Married To Functional Alcoholic-Vows, Abuse, Desire To Be Free

Guest Post:
Hello, everyone. I’ve posted before, but I did it within someone else’s post, not knowing how to post my own story in my own thread. Sorry about that. So, this is my story, so to speak. My Husband is a functional alcoholic.

I married at 18. My Husband was my first and only. We will be married 22 yrs in August. We have 3 kids, ages almost 19, 14-1/2 and 12. The 19 yo is in college. H went to Iraq in 2004-05 and came home with combat PTSD and developed a drinking problem almost immediately. He drank when we dated, on weekends, but never around me. When we married, alcohol was not an issue. It was never around. He rarely drank when we went out. Looking back, I see now that this was the beginning. His grandfather was a functional alcoholic and my Husband idolized this man.

There have been times when he stayed out all night at bars, didn’t come home from work, etc. In Sept 2010 there was a secret cell phone and a female coworker that he was texting. When I found out about the phone and her, he started becoming physically abusive with arm grabbing, hair pulling, screaming, pushing, shoving, hiding my keys, hiding the phone, etc. Also at this time, he was suicidal and depressed, suffering from PTSD, but never told me until after a failed suicide attempt. In Dec 2010 there was an incident where he completely lost it and fired a gun in our home. I forced him to go to the psych ward of a local VA hospital for treatment. He is on all kinds of antipsychotic meds. The abuse virtually stopped after this. In April 2011 there was an abusive incident and then in July 2011 I had him arrested for choking me. I was free of him!!! But I couldn’t take it. I begged him to come back to me and he did. Yeah, I know. What kind of idiot am I?! It’s those damn marriage vows, I guess, plus a huge dose of faith that he will change and a good measure of codependency. He still has violent outbursts of rage and will throw things. After months of being abused in the fall of 2010, I started fighting back. He says I am just like him now and just as bad as he is, but at the same time will say things like “nothing I’ve done has been that bad.” Total denial. He lies about drinking even though for YEARS I’ve begged him not to. I am ashamed to admit it, but in Dec 2010 there were also 2 episodes of sexual assault, both of which he says he doesn’t remember.

Fast forward to now — We are supposed to go to marriage counseling with the VA on Feb 28th. He is still drinking heavily, at least a 12 pack a night and that’s just what I know about. I’ve stopped actively counting them. He is having all kinds of paranoid thinking about me being out to get him, plotting against him, etc. I can’t decide if that is PTSD or alcohol. Both, I’d imagine. Last night, he was very hateful to our 12 year old daughter. Tears welled up in her eyes. She has started displaying codependent behavior. When he left the room she said to me and my middle son “No one say anything else to him tonight. Its going to be one of THOSE nights.” She had wiped the tears from my face before. 🙁

Both of my sons are afraid to leave me alone with their dad since 2010. My middle son, the 14 year old, today will not spend the night with his grandma tonight (even though he wants to) because he is afraid he has to “babysit” (his word) us, meaning that he thinks that being here will stop his dad from hurting me. The oldest is in college, but he is also a nervous wreck.

I have failed my children. It hit me last night like a ton of bricks. I have FAILED. I have been selfish.This is no longer about ME. What have I done? I feel so ashamed. My children have suffered, and I’ve stood by and let it happen all in the name of keeping my family intact.

Then, there are the good times. The times when he is pleasant and funny. EVERYONE loves him! Everyone thinks he is so charming. He’d do ANYTHING for a stranger or a friend. He will clean our house. He will cook. He will do anything I ask of him…… except stop drinking. No one believes that he does the things he does. He says everyone thinks I am a raving witch. He’s right. I am. Six years of addiction hell has turned me into one. But I don’t rave about the things I NEED to. I saw that last night. If we are getting along, he drinks MORE. If we are getting along, he takes his frustration out on our children.

I keep praying. I have no where to go. He knows how hard it will be for me to pack up myself and 2 kids and leave. He REFUSES to leave. This is “his” house, so he says. I pray that he leaves soon. The last time he was physically abusive to me was in November 2011. Its a cycle. About every 2 months I’ll “do” something and he will smack me or throw something. Its always my fault. His paranoia is my fault, too, according to him. He told me this morning that I “reinforce” it. Please God, let him leave. I want to be free. I want happy, healthy children. Give me the wisdom, strength and courage to do what I MUST do.
Please feel free to leave a comment further down the page.

JC: Thanks for sharing your story with us.  I understand your situation all too well. I was committed to the vows I’d made, stood firm upon my faith and endured being abused by an alcoholic spouse. There were several articles that I thought of  as I was reading about your relationship with a functional alcoholic.

I hope these help:
Dealing With Outbursts Of  Rage
Angry Alcoholics
Alcoholics Placing Blame 
Setting Boundaries With An Alcoholic

As always we recommend that our readers get involved in Al-anon.

23 comments to Married To Functional Alcoholic-Vows, Abuse, Desire To Be Free

  • Sandy

    The stories I’ve read, and the stories that I’ve heard at Alanon never fail to sadden me, though I do derive SOME satisfaction from hearing them. I AM NOT ALONE.. I AM NOT DIFFERENT OR CRAZY. My behavior has been text book actually. I’m not a freak!

    My response to you dear GUEST is one from the depths of my Adult Child of an Alcoholic soul. Take your children to meetings so that will know without a doubt that they are ok, only living with a disease. Save them the pain of trying to figure it out alone.

    Sending you positive thoughts!


  • Sally

    Call your local domestic abuse hotline, get into a battered women’s shelter and get yourself into therapy. You’ve been battered, do you get that? You cannot wait for your combat trained husband to go into a paranoid delusional state and kill you and the children. A marriage is a partnership of equals. You do not have that with your husband. Do you have any idea what you’re doing to your daughter? She will go looking for a man like daddy, and spend her life in a vicious cycle of trying to “fix” him, because she was unable to fix her father. Your middle child is going to shut down and refuse to ever trust anyone enough to allow them to love him. I was that middle child, so I know what I’m talking about. Stop worrying about where you’ll go or what you’ll do after you get out. Alive in a battered women’s shelter you’ll be able to figure it out. They will help you with all kinds of aid and training and counseling. You cannot continue to stand by and wait to see how bad your husband’s behavior will get. By then it will be too late. Please, for your children’s sake, get out. Show them that it is possible to admit you’ve made a mistake, that you are able to do the right things to make your life and their lives better. There are worse things than being poor, believe me. My heart goes out to you and my prayers are with you. Please let us know how you are doing.

  • Nellizel

    Wow.. I think we live with the same man. I’m 34 years old and we have three children 18,3,and 1. We’ve been together since 2001. we’re not married. Everything is in his name- houses, cars, credit..everything. The episodes are happening more frequently. Once I was so bonkers that I actually hit him back and guess who ended up in jail? Yup. they never ever take him. NEVER. when i call they usually have me leave with my kids. The last time he told them he didnt want them to go with me because i didnt have anywhere to go. And the police actually considered making me leave my kids here and the smart one said..he’s drunk we cant do that. If we do we have to call CPS. Last week he told me he needs someone to help him out of this rut and its not going to be mean because…every negative name in the book. Lastly, he took me out to talk and told me he has a 4 year old daughter. the next morning he said it was just drunk talk and that it wasnt true. Who does that? really? Why would anyone ever say something like that. Its time to love ourselves a little bit more. I’m tired of being a doormat.

  • Tabitha

    I am the “guest.” Not sure why it says guest because I know I put my name. 🙂 Anyway, thanks everyone that has commented so far. Tomorrow we see a marriage counselor with the VA (Vet’s Administration). My mother just told me that its not going to do any good unless the counselor is Christian (as I am). I told her I had to try. This is free to us. I’ve been attending Al-Anon. Can’t say I’m getting much from it other than changing myself in small ways daily.

  • rocky

    I think it’s great having someone else to talk to.
    Thankyou again for providing this channel for us out there.My husband can be smart and witty but at the same time cutting with his words and revengeful.He drinks somewhere between a gallon every 2-days or a 750ml. bottle every day–i guess it’s about the same.I tried to talk to him with no help at all.I’ve threatened to call his buddies from AA and his sister who is close to him but they all live so far away.I thought we were a team,I would never do this to him and never mind what it’s doing to our bank account.
    scenario: He actually followed me around in a store telling me what bills i had to pay today,tomorrow and future.I was so embarrassed.I had nothing in the cart!–He went right after the store show and bought a gallon of Dewars scotch whiskey.Am I a threat to his alcohol dependency?–What’s going on here?
    I don’t think i can live like this I am a nurse and he just keeps guzzling down this JUNK day after day.i can’t stop him and he doesn’t me!!!

  • Caitlyn

    Dear Guest Poster,

    You are NOT A FAILURE. You have realised you must change the environment you and your children are living in. And I say do it now. Don’t wait another moment. He has to sort himself out, if he ever does or will. Don’t give him another thought or another chance. There should never be any reason or excuse for physical abuse in particular, or verbal and emotional abuse. Should not be tolerated, endured or excused by anyone for any reason. He needs help, but you aren’t the professional that can give him the help he needs. Walk away from him to save yourselves. Anyone that can hit another human, or animal for that matter, when angry has the potential to not stop there. They have the potential to kill. Think about that. I’m not kidding. The trigger to hit someone is a trigger away from fatally stabbing the victim or pulling the lever on a gun pointed at them. If they can’t stop themselves from hitting you, what is there to stop them from killing you. They have no control over their angry violence. The fact they hit you makes that clear. Drop in on the court rooms of violent killers and you will find they had a history of physical abuse of victims before they couldn’t stop themselves from that one step further murder. Your husband has a huge issue with anger, control and letting it all hang out regardless. Scary really.

    You, you choose to sort yourself and your children out. Get the support you need in the short and long term to pull yourselves out of the mire. Al Anon and a women’s shelter is a good starting point. Then there are government departments, church groups, family, friends. Get the support of everyone you can to walk you through it.

    My thoughts are with you as you make your journey with your children to recovery. God bless you all.

  • Sally

    Tabitha, you can try, but you don’t have to stay in the same house with him. A marriage takes two people trying to make it work. You’ve only got one. You can change all you want to, but living in a house with a violent man, regardless of how charming he can be at times, is a news headline waiting to happen. Make a list. On one side list all the good times you can remember over the last 6 years. On the other list all the bad times you can recall. If the good outweighs the bad, great, you have a chance of keeping your marriage together. Think about something else. Imagine another year of living like you are now – another 5 years or another 20. Is this what you want for your life? Do you want your children to grow up thinking that this is as good as life gets? Good luck tomorrow.

  • Sally

    Rocky, if you read posts on this website, you’ll notice something that repeats itself. None of us telling our stories was or is able to do anything to make a difference in the behavior of the drunks in our lives. Another recurring theme is that the sober, responsible half is always being drained dry financially by the drunk. Either by their blowing money on booze, or losing jobs and depending on us to pick up the slack, or doing stupid things when they’re drunk that end up costing boatloads of money to fix, either from their financially stupid behavior or materially by the damage they cause. Drunks are great at telling everyone else in their lives how they should live and what they should do, but they’re lousy at doing anything constructive for anyone else or themselves. The only way your husband will even think about doing anything to help himself is if it costs him dearly, both financially and in the comforts he enjoys by having you to do the adult work of life while he drinks himself blind. Drunks have to be made as uncomfortable as possible before the consequences of their actions begin to sink into their booze soaked brains. You don’t say how long you have been a couple, but you need to imagine another 5, 10 or 20 years of a life like you describe. Disconnect from your husband’s continual making you crazy and take the time to think what your life is and what you want it to be. Then decide if you honestly think he can be a part of that life. It’s a hard business to think about such things, but you have to have to do it. This site is all about trying to stay with an alcoholic while they’re actively drinking, but you’ll see that most of us don’t have the strength to pull it off. Living detached from an alcoholic while in the same house is, to me, a half-life. Who wants to live in such a way for the rest of their lives? The problem with being detached is that it becomes an ingrained response to everyone after just so long. That’s a pretty cold, lonely way to live. Stay strong and my prayers are with you.

  • Karens

    I would like to relate to you a pattern that develops with physical abuse.
    The honey moon period when everything is ducky, happy, warm what ever you
    would call your abuser when things are wonderful. Then he
    hits the bottle, or has a bad day at work and all hell takes place, first verbally, and as time goes on pushes
    shoves, throws things,and can be so physically abusive
    you end up in the hospital or dead. Then comes the apologies, flowers, I will not do that again statements.
    Ilove you, I love you. The romantic state, dinner out,
    all the pleasantries. Then he becomes distant, maybe quiet
    and a small thing in his day sets him off and you are the target. I know this by volunteering as a counselor for
    a battered womans shelter. Recognize the signs and have
    an immediate way to leave with your children. A plan
    of escape, alcohol or any substance abuse can create this
    desperate situation. If a man or woman is inclined to violence you are in a desperate, life threatening situation
    that will not end until you get out of his life. Ocassionally, if they get counseling for their angry and hostile attitude they can change. Develop a plan, please.
    I am begging you to do what ever it takes to protect you
    and your family. A lcoholicsare not the only problem
    with violence as there are plenty of incidences of violence
    happens when cold sober. Please go to your battered womens
    shelter and find out what you can do. Good Luck and may
    God guide you in your decisions and direction.

  • admin

    Tabitha, as I read your comment I remembered the effort I put forth to honor my marriage vows and try to work things out. We attended counseling(she decided to quit) and I plugged into Al-anon (she continued in her addictions).

    For me, tremendous serenity has been realized in knowing that I lived my life by my morals, Christian beliefs and really tried to make the marriage work.

    It may seem that Al-anon is NOT doing much good, but it is. By you participating in the program, you are making a statement about what you believe in…working hard to make a relationship work with someone you dearly love. If things don’t work out, you will be able to look back into your past with dignity, knowing that you really tried. Even now you should hold your head high, with your back straight and strong knowing that you are trying your best.

    Joyce Meyer has a great book that helped me see how abusive the situation was that I was loving in (I meant to say “living in”, but “loving in” seems to fit well). It’s called “Beauty For Ashes” and is well worth reading.

    This is a time in your life when you must press into God like never before. He will direct your path.

  • rocky

    I’m just so tired of it all.Been married 33 years–what a rocky rollercoaster.Unbelievable–I know it’s all the Booze.I didn’t come from a family of drinkers and i hate to think my kids will be does anyone put scotch to their lips and drink 750ml.Just the thought of it makes me sick.Angry,mean alcoholics are the worst.All you have to do is just sit there and they’ll find something to pick on you about.I’m 1/2 German-can you believe that my husband gave ME such a hard time because Hilter was a madman!
    he curses at the TV–He repeats himself continuously because he doesn’t remember that the Topic has already been said.I never really got a straight answer as to why he drinks–first he tells me it’s Catholic school–then he tells me –He just likes to drink and that everyone has to die from something.Is that sick!
    I know all about the Functional Alcoholic–we’ve graduated to the RETIRED Alcoholic !–Now that’s a challenge.He has humiliated me in public and has made continuous comments about my family that’s like chewing on an old rag.
    it seems to me that he drinks for a week or 2–gets deeper into the amt.and that’s when he starts his shit.
    now I’m no angel–I rarely drink at all–but I will defend myself when i get so tired of hearing all the comments.Oh I forgot about the Silent treatment–maybe that’s better–but his torture can go on for weeks.Being a nurse I thought that i could help him and I’m still trying.Thanks for listening
    any comments on how to understand and manage this disease would be welcome.

  • Karens

    Rocky, you are on the alcoholics roller coaster. There is
    no really understanding an alcoholic. Their brain is changed by alcohol. Mine has a hip replacement and the
    other one is due for replacement. Why? Because he spends
    so much time in drinking that no nutrition gets to his body
    to replenish and support it. He repeats himself over and over and does many of the things you spoke of in your last letter. I have begged and pleaded for him to stop. The
    alcohol always controls him and that is what I am talking to. His response to me”you die your way and I will die mine.” I do not know where my husband went but his body
    is still here. J.C. has several articles that have helped
    me live with him. Right, wrong, or for how long, even I’
    do not have a magic answer. I do know that learning about
    detatching, using key phrases to stop an arguement has helped immensly. so has all the comments made on this sight. Some become impossible to live with over time
    as the alcohol controls them. I thought trying to
    control his drinking was the answer. Found out that never
    works. Once the chemistry has changed in the brain you
    can do nothing.

    I have changed a lot over time. Went through a lot of frustration, pain and hurt. I absolutely had to change
    my way of thinking in order to save myself from his alcohol. Odd thought, but true. I have a life outside
    of his that has been rewarding. Loving to spend time with
    the grandchildren at their house, visiting with friends
    over coffee at a restaurant. Chooseing to look at a sunset
    versus obsessing over what he will say or do next.

    Believe me it does not happen over night and once in a while I do say the wrong thing at the worst of time but
    I am getting better at it. Alcoholics want control over
    you and and will needle until they feel they have won.
    Well, it took a while but all that nastiness goes away
    when I do not respond to it. I think under my breath that
    who is this person that prefers to drink to misery and
    wants me to be miserable to. In my life I had to say
    to heck with that I want to be happy. Be miserable and
    die if you must Mr. Alcoholic but I choose to live in the day, not in the darkness of an alcoholic mind.

    I hope this helps, certainly is not the entire answer
    to your situation. It is a beginning point in change.
    Changing you because you can.

    Good luck and keep God in your heart. There is a master
    plan that has yet to be seen. Someday we may have the total answer, in the mean time we stumble along,one day at a time,doing the best we can

  • Sally

    Rocky, if you read the posts JC has put on this site, you’ll understand that you canNOT help your husband. You can only help yourself. Alcohol comes 1st in his life, and you do not matter to him unless you surrender your life and soul to catering to his addiction. You have to work on you and your reaction to his alcoholism. You will never be able to change a single thing about how much your husband drinks, when he drinks or what effect it has on him mentally or physically. The only person on this earth you can change is you. Once you accept that, you will be able to improve your life. You have no influence with your husband. He has given his heart and soul over to booze, and he’ll never choose you over it. That’s harsh, but it is the reality of your life. You’re in my prayers.

  • rocky

    Thankyou,I guess I just needed to hear it from someone else.

  • Sally

    Rocky, I’m so sorry things are what they are for you. They are or were for all of us here. Know that things can get better, but only for you, because you choose to make them better. Please go to Al Anon and talk to the people there. They have all experienced the exact same things you have, and they understand how heartbroken you feel sometimes. There are better days ahead for you, but you have to go do something to get them. Al Anon is a great place to start. Just show up. You’ll find a warm welcome and a caring community there. Keep in touch. We care here. God Bless.

  • Tabitha

    I’ve been going to an Al-Anon group on Facebook. The other night, my AH was drunk and cruel to our 14 yo son. He picks on this child when drunk. I put my foot down. I established a boundary — he can no longer get drunk in our presence. The alcohol has to go. I’m not doing this to control him. I am not doing this to force him into a program. I am doing this because my children are SUFFERING and it’s damn time I stood up for them and said ENOUGH! I would not allow a rabid dog to come into my home and terrorize my children. So, I gave him my boundary. I told him he could go into a treatment program if he wanted. He has chosen to separate and leave me and the kids. This is his response to my boundary. I’m staying strong, knowing that I made the right decision. What happens now is up to him. I will say this — after everything I have been through, I do not believe I have the forgiveness in me to allow him to come back when he realizes (if) that he has made the wrong decision.

  • Suzie

    You story sounds so much like mine, but my alcoholic and I were together for 36 years….infidelity ran rampant, but it was never worse than when he got sober. 5 years sober after 40 years of addiction, but the infidelity got worse during his sobriety. He also has been diagnosed with PTSD, but when I wanted marriage counseling he told me it wasn’t available with the VA (during his sobriety it was just another lie to avoid counseling and face his guilt and shame). Many think they sometimes change addictions from drugs and alcohol to sex, food or gambling. Go to the VA to start. I agree that a christian counselor is the best, but use what you can. Also don’t listen to people that push you to divorce because of verbal abuse…alcoholics are not of sound mind, give yourselves the opportunity to go to counseling, they may push him to rehab and they could also address his verbal abuse. If those things don’t happen, you may need to draw a line in the sand, and let me know nothing is harder. My husband is actually divorcing me because my recovery over the affairs was taking too much time and he didn’t want to be bothered with any counseling…AA promotes get over it and sweep it under the rug and act as if it never happened….so honesty and transparency are not promoted in the program when it comes to infidelity….although everything is suppose to be rigorous honesty, except infidelity. So best wishes and God Bless…. I know guilt about the kids can kill you….I hear now as they are young adults the extent to which they knew even more than me…porno watching dad….hitting on women….they saw alot more than I did and for that I will always have great guilt, but I can only love them now and make amends to them as we all grow together without their dad’s illness looming over us.

  • karens

    Hi Suzie
    You have recognized one of the biggest threats to our
    children as being in a relationship with an alcoholic.
    My step daughter is living with us trying to break free
    from narcotics addiction. Her stay at the alcoholic
    care center helped her understand her self and her father.

    She is doing very well, 70 days free of her addiction
    and battling with her Dad of his alcoholism. The fruit
    did not fall far from the tree. She was 15 when I came
    into his family. He was raising 3 lovely girls, teenagers
    with their problems of adolesence. Now as I look back
    his ability to shut them and me out emotionally has taken
    a big tole. She and I talk a lot about many things and
    I can see the self respect is coming back and see her be
    coming a wonderful person at 42 with grown children of her
    own. Now we worry about her children and keeping them
    on the straight and narrow with little control as they are
    now in their 20’s.

    Do what you can, Gods plan is greater than ours. Consult woth him when decisions need to be made. Good Luck Karens

  • Suzie

    Karens….So are you saying that you came into this family while he was an active alcoholic and you’ve been with him for 25+ years with him still drinking? Does he see his addiction in his daughter? Addiction is baffling and cunning disease and insidious….he creeps into the family with barely a sound and grow and grows and grows….until it’s taken over everything in site.

  • Karens

    No, when I married him, a case of beer would last two weeks.
    Pay day to pay day. Over the years two thirty packs last
    about 3 days. Yes, it did creep in insidiously, or else
    I am totally blind. His Dad drank heavily as a young man.
    His brother, now passed died at 61, side effects of over drinking. His two sisters both alive living with alcoholism and drug adiction. My own children have gone
    out into the world and made their own way as they should
    without alcohol. His have addiction problems. Now he
    feels somewhat guilty regarding his daughters addiction
    but she is still trying to keep off drugs. It is tough
    because she also has to deal with her dad’s drinking. She
    is trying and all I can do is encourage her and tell her
    how proud I am of her. Even at 42, she really needs encouragement from her own father. Your right, it is a
    family sickness. One that has taken over 3 generations.

  • linda

    Help I have this need to expose this abuse to someone!

  • Olga

    Linda… do you need to talk about it?? x

  • linda

    Sure do! Hate what this disease is doing to us.but I believe his third party is still involve. New enabler

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