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Pregnant - partner suffers depression, anxiety and alcoholism
Firstly I am so grateful to have this community even though it's been a while since I engaged. So thank you in advance for any support offered.
I am 20 weeks pregnant, planned pregnancy that we were/are both very excited about. My partner is an alcoholic and has suffered from severe depression and anxiety for years. He has got help on and off but discontinued counselling a couple of months ago and stopped taking anti-depressants prior to that. I love him incredibly deeply and see the beautiful person he is every day, but the substance use definitely masks that and he becomes very hostile and also just doesn't like being around me when he drinks because he knows he's "letting me down" even if I don't say anything. So I am feeling incredibly isolated as he has been drinking every night lately.
He also works in a very stressful environment supporting homeless youth in crisis. He's fantastic at his work but it leaves him very burnt out at the end of the day so emotional support is not really something I can lean on him for. He's aware of all of this too, like he says he feels trapped in alcoholism, that he feels he isn't supporting me enough, but hearing that when nothing changes doesn't really make it any easier.
He is really struggling with a lot of stress, worrying about the state of the world with COVID, with home invasions happening in our neighbourhood and not feeling safe, feeling he has to work to get promoted at work so he can financially support me and the baby. And then I am on the other side of things just worrying about how to get through labour and childbirth, where to buy a car seat etc. and all these decisions I want him to be part of. But when I try to talk about anything to do with the pregnancy he acknowledges it but doesn't really contribute or build on it.
Then to compound things there's the fact that I worry a lot about his drinking. I worry about the fact that I am most likely only able to have one support person with me during labour due to COVID and my family may not even be able to get to the same city as they live interstate so might be just him to support me through childbirth and the early weeks of raising a newborn. I keep thinking "what if he's drinking when I go into labour? How will I get through labour calmly like i want to?" I had a pretty bad panic attack tonight, I had to get him to help me calm down because I really couldn't breathe and I've never been like that before. Just feel very alone and no direction..
Thank you so much for your post and I am so, so sorry to hear about what you are going through. The whole focus of pregnancy and expecting a child should be centred around the child soon to be born and not such a stressful situation as yours. It is the person whom you love so deeply so this affects you on so many levels.
My father was an alcoholic so I have a bit of understanding in this matter. Loving the person, in my case hating him at times for destroying the family life we had, nevertheless, countlessly attempting to encourage him to undergo the treatment, thousands of disappointments when he didn’t bother, or done it but started drinking again etc.
My advice for you would be to pick the time when he is most himself, tell him your feelings, what you are afraid of and going through, your hopes and willingness to support him so he can support you and the baby.
Encourage him to re-start the treatment, seeing a counsellor, as obviously he is not coping by himself. You can encourage him to do it asap, as you are going to need him sober and switched on once the baby is due and arrives. I understand his work commitments but he has to work out some balance and shift the priorities to helping his family and not only others in need. You and the baby are now in a great need of his help and others can still get some but in a moderated form.
You can try to talk to him, encourage him, possibly even put a bit of pressure, however, unfortunately the act of quitting must be done by him and him alone. If he is not ready, for whatever reasons, he will not do it.
I would encourage you also to see a counsellor as you would definitely benefit from the professional help. Living with an alcoholic is emotionally exhausting on so many levels. For me, it was mainly the constant struggle after shattered hopes and trying to understand how it was possible for him to always choose alcohol over what we had as a family.
I truly hope your situation is going to be different. I wish you this from the bottom of my heart.
Please let us know how you go.
Hello Capybara, and a warm welcome to the forums and thank you for your honest comment which is of great concern for yourself, but being pregnant should be an exciting time for upcoming parents.
Some people try and hide behind alcohol or that's what they believe, but it doesn't work like this and most times it only exemplifies a greater problem, not only for the person drinking but also for their spouse/partner and a lack of understanding begins as well as communication breaks down.
Your partner works in helping homeless children where for these kids, alcohol may also have been a problem and/or other substance use, so coping your partner feels as though he needs to consume it, but doing this is certainly not helping you, a pregnant lady wanting to share the excitement of a baby being born.
As Learn to Fly has said, it's up to him to make the decision to stop, he needs to want this to happen, but you're his partner and not a homeless child and that's an enormous difference.
He can't tell these kids not to drink, when in fact he drinks himself, there isn't any honesty in what he says, you can't look a gift horse in the mouth, because he can't tell them something he does himself.
Can he have one or two drinks or does he have to drink until being intoxicated, and realising why he needs to slow down or stop means that as a father he has a responsibility to hop up early in the morning to change the nappy or console the baby as a mother with a new baby has to work 24/7/365 and not 9 to 5.
An intoxicated person is incapable of holding a baby, without an accident happening and he is the father and want to share the joy of preparing for when the baby arrives.
First of all, a huge congratulations as you look forward to being a mum. As a mum myself, I can tell you that your kids grow you into becoming the best version of yourself. I'd have no idea of who I naturally am if it wasn't for my 18yo daughter and 16yo son. Our kids are incredible teachers in so many ways.
It sounds like your partner is a deeply empathic person, he feels so deeply for others. While this can be a powerful ability to have, it can definitely take its toll, creating so many challenges if the person who holds this ability is not careful. If he is someone who feels the pain and the struggle of others, it makes sense he'd turn to alcohol to 'drown out' the pain and struggle he feels. There's nothing quite like alcohol to numb things. It's incredibly effective yet, of course, highly toxic in so many ways.
I know this is such a seriously outside the square topic but I feel it's worth a mention. I believe it can't hurt to do a bit of research on 'Being an empath', so you know where you're partner's possibly coming from. Such people are really feeling COVID and lock downs on so many levels. I've actually had such highly sensitive people say 'I can't watch the news anymore, so much depressing sufferance. I can no longer tolerate so many suffering so intensely'. Such people can feel other's pain so clearly that it leads them to be overwhelmed with anxiety, depression and hopelessness. Taking on the feelings of others can lead such people to feel incredible dis-ease to the point where it literally becomes sickening. In this case, constructively managing emotional detachment is a must.
If your partner takes on the pain and sufferance of a hundred kids, for example, he will feel the pain and sufferance of a hundred kids. That's a heck of a lot of pain and sufferance for one person to be carrying around. I imagine there are times where he seriously hates the world for what it does to the innocent.
If he does happen to be an empath, he's definitely in a job where he's exercising this ability a heck of a lot, more than most. Of course, the more exercise when it comes to an ability the stronger the ability becomes. If he's become super sensitive to feeling so much, I imagine he's managing to 'turn down the volume' or intensity through alcohol.
As I say, if you consider a little Google research on 'Empaths', you might find other ways where he can manage his feelings. Of course, this is only covering one aspect of the drinking but it's a start.
Thank you all for your replies, they were very helpful to read. I was in counselling myself last year but found my therapist was not really well suited. They were judgemental, often focused on things I didn't want to focus on (like talking about my job rather than personal issues because they had an interest in my work) and often told me what to do in different situations which I later read is a big no-no for therapists! And often the things they told me I should do felt really wrong for me so led to a lot more anxiety and emotional discomfort. Anyway, it's hard to find the energy to go through the journey of trying to find someone again and then the financial burden of that. But I can access 4 free counselling sessions through my work so might do that as a start just to get through the year.
I had a talk with my partner today when he was ready and told him about my fear around him being intoxicated when I go into labour and how I know it's a lot but he really is my only support person here due to border closures so I really need him. He understands and said he is really aware of that and he sees how much he isn't there for me, but also that I need to ask him for support when I need it rather than bottling it all up until it's all too much.I guess what's difficult in that is that when he's drinking he's difficult to talk to and erratic so I don't always trust I can talk to him.
He also said part of him is sort of drinking because of a mentality of "this is it, once the baby's here I can't let loose like this anymore" which he said isn't healthy and he knows that, but at the same time that he does take it seriously that the drinking has to stop once we have a baby. He said he understands there's no way I could trust that happening, too. So yeah I mean it's an imperfect situation but at least he gets it and it's not like he thinks the behaviour is okay or doesn't want to stop. But it is just so hard when I just want to say "This is destroying us. Stop drinking." and magically have that happen. I know it doesn't work that way, but it's very hard when it has such a big impact and you have zero control.
I'm so glad you felt that need to stop your therapy sessions. A lot of people can feel that need deeply but doubt what they feel, continuing to question themself ('What's wrong with me?') as opposed to the therapy. The 4 free sessions sound like a solid plan. I'm hoping they lead you in exactly the right direction.
Living with an alcoholic is definitely challenging, in a lot of ways. They don't fully realise the emotional impact they leave in their wake. While they do acknowledge it, I believe they also deny it at some level which is one of the reasons the drinking continues. My husband's a really easygoing drinker as long as you don't trigger him. So, there's that need to be careful, which I know you're already aware of. They're unreliable to some degree, leaving you kinda of as a single parent, being the one on call, during drinking hours. They're untrustworthy in a number of ways, including you not trusting they'll remember conversations. I know I paint a somewhat depressing picture but it's an honest one and one I know you can relate to.
Having lived on both sides of the fence, being a drinker (for me) was a delusional experience. You can tell yourself poop like 'I'm a happy drunk. I'm more easygoing, more relaxed and a really good laugh at times. I'm a natural social butterfly and more lovable to some degree' but at the end of the day you remain dysfunctional. I'm so glad I've left those years behind me. I was an emotional drinker. It's pretty easy to pick an emotional drinker. Emotional drinkers drink to feel. The feelings come in a bottle. For example, 'I want to experience the natural sensations/feelings that come with relaxation/stress release, relief, happiness, joy, optimism, inspiration and so on'. Of course, relying on a bottle is not entirely natural.
Sometimes it can be serious hard work, to work toward experiencing the feelings we want to feel. On the other hand, there's no challenge in opening a bottle, it's easy. Capybara, you're working so incredibly hard on self understanding and self development and that is something to be incredibly proud of. It is, without a doubt, seriously hard and somewhat depressing work at times. Drinking helps numb feeling the need for self understanding, self development.
Incredibly hard to do but don't let your partner's drinking interfere with your self development. As you raise yourself, your perspective shifts. The challenge/warning: As you become more conscious, you also become less tolerant.
Capybara, I love your name as I was given a capybara puppet which I gave to my gran daughter who used to call capybara capybara when the puppet was put away,!
Sorry for the distraction.
Thanks for your feedback. Everyone has given you helpful advice. pregnancy is a vey special time where you have strong hormonal feelings.
I agree with the rising that to concentrate on your self care and self development .
Feel free to keep discussing here, you are not alone and we are listening.
Hello Capybara, thanks for your reply, it means the world to us.
If your partner admits that he needs to stop drinking when the baby is born, doesn't give you the positive reply you want, sure it's good that he's said that, but to prove his point he needs to stop now and not procrastinate because it's not easy to believe an addict until they actually do it, if you believe he is addicted to alcohol.
It's the same as someone who smokes cigarettes when they say 'they'll stop next week', that's the future and virtually means nothing, if they do want to stop then they need to contact Quitline and take the necessary steps to be smoke free.
The same applies to a drinker, procrastination means nothing because as soon as he has a hard day at work and then a difficult time with settling the baby, his first option is back to the bottle, if he is genuine then now is the time, you need his help now and in the future.
He needs to handle any withdrawals now and not when the baby comes as it won't be easy for him to cope with.
Thanks for your reply. I had a big chat with my brother the other day and he's helped me write a letter to my partner basically saying I need him and action against the alcoholism has to start now, that we only have 4 months until the baby will be here, and we risk so much if we just hope/trust that he'll magically be able to stop when the time comes. And basically said he risks losing me and the baby.
I gave it to him tonight and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'm just giving him space at the moment to process it and said it's up to him to let me know when he's ready to talk.
This morning before he knew I wanted to talk about this he actually messaged me apologising for drinking last night and said that he was focusing on keeping busy today and has blocked himself from an alcohol delivery service he's fallen into using a lot lately (they have an option for people to list themselves as "do not serve" basically, and he took that step). So that's positive but also means he was in a defensive place feeling I'm having a go at him when he's started taking steps himself, but I'm just trying to gently remind him that's not what it is... that he's taken steps before and this is about me expressing what I need so he understands that and so I feel heard and can better navigate things moving forward.
It is terrifying and I feel frozen and sick with anxiety not knowing how he will respond in the short and long term. But just trying to take each moment as it comes and keep breathing...
How are you? How are you feeling these days?
You have been doing so much for your partner, extending your empathy, understanding, love, encouragement, trying to be gentle and mindful of his states and moods.
You have been doing so much for him but it’s about time the roles changed. Being pregnant, you already need so much help and support. And you are going to need it even more when the baby is here. I hope that your partner appreciates how much you have been doing for him and starts to understand how much you love him and need him. But need him sober and switched on on you and the baby and not his issues.
If he is to stop drinking he must do it now. And definitely not once the baby is born. That would be probably the worst timing ever. He is not coping with his alcoholism and quitting reduces the person to crumbles. During that time he won’t be able to look after himself, let alone you and the baby. He must have detox and new routine well and truly in BEFORE the baby is due. Otherwise he is only going to make the things so much worse for you.
Not to mention the fact that he might find yet another excuse not to quit.
If he really wants to and if he is ready to quit, he must do it now.
Do you feel like letting us know how are the things now?
Thinking of you.