time and they had a amicable parting of the ways.
He's doing better at times, I want and try to applaud his successes/honesty and tell him to get back on the wagon every time he drinks, but I also don't want to enable his drinking. If I see signs he's drinking I let him know I see it. When he tells me he's getting better I let him know he may be doing better emotionally, but he's not getting better if he hasn't stopped drinking.
I'm not ready to kick him out or leave him yet, although if his drinking descends to where he was last year (sloppy drunk in front of the kids, passing out, not able to climb the stairs to bed, driving...) - I do not rule it out for the future.
To my question, how can I be supportive of his continued attempts to stop drinking, without enabling his continued drinking. I work, paying the bills, get the imposition of driving the kids places if he can't (thankfully the law installed a breadthyzer too)... all of which allow him to continue to drink. Short of throwing him out, I don't know how to prevent this kind of enabling.
The lines are kind of grey here and I am constantly struggling with striking the right balance. Any advice/thoughts/comments in this realm would be much appreciated. Thank you.
What you're asking is a bit of a contradiction - you want to support your husband to quit drinking
by not enabling him - but all the support you're currently offering does pretty much that. Because you're holding the family together while he's 'allowed' to keep drinking and relapsing without ever really being held accountable.
So long as there are no real consequences to your husband's drinking and you don't hold him fully accountable, will he really be motivated enough to do something about his alcoholism? Yes he may be going to regular AA meetings, but it doesn't sound like he's ever really tried all that hard to embrace a life of sobriety and do what it takes to turn his life around.
And part of that could be because he knows he always has you to fall back on and carry him. It may not even be a conscious thing on his part, but he's clearly not having to take full responsibility for his life, because you're always there to pick up the pieces.
Think of it this way - what would your expectations be of someone in a healthy 50/50 relationship where tasks and obligations are shared? By carrying your husband's load because as you put it he has a 'terrible illness' - you simply enable his alcoholism.
Terrible illness or not, you need to start making it clear that your husband has to start pulling his weight and that his drinking is no longer going to be an excuse for him not doing so.
So really being supportive of your husband may mean that you may have to start being firmer with him and making it clear that you carrying the load financially, him not being able to drive the kids around because he's usually in no state to do so, and whatever other responsibilities he should be meeting that he's not, is simply no longer okay with you.
Him being better emotionally counts for nothing until he stops drinking and starts to live a life of sobriety, so you need to maybe also alter your expectations from signs of progress/getting better, to holding him accountable for actually doing that (getting sober). He may be saying more of the right things, but until that is followed up with action, i.e. no longer drinking, in reality very little will change.