My husband is an alcoholic
Hi everyone, this is my first post.
I'm feeling really lost at the moment. I’ve been with my husband since we were 18, I’m now 43. We have 3 kids.
he has been a functioning alcoholic for many of those years. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t drink.
we’ve argued about it for years, nothing changes.
last October, on one particular night after months of him becoming more angry & verbally abusive in front of the kids, I told him to leave
after a few days we talked & decided we needed to give it everything we’ve got before we end things. So he came back home agreed to go to couplescounselling.
I didn’t ask him to quit drinking outright, I think part of me was scared of the answer & the other part wanted to believe him when he said he could cut right back. The counsellor suggested setting up a agreement as to how much he drank.
the agreement was no beer before 3.30pm & max 6 per day.
I let him choose the amount. I thought it was still a lot he assured me it was much less than before.
I think he was having between 12-18 per day & more on weekends cause he’d start at like 11am.
He was good for about a week then went over maybe 2 or 3. I felt so let down when he was having more. He thought I was being ‘over the top & controlling’.
Over time it gradually got back to where it was. Then we’d fight, then he’d cut back again then the same cycle over & over….
The week days aren’t too bad, mainly because he is working more so getting home later but weekends are a right off. He’s drunk Fri night then starts early Saturday & Sunday. He makes sure he does some mowing or something to justify cracking a beer so early.
When I ask him to cut back he thinks I’m trying to control him. He thinks if he’s not yelling & carrying on there’s no problem with him being drunk.
He admits he is an alcoholic but doesn’t think he needs to do anything about it.
I think I’ve been living on hope for so long because when he’s sober he’s great & I do love that version of him but this other guy that comes out when he drinks is a complete a**hole.
I worry about the effect on my kids.
I feel like I’ve been riding this roller coaster for the past few years & I’m over it. I want peace.
i think deep down I know he won’t stop. No matter how much I ask, he won’t.
so I guess the question is do I walk away or stay…..
thanks for listening. I would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been in a similar situation
From one mum to another, from one wife of a functional alcoholic to another, I feel so deeply for you. I can so easily hear your frustration and disappointment and can relate.
Having been with my husband for more than 20 years, I've had a long time to gradually make sense of things. I came to realise a functional alcoholic is basically functional. As long as you appoint them basic roles, all's good: Generate income, don't assault your wife and kids and complete basic tasks around the house. I recall the wisdom of my 18yo daughter, 'Mum, you set a seriously low bar when it comes to Dad'. She 'woke me up'. A functional alcohol is dysfunctional when it comes to beyond basic. When you expect them to be on call as a co-parent, as a driver after certain hours, as someone to speak to who'll remember things the next day, as someone who you challenge to go above and beyond, expect problems.
A functional alcoholic will often see themself as highly functional: They function well to generate income, to get stuff done around the house, to relax through drinking, to de-stress through drinking, to gain a sense of peace or excitement through drinking and so on. They're highly functional when it comes to achieving the feelings they're looking for. In their mind, they're an achiever. Problem is they can typically only achieve certain feelings through a mind altering substance which comes with side effects. Some of those side effects involve the disintegration of relationships around them. Typically, the disintegration will be labelled as 'Your fault' (you're unreasonable and expect too much). In fact, you're working overtime when it comes to not triggering them on top of managing alone as they vibe quite happily in their own zone. Does this sound familiar?
If it helps, I began disappointing my husband from unrealistic roles I'd appointed him. This helped change my reality. I no longer felt like a lonely parent as I now feel myself to be twice the parent/guide. I'm proud of this. I amaze myself. As I disappointed my husband from being 'He who's happy to have philosophical conversations he'll remember the next day', I came to find this is a role my daughter and 16yo son fill easily. It's strengthened our bonds in wonderful ways. As I come to know myself better, I currently feel no need to leave. We'll know when we feel such a need.
While we may easily feel the need for change, our husbands may not feel that deep need. Alcohol can be numbing in so many ways.
Hi Strawbs101 and welcome to the forum!
I really feel for you on that one - my wife has the same situation with her older brother so I have a little bit of appreciation as to how draining it can be. I also know two women in my cycling group who had alcoholic partners, in both cased they are now ex's.
The Rising's post makes some very thoughtful points. I'll try and come at this from a different viewpoint.
Firstly, congratulations on the work you have done on the relationship. You obviously have great strength and mental reserves.
The big question I would ask is 'Is this the marriage you envisaged? Do you look forward to you husband coming home? Do you guys still have any fun together?'
I have been married 17 years and both my wife and I were each married to someone else for 17 years before that. We often talk about how many years it took of being unhappy in the past relationship before we finally decided to move on. Yes we were both unhappy and a bit lonely for quite some time after separating, but a great feeling of relief soon appeared. We actually met about eight years after our first marriage. I had two daughters who decided to live with me at the time.
Separating is a very big step and it takes a lot of courage to start proceedings.
The two women I mentioned above are a bit similar. One's husband was abusive, the other an alcoholic. Both husbands provided for the family OK and there were kids involved. Women can be very, very loyal to faulty partners and this was the case with them until they pulled the pin. One met another partner two years later and is very happy, the other is still single but also happy, but a little bit lonely.
Both would never go back to their past relationship.
It's very hard and emotionally demanding I know, but I do wonder if you should consider setting yourself free and finding your inner girl again.
To me, that's a better option that enduring what you are going through and the awful impact it is having on your well being. Arguments, arguments, arguments......
If you look at this route, try and keep the proceedings as civil as you can. With my ex wife, I made a point of keeping very calm so her tantrums had nowhere to go and were very short. I told her I respected her but the spark was no longer there.
Give yourself that peace you deserve and desire.
Happy to chat further if you want.
Bye for now, The Bro
I’m sorry you and your children are going through this. My husband is a functioning alcoholic. People don’t understand how lonely it can be living with an alcoholic, always coming second to the bottle and the abuse that comes with it. After 10 years of alcoholic abuse from my husband I decided that was enough. I told him I was leaving and he gave up just like that. I was so angry it took so long for him to do something, but unfortunately it’s all about them. We have been married 18 years now and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t hate myself for staying. What I put myself and my kids through, was it the right thing to do. If I had my time again I would have gone and sorted things out while seperated or something. I don’t know why the councillor thought he could cut down on drinking and I totally
understand that you thought it was possible but unfortunately it’s not. It’s either he drinks or he doesn’t there is no in between. It is your decision if you stay or go but you do need legal advice. Get as much advice as you can, from many sources and your mind will become clearer to make better decisions. My thoughts are with you absolutely.
people always congratulate an alcoholic when they stop drinking, but no one congratulates us for sticking in there and putting up with it all. I for one will congratulate you for being there for your family and holding this together. You are the glue, only if they would recognise that.
Hello Straws, and a warm welcome to the site.
It's hard to love an alcoholic, especially when he's not drinking, everything might seem to be OK, but as soon as he cracks open a bottle, he changes, so it's not easy to love him 50% of the time, your trust falls away and never know what he's going to do to you or the kids, as they would also be fearful once he starts drinking and try to hide from him because his justification and common sense falls away to nothing.
I drank while I was depressed and lost my marriage, now I don't drink and still am in contact with my ex where we talk and laugh about different sorts of issues, and I'm not going back to drinking because my physical body could not cope with that, and besides I just don't want to, that's finished.
If you stay you will only be drawn along the same old routine and it may become worse, it's time to make a decision, and can I suggest you at a thread by Goodness who has replied to you and it's called 'Where do I go from here' as there are different suggestions I've offered to help her.
your blog is so familiar, I was married for 38 years to an alcoholic husband. It wasn’t all bad, many ups and many more downs. Things got much worse when he retired, all the decisions, home duties and responsibilities were on me. I found many excuses over the years, why I couldn’t or shouldn’t leave my marriage. As I got older I made up my mind, this was how I was going to live the rest of my life. I wasn’t interested in meeting someone new, and didn’t believe I would be any happier on my own. We lived in a big house and he mostly kept to himself in his man shed. Then a man I was engaged to when I was just 17 found me on social media. We started chatting about our lives and discovered we had so much in common, as he was also once married to an alcoholic. Spending time with my ex-fiancé made me realise, how much I was missing out on in my life.
I turned sixty and started thinking about my own mortality. After having an affair for almost twelve months, I left my husband to start a new life. My advice would be to do everything you can to have your husband get help.
However don’t waste your life trying if he won’t. I’m not proud of having an affair, however only I know what I was living with everyday. Separating is also difficult and ones you live either support you or they don’t. It’s not easy!
It’s also not easy living with a verbally abusive, negative drunk, relying on you 24/7. Happiness is important in life!!!
Hello Strawbs, I am so sorry because I usd alcohol as a way of self medicating and know the damage I did to my family, that was a long time ago and now I have great relations with them, especially as I haven't drunk for almost 3 years.
I know the drama all of this entails and realise that he can only stop when he decides he wants to, people can tell him to and yes he may cut back to ease any tension, but that will only last a day or so before he returns back to how it was beforehand.
One problem is that he may become a cupboard drinker, hiding the alcohol somewhere you wouldn't expect to look, in his shed, buried in the ground or in other strange places you wouldn't expect, so visually he may show that he's drinking later on in the afternoon to try and make amends, while drinking much earlier from an unknown place.
People drink alcohol for many reasons and if however, he does want to stop, then his doctor can prescribe medication to stop any urge but this will only work if he actually wants to, otherwise it won't be of any use.
Just because he works late, doesn't mean he doesn't stop of at the pub and drink before coming home, I'm not saying this does happen but it's a possibility.
If he prefers the alcohol over his family and he doesn't want to stop, then the decision is yours, either ask him to leave or take the kids with you, and if he wants to prove himself then he needs help to stop, because an alcoholic can't have one drink because they will want more, and cutting down will never work becuse they return to how they were before.
Please get back to us because you may have many questions to ask.
I’m so sorry, I can hear the sadness and defeat in your voice, it must be so hard, seeing glimpses of the person you love and then having your hopes dashed when he picks up the alcohol again. I was in an abusive relationship for many years and so I know a thing about constant promises to be better. He was also an undiagnosed alcoholic so I heard the promises to cut back constantly. It’s funny but despite the serious consequences (mostly for me) when he drank he stopped short of saying he’d stop altogether, I think he knew he couldn’t and deep down I think he didn’t want to. In all the literature I read on alcoholism, “cutting down” doesn’t work. My ex tried quite a few times, mostly after big incidents, and it always returned back, and actually got worse over time which is the usual trajectory. After a long time I stopped living in hope, I was so sick of having my hopes dashed over and over, so I asked myself “can I live in this relationship with my partner as he is now” (I had been with him 17 years so reflected on how he had been for the majority of that time) and the answer was ok so I left. I once considered is soul mates so it was very hard and I had to grieve someone I still loved. But I also felt like a 1000 tonne weighr had been lifted off my shoulders, he was such a difficult person and I actually found everything easier when we separated as he really didn’t help me very much. The reality is that you can’t stop a person from drinking, only they can do that for themselves. Be aware that, if you do make the decision to separate, there will more than likely be all sorts of assurances that he has quit drinking and is now sober, but don’t fall for it. I heard all that too and even contemplated going back but like everything, it was another lie and didn’t last.