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Why Is It So Hard For Me to Leave My Alcoholic Husband?

by Anna

We have been married for almost twelve years. WE have two young boys - 5yrs and 6yrs old. My husband has been an alcoholic the whole time.

He is a chronic binge drinker. The cycle goes like this: he drinks after work until late into the night. Comes to bed drunk for weeks at a time until he does something really embarrassing or aggressive and he realises he needs to get his drinking in check. Like most of the stories I have read, he is profusely apologetic the 'day after' and also incredibly loving.

I am a committed Christian and for all those years I have relied on my faith as a way of getting through/over my husband's frequent drunken episodes. It is also the reason I haven't rushed out the door. I have believed many things including that God wants me here for him; that he is my 'mission' or my cross to bear; that God will change him and I will see it; that he is a good Dad during the day.

I know that allows divorce in certain circumstances like this. I also know that God understands and would love me regardless of what I do. So why don't I leave?

I have committed and supportive family and friends who know exactly what I go through with my husband. They do not judge and don't encourage me to leave or to stay. My father was a chronic alcoholic who did stop drinking and he encourages me to stay. My mother who suffered for many years with my father suggests I should leave. Interestingly they are still together.

I just struggle in my head and heart and don't know what to do. I would love some sage neutral advice.


Hi Anna

I think one of the big reasons someone in your positions finds it hard to leave is because you fear change ... the unknown. Subconsciously you know what you have in your husband - whereas what is 'out there' is all unknown and can be scary to contemplate.

I think another major reason is that often the spouse or partner of an alcoholic is also living in denial - and finds all sorts of justifiable reasons to stay (despite almost all evidence to the contrary) as you have in your list above. You hope deep down that eventually he'll change ... but 12 years later nothing in reality has.

Look, no one can tell you what to do. You have to make that decision for yourself. But if it was me I'd draw a line in the sand and give your husband an ultimatum: 'turn your life around or I leave.'
Sometimes that will scare an alcoholic like your husband to change - but often it doesn't and he will choose the alcohol.

You have to understand that we can't control someone else's choices. Until your husband takes responsibility for his alcoholism and does what is necessary (gets help etc.) to overcome it - there is little you can do.

I believe that God has given us free-will so that we can create our own lives - and that ultimately he wants us all to learn how to find happiness, peace of mind etc. And if a current relationship gets in the way of that - and we've done everything we can to help - then I don't think there is anything wrong with moving on.

But that is simply my view. You have to make the decision yourself. What is going to be best for you and your children in the long run? Why not also go along to something like Al Anon and meet spouses who are in your position to learn from them about how they've handled it?

There is also a book called Help: I Live with an Alcoholic you may want to get your hands on and that can also provide additional insights on ways to handle things you haven't yet thought of.

Hopefully some ideas here help and good luck with whatever your decision. God Bless.

Comments for Why Is It So Hard For Me to Leave My Alcoholic Husband?

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Nov 11, 2012
by: Anonymous

As I read each of your stories they duplicate my feelings exactly. I have been married over 30 years and I am to the point I will have to make a decision. I too resent him deeply and do not care to be around him, even when he does not drink. He is negative all the time except when he is drinking. He does not understand why drinking and getting drunk 2 to 3 days a week is a problem. I feel like a babysitter. This is not what I thought my life would be at this time of my life. I wish all of you much luck. At least I do not have children at home to think about now. God bless.

May 07, 2012
Your choice is not an easy one to make
by: Anonymous

Although it is your choice to leave and no longer deal with the affects of his choices...that decision is so hard. I left with my kids about a month ago and told him to get help. He still has not, he has talked to a friends dad about his issues once. When we stop by he is still drinking and smoking pot. Having removed my kids from their father is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Choosing to no longer be a family is so tough. I stop and try to make myself remember that he is the one who ultimately did not chose family. I just wish I could have been his addiction instead.

Apr 20, 2011
The Stories sound the same!
by: Anonymous

DITTO! My husband is a verbally abusive alcoholic. We have been married for 21 years. 2 years ago I served him separation papers and I am still here. After my mother died 6 years ago he told me I needed to get over it she's 6 foot under. The last straw. It is always saying I am fat and my face looks like someone took an ice pick to it. I am a professional making good money and he sleeps until 11:30am and is usually in bed when I get home from work. I am doing it all we have three boys and I have always had to take them to the grocery store because he said he wasn't watching them. And they are his children. He takes $200.00 every other day out of the bank account and I didn't even realize it until I got a part time job and someone asked me why. I have been very stupid and have now been in therapy for 6 years for depression and anxiety. Everyone tells me I need to get out because I am on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I have been to the court house they won't help because I make too much money. I went to his parole officer there is nothing he can do unless he is drinking Mon - Fri between 8 - 4:30. I went to the police there is nothing they can do unless they see him drinking and driving. This is my home it is my life it is my only place for peace. Plus I have over $100,000 in equity from my first house. He said he is taking me to the cleaners because he is entitled to half of everything. There is nothing I can do to get him out of the house. His attorney (yes his Mother got him a high dollar attorney) told him he doesn't have to move out, he doesn't have to sign anything and he doesn't have to pay me a dime to live here. Interesting! So now we are in grid lock and he is holding me hostage. He left the marriage over 6 years ago with all the drinking and I believe he is probably in the third stage. He lost a brother to alcohol at 41 yrs old. He is proud to say they use to drink together under the steps and all during high school. Slowly I am getting strong enough to leave but I hate change but I hate living with him. I also resent everything about him.

Apr 06, 2011
Your story sounds like my life....
by: Anonymous

When I read your story, it sounds like my life exactly. I have been living with an alcoholic spouse for over 8 years now. We have two beautiful little boys together and he is a great dad to them, during the day. At night, he drinks 9 to 10 beers, every night. On weekends, he adds vodka to his beers. Over the years, I have justified staying with him, covered up for him, lied to friends about how things were going in our relationship. Now I am to the point, where I feel sick. I feel I have the problem and I'm angry all the time. Angry at him mostly, and I treat him badly now. He refuses to get help, get into meetings or even listen to my concerns. His health is fading and I know I have enabled him to be the way he is. I pick up all his alcohol bottles, I am the one who cares for the children, I let him sleep in every weekend to "re-cover" from his hangovers, I do all the work around the house, cooking, cleaning, bathing the kids, dinner, shopping, all of it. It has come to the point where I just don't think I can stay anymore. Even if he does get help. My resentment towards him is so deep and so strong I don't feel it's even love. Not to misunderstand, I love him, I don't want anything bad to happen to him, but I'm no longer nice to him, our relationship has many deep rooted issues that I feel are unhealthly and setting a bad example for our young children. He tells me that his drinking isn't even an issue, that I make it out to be worse than it is. He doesn't go out, drive drunk, he's not abusive to me or the children, nothing like that. But it's not the quality of life I want. It's not the type of relationship that I imagined having. Itimacy is lacking, meaning, there isn't any intimacy unless he's plasterd, his constant need for "support" from me, his depression, anxiety, and he's very very annoying when he drinks, it's always about him! I have not been brave enough to embrace the ultimatum. I know that I am afraid of leaving and taking care of the kids, truly by myself and taking the kids out of the home with their daddy, which to them is their superhero. I feel selfish for wanting a spouse who appreciates me, who takes me out on dates and has a healthly social life. Wishing I could have been strong enough to stop him earlier in life when this all began. Living with an alcoholic spouse is an emotional rollercoaster and has been extremely difficult to deal with. I just wanted to say, I appreciated reading your stories and knowing that I am not alone, not the only one who feels the way I do inside about my significant other, because quite often, I feel like I'm going crazy. Best of luck, stay strong and stay true to yourself.

Mar 21, 2011
How I handled it..
by: Anonymous

Like you, I was living with an alcoholic for many years. My son was 6 when I decided I could no longer live like that but I did want to live with him -- sober. I also knew that he did not want to lose his son; that the sun rose and set on his boy. One evening when he came home, I was standing there waiting for him. I looked him square in the eye and told him "I don't care if you drink. You can drink all day. You can drink all night. That's your choice. But if you choose alcohol, you can no longer live here with me and your son. That's my choice. So please leave right now and go somewhere to make a decision. Give me a call later with your decision. "

He was stunned but he did left -- flinging vulgarities as he did so. He got drunk that evening, very drunk. I got a call to come pick him up from jail the next day. I told him "It's your choice that you are in jail. That's what you chose. I'm going shopping. That's my choice. "

That was the day he got into counseling and from that day to now, some 13 years later, he has never tasted a drop of alcohol. Sometimes, you have to be firm and clear about your needs. I was willing to leave him although I did not want that. If I had not been willing, I think he would have felt it -- intuitively -- and what I did would never have created change. I also had an ace -- our son -- to lose him was more painful to him than losing the alcohol. If I didn't have that 'ace' I'm not sure that my stand would have worked.

Good luck!

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