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My Wife is an Alcoholic and I Can't Handle it Anymore.....

by Mick
(Sydney NSW Australia)

This is my very first time that I have ever responded to any advice on the net and your website has so many parallels to what I am experiencing that I had to ask advice.

I have been married for 27 yrs and been together for 30 yrs. She has always drank heavily and so did I in those early years... it was what we did to enjoy ourselves while going out seeing bands and barbecues with friends, all of our friends did it I guess. We have two grown sons 24yrs and 20 yrs old whom I am very proud of.

I did what most people say and do and stayed around until they become men and had a sort of normal family life. I have wanted to leave my wife for nearly 10 yrs now but always felt some sort of guilt if I did.

The career that I chose has almost kept me away from home for long periods at times and I used to blame myself for her heavy drinking. During our marriage she may have worked only a total of 5 yrs.

I gave up what I liked doing at my wife's request when my eldest son reached teens to help guide him and his brother through some difficult years. I have since returned to working away 5 yrs ago but it is equal time of 4 weeks on / and 4 weeks off work. But the drinking has become worse than ever now.

She will drink one bottle 700ml of rum a day, every day, along with her prescription drugs for anxiety attacks. I have watched and counted the bottles go into the trash bin. She will start every day just after lunch and not stop until she is tired or can't drink anymore. I have suggested she slow down her drinking and we have been to marriage counselling before with other issues.

We hardly ever argue as I prefer to turn a blind eye to it and then after 4 weeks I am back at work and don't have to deal with it. I have some sort of love for her if you call it that .... maybe more pity for her and I have always been afraid if I just left it would send her over the edge as I don't know if she could support herself.

I watched her drink and smoke heavily during her pregnancies which did stress me. I gave up all forms of drinking to support her then but she just kept powering on. Needless to say both of our son's were born premature and doctor's asked me privately if I may know any reason and I said I did not know.

I have been a good provider and she is never short of money. We have a beautiful home from the outside but looks like a bomb blast on the inside ... it breaks my heart when I come home to find a messy home and see the same pile of dirt swept up in our en-suite after 4 months or the same pile of clothes lying around.

I do my share of cleaning when I am home and in fact most of it when home. We rarely have had sex the past year and that is my fault because the thought of it when she is drunk has begun to disgust me. She doesn't ask why and I don't give a reason. I am embarrassed to have friends over for BBQ because of mess and also she will be blind drunk either before they arrive or shortly after. So I don't invite anybody home.

Last time home I seen something that really made me think ... one of my son's friends came to visit him and as usual he said hi to my wife who happened to be very drunk ... they didn't see but they had a little joke between themselves when she couldn't answer coherently ... my son's know she is a rolling drunk and laugh behind her back.

I am now at a stage where I have have had a gut-full and when I get home in 3 weeks time I am telling her that I want to leave her. I don't think she will give her beloved bottle up as she couldn't make the effort when she was pregnant. If she gives up I will try to support her and may accept her back.

My problem is I still feel this guilt that she will not be able to cope, but I want so much to have a happier life and not watch someone get drunk every day of the year. Is this the best way to get out of this marriage????


Hi Mick

What you're feeling - the guilt, the shame, the wondering what will happen if you leave - are normal for spouses of alcoholics. Having for so long been a part of an alcoholic relationship, your frustration is understandable.

You need to realise that your wife is ill, very ill. And alcoholism isn't something that can typically be overcome with a bit of will-power. She needs professional help and should ideally go through some form of alcoholism treatment program, coupled with a proper recovery program like AA, so that she can turn her life around.

The approach you've used up until now, i.e. turning a blind eye, is fairly common, but helps no one, least of all your wife. So whether or not you do go ahead and decide to leave her, you and your son's need to try and do everything you can to get her the help she needs.

Simply suggesting it may not work because most alcoholics live in denial and so tend to refuse the suggestions of receiving help. You as a family may therefore need to perform (ideally with the help of a professional) - an alcoholism intervention - because as a last resort if done properly can get a person into treatment.

By no longer turning a blind eye and confronting your wife's alcoholism head on, at least then you can say you've tried to do what you can. There are no guarantees it will work because ultimately she has to want to change, but if you've made an effort to get her help, at least you'll feel you've done something.

If you then feel the decision to leave your wife is what you want to do, then you have to be true to yourself about that. There's nothing wrong with aspiring to seek a happier and more fulfulling life.

It helps remembering these three key principles in relation to someone you love suffering from alcoholism or an addiction. 1) You didn't Cause it. 2) You can't Control it. 3) You can't Cure it.
Ultimately her life and well-being is her own responsibility and she will have to live with the consequences of her drinking.

But I do think if you've only turned a 'blind eye' up until now, make an effort to get her into professional treatment ... performing an intervention if necessary to facilitate that. Your wife needs someone to take a stand against her alcoholism because it might lead to her eventually turning her life around.

Silence and avoiding the issue just further enables your wife's drinking - so make a decision as a family to take a stand so that hopefully she'll end up getting the help she needs. Good Luck and take care.

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