What do you do when your spouse is drinking too much and it is negatively affecting your lives together? Do you continue to close your eyes to what’s going on? Do you keep hoping that someday he/she will finally wake up to the problems the drinking is causing? Have you “been there and done that” —continually closing your eyes, hoping things will change?
Or do you yell and scream and try to shame him/her into stopping this behavior? The question is: “How’s that been working for you so far?”
And then there are the excuses —you’ve probably heard a million of them! “I drink to forget” “I feel better when I drink” “I’ve tried to ‘get on the wagon’ …’every time I fail'” and more.
“Alcoholics offer many excuses — ‘Drinking makes me feel better,’ ‘It calms me down,’ ‘I’m more fun when I’m drunk’ and more —but these explanations only skim the surface of the deeper issues that usually drive and fuel a drinking problem.” (Ashley Michael, from article titled “But I’ve Got Reasons” formerly posted on Focusonthefamily.com)
And what about the promises your spouse has made that “things will be different?” (That is, if you’ve even received such promises!) Perhaps you can relate to the following comments that came from a wife whose husband has a drinking problem:
“I couldn’t count the times Bob promised he would never drink again. It was completely frustrating. Bob would look me straight in the eye and tell me he’s done with bingeing. He’d say, ‘I’ve seen how it hurts you and the kids, and I’ve had it. I promise you that I’ll never do it again!’
“Then in a day or two he was dead drunk. I thought he was lying to me. How could he love me and lie so many times to my face? But he wasn’t lying. He couldn’t keep his promise. Bob thought he could whip this problem with willpower. It’s like trying to stop diarrhea by making up your mind to do so.” (From Focus on the Family article “If my husband drinks a lot but doesn’t get drunk, is he an alcoholic?“)
Good Intentions… But…
That’s not the most inviting word picture to think about, but it has some truth to it, don’t you think? Your spouse may have good intentions but he/she is in a state of denial both mentally (not facing the truth) and in a state of denial physically (where the needs of the body deny him or her the ability to stop reaching for another drink unless he/she has serious help).
It’s difficult to talk to someone who is in a continual state of denial, as well. That is why you often need help to know how to best work with the situation you have been handed. When you are dealing with a person who is a heavy drinker, you aren’t speaking to your spouse so much as you are the alcohol he/she is using for numbing purposes —to cope with life in an unhealthy manner.
When you are trying to deal with this type of dysfunctional partner you truly need wisdom. You also need to get help from someone who isn’t so close to the situation and can give you objective advice.
“A comment I often have clients, with a dysfunctional partner, repeat back to me is: ‘Do not expect functional behavior from a dysfunctional person.’
“Learning to get our expectations in line with reality is a first step in dealing with reality. We are often the first person that needs a change of perspective. In therapy we call this ‘re-framing’ the situation.” (Delores Stone, Counselor)
You need to “get real” within yourself and with your spouse. To help you with this, please read:
So, in light of what’s been discussed so far, you may find the following advice from author Angie Lewis, to be helpful:
Detach With Love.
Be loving and supportive of the person you married, not the alcoholic. Don’t take any of the emotional garbage they dish out while drinking. Have you noticed how when your spouse drinks they start to berate you and want to start arguments? Don’t argue or fight back. Let them know you will not argue with them while they are drinking, period.
Above all, never allow the alcoholic to trespass against your spirit when they are playing one of their mind games. Walk away and close the door behind you. Go visit a friend, take a walk around the block, or put some earplugs in your ears. Your mental health is what helps the alcoholic the most. This is what detaching with love is all about. Detaching yourself from the disease is what helps the alcoholic see that he needs help.
To learn more read the following article written by Angie Lewis:
Also, fom Skyler Sage: Realize that:
Alcoholism is a Family Disease.
Substance abuse by a loved one affects the entire family. We also play our OWN part in the continuation and manifestation of the disease. Our marriage, our family, is like a mobile. Each of us has our own little piece of the delicately balanced structure. Every action on any of our parts shakes the mobile. Tenuous balance quickly becomes imbalanced, shaken up, disrupted. Our role as spouses, children, friends on this mobile is just as powerful as that of the alcoholic’s.
I believe this awareness is the first key in coping understanding that we play an equal part in the drama of living with an alcoholic. We are either part of the problem, or part of the solution with every word we speak, every secret we keep, every action we take, every action we avoid taking.
To read more, please go to:
From Melinda Cook, comes the following advice:
“If you are not in any danger, continue to encourage your spouse to get help.”
Do not make it seem as though you are lecturing them though, they will rebel and continue in their disastrous ways. Find a support group, go to Al-anon meetings, and learn all you can about addictions. When they are willing to admit they have a problem, find places they can turn to for help in getting better. Coping with an alcoholic spouse can tremendously take a toll on you and your family.”
And it can, as you know.
Here are several additional helpful articles to read:
After all of this, you wonder, will the information help me? Is there hope for my spouse? To read the encouraging answer, please click onto the Focus on the Family web site link to read their response to the question. And then afterward click into the Todayschristianwoman.com web site to read what one wife of an alcoholic learned:
• My Spouse Is an Alcoholic Who Has Tried to Quit Drinking. What Should I Do?
Pray and Glean
We realize we have given you A LOT of information to pray about and consider. We pray the Lord opens the doors of heaven and pours out His Spirit within you and your home. It is our prayer that He speaks powerfully to your spouse.
To give you direction where you can get help, the following are a few helpful organizations you may be able to contact. We realize that they are not available to help in every country, but for some of you, they may be able to help in some way:
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
If you have additional tips you can share to help others please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.