How do I deal with my husband’s alcohol abuse?

Good morning friends!

Well can you believe that in two short weeks Christmas 2010 will be history? It sort of snuck up on us this year didn’t it? At least that’s how it feels in my house. I’ve gotten the tree decorated but that’s about it. My granddaughter, Maya, is coming for a visit so I’m a little cautious about how much to decorate because she has taken her first steps. In another week or so she might be careening throughout Nana’s house exploring all kinds of stuff that could be harmful to her. So we’ll keep it simple and safe.

Thank you all for your prayers regarding last week’s webinar on Love Addiction, Co-Dependency and The Emotionally Destructive Relationship through The American Association of Christian Counselors. It went very well. We had over 200 participants, mostly from the US, but also from South Africa, Australia, Philippines, and Canada. It amazes me that people all over the world can receive excellent teaching on a variety of topics through the internet.

My December newsletter went out last week on Simplifying Family Traditions. If you missed it and want to read it, please sign up for my e-mail newsletter on my home page at and we’ll send you a copy.

This week's question: I appreciate you urging us to take responsibility for our own behavior without excusing the wrong behavior of others. How do I deal with a spouse that makes partial attempts at improvement, and then lapses without confession or apology? The rest of the family is supposed to be okay no matter what. But we aren’t okay.

If I try to address the issue with him he justifies himself, lies, and calls himself worthless (it makes me feel guilty for bringing it up). He blames me or uses anger to make me shut up.

He is going to a good counselor with me, but sometimes it seems like he is trying to play along just enough to keep doing what he really want to do – drink. This is discouraging our children horribly and wearing me down too much.

We’re isolated in many ways. We don’t go to church regularly and do not have friends actively involved in our lives or supporting us in this. I have tried to go to Al-Anon and benefited greatly, but my husband sabotaged my attempts to attend by getting drunk, picking fights with me so I can’t leave the kids with him. I don’t have other people to watch the kids and we have a lot of kids.

We are all so needy, but I don’t know what to do. I am somewhat afraid of my husband’s reaction if I expose what is really happening in our home and ask for help beyond what I have already attempted. Extended family is not as supportive as I need them to be; they’re afraid of shame and want me to just be fine.

Answer: The situation you are in is messy and there are no easy or quick solutions, but you do need some support. The first step is being honest with yourself and that is exactly what you’re trying hard to do. You are not okay, nor are your children. You are all in a great deal of pain and the source of that pain as far as I can discern from your e-mail is your husband’s drinking. Probably more to the point, much of the pain comes from how he behaves when he’s drinking.

You mention that you’re not sure whether or not he’s manipulating you in the counseling in order to keep drinking. That makes me question whether or not his drinking is actually being addressed in your counseling sessions. If not, why not? Perhaps he’s using the promise of going to marital counseling to give you hope that things will improve, deceiving himself and you that somehow things can improve without having to face his drinking problem.

Please hear me. You cannot deal with marriage problems adequately while someone is regularly intoxicated. His drinking must become the primary focus of treatment. That being the case, your part is to expose the frequency and intensity of his drinking binges and what happens when he is drunk. You want to describe as specifically as possibly what he does or doesn’t do during these times that create fear, pain and suffering for you and the kids.

Please discuss how to do this privately with your counselor so that you might plan how best to confront him. You’ve already tried to do it privately and his response has been to lie, blame you, get angry and fall into self-hatred. When he does that you shut up, feel guilty, and back off from pressuring him. It’s pretty effective, but his tactics are destructive and manipulative.

It’s also important that you understand the risk you’ll take when you confront him again, this time in front of your counselor. He very well might refuse anymore counseling. If that happens, then what? Again, talking this over with your counselor ahead of time helps you be wise and as proactive as you can. Read all you can about doing an intervention with an alcoholic and work to implement as many steps as appropriate to your particular situation.

Finally, I want you to know that your husband might hate his drinking as much as you do and truly want to stop, but willpower is not enough to actually stop. The Bible calls it being a slave of sin (2 Peter 2:19). I don’t know your situation fully, but your husband may need more support, accountability and people pressure (in good ways) in order to actually take the necessary steps that will help him succeed. Do all you can to get involved in your local church as well as possibly Al-Anon or some other Twelve Step Group so that both of you will find some friends, accountability persons and spiritual mentors to help you walk through this difficult journey.

Don’t give up on yourself even if he won’t stop drinking. Do what you need to do to get healthy, strong, and whole and stay there. As you heal, you will be a positive influence on your children and help them make good choices as they grow up.


  1. Anonymous on December 28, 2010 at 12:46 am

    I identified with your story as I too was married to someone who abused alcohol. Even after he attended a 12 month full time live in spiritually based treatment program and attending church 2 times a week with me, he backslide and it left me feeling baffled and insecure. I had to make a very difficult decision to remove myself and my children from the situation. The point being he has to want to change and I have finally come to terms with he is not willing to. This is sometimes the hardest part to understand and grasp.

  2. Anonymous on January 1, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Yes, I'm coming to this realization after living like this for many years. He doesn't want to change his alcohol abuse and doesn't think it is a problem in our marriage. It does affect him and our relationship, but he doesn't see it. I've tried all sorts of ways to manipulate him into changeing, but it always backfires and I was wrong to do that. I keep holding onto a dream that apparently is already dead but I don't want to accept:( Sorry that you both are dealing with this as well. I'm glad you go to a point that you were able to remove yourself. I also removed myself, but it isn't permanent yet and I've been holding out hope that is slowly dying. Maybe God has a better plan for me and my kids in mind, but I've been too angry at God to accept it or want better for us. It is hard to let go of what you want and what you thought was God's plan at one point.

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