How To Deal With An Alcoholic Husband

by pgh

If your husband is an alcoholic, than you’re suffering from alcoholism as well.

That’s because alcoholism is a “family disease”. To cope with your spouse’s alcoholism, you’ll develop defense mechanisms that get in the way of your own happiness. You might feel despair, hopelessness, even fear – despite being stone cold sober. The truth is that if your spouse is struggling with alcoholism, you become “sick” as well, and you need recovery.

Your Options

There’s no “one size fits all” advice for dealing with an alcoholic husband. Every situation is different, but you really only have 3 options:

1. Leave

At a certain point, you have to look out for your own well-being, and the well-being of your children – especially the well-being of your children.

Most people don’t see leaving as an option.  Obviously you shouldn’t consider leaving the second you realize “my husband is an alcoholic”, but at some point it becomes the only right choice.  You may not be at this stage yet, but do know that this is an option that you may one day have to take in order to protect yourself and your children.

If your husband is getting physical or violent, even if he hasn’t hit you or the kids (yet), then its time to leave. Perhaps its just temporary, or perhaps you should be hitting the road and never looking back, but you definitely need to remove yourself and your kids from the threat of physical harm.

2. Stay and Do Nothing

Unfortunately, many with alcoholic spouses choose this option.

Unfortunately, suffering in silence and hoping for the problem to go away won’t lead anywhere, except maybe towards misery and depression.

3. Educate Yourself & Get Support

If you’re living with an alcoholic, you probably already realize that confronting an alcoholic rarely results in immediate change, or even an acknowledgement of the problem.

If you’re not ready to leave, and your husband won’t come to terms with his addiction, you can either do nothing and wait for his alcoholism to ruin your family, or you can educate yourself and reach out to others for support.

Remember what I said earlier about alcoholism being a family disease? If you’re dealing with an alcoholic husband, you need to seek out recovery. You can do this by going to an Al-Anon meeting.

At Al-Anon, you’ll find others who have friends or family afflicted by addiction. Al-anon follows the same steps as AA, showing family members how to change their thinking. You’ll learn to “mind your own business” and separate your own life and happiness from being dependent on his sobriety. You’ll learn to take inventory and come to terms with the past and develop a relationships with a higher power. You’ll find support and develop new tools and insight to better deal with your husband’s disease. And perhaps you’ll gradually move your spouse closer to surrender and treatment.

However, do know that this can be a very slow process that can take years. There may be a point in this process where you simply need to leave to preserve your sanity, no matter how much you want to stay and support your husband.

Whatever you choose to do, one thing is for sure – do not live in denial and expect the problem to resolve itself while you do nothing. Go to an Al-anon meeting and get the support you need. You’ll learn that you can be happy, whether your alcoholic husband is sober or not.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

debbie scanlan February 24, 2013 at 1:07 am

My husband was a recovered alcoholic for 29 years. He started to drink again 5 years ago I have left him 3 times but find myself going back. I have a bad heart and am diabetic and I need him in case something happens to me. He was put on cymbatlta 60 mgr to help with the depression but I see no change, if anything he got worse. I am totally against alcohol because my father drank a lot of beer as we were growing up.

Diane Gatti March 2, 2013 at 4:00 am

I married what I believe to be an alcoholic almost two years ago. I knew this before I got married, but went along with the marriage because I was/am afraid of not being able to find another man to love me. I am afraid to leave. I am a scared young adult with the rest of my life ahead of me; but I have chosen to live this miserable life with a man who chooses beer over me. I feel like an idiot. I walk on eggshells every day in fear of saying the wrong things. I love him when he is sober, but that rarely happens. He says I am the cause of it. I say he is the cause of our unhappy marriage. All we do is blame each other. I am so sick of life.

Josh March 2, 2013 at 7:35 pm

You’re not an idiot and you don’t have to go through this alone. Believe me, I’ve seen this story play out a thousand times. I wish I could tell you it always ends well, but the truth is that it doesn’t. Almost always, the reason things don’t work out is because people don’t do anything to create change – they let their feelings of being trapped and helplessness overcome them. Don’t let that be you!!

What I CAN tell you is that it sounds like you really need to find some support. I know its hard to believe when you’re living through this nightmare, but your situation really isn’t unique, and I personally know people who have been EXACTLY where you are and felt all the same emotions you are feeling now, and are now living happy, fulfilling lives in healthy, mutually loving relationships. It’s certainly not easy, it takes time, a lot of pain, and sometimes it takes making some really hard choices – but the common denominator is that they reached out for help.

I highly suggest seeking out an al-anon meeting near you. I know it might seem intimidating, but its worth it. This isn’t something you want to go through alone.

Brittany May 3, 2013 at 4:34 am

wow this sounds like the story of my life, i too feel hopeless and he blames me for his problem even though he had this problem before we met. unfortunately at the moment im in the hospital on strict bed rest, 28 weeks pregnant i had a surgery 3 weeks ago (basically sewed me shut) but can deliver anytime, im 22 years old and this is our first child. we are having many complications which is making his drinking worst.i have no friends of my own and i feel scared and alone for me and our unborn child. as im typing he’s extremely drunk and gets violent, destroys our home. hes never laid a hand on me fortunately. i just feel like i cant do it anymore and trying to reach out to other women like me. email me anytime [email protected] id love to talk to you, cause i just sit in this room all day hah

Rachael May 30, 2013 at 4:25 am

Diane, I never sign up to leave comments on a page, but your story just spoke to me and moved me so much because I am in the exact same situation. I, too, am a young adult and a newlywed. I, too, knew of my husband’s alcoholism before our marriage and went through with it anyway. I, too, am afraid to leave. I, too, feel like an idiot for choosing this life when I could have such a better one. I love my husband when he is sober which is why I don’t want to leave. I am no longer myself but I’m slowly turning into a person that even I despise. Thank you for telling your story. Thank you for reaching out. You have given me such a gift, and I feel like you’re a kindred spirit. I will not stop praying that you may find your happiness.

archana June 4, 2013 at 8:04 am

Take control of your life. If you do not have kids yet, move out of marriage ASAP. If you have children, make sure they are not in the fighting scenes, send them to boarding etc. Do not blame yourself, no matter what he says and how much he pretends to be in love with u and promises to change his addiction for u. Please love yourself, try to engage in something more important than him, stay calm and if u want to marry another man and do not expect the new man to be any better because he might come with some other baggage. Happiness is within u and not in someone else personality, genes, behaviour and habits, so better look within u and explore your own potentials

Hilary April 7, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Hi…your story touched me..I was married to an alcoholic..unfortunately, the alcohol killed him in the end..I had prayed for something to happen, to give him a shock maybe, something that would make him give up the drink, but never expected that to happen..when you say it is like walking on egg shells, I know EXACTLY what you mean…I am a much happier person now, and so much more relaxed…you will never change will only get worse, promise me, I know…I wish you all the very best…Hilary

lisa March 4, 2013 at 1:00 am

I am married to an alcoholic. I have left and came back home. I have major depression and see no way out. I have been in psychiatric hospitals 3 times.

Lost my home, my car. What’s left? I hate who he has become. He is a Binge drinker and goes from job to job. I’m trying to get my life together so I can be strong enough to be on my own. I need my life back. I appreciate your suggestions, Thanks.

Mandy March 6, 2013 at 2:07 am

I married my husband only a year ago. He is my dream come true and has done so much for me and my children. I noticed before getting married that he drank a lot but he assured me it was only because he just got home from deployment and promised it wasn’t a drinking problem. I believed him. I lost my mom when I was 5 due to drunk driving, was molested my entire childhood by my alcoholic dad, attempted suicide while I was drunk, and recently my brother was in a horrible accident because of use of alcohol. I have 3 kids and pregnant with my husbands first child, I’m scared for them. I don’t want that life anymore or want my kids going through it and don’t want him or us hurt. He is lying constantly now about where he goes or doing and always has alcohol with him…even in his work truck. He works in the oilfield and says its part of the job but I feel it’s a lie the majority of the time. I don’t know what to do. I want our marriage to work and he is a great man sober but being through this my whole life…I’m not sure I have the strength or patience to do it again. Any suggestions??

Laurel March 14, 2013 at 4:55 am

I have been with an alcoholic for 12 years, I knew it going in also. I left him for 3 of those years and was depressed even alone, wishing I could meet someone who loved me. He ended up with colon cancer and had major surgery, he continues to drink. He does drink less often than before however he will take off for the weekend, won’t answer his phone or let me know where he is. I spend every time trying to find out where he is so I know he is at least safe. He maintains a job and knows he has a problem but thinks more work will keep him out of trouble. Believe it hurts every time, I feel like he is not taking our marriage seriously. I know he loves me and I love him but it is so hard to just give up. I have been married 4 times, all alcoholics, I feel doomed that those are the only kind of men I will meet. What do I do? I’ve been to Al Anon, it didn’t help.

Elizabeth March 22, 2013 at 6:47 am

Hi everyone. I was crying reading the stories …. Especially Diane. I am in your exact position. I married him KNOWING. I am a recovering alcoholic, I’ve been sober 6 years…… My ex husband was a heroin addict. I’m only 30 years old….. And I’ve done it again 🙁 I feel your pain. He lies and makes everything my fault. Even knowing how alcoholism works, I can’t help but feel sad and betrayed(when I used to do the same things) I’m laying here tonight after him blaming me for his drinking and telling me he won’t be home tonight. That’s not fair … None of it is fair. Alcoholism is a selfish, self-seeking disease. They don’t mean to hurt others, they just can’t help it, as they are sick. Now here is my point… Will we choose to stay, and be miserable? Or choose to leave and be sad for a while…. But find ourselves and our value? That’s the question. God bless you and I will pray for you

Laura April 12, 2013 at 8:13 pm

i am 25, and my husband recently turned 25 two days ago. we have been married for 5 years. in the beginning of our marriage, everything was fine. he had drank before in the past but willingly, gave up all his bad habits to start a life with me. we now have four children under the age of 5. he started drinking again. he drinks a 12 pac everyday. he thinks he keeps it under control, and calls him self a controlled-alcoholic. he says he is responsible about it. He has his days where he gets emotional and tears up and tells me he wants to change, and that he is going too. most nights prior to drinking he is a completely different person towards me. he says hurtful things that break my heart. the next day he will say sorry and that he does not remember. and he tells me i nag him all the time and that it’s getting old. but during the day he loves me? It is now starting to have an affect on me. i find myself depressed. i feel like i am not worth anything. i don’t feel good enough, and my self esteem has gone to shit. i am suffering but do not let it out on my children. i wait till every one is asleep in the house, and then i cry. I also wake up frequently throughout the night now. i need to know how to cope with a spouse who is a alcoholic. Help!

lisa April 25, 2013 at 2:35 am

My husband is beginning his life of sobriety.
I moved out 8 months ago and want to know if there is any
recommended amount of waiting time before I move back home.

Eric May 2, 2013 at 3:27 am

I thank you kindly for establishing this blog and providing dialog. Because I haven’t found anyplace that discusses alcoholic wives, I am going to post here. My wife of 9 years has finally admitted to being an alcoholic. She is a vibrant, beautiful person, perhaps the kindest soul I’ve ever met. I’m very familiar with her troubled childhood and her toxic family, a situation that she is attempting to develop boundaries around. Header than it sounds, to those who know. Now that she’s a mommy to our 3 y.o. Daughter the stressors seem to simply be heaped too high. I am doing everything I can to assist in her recovery, giving her time for AA meetings, therapy, and sitters (thank God for a good sitter). I am trying to reduce my now chronic anxiety about our station by working out as often as possible (I love to work out, thankfully) and telling myself that her alcoholism is not my problem. That second bit is hard.
I have my work cut out, and so does she. Peace be with you, Eric

Agnoa May 12, 2013 at 6:57 am

I’m sitting in bed now crying and so full of hatred towards my boyfriend of 7 almost 8 years. Wasted years of pain and misery. I don’t even love him, I’m only here because I have no where else to go. I’m dependent and needy and can’t stand the thought of being alone. He has been clean at points in our relationship but he’s always been a mean and nasty person. He admits it and tells me to leave yet when I have in the past he begs me to come back. I am stuck here now, full of mounting hatred for an alcoholic who cares more about his dead dog and stuffed animals more than me. Im bitter and hate myself for being so weak and pathetic and want to just end my life. I have no friends and have no desire to make any. What kind of person stays with someone who has threatened their life and done do many horrible crimes to them? I was doing so well, working and getting healthy but his drinking is getting worse and he’s becoming more heartless everyday. I used to cry and hurt myself, now I want to hurt him. I will throw a party the day I leave, and I won’t ever come back, I can’t wait until I can finally kick him out of my life.

Jessica May 13, 2013 at 4:20 pm

My name is Jessica. I am 29 years old. I have a young daughter. I have been married to my husband for 3 years, but known him for 10 years. I knew he had a drinking problem, but when I met him I wad 18 and he was 34. I really started to like him after a while. I was like obsessed and in love with him. He did things that would hurt me over the years, but I would always turn a blind eye. I felt that he was my soul mate. I just wanted to be with him. I always thought with my heart and not my brain. The obsession, and soul mate outlook about him vanished a little after we got married. He is a mean, nasty human being. He makes fun of me. He is heartless and selfish. I feel as many do that I have to walk on eggshells around him. Also like many others I have love for my husband when he is sober. I have multiple sclerosis and things at times can be very difficult. He has put his hands on me. He has turned me into his monster because when he puts his hands on me I fight back now. I never did that before. I hate being around negative people. He is extremely negative. He always has comments to make, and it doesn’t always have to be about me. He says things about everybody. I just so tired of the nonsense. I want to leave at times but he had threatened to kill me, and also because of my illness I have to have health insurance. I just need support. Where can I go for that?

jennifer May 14, 2013 at 9:01 pm

I have been married to a alcoholic/binge drinker for eight years, which have become the most miserable years of my life. I went to college and worked hard to get where I needed to be in my life. I never thought anything like this would happen to me since I was mentally, emotionally and physically happy!! Slowly everything in my life has become contaminated by alcoholism and I have lost my joy for life. I feel for the other situations because they sound alot like mine. I have stayed with my husband but I must leave for my own sanity, which I feel many should do!! I feel “stuck” like others but anything is better than being controlled by another person and their BAD BEHAVIOR!! Every situation is different but we are all going through the same deal and it is a shame to waste precious years on a person who can care less about your feelings. I would love to read some comments, because writing this makes my confidence a little higher and knowing that I am not the only person feeling this way!!

Tina May 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm

You need to get out of that situation, depression is suppressed and ongoing anger and it is obvious that your relationship with a person who puts himself ahead of your feelings all the time is a big part, if not all of the reason why you are depressed. You need to get with someone -( not in the relationship sense), who can build you up while you get professional councilling to help you deal with your own problems…go to al-anon, or some community service and ask for help. if you don’t get it, go somewhere else. Set yourself a written goal each day….it is hard to make choices when you are depressed – you need to make yourself accountable by ticking your little goals off.
Anxiety comes from undealt with anger and as you make little helpful choices in the right direction it will gradually get better. Get down on your knees & ask God to help you. I am writing from experience….no one can understand depression like someone who’s been there….YOU CANNOT DO THIS ALONE OR with this pressure in your life.
Good Luck…I am a living testimony to the fact that it can and will get better….don’t give up and when you can’t do it, ask God to do it in spite of how you feel.

Tired May 24, 2013 at 1:04 am

I am married to a alcoholic that I have prayed for God to change and it’s the same at this point I seriously don’t know what else to say or do..I have two beautiful small kids that has seen me go through some very tough times with this man he have promised several times that he will get help and haven’t done so do I leave and begin my life else where after being with him for thirteen years O love him but Iam tired…tired of arguments sleepless nights and tears I’m just tireds

Kay May 26, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Hi Lisa,

I know what you are going through! I have been married for almost 10 years with two beautiful children. My husband is in the Navy and this past deployment when he came home he started to binge drink more often than usual. He has started to call me names in front of our children. I finally told him if you do not get help I will not stay in the marriage. I have said this many times before and every time he will stop drinking for about 3 weeks then start again when he thinks in his mind that I forgot. He cant even admit that he is an alcoholic. I just have to say enough is enough and I will only offer support if he gets professional help! I have no choice but to leave if he dosent. Lisa, I know how you are feeling because as I type here today I am to depressed and have feelings of despair…but I do believe that in due time you will start to feel better and will get through it! Look you only have one life to live…as far as we know it..dont waste your energy. Also, I figured you cant help those who do not want to help themselves and please don’t blame yourself…just focus on what you have done and know that you have tried your best. You are not the blame even if your spouse tells you that…I know mine does when he is drunk. I dont know if you have any children but, for me my childrens safety comes first and I dont feel safe anymore with my husband of almost 10 years 🙁 Im not sure if you will read this but if you would like to comment back or have anything you would like to discuss please do!

Andrea July 6, 2013 at 3:24 am

I have been with my husband almost 8 yrs and married a yr. I knew he was an alcoholic but he was getting help. &ut these past few yrs he lies nd slips more and more? I Love him but I just can’t deal with it anymore? Whenever things get to stressful he bails on me and gets drunk. He can’t hold a job and I feel like I am doing this all alone? But yet I feel like I am a b*tch for wanting out?

George August 15, 2013 at 12:36 am

When my spouse binges, he EXHAUSTS me. Sometimes I have no choice but to go to a hotel for a SAFE sanctuary. I have to sneak out because in the past he’s gotten physical in efforts to block me. He’s in the beginnings of another episode. Wish me luck guys. God give me strength?

Lisa August 25, 2013 at 1:23 pm

My husband was sober for 16 years and 6 years ago he had a slip. He has been struggling ever since. It has gotten really bad since May when he was in hospital and rehab. Followed the program when he got out, put only for a few weeks. He can’t seem to get past the 3 week mark without a drink. Entered another program beginning of August for only 7 days, did 2 weeks of meetings and came home drunk last night. Said such disgusting things to me; never thought words like that about me would come out of his mouth. I slapped him in the face and he became crazed. I shouldn’t of slapped him, I know that, but I was so angry at what he was saying. Our adult son came home and they got into it, verbally, very ugly. Now he is still passed out on sofa. He said last night that he is leaving, but do I push it today, tomorrow or what. I don’t want him here anymore. I feel I have exhausted all means over 6 years and he needs to want sobriety, me wanted in for him just isn’t enough. I never tried Al-Anon, actually this is the first time I am discussing this with people outside of family and close friends. The sad thing is, I love him with all my heart and would go to hell and back for him, but I think I have done that and now I need to worry about me.

pat August 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm

i have been maried to one for twenty years of pure hell. I accepted so much unacceptable behavior. With the help of alanon i started to get my life back. My husband crashed our finances, took 250,000 out of 401k without my knowlege had business law suites and lost business ext. He is also a cop and is arrogant and thinks hes above the law. My children have been so affected as well. When i started to implement tough boundaries and get off the merry go round his behavior got worse to me!!! I pay for the bills but stopped putting the whole check in the bank for his cash cow that enabled him to buy his friends drinks at the bar. I also stopped nagging him and dont go to parties with him bc his behavior was always excessive. Needless to say i detached not always loving. But continue to try with alanon. Regardless he didnt didnt seek recovery and found new enablers. Very sad . We are now in process of seperating and i am devestated for my kids but with proper support i am finding the strength to break the chain. It is so hard and i still wish he said he would go for help but he wont. I pray every day to continue to get the strength to turn it over. The papers are being signed soon and once again he is the victim and i am kicking him out of the house. I also have no support from his family bc they all refuse to see it as a problem.