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Supporting an Alcoholic Husband

by mat
(westerly, ri)

My husband and I have been married for 6 yrs, 2nd marriage for both of us, each with children from previous marriage. I did not realize until we were married 6 months or so that he was an alcoholic and used it a coping method.

At first it was a glass of wine everyday with dinner and then noticed that he kept that glass full all evening long and got kind of "goofy". I noticed his lovemaking was sloppy and he could not sustain an erection due to the alcohol.

He has never been violent, just unmotivated, forgets to pick things up like: groceries, birthday cakes etc. I noticed on the weekends when I was at work and he was at home all day that he had been drinking all day and was drunk when I got home.

When the kids, teenagers, started asking me to tell him to cut down, I confronted him and he got very defensive but admitted he had started drinking before noon on the weekends and he broke down in a tearful drunken state swearing he would stop, and he did! for months at a time but eventually the cycle would start all over again.

This has been going on for the last 6 years, but now he does not drink in front of us, he sneaks it. I have found it hidden in his car trunk, behind a stack of towels in the bathroom, or he will go out to the market/errand and come back 2-3 hrs later with 2 items and alcohol on his breath. He tries to hide it with gum but he is one of those people that oozes the smell of alcohol from his skin.

I have decided to get counseling for myself and he said he would also get counseling but I cannot trust that he will follow through. I am a nurse so I am trained to be sympathetic and understand that this "disease" has a lot of setbacks. But for how long am I supposed to be supportive?

All the articles say I should leave, that he has to do this on his own, but he is my husband and shouldn't I be standing by him? I admit I am tired of all this and have some pent up anger towards my husband. Sorry this is so lengthy, I guess I have a lot of pent up emotions. Answer

Don't confuse being supportive with further enabling his alcoholism. Because that is in effect what you're doing by not holding your husband accountable for his drinking and irresponsible behavior.

It's not a criticism because that's the instinctive reaction many of us have in relation to an alcoholic loved one - and is something alcoholics are good at playing on, and are able to manipulate to their advantage.

But alcoholism isn't like other diseases. There is choice involved. An alcoholic chooses to pick up and drink. Someone with cancer doesn't have that choice involved. So the best thing you can do for an alcoholic is to say, 'while I know you don't have the power to control your drinking because you are an alcoholic - you do have the power to admit to your problem, seek professional help, and do everything you possibly can to get sober and turn your life around.'

Because until you hold an alcoholic accountable and make them front up in full to the consequences of their choices - they'll continue to live in denial, make empty promises, or make half-hearted attempts to quit. So you need to be having a conversation something along these lines with your husband - 'get professional help, i.e. some form of alcoholism treatment program, preferably rehab ... and do what you have to do to stay sober after that using addiction recovery programs etc. ... otherwise these will be the consequences ...'

Because if you don't draw a line in the sand and say 'enough is enough', your husband's cycle of self-destruction is simply likely to continue unabated. So by establishing boundaries and making it clear to your husband his drinking and irresponsible behavior is no longer okay with you, you're actually giving him the best chance of confronting his alcoholism.

There are still no guarantees because whatever you do your husband may simply not be ready to quit drinking and turn his life around. At which point you have some tough decisions to make. But if he realises he stands to lose quite a lot if he doesn't address his alcoholism now, it may motivate him to get the help he so badly needs.

Best of Luck

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