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"My husband is an alcoholic... please, what can I do?"

The simple truth is hard to hear. I receive a lot of emails from affected others. They are almost always from 'very good women' in unhealthy situations, seeking answers that they know deep down don’t exist. 

The emails often start out something like this:

"My dad was an alcoholic. He died of cirrhosis. My husband is an alcoholic and I’m afraid the disease will take him from me as well."

Folks often feel like a cliché when the connection between their past and present is this obvious. We’re ashamed to realize, “I married my dad.” We seek a different ending to the same story. The little girl sought to protect and to earn love. The grown woman still hungers for approval and so she seeks to save her partner from himself.


"I have gone through hell and back with him."

That sums up a lot of stories that have been shared with me very succinctly. I hear Anna Nalick singing: “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel you shout, cuz you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out.”

You’re afraid I’m going to tell you to get out. I won’t do that. I respect whatever decision you make as being best for you. What I am going to encourage you to do is to increase your self care and invest in yourself and not simply your partnership.


"He stopped going to AA meetings. He says they don’t work for him. I gave him information on other programs and he just says no. He thinks he can do it himself even though we've been through this many times and we both know he can't. He’s in denial about how powerful his addiction is."

Right. He’s not interested because he’s uncomfortable accepting support. He’s not taking responsibility for his needs because he’s on the fence about continuing to drink. As long as he’s not being accountable, nothing changes. More importantly, as long as you’re working harder than he is, nothing changes.


"He does keep saying he wants to stop. He knows that if he continues drinking he’ll lose his job. Apparently that is more important than losing me."

And there it is – resentment. Caregivers/rescuers are uncomfortable expressing anger and hurt feelings. They hit the bottle and we bottle up our emotions.


"He goes through cycles that infuriate me. I have to watch and go through it all with him as he takes me on another roller coaster ride."

Nope. I hate sounding insensitive, but we don’t have to go along for the ride. We choose to. Being trapped is most often a state of mind.


"He goes through denial. He minimizes the amount he drinks. He justifies getting drunk by saying he's not hurting anyone."

He’s hurting at least two people.


"He frequently lies to me."

Yes. So do you.


"He goes through phases where he’ll cut back. Sooner or later he's drunk again. I let my guard down when I think he's getting better only to find out that he is back to drinking with a vengeance or doing drugs instead."

Letting your guard down is a choice to be vulnerable. My suggestion is that you do that with people who are willing to support you. We struggle in knowing who to open up to. This is an intuitive and spiritual choice that hinges on seeing things as they are and not as we want them to be.


"His parents have bailed him out of jail, financial problems, and other difficulties. They are enablers. I don't have their support. If they would stop rescuing him he would hit bottom."

Enabling almost always feels like the right thing to do. But it’s unhealthy and it robs the addict of motivation to change. It’s good to share concerns and to educate those in the life of an addict if they are open to it. Beyond that we are powerless to evoke change in them just as we are powerless to force an active addict into recovery.


"I still hope and believe that our family will be restored one day if he would just get sober and stay sober... I feel like he has ruined my life."

Sometimes we cannot see the forest for the trees. How do we maintain hope while acknowledging our lives are in ruin? The more difficult question to wrestle with is whether our hope is real or whether we’re just trying to believe something that we know is very unlikely at best.


Every email ends the same way:

“Please, what can I do?”

You mean, what can you do for him

  • You can hold him accountable, assuming it’s safe to do so.
  • You can offer support for any healthy undertaking.
  • You can encourage.

Most importantly you can:


Clinical Social Worker/Therapist
My story is I'm forever a work in progress and I love connecting with REAL people who are doing great things. I'm blessed to be making a living doing something I love. I'm a proud dad and the luckiest husband ever. I'm an aspiring author - check out my recovery blog at: Thanks! Jim

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