Readers please feel free to respond to Kay’s story about many years of coping with an alcoholic husband whose drinking has escalated. You can leave your comments below the article.
Submitted by: Kay
My husband is the alcoholic in my life. We have been married for almost 34 years, have great jobs and 3 kids. Throughout our marriage I have worked shift work in an emergency room. Initially it was either a day shift or an overnight shift. He pulled duty at night with the kids. Over time the shifts changed and the children grew.
As I was approaching retirement I was often out of the house 10 evenings each month due to new shift times. I suspect that this is when the drinking escalated. The kids and I were not there to force him to keep it under control. I retired and found myself in the house with a drunk. WOW, talk about a game-changer. I had looked forward to being able to spend time together, go out with friends, travel and now I find I am married to a drunk.
I am afraid to go anywhere there may be liquor as he no longer possesses an off switch. How did I not know you ask? I had suspected there may be a problem and voiced my concern. He got sneaky and began hiding it. I challenged him again when I began finding him asleep at 9 PM when I would arrive home and he blamed his allergy medication.
I did everything on the list you should not: I dumped out liquor, I diluted vodka, I searched for hiding places, I pleaded and begged, I yelled and I slept in another room. He finally had to admit he had a problem to himself when he passed out at a party this past October. He tried to finagle out of it by saying he was just tired but the evidence was against him.
Although he now admits he has a problem he “slips” every 4-5 days binge drinking. Because of some of these ‘slips’ I was forgotten at the airport at 11 PM although we had spoken 90 minutes before and I have found him sleeping on the garage floor as he ‘fixed’ the lawnmower. As I stood waiting for the cab at the airport I knew he was passed out and I almost did not go home. When I found him on the garage floor I almost walked out. Although he apologized after the airport incident he was barely standing drunk a week later and unrepentant when I got mad.
He is a functioning alcoholic and never misses work. I am lucky he is not violent or destructive but he is snarky and belittling. I rationally understand that it is his problem and he has to make the decision to stop and that it is not my fault but each slip is like one more small cut, one more bleeding site in our marriage. I rationally realize that voicing my frustration and disappointment over the slips is not going to benefit anyone but it sure feels as though I am giving him a free pass. It feels like I am watching my teenager walk in after curfew and shrugging my shoulders.
I am definitely at the stage that I may still love him but I am losing respect and oftentimes do not like him. Sometimes I consider leaving as I grow tired of wondering if Mr Nice or Mr Snarky is going to come home this evening.
How do you show support without being a doormat? How do you sit quietly when his mistress is a bottle? How do you sit quietly while he dismantles the marriage? He refuses to go to counseling or AA as he will ‘do this himself’. My patience is ebbing…..
Please feel free to comment below.
Your story is almost the same as my story. My husband of 43 years is a functional alcoholic. He never missed a day of work. He never slurred or staggered. We lived in two separate worlds as he worked unreasonably long hours in retail and sneaked out to bars immediately after work. I really didn’t know that because his job kept him away with constantly changing schedules. I worked at a hospital with occasional double shifts. He belittled me more and more and provoked arguments. I didn’t realize how bad and verbally abusive he was until I retired and went on a trip with people from my church and observed how normal people behaved. He didn’t go with me because he claimed he needed a few more weeks worked until retirement. Like you I was left at an airport at midnight while he was sleeping and didn’t hear my numerous phone calls.
Then he retired and I realized how unfair and crazy he acted. I saw a pattern of his leaving the house at 3 PM (happy hour) for one excuse or another and I decided told him I wanted to go with him. After a week of this he was sleeping a lot and irritable and I noticed his hands trembling. These are all withdrawel symptoms. I couldn’t take much more but at least I then knew without any doubt that he is an alcoholic. I then said I didn’t want to go with him on his next errand but I followed him. He said he needed an eye exam. He didn’t go to get an eye exam but straight to a bar. I took a camera and photographed his car next to the bar sign to rule out any denial on my part or his. After he came home I said,”It’s a choice between our marriage or the bottle.” You decide.
I was afraid the entire experience and it took all my courage to do this. He didn’t respond until the next day and he said, “I’ll go to AA to be diagnosed but you find out where it is. I told him to get out the phone book and call AA. The woman who answered told him about the beginner’s meeting. He went and came home and said, “It’s not to bad.” He was amazed at how many people were attending. He was reading some AA pamplets when he though I wasn’t looking.
That was the beginning to his sobriety and that was seven years ago. It’s a long road to recovery but I want you to know there is hope. God bless you.
I am dealing with my 46 year old son that has been drinking since he was 15 . We have certainly had a roller coaster ride! I thought when he was younger it was just teen age drinking! He married at 25 still drinking and then he and his wife smoked weed! They had a child and he started a business with his brother of course that did not work and they split the business he had another child all the while his drinking is getting worst and it doesn’t help that her drinking and drugging is getting worst! The day comes and they divorce! Drinking continues to get worst with two children! He has the children and what a life they have I am constantly worried about their well being . The day comes when he loses his business and I get his children . He leaves and lives with a client of his for about one year comes back says he knows he has problem but he can fix it! His brother allows him to go to work for him and that last a year. He finds a great job and now has lost it. A matter of time before he is has to leave his apartment! Oh what a road and a hard road that I am about to embark upon. I found your website yesterday and hoping this will help me to have the wisdom and strength that I need for this journey! What a strain it puts on my marriage also! Thanks for the help you are providing!
The alcoholic has no idea what family members endure if they continue to drink, verbal abuse, etc. It is often a difficult decision to make a break for a future that offers the chance to interact with sober individuals because of finances. Living daily with someone who is in another world is a struggle no matter how strong the partner is – there is never a peaceful day.
Even when an alcoholic stops drinking, it is the alcoholic personality that can remain for a lifetime.
Good morning Kay,
I just want you to know my circumstances are almost identical to yours, with few differences. That said our shared feelings, consequences, reactions and conclusions to our situation are identical. I don’t have all the answers for you, however there can be comfort in knowing you are not alone. Feelings of isolation with our husband’s condition, and feelings of shame for public behavior go hand in hand. I can assure you his alcoholism is not your fault, sometimes I thought it was because of my response, however its just not true and really know that helped to set me free in a lot of ways. I kept trying to fix him, while my self image slowly and self worth took blow by blow and slowly the alcoholism took his identity and mine. My personal story began to change when I began attending various local Al-Anon meetings, I had thought about it for 18 years but always thought it wasn’t for me, or I didn’t have time, or it would be very boring. I finally began after the berating on my birthday last December of 2015. I fantasized about leaving and divorcing him, both in different ways. The love and commitment I had to love and protect my daughter is what kept me going. I don’t know how Al-Anon works exactly, I can’t point my finger to any one specific thing that was said and done, all that I know is that after going every week for about 6, my perspective changed a lot. I felt better, I felt better equipped to handle what I wasn’t willing to walk away from, and I began managing myself, life, work, and daughter more effectively. The umbilical cord between me and his drinking was severed. I stopped making excuses and started really just trying to heal myself, and improve the way I reacted to him, slowly the emotional pain (thousands of those little cuts) began to heal. I am far from done, I am far from perfect, my husband is not yet sober, but the dynamics have changed quite a bit, and my emotional and mental health have improved, I am a work in progress, and I am helping my daughter with her coping and processing also. In my darkest hours I looked for relief anywhere and everywhere that’s really how I ended up in Al-Anon, and I read for the first time a lot of information regarding alcoholism. In the past I had always searched for the medical and psychological reasons someone drinks to much, but my search changed to support sites, blogs like this one, just about anything I could put in front of myself to read.
Your not alone, there are so many like us, we want to encourage each other, and everyone’s journey is very similar, but handled uniquely if that makes sense. You will be in my thoughts today and in my prayers, I hope for you God’s unfailing love and understanding for what is best for you at this time, and I pray He confirms that in a way that you will recognize and most of all I pray you feel God’s love and peace all around you today and everyday as you live through this journey. Its not about him anymore Kay, its about getting you healthy so you can live your life to the fullest. With Love Suzanna
Need advice. My Son is 30 years old, an alcoholic, and I just don’t know what to do. He has lived with me up until the last year and I have been his enabler. Then he moved in with his girlfriend last year and that is about to end because she just can’t handle it all anymore. He has no (bad) credit, no vehicle due to a DUI. No place to live but he does have a job and goes to work. So what do I do when he asks me if he can move back home with me? I really don’t want to go thru all that again but yet I don’t want to see him homeless. I am constantly worrying about him and all those phone calls I get all night long. He thinks he has no problem and refuses rehab. Help Me, what do I do?????
I sure do feel for you Kay…we are all in similar boats it seems. Mine had a break of 12 years sober. I know how good it can be with him so I hang on. It’s going on 3 years full blown drunk. I can’t say, he drinks, he doesn’t just have a drink, he downs the bottle so he can go from 0-60 in matter of minutes. My 19 yr son already has a problem too. Learned from his dad. His dad learned from his dad. My husband detoxed for 7 days, that was a pure joke & waste of money. They only sedated him for 7 days, then released him and no follow up on either side. Why do we stay? Why do we care when they don’t care? Is this all worth it in the end?
Kay….I understand your frustration. My AH has been sober for 2 1/2 years. He was a highly functional alcoholic until the year before he got sober. It was not anything I said or did that made him stop. The only choice he had was death….that’s how very sick he got. He was 61 when he got the help he needed. It was Christmas when I told him he had a choice…me or the bottle….and his words were “If you think I’m going to a rehab, you’re nuts”. Well a few months later he got so sick that he could not walk unaided. I had packed several items and was making preparations to leave if he did not agree to go to rehab. He relented as he knew he was in big trouble health wise. Now he attends AA meetings 5 times a week, sometimes 6 and exercises each and every morning without fail. It took a good 2 years before I could really see a change in his attitude even though he had stopped drinking. For myself, I was not going to spend the next 20 years in an unhealthy, unhappy relationship even though my vows said ’til death do you part. Life is too short. I have an alcoholic daughter as well….it has gotten to the point that I will not have her in my home….she will never again ruin another Christmas, Birthday etc. It is a hell to have an alcoholic in your life….but I believe we have choices, as do they. They are master manipulators. Stay Strong and believe in yourself.
Beth….do NOT let him move back home….do not continue to enable him. Trust in God. He may reach his “bottom” if he is homeless…maybe then he’ll seek help. All those phone calls need to stop and only you can do that by not answering the phone. It is time you look after yourself and all the worrying in the world will not help. Let Go and Let God….really….it is the only way to survive.
Dear Kay, I could have written your(our) story verbatim. Mine was drunk 4 days and laid up in the loft for 4 days. Did not do anything but sleep, puke, and have explosive diarrhea ( sorry) but that is the truth. On many occasions.I asked him how his vitals are doing and he said he’s fine. He has stopped eating. Oh, maybe a little something if I have made a supper but I can tell he does not want to eat it. We are on opposite shifts this week and he hasn’t eaten anything. Won’t pay bills that come in( I do) . Won’t do wash- keep in mind it’s just the 2 of us. Won’t vacuum,do dishes, fix anything. You get the picture.I want to retire in Jan. 2017 . I’ll be 63 and I am tired- of everything.I don’t even like him anymore. We have been married for 36 yrs. A tremendously long time to put up with his crap! We are expecting our first grand-daughter in 2 weeks. Neither one of my sons has contacted me after I e-mail time and again. Just so horribly sad. I don’t know JC. My strength and my will are waning horribly. It’s raining here in the Midwest. So many tears for so long. It’s not even surviving anymore. I know alcoholics like to make room for their booze by not eating, but not eating at all and then binge drinking-YIKES! His skin smells awful. Wonder what people at work think? A few have asked me about him and I tell them to go ask him. I stay out of that hornets nest! I’m watching someone slowly die and I think oh my God and shake my head. A hug is in order but that isn’t possible so take care of yourself. Someday this roller coaster will come to a stop. All my best. Denise
My alcoholic is my husband of 30 years. We have 5 gowned children and two grandbabies. We also own a restaurant and bar. Just a little advice, its not a great idea to buy a bar with a reformed alcoholic. My husband was drunk for the first 6 years of our marriage, then he found sobriety. The next 10 years would be wonderful. I was working part time at a restaurant and the owners wanted to retire. My husband was unhappy in his job and always wanted to own his own business. We discussed how owning a bar may affect his sobriety he assured me it would not. Long story, short. 13 years later he is now a bigger drunk then he ever was. Our business is a very profitable one but I would give it up tomorrow if I thought it mattered. Not really sure if it would. Im now thinking of filing for divorce and buying him out of the business. I feel so damn guilty, like Im deserting him because I know if he was sober he wouldn’t be saying or doing the things he does. I also do know I didn’t cause this, I cant cure this and I cant control it.I pray every day and try to keep busy but im dying inside slowly
Been married 7 months. Together 7 years, no issue for 3 of the 7 years, then was a little, nothing alarmin. He came into some money, all hell broke loose. Got drunk, brought cars, had to take back 2, all he wants to do is drink and drive. Stopped by cops, they gave him a pass because of his Veteran status. Been in hospital and rehab several times. The only saving grace is he still has a lease on current apartment and I advised him to stay there until he gets sober and stays that way. Thank GOD I have my own house. Didn’t realize haw to handle situation until I sat down and thought about it. I’ve been more than supportive of his wackiness, but it wore on me, and I realized that I owned my own house and didn’t have to deal with his foolishness. He is not allowed to come to me if he is drinking, and he is trying to incorporate me and the bottle in his life and it is not working. God bless everyone with this issue in their life.
Considering your husband is not destructive or violent or a handicap to your home just go on with your own life and do your own thing I really think you’re fooling yourself if you think he’s not hurting your home and your heart it’s time to part good luck
Kay – I know exactly what you are feeling. My AH is a functioning alcoholic. He’s awesome when he’s sober, but that is becoming a rare occasion. He’s been drunk on the job,has gotten fired from 3 jobs because of it, has gotten 2 DWI’s and still insists he doesn’t have a problem with alcohol. He’s gone through court mandated alcohol classes which did no good because he lied his way through them. He refuses to get help and insists he can stop on his own. Our 3 kids want very little to nothing to do with him, they are done. I’ve been looking at it like he has a disease, because that’s what it is. Both of his parents are alcoholics. His father died young from it. His mom went through rehab and is little support. I try to be there for him as much as I can, but I refuse to enable him and that makes him mad. He feels hes just a paycheck to us and gets very depressed. He comes home and within 15 minutes he’s passed out drunk. All the responsibilities of keeping the house and the kids are left to me. I call him on it and he gets upset. I’ve learned you have to stay strong in yourself and your faith. Keep your chin up. You come first. I’m praying for you.
Bravo for a life well lived and creating structure for yourself that means you will be able to support yourself if you choose to separate yourself from your husband. First off, there is no such thing as an alcoholic who can control or limit their drinking. They have to be alcohol free. Second, it is not your responsibility to change the other person. That leaves you free to create the life of your choice. In Al-Anon we learn to detach with love. Many different versions of what love means makes this just a wee bit awkward. I know I make it sound like it can all be done in three steps but it cannot. You have a history, a life story, children, and events that create bonds with your alcoholic.
Many partners of alcoholics believe that they would leave if they could afford to do so. You can afford to do so, so you are choosing loyalty, love, or a belief system to hold your marriage together. If you know your reasoning, you can deal directly with that, because if you are staying with him, you are harming yourself and your kids, even if your kids are adults. There is no hurry to leave. There is no pressure other than what you put on yourself. My point is that your focus should now be on you and your personal happiness. I’m talking about the structure that allows you to live in confidence. Nobody can tell you exactly what you need to do. The answers only come from focusing on how you want to live. You are probably my age or a little younger which means you are at a stage of life where you deserve to put your health at the top of the list.
There is a trickle down effect when you make changes. In my case as I have embraced my life and my happiness, my siblings are more free to be happy. My children are more free to be happy. I was unable to leave my alcoholic because I am the home owner. My first husband died from a brain tumor leaving me with a small farm. I thought I was doing all the right things as I dated but…I wasn’t. I was struggling as a caregiver, grieving the loss of my husband and my life, and fumbling around trying to find out who I was. Ha ha. That last is funny because that is something we all should be doing all our life. Anyway I hooked up with an alcoholic. I knew he was a drinker but I did not know that there is no controlling the drinking. There is no such thing as a functional relationship with an alcoholic. In your life as a caregiver you focus on the other person. That is the rule. An alcoholic cannot be a good caregiver because they focus on the bottle first. They are not available even when sober.
There is no guarantee that when your alcoholic stops drinking that he will change into a form you like. It is common for the drinking to stop but the person still be the same unreliable being. There are so many elements involved that you can’t possibly find the right solution for the problem to be fixed. That’s why in Al-Anon we focus on ourselves. Your history of working in a hospital reveals that you are a caregiver. Caregivers are more at risk to be in “situations” with unhealthy partners because they are used to it on the job. There are expectations on the job that come naturally to you. I did not process the obvious signs with my second husband because I’d spent so much time taking care of a sick first husband. (He had dozens of seizures daily. He was misdiagnosed as having a stroke. By the time it was figured out that he had Glioblastoma Multiforma, he was having 80 to 100 seizures daily and my life was unmanageable.) I shifted into gear like all good caregivers do and I did the best I could. This left me vulnerable when he died. I did not honor my vulnerability. I did not respect myself. I thought of myself as damaged goods. ETC.
You cannot change this person you are with. There is nothing you can do for him. It is like using the toilet then yelling at it to flush. After a while a lot of crap just piles up. It’s not your handle to push, it’s his.
So I detached with as much love as I understood at the time. I turned to a higher power admitting that I was powerless over alcohol. I watched funny cat videos on YouTube and gradually I was able to not feel let down by his behavior. I quit taking him personally although I will admit to deep scarring that won’t ever heal. I have a therapist now and I think positive thoughts and I learned about the law of attraction. What you think about, you bring about. I worked to create genuine laughter in myself.
When he came to me and said he was ready to move on, I was relieved. He had quit helping me financially and I could not take him off the car insurance (state laws) and I was being financially drained. So when he left, I breathed better. I did not believe I could afford a divorce so I left it up to him. He never started any kind of proceeding. I was warned by a person in the know that in a community property state you are responsible for the bills of your spouse. If he had an accident not covered by insurance and he wouldn’t pay it, the bill becomes my responsibility. There is a lot more to it than that but I still had not quite healed to the point of being able to walk into a Lawyer with a credit card and admit that I needed a divorce. My husband took the whole thing out of my hands when he committed suicide two and half months after leaving me. He could have done that here, so as I heal, I count this as an act of love that he performed on my behalf; not the suicide but the doing it somewhere else.
Because I was already in therapy and already in Al-Anon, I do not have any realistic guilt feelings about him taking his own life. Guilt arises but it is from what I was taught I was supposed to feel and not based on reality. I was powerless to change him. That is a fact. If I dwell on “could haves” and “should haves” then I create more of the same negativity in my life. Today I rarely stop in at this forum and when I do, it is to offer support and hope. My life has changed for the better. I still have my farm. I’ve changed the focus from work to play. I still have to do some work but my attitude now includes plenty of rest so that I’m more interested in the goals I’ve set for myself. I am blessed to not be needy where men are concerned this time around. I’m not interested. I am interested in creating my nest and working at my art and being gentle with myself. This has caused me to feel more compassion toward others and have the energy to lend support to the people I meet in crisis who I believe plan to move forward. I no longer waste my time with those who wallow in crisis creating a life of more crisis. They are a drain on my resources.
2 years later from this post, my husband got help and was sober 15 months. He is sneak drinking again. I am not able to do this all over again. I need to make an exit plan.
It’s been 2 1/2 years since my post. I have been in counseling and joined a recovery group a year ago, I also have a counselor for my daughter. I filed for Divorce July 2018, we are still in the middle of it and he’s still living here and it’s very difficult, but my future looks bright. He chose .75 cent can of beer over his wife and daughter, he won’t get help, so I chose to move on, get healthy, and help people who want, need and appreciate help. I am not afraid of being alone, I’m middle aged the world is big and full of possibilities. I hope by now you’ve reached some conclusions about your situation and decisions that have made you happier. The road less traveled is sometimes the only road you can travel on, so my hope is that you’ve found a solution that is uniquely yours and one that you can live with, God bless