Help! My husband’s an alcoholic

Posted on: 21 January 2008 by

Kerry needs advice on coping with her alcoholic husband.

Kerry Writes:

My husband has always drunk and in our younger days we would get into terrible fights but then it all seemed to stop and things were good.  However, I am out at work all day and since he became self-employed and started to work from home over 18 months ago, he started to drink more and more.  I have never asked him to stop drinking and luckily a couple of months ago, he admitted he had a problem and started to go to AA.  

Since he started going to AA, I have cut his access to as much cash as possible because if he isn’t working while drinking, he is not bringing in any income and he has previously run up debts on credit cards.  I love my husband, but as I know to my cost, like all alcoholics, when he drinks he starts to abuse me verbally telling me he doesn’t love me and wants me to leave.

I have talked to my husband about getting a job where he has to go and work for somebody else, to give him extra responsibility because I have read that isolation can be a trigger for drinking, but he doesn’t think this is a good idea.  I am a strong, independent woman with a good job, I have never experienced living with an alcoholic and I will admit that I probably don’t always handle the situation in the best way but I am trying to learn, however I am now starting to doubt whether my life with my husband has a future.  

I now feel I’m at a point that I need do something else – but I don’t know what. Can you please give me any advice?

Andy Advises:

Kerry, your husband has voluntarily gone to AA and that means he’s at last admitted he has a drink problem.  Now you need help from people who know exactly how it feels because they’ve been through it themselves.  As they explain on their website, Al-Anon (which includes Alateen for younger members) has been offering hope and help to families and friends of alcoholics for more than 50 years.

It is estimated that each alcoholic affects the lives of at least four other people - and alcoholism is truly a family disease. No matter what relationship you have with an alcoholic, whether they are still drinking or not, all who have been affected by someone else’s drinking, can find solutions that lead to serenity in the Al-Anon/Alateen fellowship.

Many of those who go to Al-Anon meetings feel just as much in despair and as hopeless as you do, unable to believe that things can ever change. Everyone goes to Al-Anon because they want and need help.  Al-Anon may be listed in the white pages of your local telephone directory. Cities with local information services are listed on their Web site

Hard as it is, I don’t think you can continue to control your husband’s life the way you have been doing, even though you truly believe it’s for his own good.  Cutting his cash flow when he’s shown he accepts his problem really is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.  You have to show him at least a modicum of trust and that means letting him be a man and keep money he’s earned in his pocket.  

By setting up his own business, he is taking on more responsibility than he had working for someone else, not less.  He knows the bottom line is, no work, no pay. 

You say you are a strong and successful businesswoman.  Could you perhaps suggest working with him building up this business?   That way, you would be working together towards a common goal.  He wouldn’t be alone.  Add your strength to his, but please, don’t belittle him, as you seem to be doing right now.  The more you treat him like a child, the more you will diminish his sense of self-worth.  The more you take away his self-esteem, the more likely he is to go back on the bottle. 

Do get in touch with Al-Anon and let me know what happens.

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