This is my 500th blog. Whew. Each week for almost 10 years I’ve been answering someone’s question and each week I get lots more questions. I’ve so appreciated all the community and support you give one another here. Thank you.
Some of you are going to the 2018 CONQUER Conference. I would love to meet you and have you meet one another. If you are a part of this blog community and you are coming to the conference, I want you to find one another. Please e-mail me and let me know. Also, during the Friday night desert time please meet me by my book table so that I can meet you and you can meet one another.
Today’s Question: I have been married for 27 years. We were very happy in the beginning. About 10 years ago my husband began to drink and became verbally abusive toward our children and me. He has not held down a job and spends recklessly resulting in the loss of our house.
I left him in July and am trying to rebuild my life. It seems to me he “hides” behind his alcoholism and wears it as a badge of honor as if I am to stick with him because it is a disease and take what comes with it.
Is it wrong to leave someone with a disease that results in abuse?
Answer: Great question and I believe an important one to tackle on this site because of all the nuances that this question brings up.
There are people who have all kinds of chronic diseases. For example, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, Coronary Artery Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Hashimoto (thyroid) Disease, or Lupus. Yet, when afflicted with a disease of any kind, a person has crucial lifestyle choices to make in the management of that disease as well as how they choose to steward their body.
From your question, it sounds as if your husband uses the disease model of alcoholism for an excuse to act out, to be irresponsible for his health, his work, and his family responsibilities. He operates as if he has a “victim mindset.” In other words, he’s telling himself, “I have a disease of alcoholism, therefore there is nothing I can do but drink to excess, act irresponsibly, not work steadily, emotionally vomit all over my family and mismanage the family money.”
But none of that is true. If you accept the “disease” model of alcoholism, he still has important choices to make. He can abstain from alcohol because he sees the harm it causes him and his family. He can attend Alcoholics Anonymous for the support he needs to stay sober. He can take Antabuse, which is a pretty effective little pill that helps people not drink. The medication doesn’t address their inner demons of why they drink, but it makes them violently ill if they drink alcohol, which is a pretty good deterrent if someone desires to stay sober.
Let me put it another way. Let’s say your husband had Type 1 Diabetes and his blood sugar was out of control. He’s having circulation problems, he’s been warned he might go blind or have to have his foot or leg amputated if he doesn’t start watching his diet and monitoring his blood sugars better.
You’re worried because you don’t want to have to have to take care of a husband who is blind and in a wheelchair because of his own poor choices in how he handled his disease. Yet he continues to overeat, drink 5 cola’s a day, eat sugar to excess and refuse to monitor his blood sugars. But when you complain or confront him about what he’s doing he tells you, “I have a Diabetes, a disease. It’s not my fault I got the unlucky cards in the genetic deck.”
Not true. Yes, he has diabetes, but you must ask yourself this question. Are his “health consequences” a result of the disease or the result of his poor choices in not managing his disease and stewarding his body?
If the answer is that the consequences are from his own sinful choices, the second question you must ask yourself is this. Are those negative consequences supposed to be gracefully absorbed by you as a good or godly wife, or is something more redemptive called for here? Are you to bear this load or is he? (Galatians 6:5).
For example, If your husband had Alzheimer’s disease or Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) we know that there is an observable decline of functioning due to no neglect of their own. It is simply the natural progression of the disease. When that is the case, the most loving, godly thing for a spouse (or adult child) to do is accept their spouse’s decline without resentment and sacrificially care for the person as you are able.
However, that is not the case in this situation. Have you and your children tried an intervention with him to see if you can bring him to a place of repentance? I am only guessing here, but I imagine you’ve gone that route with no real changes. But if not, you might want to consult with an intervention specialist and plan a purposeful intervention to present him with the reality of his choices.
However, after all else has failed your decision to separate from your husband can be the most loving thing you can do to try to wake him up to his destructive behaviors. Not only is this behavior emotionally and financially destructive to you and your children, but his behaviors are also destructive to his own body and mind. Your separation draws a strong line in the sand that says, “Now it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to let this disease control you, or you are going to choose to get the tools and help to stop it.”
2 Peter 2:19 reminds us that we are a slave to whatever controls us.
That could be alcohol or drugs, but that verse could also be broadened to mean our anger, our lust, or any other emotion that rules our life.
Sin has consequences. Those consequences are meant to wake us up to the insanity and destructiveness of sin. Click To Tweet
When we, as loving and caring people, put all kinds of cushy pillows around those we love so that they don’t experience the negative consequences of their own foolishness, we are not helping them. We are only enabling them to stay deceived longer and therefore have more opportunities to do damage to themselves and to others.
Stay with your boundaries friend. But don’t do it in anger or resentment but rather in Christ’s love. You can respond,
“I love you too much to collude with your delusion that you have no choices here.
Yes, you have the disease of alcoholism, but there are many people who have that disease but don’t drink, work hard to stay sober, stay gainfully employed, and don’t verbally abuse their children or spouse.
You have lost your way and the alcohol is deceiving you and deforming you from being the man you could have been. I accept you have the disease of alcoholism, but I do not accept how you handle your disease.
Your choices are causing you and our family more problems. Alcoholism does not give you a license to be reckless with yourself or our lives. I’m hoping you will choose life, so you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19).”
Friends, when you’ve dealt with an addict, whether drug, alcohol or sexual, how have you let go of the “guilt” that you have to stick around and bear the consequences of his poor choices?