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Wife is mentally ill and alcoholic

Community Member

Please can I have advice about where I can turn to for help. I am 67 and my wife is 61. She is an alcoholic and matters have reached a point where she is so bad that I can't keep looking after her. She has reached a blood alcohol level of over .4 (NOT .04) several times. She has been to one clinic after another and while she is there she's fine but as soon as she comes home she starts drinking again. I am in despair because I can't stop her drinking (she buys the stuff herself and starts screaming and crying uncontrollably if I try to take it away), can't force her to eat (she is thin and weak), can't do much to help if she falls on the floor as she has often done, can't persuade her to take any exercise. She is often in bed sleeping or crying for most of the day. She also has severe depression and irrational thinking.

My doctor says the only thing I can do is to wait until next time she is taken to hospital and then refuse to accept her discharge to home. He says the hospital will then get a team of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to find care for her. But what if she dies? I love my wife dearly. I don't want to separate from her and she would quite possibly die of grief if she was separated from me. Is there any alternative to find long-term care for her? Clinics will only take her for a few weeks. Would there be any home care packages that would be available? I will pay whatever it takes. I just want to see her well and happy. At present she is wasting away and I can't stop it. I sit by her bedside and watch and my heart is breaking.

I suppose the position is different in different states. I'm in Victoria, near Melbourne.

60 Replies 60

Hi Blackboy

I know your thread is quite old but it touched me a lot. I hope maybe things have improved for you and I will send a prayer your way

Thank you so much for caring. I did not post for a while, or even visit this site, because it seems that nobody is able to help and there is no point in continuing to talk about my issues, which are much the same as always, or probably getting worse. But I do appreciate anybody who cares enough to post a kind word.

I agree Blackboy. I have so appreciated people's kind words to me on this forum but nothing helps him which is what I wanted - he still drinks a bottle of spirits a day. Small windows of good times to give me hope but it always ends the same way. I think our relationship is over, I can't keep putting myself through it

Hi Blackboy,

Just want you to know that even though I kind of ran out of things to say, and how to be of any help, I do want you to know and remember that you are never far from my thoughts. I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers all the time. And your wife too.

Take care. Mel. xo

Thank you for your post. I have joined 2 Facebook groups which might be helpful to you. They are called Living With Alcoholics and Partners of Alcoholics. People there are very supportive and have been through similar experiences. At least you might like to give them a try. It's good to be able to talk to people. I am also working on my own idea of a solution to the issue, with my wife's cooperation. I will post again in a couple of weeks and let you know if it works - it's been going for 16 days now successfully, but I want to see if it will work for a month, which is what we agreed on.

Thank you Mel.

OK, following on from my post in reply to Sweetheart: I did at last find an organization which claims to be able to place alcoholics in permanent accommodation. However they want $10,000 upfront and another $10,000 later. That seems outrageous to me and my GP agreed and so did a couple of others I spoke to. So that will be an absolute last resort.

But my wife and I have come up with an idea which seems to be working and so I recommend it to anybody who is in a similar situation to me. We have signed an agreement whereby she agrees to me taking control of her cash, credit cards, EFTPOS cards and car keys for 1 month. After 1 month I will give them back to her for 1 day and allow her to buy wine provided she buys no more than 2 litres and consumes no more than 1 litre. I may share the balance with her or throw it out. After that 1 day the cycle begins again. In other words, I agree to put up with one day of drunkenness in exchange for 29 or 30 days of sobriety. She says this is easier for her to manage because she can put up with a temporary deprivation rather than committing herself to forever.

This is combined with a program of intense activity for her: walks, yoga, pilates, online courses, Rotary membership, other volunteering, and regular consultations with her psychiatrist and psychologist. An outpatient program will start for her next week. She is busy all day every day! Her psychiatrist calls it developing new neural networks to replace the old ones.

This has been going since 3 July. She had some alcohol in accordance with the agreement on 5 August when she had a bad day. But mostly she claims to have no urges. Things are helped by the COVID restrictions (I am in Melbourne) because we can't go out except for shopping and walks anyway. I admit that maybe it will be different when one of us is able to go out without the other for long periods. However, I am hopeful. The goal, as we discussed just now, is to lengthen the period of one month gradually once she proves she is able to cope with 1 month abstinence.

The idea is supplemented by moral support and affection from me, which has an important effect. Her psychiatrist and psychologist also support it. If you are in a situation like me, please give this idea serious consideration. It also makes my life a lot happier, too!

Blackboy, this is heartening to read and I'm glad you've found a solution that seems to be working for you both. If nothing else, you can take comfort that you have never given up on your wife or your marriage. I hope it continues to work for you and that you continue to update, I actually logged in today hoping you had posted!

Thank you very much. It is continuing to work for us. The next test will come on September 7th, which is the next day she is allowed to drink according to our agreement.

How was the 7th for you? And what do you do while she is drinking in excess, sleep in a different room, keep an eye on her? I know with mine I always think of leaving the house during that time but usually end up staying close because I worry about him hurting himself, accidentally or on purpose, while drunk