ALCOHOLISM: DEALING WITH A DRINKING SPOUSE.

Like most topics I blog on, this has come from personal experience and therefore do not have any scientific or researched details. It simply details what I know and how I went about it.

Alcoholism is a chronic and often progressive disease that includes problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect (physical dependence), or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.

An alcoholic spouse presents a nightmare to their partner that they never thought possible. They will mostly neglect their financial obligations and will often be broke. They may engage in domestic violence and other forms of abuse in the household. A spouse is more likely to be unfaithful, and will neither admit nor feel remorseful about it. Your family’s future may be at risk as he/she is likely to lose their job, squander family resources or even be involved in driving accidents. So what should be your reaction if you find yourself in such a situation?

THE CORRECT REACTION.

How do you react when the alcoholic has pulled another one of his stunts? The answer is to not react at all! Pretend as if nothing happened!
If the alcoholic wakes up the next morning and comes into the house where everything is going on normally — the kids are getting ready for school, you are doing your hair and the coffee’s on the stove — then the only thing left for him to face is his own behavior.

Any embarrasment or shame brought on by him passing out in the front yard for all the neighbors to see, belongs to him and him alone. It’s his problem, not anyone else’s. His behavior is the problem, not your reaction to it.

If you greet him with a “Good morning, dear, the coffee’s ready!” just as if nothing unusual had happened, you have done your part right. You did not allow someone else’s inappropriate behavior to provoke your own inappropriate behavior. You have not given the alcoholic the opportunity to “change the subject.” He is left alone to face his own pain and shame by himself. When that pain gets to be strong enough, he will be ready to get help.

Until he is ready to reach out for help with his drinking problem, all the scolding, manipulating, and controlling efforts on your part are not going to do any good whatsoever and will only cause you to get pulled further into the family disease of alcoholism.

Going on about your own business as if nothing happened may not have any effect on the alcoholic’s behavior, but it will help you practice detachment – not getting drawn into his drama and his problems – and learning to live your life whether he is drinking or not.

YOUR OPTIONS.

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.

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.

Unfortunately, many with alcoholic spouses choose the option to stay and do nothing. Unfortunately, suffering in silence and hoping for the problem to go away won’t lead anywhere, except maybe towards misery and depression.

You can choose to educate yourself and seek 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.

Deciding to walk away from a relationship is usually a difficult decision. In a “conventional” scenario it can be tough enough, but add in the element of substance abuse and there can be added stress.
With an addiction landscape there may come a time when you feel that you have exhausted all your avenues in trying to live with your mate’s substance abuse issues and your own personal well being is now in danger. You have run out of gas and the only healthy option is to throw in the towel and make a dramatic, earth-shaking move.

Like the alcoholic/addict who may hit “bottom” before realizing that it’s time to change the course of his or her life or die, the family member or friend can hit bottom as well. With months or even years of weighing this gut-wrenching decision, it can finally culminate from anger to frustration to sheer exhaustion. Either way, you have probably shed buckets of tears, and can’t believe that your life has come to this fork in the road.

With all this said, here are a few reasons why one stays in a relationship with the alcoholic/addict possibly longer than they should:

1) Gripped with fear as to what life might be.

2) Feeling that children are better off with two parents rather than one, regardless of the discomfort and tension in the household.

3) The alcoholic/addict is the chief money maker and you would be left financially compromised.

4) Fear of retribution.

5) Fear of being alone.

6) Hanging on to the few shreds of normal behavior that the alcoholic/addict randomly shows (and continuing to hope that one day it might stick).

7) Social, family (extended or otherwise), and peer pressure that you should keep trying to stick it out.

8) Believing that if you “do this” or “do that” things will change.

9) Failure is not an option.

10) Embarrassed and ashamed.

11) What will people gossip.

12) Made a commitment — religious constraints.

13) Poor reflection on self and self-esteem.

And, here are some reasons that might propel you to make a difficult, but life saving decision:

1) You are mentally and physically exhausted in dealing with the alcoholic/addict’s out of control behavior.

2) You can no longer trust what the alcoholic/addict says or does.

3) The alcoholic/addict continues to bully, ridicule, disrespect and blames you for their short comings and failures.

4) You are weary of the constant merry-go-round of rehabilitation attempts that don’t seem to stick for long.

5) Realizing that you deserve better.

6) You are no longer fearful of being alone, since you realize that you are already alone, as the alcoholic/addict is living a life apart from you with his or her drug of choice.

7) Everyone’s world is revolving around the alcoholic/addict and consequently other family members may be suffering.

8) You are fearful of any communication and find yourself walking on eggshells in an effort as to not engage the alcoholic/addicts anger.

9) No matter how hard you try, the alcoholic/addict keeps raising the bar for you to “do your part” in the relationship; satisfaction is never reached.

10) The thought of spending one more minute of your life like this is beginning to make you physically ill.

11) You no longer care how it looks to others, what anyone says, or what the ramifications may be of your decision; you have the exit gate in your sights.

If you have indeed hit your bottom and are ready to take the painful, but appropriate step to move on with your life without the alcoholic/addict, please don’t beat yourself up for not having acted on this resolve sooner. Other than the list mentioned above, people stay in unhealthy relations substantially longer than they should, or know that they should. It is very hard to blow out the candle in the window that might represent hope, but realistically doesn’t.

Try and remember that a few years of discomfort, uncertainty and fear are better than years and years of an agonizing and miserable commitment.

Some may feel that they are a failure if they abandon their relationship. Coming to this conclusion and realizing that the end is upon you, can actually be incredibly empowering. Take some comfort in knowing that you have taken control of the situation. Sometimes it’s the bravest option, because it requires you to face what you might think as a failure, but is not. In life, there really is no such thing as a “crash and burn” scenario, only lessons to be learned for a better, healthier go around the next time.

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