My wife and I have been married 11 years, 2 kids ages 9 and 6. 2 years ago, I decided that I didn't like drinking anymore. No regrets. I didn’t quit drinking so much as decided that I didn’t enjoy it anymore.
My wife, however, went in the other direction. She's always been a social drinker, but since the pandemic, it's ramped up. Rarely does she take a night off. It's not just 1 glass of wine, frequently, it's an entire bottle of wine or more. Her and the neighborhood “ladies” have formed this little support group that consists of drinking, cards, smoking, chatting, etc. She will be outside with them, starting once I got done with work until maybe dinner, back out until kids bedtime, then until her bedtime which is typically around midnight. I would ask her for help with getting the kids ready for bed, showered (they were much young then), coming in to say goodnight to the kids, etc. She would come in, help, then immediately go back outside. I started to resent that I had to ask for help. It didn’t make sense that even though she knew they needed showers, or were going to bed at 8PM, needed help with homework, why was I having to call her in, multiple times, most of the nights?
She’s a stay at home mom and has said that that time outside with the ladies is her escape, her relief. She doesn’t have much adult interaction daily, so when she gets the opportunity to interact with other adults, she NEEDS it. I get that, it’s tough to be at home either by yourself when the kids are in school, or with just them afterwards. She’s an extroverted person, she thrives on human connection. It gives her energy. But I kept thinking “how was this fair” that while both of us were working during the day (me at my job, her at home), that she would turn over parenting responsibilities to me after 6PM.
She suffers from severe anxiety from trauma 25 years ago. This has bubbled to the surface since we've had kids. It’s gotten to the point, she is unable to drive a car, hasn't driven in over 15 months. A year ago, after some therapy she asked if we could "take driving off the table". I agreed, I was doing all of the driving then anyways so if we simply removed it from her plate entirely, the hope was that her anxiety would improve.
Her anxiety decreased when the idea of having to drive wasn’t present. When the anxiety improved, she simply used that time to indulge in more drinking. It got so much worse, they would start drinking early in the afternoon, and well into the hours. All 4 of them. They have decided that our garage is the hang out spot, our garage fridge is where the alcohol is stored. My wife gave them the garage code, so that can come and go as they please. When I mentioned how weird I thought that was, she didn’t see any issue. One is older and divorced lives by herself, one is our age is married but no kids, and the 3rd is older who adopted her 3 grandsons because their mother is an addict. Each of them is using this group for something, an escape, connection, relief, human contact. The only common denominator is alcohol. This is not a let’s have a glass of wine. It’s very common for this to be a 6 hour party between them and 4 or 5 bottles of wine to be empty by the end of the night, any night of the week.
One night, it just all came out when she came stumbling in after I had a rough time with the kids. I said everything I was feeling, it was NOT a good conversation. Cooler heads prevailed the next day, and we were able to talk it through. Unfortunately, nothing changed and we the same conversation multiple times.. Probably 6 times over the past 2 years. Each time, she would agree that it's too much alcohol, it's too often, and it needs to be addressed. She'll go 3 or 4 days, her mood changes. She's clear-headed, energetic, easy to talk to, but she goes back to drinking.
I started therapy on my own because I was getting worn down by everything, her drinking, the pandemic, the kids needs, having to be the sole driver, responsible for everything that needed done outside the house. I just didn’t like how I was feeling so I tried it. I scored in the medium range on the depression assessments. I jumped in with both feet and within 6 months, I was back to feeling pretty good.
My wife though has gone in the opposite direction. 6 weeks ago, she said “she needs to stop drinking”. It sounded like she was serious about this, not because of anyone, but she recognized that she wanted to change, I was encouraged. And she didn’t drink for a few days but then said she’s “only drinking on Friday/Saturdays”, which I knew to be the first slip in the slippery slope. She had a glass or two that weekend, and then the following weekdays, she had none. It was such a difference in her mood/personality, The following weekend, was a 3 day binge one bottle per night. Monday she said that that was a mistake and that drinking that much ruined anything she had accomplished. Her focus now wasn’t “not drinking, but limiting the drinking”. Now it was the 2nd slip in the slippery slope. When think about it, it’s an excuse to be able to drink every night. If she only has 1 or 2, then she’s accomplishing her goal.
Problem though, something that I’ve known for a while, she can’t have 1 or 2. it turns into 3, 4, 5.
Couple of examples from the past few weeks:
• She’s now at the point that any time she’s forced to leave the neighborhood and ride in a car for more than an errand, she takes a tumbler of wine. We had a wedding to go to, as soon as we get going, pulls out a yeti of wine.
• Our daughter was in the school play, she had to take a water bottle with wine to calm her anxiety.
• We went on a 3-day trip for Spring Break last week, in the car, she has a full blown panic attack, almost passing out. I’m encouraging her to do her exercises that she works on in therapy, doesn’t work so out comes the wine.
• At the wedding, she proceeded to get hammered, everyone did. I left early and she stayed. When she got home, she was wobbly and slurring her words. I was watching the final four and she picked a fight with me about how stupid basketball was and why anyone would watch it. She was legitimately mean to me, I just nodded and didn’t engage. 2 days later during the championship game, she had no recollection of saying that, even got angry that I brought it up.
• My daughter got a new bike for her birthday, a much bigger bike. She was struggling with how to ride. My wife tried to help my daughter balance by holding the seat and walking with her, with a glass of wine in her hand. I kept thinking “put the wine glass down!” My wife and neighbor were “encouraging” her obviously drunk and over the top, which was making my daughter nervous. After a few failed attempts she said, “I just want to stop and try again tomorrow”. Once we brought the bike back to the garage and it was just her and me, she said she wanted to try again, but only with me and not with anyone else watching. She said it was awkward how they were acting and it made her uncomfortable.
Me and the kids are the only ones who see what’s really going on. Not the friends she drinks with, they get the drinking version who is fun, and funny, and outgoing. Not her family, who gets the façade of everything is great. The kids and I don’t get that person, we get the other one, the person who’s constantly on edge, irritable, stressed out the day after drinking, or wobbly, and slurring her words. My daughter will often say “boy, mommy’s stressed.
She’s tried to stop about a half dozen times in the past 2 years. She’s not gone more than 4 days at any point during this time.
I’ve reached out to her sister and my sister in law who’s been sober for 30 years. The one thing we all agree on is that she’s self-medicating.
We’re not sure what to do. Should we confront her head on, should we treat the anxiety first or the drinking?