Question: My husband drinks too much. Alcoholism runs in his family and I’m worried about him. What do I do?
LISA’S ANSWER: That’s a tough situation to be in and even tougher question to answer. I’ve seen my fair share of addiction in my life, having dealt with an abusive alcoholic ex and having lost several family members to drug and alcohol dependency. I’ve learned a few things along the way, the main one being that alcoholism is a disease that needs to be treated by professionals and your husband needs to want help in order to accept it. If you haven’t already, you need to have a conversation with him – a non-judgmental one where you’re simply telling him what you’ve noticed and how it’s worrying you. He needs to feel like he’s not being attacked in order for him to open up. Most alcoholics I know won’t admit that there’s a problem until it’s too big to ignore or it’s too late. Tell him it’s coming from a place of love and you would ask that he think about what he would do if the situation were reversed. Simply talking to him is likely not going to make him curb his drinking, but at least you’ve made your intentions known. Alcoholics usually need to come face-to-face with the reality of the situation in order for it to hit home. One time, I tried video-taping my ex while he was drunk. He was messy and incoherent and finally could see what the rest of us were seeing. One evening, I imbibed a little too much myself, forgot to call and came home very late. He was livid but had tasted his own medicine. However, none of this made him stop. We split up eventually and I’m told he continues to drink just as much. I could give you a number of other suggestions, like making sure there is either a limited amount or no alcohol in the house or only spending free time with moderate or non-drinkers. Or targeting the times when he feels most likely to drink and helping him to find something else to do – like going to the gym, cooking or playing a game. You can distract him, threaten, scream, cry and hide every last liquor bottle in the city, but the reality of the situation is that you cannot fix this by yourself. It will drag you down and make you extremely resentful if you try to. The best course of action would be to get him in counseling or for both of you to go together. A drinking problem isn’t something to mess with and the sooner you can get him talking to a professional about the route of the problem, the better. I really do wish you the best.
AMANDA’S ANSWER: I have alcoholism in my family too, and we once tried an intervention on one of my relatives. The only problem was, he was drunk during the process and just got violent – but then again, finding a time to talk to him when he was sober was next to impossible because he was always drunk. The only time he quit drinking was after his wife threatened to leave him while pregnant with his child. And it was because he realized that she was more important to him than the addiction that he quit. However, threatening your husband isn’t the answer, unless you are prepared to follow through, and I’m not sure that’s the right way to deal your particular situation. My questions are: how much is too much? Does his behaviour change with his drinking? Has that altered behaviour begun affecting your family and your marriage? And what is the trigger for his drinking? If you know what the trigger is, then perhaps working together on finding ways to get rid of that trigger (work stress for example), will alleviate his reasons for drinking. Bottom line is, though, the only person who can help your husband is your husband. He has to realize he is drinking too much and he has to decide to take steps to combat his addiction. Most of the time the alcoholic is in strong denial and will only lash out at the person trying to help him or her. I would suggest finding a support group that can provide you with expert advice from those who have been there and have recovered, and those who have experienced a loved one’s addiction. It will provide you with the comfort of knowing you are not alone, and the tools to help you deal with the situation you find yourself faced with. If you don’t want to go to AA, I would suggest an alternative support group called LifeRing at www.liferingcanada.org. I applaud you for caring about your husband and I wish you the best!
Love, Lust & The In-Between offers advice to anyone experiencing challenges in their lives. Readers of this magazine are most welcome to send in their questions, which will be handled with the utmost confidence. Lisa and Amanda will each reply with their own perspectives. Please be aware that their advice comes from experience, not a classroom, and is therefore only to be applied to your personal situation if it feels like the right thing for you. Lisa and Amanda look forward to helping you. Please comment below and provide your questions, so the ladies can help you even more!