“My husband is drinking too much! I am sick of it and don’t know what to do!” These words came from a dear friend recently. She confided in me but has some reluctance to do so.
Why? Because she was embarrassed.
My friend, “Sally,” moved here from Ireland several years ago. She was glad to be leaving what she referred to as the “place with a pub on every corner.” She was happy since it was going to provide a new way of life for her and her husband. And so it did …at least for a while.
Sally has always been a driven entrepreneur and has experienced tremendous success for herself. This required her to travel to the United States quite a bit during those early years of building her company.
While Sally was traveling, her husband, “Tom” would drink himself into a passed out stupor. He didn’t drink excessively while she was home, only when she was traveling for business. Her disappointment and confusion with Tom’s behavior were coming to a head, so when the opportunity for her to move her business to the U.S., she knew this might be the break they both needed.
Their relationship did improve. Sally and Tom were back to marital bliss and enjoying each other’s company again. She was feeling giddy about this renewed courtship. As Sally’s business began to grow, this required her to travel once again. She thought it would only be for a short period, but it lasted a few years. Tom’s old cycle was reborn, and his drinking had become an issue in the marriage once again.
When Sally called me to inform me of Tom’s behavior, it was following a weekend of hell for her. Sally planned a fun day with a girlfriend consisting of nails, hair, facials, and lunch. She was elated to have this much needed “girlfriend time” with her friend, Marcy, but what she wasn’t happy about was hearing Tom’s voice on the phone as he called asking when she would be home. She had only been gone a few hours!
Sally and Marcy had been having so much fun that they lost track of time. It was almost time for dinner, so she asked Tom to meet them at a restaurant. When Tom showed up, he was visibly drunk. He was slurring his words, acting belligerent and embarrassing both ladies, not to mention that he had driven 20 miles intoxicated! Sally thought, “oh no, not again!”.Could she not even leave her house without Tom hitting the bottle? “What is happening?” she secretly wondered.
Marcy was familiar with this behavior as she was in the middle of a divorce from her husband that also has a drinking problem. She felt terrible for Sally as she helped distract Tom long enough to sober him up. It didn’t work.
As they left the restaurant, Tom, as was so intoxicated that he insisted on driving home! Of course, Sally was not having that, so she demanded Tom in the passenger seat as she sped away. Tom stumbled up the steps and passed out cold in their bed. Sally was BEYOND angry.
While Sally’s story is not unique, it is a problem for so many spouses. “What can I do?” she asked. There are suggestions, BUT, the decision to make changes and improvements must come from the spouse/loved one. In this case, the decision must come from Tom.
Here’s some advice for those with situations similar to Sally’s:
- Take care of yourself first. It is natural to want to put all your energy into your loved one’s needs, but you can only control your feelings and needs. Consider working with a coach, therapist, or counselor during this time. You are important, and your feelings matter.
- Understand that abusing alcohol is not something to be taken lightly. Alcohol is cunning, baffling, and sneaky. Someone who is abusing alcohol doesn’t get that way overnight. This is a long progression. Take time to get educated.
- Choose a time to speak to your loved one, when they are calm, sober, and in a good mood. Never approach him/her when intoxicated. Choose your words carefully, not blaming or attacking the individual, only the behavior.
- Write down the “things” that have been dealt with or that you are bothered by currently. This included destructive behavior such as driving while intoxicated. In most states, this means mandatory jail time, hefty penalties, lawyer’s fees, a suspended license for a year, court-ordered therapy, increased insurance rates, and alcohol classes. It’s NO joke, and it stays on their record forever. It’s punishment for everyone when this happens.
- Set clear boundaries for your loved one. If you have asked for something and they aren’t complying, stick to what you are willing to put up with and NO more codependency.
- Insist on your loved one to get outside help. Alcohol Abuse Disorder is not easy to work through by themselves, mainly if they are severely abusing alcohol.** It takes support but more importantly, understanding their limiting beliefs and getting to their core issues. This involves learning new habits, new coping methods, and most importantly, mindset work. Whether they are considered to be a gray area drinker or severely abusing alcohol, it’s important to get help.
- Threatening to leave or divorce your spouse may sound like a great idea for motivation, but this is not recommended. Instead of threatening, insist on a commitment to work through this together.
- Know that YOU cannot change your spouse/loved one. Only they can make that decision to get help and change.
- Do not feel guilty or blame yourself. By educating yourself, you will have more control over your own mindset. While this issue does affect the relationship, remember that you are important too. Take care of yourself.
- Trust in your loved one. It’s easy to be angered by their behavior. Remember the person behind the alcohol is still a good person.
Sally agreed to take action with Tom by having an overdue conversation. She has the knowledge she needs. Their marriage is important to her, and she knows that Tom is a good man.
The ball is ultimately in Tom’s court. Sally is also getting coaching for herself. She knows that her well-being and her mental health are vitally important to their success. The real problem is Tom’s inability to be without her when she is away. This is a deep-rooted limiting belief that is causing him to numb his feelings. This is Tom’s real problem that must be dealt with to get better.
If you have a loved one that you are concerned about, take heart. You don’t need to do this alone. Please reach out for assistance and support for yourself. Your happiness depends on it, not just for your other half.
It can be a long road ahead, depending on the severity of the work needed for your spouse/loved one. Have patience, stay committed, and trust it will work out.
If your partner is agreeable, schedule a Discovery Session here to discuss the next options.