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Avatar universal

My wife’s drinking makes me angry inside. What can I do to help her, help herself?

First let me say that reading thru this community is showing me that my situation isn't unique.  One particular post I'd read from back in 2009 really rang true with my situation...  so much so that I've edited that post to fit my similar situation.  My apologies to that person for using their excellent summarization of their issues.

I need help with three things... How do I know if my wife has a drinking problem? How do I deal with my own anger over her drinking?  How do I not enable her behaviour and get her the help I "think" she needs.

I have been married to my wonderful wife for over 22 years. She is beautiful and kind. Everyone who knows her loves her. My wife has continued her career even after the birth of our two daughters, now ages 21 and 29. She has supported me through thick & thin, good times & bad.  I love my wife and kids dearly.  My wife does so many things for our family that it makes me wonder if I should just shut up and be grateful for her consenting to marry me. I have no basis to decide if I am overreacting to her drinking and I have no way to determine if I am actually the root of the issue. However, one thing is perfectly clear; I have a problem with my wife’s drinking. When she drinks, I get angry inside.

She drinks a medium sized bottle of hard liquor almost every 2 days. Once or twice a month she will buy a larger bottle. She used to buy all her liquor with a credit card that she thought I had no access to see the account…  she was wrong.  Once she figured out that I knew she started taking out cash so that I couldn’t track the amounts she was spending.  She seems to plan trips to the supermarket to get herself each bottle. She’ll buy flavoured waters & juices for herself thinking that I don’t know they’re really there for mix.  If she runs out of the hard liquor, she’ll start drinking any other alcohol in the house at the time. She fills water bottles with mix and liquor when we go on trips and thinks I don’t notice.

During social events like weddings, family gatherings, and dinner parties she usually drinks enough to slur her words, talk louder than most folks, repeat herself and be a bit unsteady on her feet. This also happens to be the same state she is in during some weekday dinners in our own house. This is the point where I begin to notice that other people have begun to notice that she is drinking quite a bit. I begin getting uncomfortable while I wait to see if she stops drinking.  If she drinks more then the situation gets worse quickly.

Somewhere towards the end of the evening I become really embarrassed and want to escape. At this point she is talking louder than anyone at the gathering, becomes very opinionated and argumentative and has become the center of attention.  Her behavior is clearly driven by the alcohol. Most folks at the event are aware and I begin to get looks from every direction. This is the point where I know that she will not slow the drinking and we are in for a long night, and possibly a huge, loud argument. Beyond this point she will drink steadily until it is time to leave. I can’t remember her ever switching to water. It’s hard to generalize her behavior at this point other than to say that she will be the drunkest person at the outing, dinner event or gathering. Throughout this entire period I will have been looking for a chance to get the heck outta there. There is a low probability that I can get her into the car or into bed without her calling me an anti-social, controlling husband loudly enough for folks to hear. It is like a switch goes off in her head and I become the primary target.

That is the point at which I start to get angry inside...  when she has consumed enough alcohol for me to become the anti-social, controlling husband. I do not like going to an event, keeping an eye on my wife as she drinks, shrugging off the looks as people notice her situation, being called names, feeling humiliated and embarrassed, waiting for her to finish her little party and then having to drive her home or get her into bed. The next morning she’ll sometimes offer an apology, most times not. Either she actually believes that I am an antisocial, controlling husband or she doesn’t remember the evening.

The family gatherings, birthday parties, Christmas dinners, vacations and our daughter's life events have all become occasions for her to drink the most.

Both of my daughters can see what’s she’s doing to herself…  as do her mother and sister…  and we all feel powerless to do anything to help.

I am not against alcohol and having a good time. I have made it my job over the years to drive her and the kids home safely from events. 90% of the time I will have no alcohol to drink at any gathering, 10% of the time I will nurse 1 drink all night knowing that it is my responsibility to drive. That is just how things have evolved over the last 22 years of being together.

Perhaps, she is right and I am an antisocial, controlling husband.  I now routinely turn down invitations to events where alcohol will be served and shy away from social events that have the potential to allow my wife to drink.
In truth, I am writing this letter after having noticed that she consumed half a 750ml bottle of vodka during the 2 hours of my eldest daughter’s birthday gathering at our home…  even after she’d had a huge screaming argument with her mother the week before on Christmas Eve, the result of which she said she was going to stop…  and I’m angry inside that I don’t have the courage to confront my wife about it.

My biggest worry, especially tonight, is that she has to drive to work in less than 2 hours…  and I’m afraid of her hurting herself or god forbid, someone else with the vehicle.  But if I offer to drive her to work it’ll just start another argument…  one that I don’t want to have, again.

I want to go to an Al-anon family meeting while she is away at a girls-only vacation next week. However, I’m afraid that all this will do is introduce me to folks at the meeting that have much worse situations than I appear to have.

Is she an alcoholic? Is my anger appropriate? How can I get out of this situation? What should I do?
6 Responses
3060903 tn?1398565123
Welcome to Medhelp ;i'm glad that you found the forum, in the nick of time it appears, before something happens that there is no 'fix' for.. You have taken the first logical step in reaching out to others who have traveled the path your on for advice. This is the whole premise of Alcoholic Anonymous and Alanon,  so by you reaching out here, you are modeling the type of behavior to your wife and kids that they need to see from you as one of the heads of the household. Your kids and in laws are looking to you for a plan, and you've come to the right place to get started by getting answers to your questions. I'll do my best to help as much as I can.

First of all , i will qualify by saying that I am both an addict and living with an addict, so i have dealt with the disease of substance abuse from two different perspectives and my journey might be helpful. . My drinking and drug use lasted from 13 to 39, or 26 years (a lifetime for some) before i was able to gain my footing and become 'clean and sober' back in '99.  I've had plenty of time to think long and hard my relapses and what sabotaged me, and why it took so long for me to 'THRIVE IN SOBRIETY',

I'll talk about my living with an addict first. I met my current husband in '98 after his wife had driven him to a police station and dropped him off after one of his weekend benders  He had been drinking heavy on the weekends for most of the 11 years they had been together, and for whatever the reason, as husband and wife they sabotaged each other instead of accessing programming and working together to save their marriage. When in early recovery and throughout recovery it is essential that the addict not have to come home to their spouse drinking. From what i can gather, my husband's ex not only had no interest in becoming active in the family portion of the rehab he went to, but also did not want to quit going out as they had grown accustom to , and having drinks. It was expected that he quit, but I believe that she drew the line at not drinking around him. This was the case with his entire family so it's been impossible for him to do more than call a couple of times a year. Strange that a family cannot respect and support a person in sobriety, but  that is the fact of it in mny cases.  There are two schools of thought, one being that it's imperative that there be no alcohol consumed in front of the alcoholic, no alcohol in the home, OR that it is unreasonable to expect other people without a problem to go without drinking to support recovery. The fact is, it is vitally important for the addict who is quitting to do so with clean and sober support systems in place. Many are not able to make the sacrifice it takes to truly support a loved one that is reaching for sobriety, and therefore they become a trigger to the one quitting.

THE FIRST THING TO DECIDE IS IF YOU ARE ABLE TO SUPPORT AN ADDICT IN RECOVERY AND DO WHAT IT TAKES  BY NOT DRINKING IN FRONT OF THEM. You've said that you are used to being sober at parties and events, and you love your wife silly, so i think that qualifies as a positive for you.

You are also are asking the right questions, the most important being ' HOW DO I NOT ENABLER HER BEHAVIOR AND GET HER THE HELP I THINK SHE NEEDS. This IS A COMPOUND AND COMPLEX QUESTION. Breaking it down in to two parts.the first being .. HOW DO I NOT ENABLE HER ??? You may have heard Alcoholism being referred to as a "family disease" in that everyone in the family is being directly affected each and every time  an addict uses their doc (drug of choice) or any mind altering drugs (as the results of misuse are almost always the case). You made mention of possibly attending Alanon when your wife and daughters have a girls weekend shortly, so you've heard of Alanon for the family of addicts. " In Al-Anon/Alateen, members do not give direction or advice to other members. Instead, they share their personal experiences and stories, and invite other members to “take what they like and leave the rest”—that is, to determine for themselves what lesson they could apply to their own lives.

The best place to learn how Al-Anon/Alateen works is at a meeting in your local community. Personal contact is an important element in the healing process." Alanon is to Loved Ones Of Alcoholics , as Alcoholics Anonymous is to the Alcoholic. If you want your spouse to attend the group that is provided for her to obtain long term sobriety, it makes sense that the loved ones show that they are open to attending the meetings that are provided for them to heal and move forward in life. If a Loved one is not willing to attend an try to make the Alanon meetings work, then it will be harder for the alcoholic / addict to trust in their loved ones and feel that they are worthy of their trust. Just like the loved ones would be put off if the alcoholic would not go to any lengths to achieve and maintain sobriety, and alochoic/ addict can be put off by their loved ones not showing commitment on their part. Further, it is imperative to have the kind of experience strength and knowledge that you can access at at Alanon meetings, It' is priceless to hear the stories and see that you are clearly not alone after so much time has passed feeling that you are. It would be doing your girls a great service to suggest to them to go with you to Alanon or Alateen, as well as yoru mI|L and \SIL . To let them all know that you are working on an INTERVENTION PLAN and that it would be powerful if all of your wife's family and friends were associated and educated with the inner workings of Alanon.  
3060903 tn?1398565123

Second part of your question asks HOW DO I NOT ENABLE MY SPOUSE.?

1.Prepare for an INTERVENTION by watching the show INTERVENTION.
2. It is suggested that the head of the Intervention discuss and use an Addictions Therapist to plan for an INTERVENTION., however, any Intervention is better than no Intervention if the planning stages are meticulously drawn.
2. Become aware of how you've enabled your loved one.
3. Discuss within the family and friends of loved ones (anyone that should be at an "Intervention" how each of the loved ones have enabled the active user.
4..  Discuss what changes should take place.
5..  Stick to the new plan.
6.  Loved ones get involved on line or in person at ALANON OR ALATEEN
7.  go to an "open" speaker meeting of AA and purchase the Big Book and 12 step book at least, try to read it and become familiar with the content and then give these publications as gifts to your loved one. All in the Intervention can sign the book as a way of acknowledgement and support of the beginning of the journey an addict must take.

i.e. How to Break the Cycle of Addiction..

....... While enabling can be a serious problem for everyone involved with addiction, it is completely possible to break the enabling cycle so the addict can heal in productive, meaningful ways. Darlene Lancer gives the following suggestions to help someone stop enabling:

Leave messes as they are – Leave the addict to clean up the messes she makes while intoxicated
Weigh your options for short-term and long-term pain – Will helping the addict one more time cause more pain in the long run?
Get back autonomy – When possible, you should not allow the addict to put you in situations which may endanger yourself or others
Follow through with plans – Even if the addict refuses to participate in a planned activity, you should go through with it without her
In other words, take action now against enabling behaviors.



You have to let your wife know, with the support of your family, that the family as a group will not enable and allow her to drive drunk.It is a well known fact that alcoholics cannot just up and quit drinking. They must be detoxed which can be dangerous outside of a detox unit at the hospital and then attend rehab or ongoing aa meetings. The family must insist on the same parameters as those having the benefit of treatment. |That being drug testing randomly , (by family if not in treatment|) and regular appointments with an Addictions' Therapist that will delve into an addicts past and present life an uncover anything that might trigger the addict into relapse. As well  Relapse Prevention (the Addictions Therapist Meetings).

There is much to be done. You've said you've been together though ups and owns, good an bad, this is one of those times. My husband and myself got clean and sober 16 years ago. and other than a set back where my husband relapsed and had to go to an inhouse 90 day Relapse Prevention Rehab, we're both clean and sober today. All's well that ends well. You're on your way to success!!! and i'm proud of you, as well as pretty sure your wife is a lucky girl to have you by her side.
I'm here anytime you need to talk.

3060903 tn?1398565123
i just realized that if you copied and pasted the entire post, you may not have 2 daughters a MIL and SIL involved, or drinking and driving etc. so many of this may or may not apply|? hopefully it will of some use in your situation specifically,,
Thanx for the encouragement and understanding.

For whatever reason I don't seem to be able to muster up the courage to confront her every time this happens.  Fortunately, my MIL does...  and did talk to my wife this morning and got some understanding that, in this instance, what occurred the night before wasn't good for her and others.

Unfortunately I've heard this before and it only lasts a couple of days.  But I always try to hope that it'll last longer.
Avatar universal
I cannot elabotrate on NightHawk61s' advice to You - I do not have Her insight nor can I articulate in the way She has - I have UTMOST admiration and respect for this Woman !! - Her journey!! and Her triumph!! and I am hardput to believe anyone could contribute more here to assist You than has She.

She has given You MUCH advice as regards Her own personal knowledge/experience - it doesn't get more valuable than that.

I do want to say that You definitely are enabling Your Wife by feeling You are unable to "muster up the courage to confront Her everytime this happens".

It is not "COURAGE" You need  - it is an UNDERSTANDING of Your own role in the  choices YOU are making.  You are CHOOSING not to address this situation with Her.  You must acknowledge that to YourSelf before You will be able to seek change.  You cannot control Her but You do have control over the CHOICES You make.  Again I agree with NightHawk61 regarding AlAnon and Intervention - start there !!

Regards and GoodLuck
Avatar universal
Thanks for this post. My big worry is that my daughter, 21, is defending her mother's drinking as a right and a choice. In my language they say: when you go to steal while carrying a child, you are training her.

Like Blufalcon, my wife's drinking drives me crazy. All the time. Yet she has done so many good things for me and my family. I cant stop loving her. I can't imagine life without her. I am sad and confused.
3060903 tn?1398565123
thank you TTInKK, xo

I also agree wholeheartedly with what TTInKK has said about your understanding fully what your role must be to help your spouse. You need to help yourself and learn how to be what you need to be to help your wife, and that is done by action on your part. outside of the marriage. By your committing to going and learning how not to enable your wife at Alanon, and by finding and talking to an Addictions Therapist, (that you can use to deal with each and every instance that you would normally walk away from, but no longer do. and in an Intervention when YOU'RE ready)>

Thankfully you have a MIL that is trying to help, but the most important factor at home for your wife remains your responsibility to provide. You are now her Immediate Family. And just as it would be your responsibility to care for your wife and arrange for treatment, should she had been diagnosed with cancer rather than alcoholism, just as you would your daughter or son, it |IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to find your loved one treatment for the diagnosis of alcoholism.

I'm an alcoholic. and i can tell you, your wife is not enjoying  being an alcoholic. Your wife will enjoy being sober. There is a bridge in between the two, and it is time that you start crossing that bridge , so that your dear wife can be free of this life sucking disease.

PLEASE, get to a meeting of Alanon. Find a good Addictions Therapist. Show your wife that you care enough to do so. Show her that the consequence of her drinking are outweighing any benefit, Let her know it's her time to make a change.... do you like The Cars? remember this song?

Who's gonna tell you when
It's too late
Who's gonna tell you things
Aren't so great

You can't go on
Thinking nothing's wrong

People that enable addicts are not loving them, they are simply afraid to do anything else. In fact, there are many people that enable addicts because they thrive on being the caretaker. There are always reasons why an addict is enabled, and it is not always pretty. Be smarter and braver than that for your spouse. Addicts are weakened by their substance abuse. They make a lot of noise because their greedy addiction is using their voice to do so. It is not your wife speaking. Your wife does not want to harm the marriage, she married you right ? . it is in her weakened state that she is unable to see clearly and know enough to help herself. It takes an outside force to get an addict to see that .... NO, ALL IS NOT WELL AND THERE MUST BE A CHANGE.  

We're with you every step of the way. Please consider the action that is proposed and keep us updated, because we really do care !!!!
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