Jekyll vs Hyde

Alcohol Abuse Effects on the Family-Part One

I have been deeply moved by the depth of despair and confusion you are expressing in your identifying your most important question about alcoholism. I feel your pain. I am also aware of the presence of great moral strength.

Here are questions from two women whose struggle is almost universal among women who live with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction:

1. How do you live with high functioning alcoholic? He has a good job and he tries to be involved in the kids’ lives, but you cannot rely on him. He acts like we are the crazy ones; he is the Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll. I have stayed with him because of our vows and children. If I cannot face him, it wouldn’t be fair to divorce him and force the kids to face him alone.

2. Should I stay in the marriage? And what are the impacts on my children and how can I neutralize them?

Each woman’s question highlights two moral dilemmas. They are big life questions I suspect underlie the majority of the responses sent in. You married with the belief and intention that your marriage was going to be a lifelong relationship. Now your partner abuses alcohol, and his drinking is severely impacting your sense of wellbeing and, if you have children, probably theirs as well.

Dilemma One: You

Do you break your vows to protect your own sanity, or do you stay and just do the best you can in the hope one day he’ll wake up?

Some women manage to create a life for themselves while staying in their alcoholic marriage. They develop their own interests, friends, family connections, work and so on. It can be a lonely path, but they consider the alternative of leaving the marriage to be worse.

My sister-in-law decided in her later-in life marriage to take this route. She had wide interests, good friends and a great relationship with her adult daughter. Her older, alcoholic husband had lots of medical problems and was generally in poor health. Sadly, she died ten years before he did.

Other women with alcoholic partners find themselves spiraling down emotionally, mentally and often physically, especially if he is abusive. So they leave, but there may be guilt to deal with, and often difficult financial pressures and other problems.

Dilemma Two: Your Children

Do you stay because your children need a father, or do you take your children out of the unhealthy environment? But will separating them from their father do them more harm than good?

Children learn by modeling their parents. If you take the children away from the model of their alcohol-abusing father, will they be less likely to adopt his drinking lifestyle, but resent you for abandoning dad? If you keep them there, will they resent you for not rescuing them? As adults, will they adopt the model you provided, that of staying in a marriage no matter what?

I know a woman in her 40s who remembers at nine years old praying daily that her mother would leave her dad and take the kids. I know another about the same age who recalls as a young teen her constant worry her parents would split up. Both are now dealing with resentment towards their mothers, not their fathers.

There are no easy answers. There are no answers that apply to everyone. It’s little wonder you sometimes feel stuck and unhappy.

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50 thoughts on “Alcohol Abuse Effects on the Family-Part One

  1. I was once told by a therapist that by shielding my young children from my husband’s drinking I was enabling. What?! Where do you draw the line? Do you let the children suffer just because Dad needs to see the consequences of his behavior? That whole discussion still has me baffled to this day, and my children are 23 & 17, and I am divorced. I never purchased his alcohol, I never made excuses for him; honestly, the most enableing I did was staying in the marriage. What is a parent supposed to do in that sort of situation? It seems that the spouse of the alcoholic becomes co-dependant because no matter what one does it is the wrong choice.

    Fortunately, my children are strong, loving girls who are doing very well at this point of their lives. The girls are painfully aware of their father’s drinking, (and sadly, his suicide attempts), but they love him nonetheless. I do think my oldest should seek counseling to help her share her feelings more. She has a tendancy to keep them inside, which is something she learned from me, I’m sure. It is something that has gone on in our family for generations, but I would like to see it stop here. She is a wise girl, and will eventually make the right decision, of that I am sure. My youngest is mildly Autistic (amongst other things), and basically goes with the flow. If she misses her dad, (he doesn’t make the effort to see her very often), she just picks up the phone, and calls him.

  2. Those answers are not the best in helping us out. Sorry. I love your wisdom and appreciate your response but it still just leaves us with more questions and answers needed. Then again, you can’t answer for us…which leaves us like this. That really sucks…sorry for that comment but it does. I would NEVER want my kids to resent me but then again, at this time, I feel like I’m doing what I think is right. How do you explain that to your kids? So they DON’T resent you? As much as they are going through this, so am I. How do you get to the point where your decisions help you both and they can understand one day why you make the ones you do? My husband is a DR so it gets tricky with him. Because of that title, he knows all and can “handle” it all. It scares me he can go to work the next day and still be clear headed. I don’t think he is actually. How can you get drunk the night before and wake up all clear to do a 100% effective job. His title for himself, a Functioning Alcoholic…OK, nice but dude, that’s STILL an ALCOHOLIC! Every time one of our kids needs something done from a DR’s clinic, I am all over the new DR asking if they are stressed out, did you go to a party last night, are you feeling OK. I mean really…I don’t know what they do outside of that office. They could be just like my husband. This seems to always come down to how strong a woman you are and that is sad because I think that if I don’t leave I’m weak and I don’t think of myself as weak. Does that make sense? This is SO incredibly hard!

    Anything that can fix that? =)

  3. To both of the previous comments, I understand so well. I see the way my step-daughter behaves, and it is obvious her mom never talked to her about the alcoholism in her dad. I have tried to be different with my younger children, and have been honest with them about what is going on with their dad, that it is okay to be angry with him when he lets them down, drinks and passes out, etc. They know they can share their true feeligs with me. All we can do is what we think is the best at this time. Blessings to both of you.

  4. Vera said, “…no matter what one does it is the wrong choice.” It feels that way because alcohol abuse is irrational, and therefore, you can’t make sense of it. To make matters worse, the field is riddled with slogans like, “He’s powerless over alcohol,” and “You’re enabling him.” If your partner abuses alcohol, you often have the feeling of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

    To Vera: You obviously made really good choices for you and your girls. It is totally irrelevant what would have happened if you had made other choices. Good on you!

    To Mrs Hyde, who said, “I feel like I’m doing what I think is right.” It really does suck that there are no clearly correct decisions to make. Just keep your head about you, do your best, and keep on doing what you think is right. It’s your path and you have the strength to follow it. However, if you find yourself feeling too muddled and stuck, treat that as a signal to get appropriate help for yourself.

    Nobody wants their children to grow up resenting them. But all we can do is be the best parents we can, whether we stayed with our spouse or not. Been there…old resentments long since healed.

    Dr. Jekyl is putting his licence to practice at risk with his drinking. In some states, all it takes is one other doctor making a call to the licenceing board. Should he ever express an interest, there are non-group programs out there for problem drinking licenced professionals, where privacy and confidentiality are paramount.

    To Melissa: You say it well. Thank you.

  5. Lucy,

    Not all alcohol abusers become dependent on alcohol, that is to say, become alcoholics. On the other hand, all alcoholics abuse alcohol. I deal more fully with what constitutes alcohol abuse and what four conditions define alcohol dependence in Chapters 5 and 7.
    Having said that, the distinction between alcohol abuse and alcoholism less important than the effects drinking is having, whether on health, personality, marriage, parenting , work, safety or relationship with the law.

  6. İ am really tired and scared just how far can this horrible so called illness of drunkness go .How many lives have to be harmed .How do you get the drinker to to aknowledge the fact that his drinking has practically caused almost every problem that has occured .Do people really mean what they say when they drink .My husband calls me every filthy name under the sun ,never once says sorry gets up he day and behaves like nothing happed .Dose he really forget . Which person is the real him the kind gentle man who would not harm anyone or the rageing swearing threatening drunk ?

  7. My husband is a 9 to 5 normal person, then the moon begins to rise, he has his first drink between 5 and 5.30pm, by 7.30pm 2 bottles of wine, a couple of beers have been drunk. He is often snide with his comments because th physical component of our relationship is not there. Sometimes i put myself out of my body just to get some peace. We have a beautiful kitten, it is as much his as mine and he does love it..when he has had a quantity the usual degrading comments come out like “your pussy enjoys being stroked” infront of who ever……i am so over this relationship. We have a business that we operate together, 7 days a week, i have focused on study as i believe he will not be able to sustain this consumption in the future and we have no superanuation. I cannot believe how he gets up at 3.30 & 4.30 am to go to market after knowcking over a couple of beers, 2+bottles of white wine and often follows it up with some red. I guess i just have to make my own personal decision……it is very lonley being married to the bottle.

  8. Hi Dr. Neill,
    It has been a while and thought I would click in for a read and found your great new website. It has been exactly 12 months to the day that I walked out of my alcoholic marriage and there have been a few down days. However, they are outweighed by my feelings of peace, safety, happiness and pride in myself I feel when I realise I had the guts to stand up and walk away. I have been in touch with Dr Neill through this site for 18 months and it was only through this site that I was able to make the decision to save myself and the children from a life of regrets, disappointment and the anxiety that comes when you live with an alcoholic. My ex still has not acknowledged his problem and for so many years I lived in hope that some great day he would say I am sorry for all the horrible things said, for letting me down time and time again, for his lack of regard for the kids and his choice of placing his drinking and job as bar manager before all of us. He was the typical Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde and because they change you live in a crazy world that is hard for anyone else to understand unless they have lived it. But those who do live it know what it is like to live with a drunk with dramas and I believe that the best decision I made was to walk away. I asked everyone I knew what should I do please can some one help me, but I was as hooked as he was and it has been the hardest thing I have done in my life to leave the man I thought was my life partner. Alcoholism I believe is a life long battle and for some a battle that they cannot beat. Thank you Dr Neill for creating and maintaining this site, without it so many people would not realise that they are not alone and that others have exactly the same problem. I had hoped that I might have been one of those wives where their husband gives up the drink and we lived happily ever after. It was not to be and until the partner of the alcoholic faces the fact that they did not cause their partner to drink as they often tell us, that they cannot fix the alcoholic unless the alcoholic wants to comply and that their own peace of mind is critical they will continue to live on the crazy ride of alcoholism.
    Love and best wishes to all

  9. Dear Sharon,

    I am so happy that life is working out for you. Continue to live life on your terms.

    Thank you for making yet another contribution to our community. I hope it’s not your last.

    Love and blessings,


  10. Much appreciation and love I send you too, living with an alcoholic, leaving an alcoholic and starting again must be the hardest thing in to the world to do. It is like a hard road you just have to travel and there is no turning back, when you face the reality and stop denying that you are in an alcoholic situation you can start to see that there are alternatives. I have friend who is ten years older than me and they are living how I believe my future would have been had I stayed with my alcoholic ex, the children have left but then the women/men who live with an alcoholic have to still put up with the bad behaviour they have many regrets that they didnt do something about their situation years earlier.
    I believe it is hope that keeps people in these situations, there is always that chance that those dreams of a happy fulfilling marriage might come true. Feeling stuck like the problem is too large to deal with, and the embarrassment when you eventually have to tell your family and friends the truth about all the lies that have been told to cover up for the alcoholics behaviour. Being older you wonder if you will find someone else who will be that special someone in your life and the thoughts of starting all over again are so frightening. If I could go back and know what I know I would have seen the signs from the beginning, but when you fall in love with someone, really in love and you think that the two of you are just meant to be, you make excuses until one day you find yourself living in a huge mess.
    I know now after leaving I have happy children, people even comment how much more open and friendly they are, because they didnt like to speak in front of their alcoholic father, they dont even seem to miss him because he was never home, he didnt do anything with them, he never took us on holidays and they are not worried anymore about what state their dad is in each night.
    I have used this site and with Dr Neills help I have been able to put my thoughts and emotions into words about my journey away from the alcoholic that i spent fifteen years living with. I apologise if I ramble however I am sure that somebody can benefit from my experiences and possibly move in a more positive direction, because I know how much it hurts when your partner chooses alcohol over their family.

  11. Hi Dr. Neill~

    I just found your wonderful website. What a true blessing you are to those of us who have no where else to turn and are living with alcoholics.

    I am not married to him but we have been together off and on (alcohol problems) for 10 years. Just in the past year, I have had to move away from him to be a full time caregiver for my parents who are both sick. I travel extensively to see him because he won’t come to see me. I do everything for him when I am home. I am an enabler and I have just recently realized that in my own feeble brain 🙂 When he drinks, he is so mean spirited and rude. I like most of the women here have been called everything but a white woman. He drinks beer and a shot of Wild Turkey to go with every beer. He hangs in bars and we have many mutual acquaintances who “expect” him to be there and be the life of the party. Which he does easily. I could go on and on about the antics and trials but here is the main reason I write. He likes to fight and usually has a few choice words for strangers when he is drinking. He has never hit me, but on this past 4th of July he hit the bedroom door 3 times and made 2 large holes in it, my head was only 2 feet away.

    As usual he was mad at me, he says he doesn’t remember again, as usual. I was fearful for the first time in my relationship with him, I believe this is escalating and I am numb at this point. I don’t really know what to do. I told him no more Whiskey but you know how that goes. I am seeking to get out only because I know I am probably not safe anymore. I am a clear headed strong woman who loves an alcoholic but I am tired too. I just don’t know what to feel anymore. I want to be happy but I am not.

    Thanks for the ear! I really appreciate being able to vent. I will keep you posted on our status. We are apart for now, I returned to my parents house, he is at the bar tonite and last night. He was drunk, verbally mean and nasty last night. Thank goodness I was a thousand miles away from him. He called me to apologize for being selfish~ that’s not new either. Thanks again for letting me vent.

  12. Hi Sharon,

    You didn’t ask for a reply, so I will keep this brief.

    For your own physical and mental safety, and for your own health and happiness, make that “thousand miles” into 2000 miles when you are no longer looking after your parents.

  13. Thanks Dr. Neill~
    After a full weekend of his drinking and him berating me on the phone, I was brave enough this morning to “speak my peace” and he was none to pleased. He hung up on me and hasn’t spoke to me since.
    I can tell you I will continue to get stronger and enjoy my time away from him. I will take your advice and probably stay right where I am. My family is here, I have no family where he is so it is best for me to be here. I need that support system. I can only hope he gets help someday. He is dying in his own misery and of course, he blames me but I am ok. Your website has helped me to understand more than I did before. Thanks again! You are truly a blessing. 🙂

  14. Good Morning, I just found this site and so wish I had before now. I walked away from a 22 year relationship 2 weeks ago after years of trying everything to get my SO to stop drinking. Last year I had him removed from my home and thought when he was homeless and no job he would hit rock bottom. He rebounded and got himself another political appointment again and climbed to the top. In the spring he wanted to try our relationship again and I did but was very reluctant.He eased up on his drinking but at the same time was slowly able to remove his belonging form my home.In the fall he was back to drinking heavily and very verbally abusive and also again very secretive.After many requests to talk, if he had someone else etc with response of no and very defensive. I found emails saying other wise. I ended the relationship immediately and he still fatly denies it and they are friends and I’m wrong to invade his privacy.The drinking is heavier than ever. It was a very tearful Christmas but I’m at peace and out of the crazy world of a functioning alcoholic. Everyone tells me whata nice person he is, how nice and helpiful and yet I lived with a whole different person. I was the mother in the relationship always there to help when needed, lend money, etc. I so hope in time, after working on myself , to find a healthy relationship.

  15. Dear Mary Anne,

    I’m sorry for what you are having to go through…and whatever it is he feels he must medicate with alcohol. You have probably hit the nail on the head when you said he’s afraid of life. That can be treated, and until it is, treating the alcohol may be like taking away the necessary medicine. So he continues to go back to the alcohol. AA is not the answer, because it’s about managing the alcohol. Help is available if he is willing to risk change. I hope he make the choice, since you can’t make it for him. Best wishes to you both, Mary Anne.

  16. I only found your site today after hearing you speak on the radio.

    I have lived with a “Functioning Alcoholic” for 7 years now. When I met my husband I was coming out of a 23 year marriage and he had just ended a 12 year marriage. It was fun at first, it was “party time”. He at the time had a successful business but it was taking a downhill slide. He wanted to blame the buisness failing on anything other than his drinking. There were contributing factors to his business failure, but I can’t help but wonder if he hadn’t been drinking would he have lost some of his major contracts, would he have made the decisions he did..would he have allowed his employees to do the things they did? I don’t know, I can’t answer that. His business failed and reality hit…but that didn’t stop his drinking. I poured all my life savings into trying to make things work that didn’t help.

    Over the past years he has tried many ventures, but he comes up with excuses as to why they haven’t or can’t work.

    Prior to meeting him he did go to a rehab program, he stayed clean for 4 months. Because of my medical background he has asked me to assist him with his detox. Whith the guidance of a medical doctor and my homecare of him it has worked but only temporarily. He has gone to AA but he doesn’t like it. He has quit on his own but has always relasped. When I ask or as he puts it challenge him about his drinking he points the finger at me stating “well I drink” and “I” cause he stress which make him drink even more. I have offered on many occassions to stop drinking if that would help him…and I have.

    I can relate to the comment made about how others view my husband as friendly, helpful, thoughtful, kind and has a good heart. I would agree with them. But they don’t have to live with his constant drinking. They don’t have to listen to his abusive manipulative talk and his agressive behaviours that happen as a result of his drinking.

    When he is sober there is no one else I would rather be with, he is brilliant and hard working, but when the alcohol takes over his life passes him by. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen him just flaked out on the couch trying to detox as he says….he puts his body through hell to get the alcohol out of his system…and then in the next few days he starts up again…it’s so painful and stressful to watch.

    I have ailments which I believe are caused by the stress I endure because of his drinking.

    I want to be strong for him….I want to stay with him and see him through this…some days I have more strength than others. I just want him well and our lives to begin together.

    He doesn’t deny his drinking he knows he has a problem. One of the issues we talk about is him being afraid of life without alcohol. He fears people wouldn’t like him…that he wouldn’t be accepted…he doesn’t see a life without alcohol.

  17. Hi
    14 years ago I found out I was pregnant and left my on/off boyfriend because of his heavy drinking. My father has always been a hi functioning alcoholic that went to work each day but I felt I couldn’t raise my son to have his father the same.
    Ironically we’ve lived with my Dad
    2 years ago I met up and got back with my ex. Part of me was tired of being single and needed someone the other part loved being with him.
    He only drinks at the weekend, sat nite and all day Sunday and Monday ya can’t talk to him it’s his hangover day and he’s miserable. He doesn’t go every weekend cause sometimes we’ll go away or he’s saving for a trip away. He never used to go anywhere last year at nearly 40 he got a passport for the first time. So I think we’ve been good for each other.
    He’s a kind loving considerate man sober but when he gets to Sunday he’s so wasted drunk he can’t sleep sat nite and this weekend I felt i’d had enough. He joined me on a night out with my girlfriends but as I also had a few drinks I just wanted to run away. I found being with him embarrassed me so I have to question would I feel this way if I really loved him.
    On Sunday he left me in bed in his room and went to the pub. When I questioned why he pointed out that I shouldn’t make him choose it wasn’t about me besides he didn’t know I was gonna be staying over.
    I let him go but was very upset. He didn’t go home til 5 that morning and went again on Monday.
    I’ve taken any little bits I had in his room. He lives as a carer for his mum with her in a 2 bed house. I’ve explained I feel drinking is taking over his life and each time he over does it it makes me more resentful. I don’t want to end up a bitter woman so I’ve asked him to get help. I don’t think he will.
    I don’t want to lose him he’s a wonderful man but a part time boyfriend and presume it’ll only get worse as he gets older.
    He loves me but how can I help him see that I love him drink is not part of who he is

  18. I live with a functioning alcoholic who pays very little attention to our three sons, but worse give more attention to one of them who likes the same activities. He works everyday, but then starts drinking in the basement (beer) every nihgt until he passes out/falls asleep. I want to leave and would be financially fine doing so, but wouldn’t want him to have access to the boys without my supervision.

    I am honest with my boys about the problems, but we four do a lot together and just know that dad is most likely not doing any activiites with us. This past year he even said that he no longer has an interest in going on our regular family vacations.

    Over it and so very frustrated, but keep the peace most of the time for my kids. We constant discussions about this is not the way they should be/act when they grow up.

  19. Hi,
    It took my many years of leaving and coming back to my alcoholic functional husband. I have found Dr. Neill Neill’ web side about 6 years ago. I also got some practical knowledge from my sister, who has chosen to joined the supporting group for the alcoholic children.

    After 34 years of marriage I made a final decision to leave for good. My still husband – only on the paper – have been Mr. Hyde and Dr Jekyl through out all our marriage. I wrote on the paper because his effort and responsibilities were directed towards his own needs with minimum effort towards his family. He had quit drinking 14 years ago, however it meant one thing, being sober but still talking and acting like a drunk. I went through Alanon, I went though numbers of different therapies because I have believed that there is something wrong with me – as I was always told by my husband- to learn and acknowledged that I am co-dependent person. Now when I have left him I have gained back a sense of POWER and CONTROL over my life and myself. I have also learned that out of 12 AA steps my husband did only 2 – the first and the last. He has chosen to ignore the 10 in between.

    There is price to pay when one stays with an alcoholic and there is price to pay when one leave and alcoholic. If I were to repeat my life I would have left when my husband first stopped drinking. The madness never stops and brings all in the circle of unhealthy resentment, guilt, anger and misery. There more to my story, however the most important message I can send to all WOMEN – run, run, run away from the man, who has drinking problems. All members of the family pay the price. By breaking the cycle I finally stopped this toxic effect on me and hopefully my children, who needs therapy. Since they are adults – it is up to them to make this decision.

    Thanks Dr. Neill for your GREAT contribution to help me in leaving for good my husband.

  20. Dear Dr. Neill,
    A few years ago I was unknowingly so very fortunate to have my now ex-husband leave me for another, much younger woman. After three years, this poor young lady is stuck in this tragic basement of a relationship, nursing him through blackouts, ever-failing health and the ensuing abusive bouts of his regret and self-loathing. I wrote to you for advice back in those early days when my husband was having doubts about leaving me and you encouraged me to be strong and conquer my co-dependence.

    I took that advice and cannot heartily thank you enough or adequately. While it has been painful to be alone, I am finally mentally healthy and raising our son, basically alone, as my ex-husband misses the experience of watching this wonderful boy grow into a young man, in favor of remaining stuporously drunk on his couch. He works and is very diligent with support money and still maintains a friendship with me, but I believe it is because our son and I are the ONLY two people in his life who refuse to coddle him and who will not tolerate his abuse. At this point, I only allow our son to see him on the rare occasions he isn’t intoxicated, but those times are becoming less frequent.

    I don’t wish to pursue a court order for supervision at this time, because he is finally considering rehab and I fear derailing his choice, but do you agree that limited contact is the only continuing solution until and IF he does enter rehab? His girlfriend is ostensibly helping him through in-home detox- she’s a nurse, but I simply don’t feel that’s sufficient for a man who drinks a full bottle of scotch plus a couple of bottles of wine nightly. You were a blessing during my darkest times and I hope you know what a help and comfort you are to those of us who know the torment of living in these relationships. God bless you, Dr. Neill!

  21. Hello, my name is william i am doing my senior project on ‘How alcohol affects families’. I would love to hear your view on the subject. Please Reply.

  22. Hello Dr. Neill,

    So many of the comments I read come close but not exactly to my situation. My husband drinks daily, a six pack a night, in about 4 hours, and more on the weekend. It’s all beer, nothing else. His coworkers are drinkers. I think sometimes he has a beer now at work or on the way home, but I have no way to prove it.

    We have two young children. He is a great dad to them most of the time. I mean it. He’s really great. When he’s not drinking. When he is, he is short tempered, cruel, and plays head games. Especially with my 6 year old son.

    He is very (almost too) involved in our family. He does everything that I do as a stay at home mother, plus he spoils them and gives them/lets them do things I don’t approve of. He disagrees with me in front of them, and wins. They are closely bonded with him. It’s almost like he’s making sure of it. Routinely our troubles begin with dinner conversation. Every dinner I feel physically stressed. My daughter has told me she feels the same, because of the disagreeing between us. Usually we have a couple “good” weeks, then his attitude changes for a week or two. I feel his comments and impatience are getting meaner, but I’m not good at seeing clearly in the murky “gray” area. Perhaps I’m just seeing them more clearly now.

    I have gone to counseling, and he won’t go. I am preparing to leave, or at least to make a stand.

    My greatest concern is that bond which he seems to be almost going out of his way to establish. I’m sure he’ll blame me around them when we split, and they will resent me. How can I best manage the emotions of my children, when the split comes? I plan to say that he is choosing to drink, and if he chooses to stop and get help, then we can be a family again, but that seems almost cruel to say to kids in the 6-9 range. I’m sure he’s setting it up so he can blame me. Is there anything I can do about that? How can I minimize what he’s going to do to them?

  23. My soon to be ex husband is a functioning alcoholic. He drinks whiskey and wine or whatever there is in the house. He drinks from what I can tell 5 or more drinks a day. I never see him drunk or slurred speech. Sometimes he does fall asleep in his chair playing Xbox. His blood work shows he has a drinking problem (high triglycerides and hba1c borderline high). My question is, does all that drinking cloud his brain to the point he can’t see he has totally withdrawn emotionally and physically from the marriage? Weekends he starts to drink around noon and on weekdays he pours his first drink the minute he gets home. I finally told him I think he is an alcoholic and if he quits drinking the fog will lift from his brain. He always admits he needs to cut down on his drinking. I never knew till we moved in together that he drank hard alcohol. I will be moving out next month.

  24. I truly find this type of website my Savior. Without them I would be totally lost and isolated. I left my husband 4 months ago after the 4yrs of alcoholism started to get verbally aggressive and violent, so much so he was scaring us. I had to draw the line and prove to my children that their father was ill but that this behavior was not acceptable. I expected him to continue drinking but this was the electric shock that he needed to stop. (He did have a spell of 7mths a couple of years ago of sobriety).

    He has since abstained for 3 of the 4mths. We are not together which I was quite angry about at first. That sounds very selfish but I felt that he stopped for himself, not for me or his children, and why couldn’t he have done it before? Now I’m coping with intense grief of separation and I never expected such excruciating pain. He is full of anger himself towards me and of course will not accept an ounce of blame and only blames (along with his family) me for a miserable marriage and for driving him to drink. I’m trying to listen to my friends saying to ignore all that but it’s very difficult.

    The first couple of months were the honeymoon period. I had my freedom, my strength and I had ticked the box of removing this awful disease from the family. However, sometimes he sends me sentimental messages and I feel my weaker side coming out. I know in my heart I need to carry on alone but it’s so hard to fight the memories, the old feelings, the terrifying thought of him happier with someone else etc. I’m confused as to what is grief and what are real feelings. I know I would never really be able to trust him again, which is not fair on him anyway. I am not the best supportive person for this disease and if ever he fell off the wagon again, I think I would worry I would have a break down. Plus, he has never shown any remorse for the awful things he did and we have other issues in our marriage too. .. (Nobody’s perfect…)

    Hearing other positive stories of where people have come out the other side helps to encourage me on this so difficult path of separation. And I seem to find more ‘success’ stories of those who manage to set the illness free than those who commit themselves 100% to staying with their partner come thick or thin. That also tells me something. Thanks for letting me share my pain. Good luck to you all.

  25. I have been married for 15 years and have 4 children with a man who abuses alcohol. I confronted him about his drinking today and he got very hostile. He comes from a family of alcoholics and I am so afraid that my children are going to drink. I am lonely, frustrated, and resentful. He is a quiet drunk who drinks a six pack every night and when he doesn’t do that, he hides vodka in orange juice. I have more of a problem when he is not drinking; he is hung over, unorganized, lazy, and moody. I am stuck holding the ball a lot.

    I feel that we are to the point where we isolate ourselves from others and we only do activities that revolve around alcohol. I was told today by my husband that I was crazy and I was a bad mom and am a horrible wife. The fight was so bad that I hid my husbands gun and ammo and his knives. He says I exaggerate this whole situation. In the past, he did threaten suicide and threaten me with the gun and knives when I said he drank too much. I can’t eat and I can’t sleep and to be honest, this problem makes me feel like I am such a bad mom and wife for just not accepting it.

  26. Jen,

    You are not a bad mother. He is a bad father and in return is trying to make you feel bad. My husband says things like that all the time. I think what he is trying to do is deflect his faults onto you. And he knows the right triggers. It is upsetting though. I have cried myself to sleep many night because he had told me I was worthless, or he could do better, or I was a bad mom or terrible homemaker. It’s the alcohol. I don’t think they think before they speak. They just shout and do stupid crap. I have learned that I have not caused his drinking.

    I have been married to an binge drinker for the past 10years. It didn’t start out that way, but this is the way it is now. I have come to the conclusion that he will never stop, not for anything. It is a disease, a habit and a problem. I just wish I had realized it at the beginning.

    Good luck to you. I’m sure you are a wonderful Mom.

    Stay strong.

    Amanda 🙂

  27. My heart hurts reading this. All I can say is I know the feeling ladies, I know the feeling. And boy does it suck!!!!

  28. Hello all. I have been reading your stories and say that thank heaven I happened upon this site.

    I married later in life and little did I know what I was getting in to. I have lived the life of being with an alcoholic also. After a few years of being together, the drinking escalated to a high point. I experienced verbal abuse, some physical abuse, and of course, the blaming of the drinking on me. It literally brought me down to a low point where I did believe I caused the drinking. No matter what I did to try to please him or make it better, it never helped. It was more comfortable and convenient for him to use me as a scapegoat then to accept responsibility for his behavior.

    After 10 years, I got a reprieve as he went to his home state to take on the responsibility of a wayward son. A year of reprieve set my thinking straight. I made a plan for myself and packed away the few things that I needed for a new start.

    In 2008, I left the area on the promise of a job. I returned several times, but only for a day or a few days to check on him. I was only 3 hours away. He never came to see me. I didn’t expect that he would as I had spent most of our marriage alone or with some close friends and family. He let me down so many times it finally didn’t matter anymore. I became numb to all the disappointments and drama.

    We were separated a year and I still went to see him, he had no family in his area. He stopped drinking for a while and did apologize to me for all the problems. He asked if he could come to see me where I was working. I agreed…mistake. I waited for the expected time when he was going to come. He never showed up. I called to see what was going on. Listen up ladies, he had made plans to move a thousand miles away was on his way there. He didn’t consider me at all or even consider saying a proper goodbye, just turned and left. I knew the marriage was unfix-able and shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw that I was still the last person on his list of priorities.

    It hurt. It’s 3 years later and I feel I am still trying to heal from all the chaos of living and loving an alcoholic. The best advice I can give is to observe. Observe before you get into a marriage situation. If your physical safety, your emotional health, or your spiritual health is in danger, find a way to get separation from the situation. As I have found, most alcoholics like their life with the drink. It takes a very strong and open person to deal with the addiction to alcohol.

    God bless you all and good luck to you.

  29. I left my husband 3 years ago after 15 years of living with his alcoholism. My 2 kids and I live on our own and they seem to be doing better, however, my 19 year old son had a couple of difficult years with anger and alcohol abuse himself. I have been dating a really nice man whom the kids really like and accept. My ex only decided to quit drinking when he found out I was seeing someone. His sobriety lasted 4 months and then he relapsed, basically saying it would have helped him if I had gone back. I still love him and thought of going back, but was afraid of losing a really nice guy that I have now been dating for 2 years. I also knew that somehow my ex had quit drinking for the wrong reasons. He also didn’t quit smoking weed and picked up the habit of cigarette smoking.

    He continues to try to quit drinking on his own and has horrible DT’s and I worry about his health and safety. He calls me all the time and I get sucked into trying to help him through his misery. Sometimes life doesn’t seem any better I still feel guilt for leaving him and wonder if I should have went back when he first quit???

    I still carry on each day and hope he gets help and someday finds happiness. How do I carry on with my life when I have this burden of an ex deteriorating from alcoholism??? Its ruining my new relationship because I don’t know how or want to let go of my ex.

  30. I have been married 20 plus years and have done two interventions on a high functioning alcoholic husband. I am about to leave my husband because he has started drinking again and although I can happily live my own life within the marriage (which I’ve learned to do through Alanon), I do not want my husband driving my kids. Therefore, he leaves me no choice but to ask him to leave – if he chooses not to, then I will need to leave with the kids.

    This is a brutal situation to be in. I do think that in addition to feeling loved, if kids are happy and truly confident about themselves and feel successful (school work, sports, friends, appearance etc), than they will be just fine. They also need to see a mother who is strong and calm and a good person who takes care of herself (these traits again are ones I learned through Alanon).

    To make up for the terrible situation many of us mothers find ourselves in, I think we need to work towards becoming extraordinary women and raise extraordinary kids because otherwise the alcoholism defines our family. Many achievements will overshadow the disease…That’s what I’m hoping for…

  31. Hi all,

    I can totally relate. From the time I was 9 until I was 16, my stepfather was an abusive alcoholic. I lived in fear as a child. My ex husband was an abusive alcoholic, hen his 3 sons have grown up to be abusive alcoholics. All 5 men have verbally abused and belittled me. I am devastated. My sons became like this as I am a very loving, protective parent. I’m heartbroken and find the abuse difficult. They are 18 to 22. Any suggestions?

  32. I wonder if any one can articulate the pain of a high functioning alcoholic wife.

    I have been married for 16 years have 4 amazing kids, and just coming to a place of acceptance after years of denial that alcohol is destroying our marriage.

    I know that it sucks and feel such rejection and pain but can’t articulate what has happened to me. If he beat me I would have bruises, but I don’t. He just drinks on his own and passes out, I have learned to stay well away when he is drinking. The rest of life is okay, stable job nice home, but this quite insidious decease is eating away at us. The children are 11 9 6 3 and i am still able to hide it from them.

    But I have lived with it for so long I don’t know what normal is. If I can’t understand what has to me , how can I ever expect him to understand. I have looked on so many sites all telling you what do or not to do or help the alcoholic, but I need some help
    understanding me.

  33. Kate, you have expressed exactly the reason why I wrote my book, “Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman’s Survival Guide.” It’s for the woman was suffering the isolation, loneliness and confusion of living with a functioning alcoholic, especially a high functioning alcoholic. Best wishes. Neill.

  34. Katie,

    Thank you! I have the same fears. My husband is a silly, fun dad, when he’s in the mood to be. My kids ADORE their father, my daughter especially. I’m over him. I can’t take the anger and accusing and hurtful, mean comments anymore. I’ve made the decision to leave, but am really scared about how it will affect my kids. I’m sure they’ll resent me, but I feel like I would rather them resent me than grow up alcoholics like their dad. I sometimes feel like its not fair to take the kids away from him because he really does love them so much. If the shoe were on the other foot, I couldn’t imagine how I’d feel if someone tried to take my kids away from me. But then again, if I knew I had to get sober to keep them, I think I’d do that! Never easy, is it?

  35. Hi,

    I wrote a while back when I was trying to convince myself I had made the right decision in leaving my alcoholic spouse and was seeking justification for such a tough call. 9 months having been separated and I have absolutely no regrets and am managing to bring up 2 gorgeous girls in a safe and secure home. However, the divorce is ongoing and his child care arrangements of every other weekend are just not working out.

    Since he got his own place, he started drinking again and is either too drunk to take his girls, or he is the worst dry drunk and so full of anger and resentment that he has lost everything. This anger is directed not only at me, but also his own children. They are frightened of him, scared of the conflict when they hear his delirious messages and whenever he does talk to them, it’s questions about what Mummy is up to, who she is seeing and what she is doing. He just can’t resist. He even held my little one in his arms and said he wanted to commit suicide. He needs help, and he needs to USE that help to get out of the rut in order to regain his kids’ confidence and mine and to move on in life.

    I am over the grieving stage, but I feel guilty knowing that he hardly sees them, but then I have to accept my children’s wishes and they have a very good reason not to want to see him. After all, I left him because of the disease…. His sober anger is just as bad as the drinking I don’t know whether I should mention the “A” word in front of the judge or whether he should just accept my judgement as to whether the children can go with him or not. It’s such a tough decision as I want them to have a father who I know they love and vice-versa. I don’t know how I will ever be able to trust him. I just can’t face a life of not knowing what to tell the the kids every weekend and having the responsibility of having to judge his health. Any advice on handling child care in the best interest of the children and the alcoholic father would be appreciated! Thanks for listening!

  36. I have a almost two year old son with an alcoholic. I left my son’s father about a year ago. He’s in and out of my son’s life. Its been four months since he’s seen his dad. He sends me text messages asking to see him, but when I do give him the time and day, I never hear from him. Later on, I get blamed for not letting him see our son.

    He has a lot of anger towards me. He texts me saying he hates me and who I have become. I sometimes want to not let him see our son all together. He says the reason he asks me to leave him alone is because I am the mother of his child. I feel like I am the one with a problem some times. He talks about the past a lot of times, like when we decided to have a baby, when he was there physically helping me with our son. I have to admit I love him with all my heart. I don’t know what to do.

    Can someone please help? I need advice desperately.

  37. I am so glad I stumbled across this website!!! I literally thought I was going crazy in my own little world (at least my husband tells me this daily). My husband is usually really kind and loving to me during the work week. He will drink after work (usually a 12-pack) which is nothing for him. I dread Friday, Saturday and Sunday…where it’s usually a 30-pack a day or more. I usually come home to him screaming at me for stupid things like what happened to all of “his” hangers or why I was out all morning spending “his” money and wasting “his” gas in “his” car when I have to work on a Saturday. He knows exactly where I have been since he walked me out to “MY” car that morning and kisses me good bye.

    He will pass out for 5 to 6 hours and then wake up cursing at me calling me every name in the book, telling me how I have ruined HIS life and wished he never married me. In the next breath he would ask me about the house. We have been planning on building and how wonderful it would be for us and then go to calling me names again. I can’t talk to him about it when he’s sober because he doesn’t remember any of it. It is just so frustrating because he is such an amazing, smart, and very creative man. I love him with all of my heart and I fear for him and his future, but I seriously can’t live like this anymore. It’s us tearing me apart…he’s never sorry for anything he says and does to me. I am tired of babysitting a 43 year old. I have 2 kids still at home from a previous marriage and they are “over it”. I am so tired of being his punching bag and being so lonely. It’s heart breaking knowing I so deserve better than this!!!

  38. I’m also grateful to have found this website. I have been married for over 8 years to a binge drinker. I have never been drunk in my life and had no clue that my life would be like this. My husband had been sober for one month shy of 2 years until last Tuesday.

    He picked the kids up from Preschool (ages 3 and 4) last Tuesday. Then, went to get Jack Daniels and chugged it right before he THOUGHT I was supposed to be home from work. When I was on my way home from work, my 4 year old called told me to hurry home, that daddy had thrown up by the t.v. and was sleeping on the computer. He was breathing, but unresponsive when I got home. Long story a little shorter, after being in the hospital, coming home the same night, and me going back there the next night. CPS put restrictions on him for a few days then, lifted them.

    I’m now stuck with deciding what’s best for me and my kids. Of course, he thinks he’s fine and he went for almost 2 years so he can do it again without any help. I’ve become a Co-dependent enabler and my family wants me to take our kids and leave. He was very upset the days he couldn’t watch the kids and truly loves them more than anything. I don’t think he’ll drink again when he’s alone with them, but I’m starting to lose faith that he’ll never drink again. I think, that since the 2 previous binges were SO horrible, that I thought, they were his “rock bottom” and knowing that they weren’t is so eye opening to the disease, but more than anything severely depressing! My kids are used to being with him every day (he lost his job as a result of his last binge and I’ve been supporting our family of 4 on a teachers salary since. Very enabling, I know). When he isn’t bingeing, he is an amazing father, so I just don’t know what is best for my kids. I’m so torn and am going to upset people who I love very much no matter what decision I make. I welcome any advice as this is tearing me apart.

  39. After reading these stories I can say I am glad I left my husband of 27 years, 4 1/2 years ago. I have remarried and have a wonderful and loving husband. I came back to this site today to deal with another problem with the ex. I saw him yesterday for the first time in 3 years at a
    birthday party. Our daughters and grandson came with him. I came with my husband. My girls like my new husband. When I looked at my ex my heart broke. The face of an alcoholic. He is thin and has shallow sunken eyes. He was such a handsome man in the day. He was a high functioning alcoholic when we were married. I assume he still is. He looked straight at me with a dead pan look. I assume he still holds me responsible for our marriage ending. My dilemma is my girls. Both in their 20’s. The youngest took it the hardest openly. Oldest went with it but I know it hurt them to the core when their world was shattered and shaken to the ground. As was I, but I could not live another year of my life not knowing I could be a happy person who could have a healthy relationship with another. I was single for 2 yrs when I met my current husband. We have a beautiful life. My girls were uncomfortable at the party. They stayed by their dad the whole time. The youngest could barely speak to me. I am crushed beyond words. I just think that if I ignore this it will blow over. But part of me wants to address this and get it out in the open. I just don’t know where to begin with the conversation. Any suggestions?? How do we all deal with this?

  40. Hello-
    I am in a relationship (not married) with an alcoholic. We have a 3 year old daughter whom we both cherish. He’s high functioning, goes to work every day. But that’s about it. His one other responsibility is to pick our daughter up from daycare since I am still at work. Once they get home (and I suspect sometimes he cracks a beer open on the way home) he downs at least a 6 pack, most night 2 of them. He considers this light drinking since it doesn’t include hard alcohol. Once our daughter goes to bed, he will try to pick arguments with me, things that don’t even make sense. It’s like he has an eternal battle going on and puts it on me. I try my best to ignore it. Some nights he will even wake me up to argue. He cannot manage his money or his bills, his father does this. He is a grown man, but sees nothing wrong with that. He is always telling me I am worthless, a bitch and an awful mother. I devote my time and energy to work, being a mom and taking classes. I try not to let it get to me.

    I know I need to leave. But I keep questioning if it’s right, since I know he has the potential to be a good dad, if he were sober. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon. He doesn’t even bathe/feed himself. He’s been in the hospital 3 times for pancreatisis (35 years old) and I just don’t know what’s keeping me here! I don’t want our daughter to learn his habits. I don’t think she will hate me if I leave while she is still young. But I just don’t know.

  41. Hi, I’ve been married for 13 years, with two girls ages 5 and 8. My husband falls under the category of a high functioning alcoholic. He works his professional job from 9-5, comes home and drinks 8-12 beers most evenings. He will occasionally urinate in areas around the house, maybe twice a month. Once he does it, he says he’ll stop drinking or drink less. I do not think he can actually control it, as I think he is truly addict physiologically. My concern is my girls. They seem “unaffected” by it now, as they do not realize he urinates. They see him drink, but as I am the primary care giver, they do not notice as I have them to bed. To me, he is emotionally unavailable. Because he is not abusive, mean or violent I have a hard time justifying why I want out. I worry I’ll hurt my girls by divorcing their dad, as they will not understand why.

  42. I undeniably believe that which you said. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed that people consider worries that they plainly do not know about.
    You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side
    effect, people could take a signal. I will probably be back to get more.

  43. Ladies,
    get out while you can!
    If you have children it is your duty to get them out and away. Divorce can be dealt with.
    Take it from me, it does so much irreversible damage to a child having to live with an alcoholic.
    The consequences will last a lifetime! All the therapy in the world cannot fix the problems that these children will have to face and they deserve better!

  44. I’ve been married for 23 years and have struggled with this choice endlessly. I so value staying home with my kids and we are living in a home that I’ve always thought of as my forever home. I was a child of divorce and vowed to myself that I would never get divorced. My husband isn’t home that much and when he is, I’m realizing how even though he’s here in body, overall he is so utterly “checked out”. It is a crazy feeling to feel like the “bad guy” in taking steps to break up our family. I so don’t want this to be my reality. He always promises me that he’ll do better. And I want to believe him. Now, I’m realizing that even if he does stop drinking, the truth is that our marriage is standing on such a toxic foundation at this point, that I feel like it is beyond repair. But, to him, “I am the one making this choice to hurt our family.” It is crazy making and hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t been in this situation. I hate that it is the way it is. I am scared to death. But, I am seeing clearly now for the first time, how I am settling for crumbs and letting my kids think that this is acceptable behavior. Such hard stuff. Thank you for this website. It is a comfort to know I’m not alone.

  45. Hi, I’ve been reading your articles and the comments for the past couple of months. Like so many, I see myself in your comments. I have been living with an alcoholic husband for 20 years. As many have stated, it was just weekends and parties and I would say just grow up. Then it got to him hiding his alcohol in the garage and being drunk all weekend. I sheltered the kids. I would make him go downstairs away from the kids when he was drunk. It has just gotten worse and worse. All weekend, every weekend now that the kids are gone. I was afraid to be alone, but realized I already was. I finally got the courage and asked for a separation. He hasn’t had anything to drink since then and is going to AA. Too little to late. I don’t trust him to not drink again if I change my mind, which he is constantly trying to do. I also think that it would be better for him so as not to be around. You know, sometimes I think I’m past the anger, but when you never get the chance to express it, it is always hidden ready to jump out. I just want him out to figure out who I am. I feel like a stranger to myself. I used to say I’m leaving if he does it again. It finally got to the point where I said I’m leaving and it doesn’t matter if he ever drinks again. We have lawyers and he’ll be moving out soon. I honestly can’t wait. Best of luck to everyone who is dealing with an alcoholic. You are not alone.

  46. 30 years ago I divorced an alcoholic who manipulated the kids and blamed me for the problems because I sought help in Alanon and he convinced them all that I was the crazy, controlling person in the situation. The kids went to live him and except for the youngest son the other two use and abuse drugs and alcohol or are married to alcoholic/addicts. I wonder if someday they will wake up to the fact that I was not the problem and their Father was and is a narcissistic and manipulative man. Anybody else been through this? I am tired of being the kind, loving mom, who isn’t appreciated.

  47. Hi I have just stumbled upon this site. I have 2 small children and have recently been forced to split up from the love of my life (their father) as I got to breaking point. It has been sheer exhaustion from the chaos and disappointment of his drinking. I am finishing my final year of my degree down here and getting my driving done, but then next year do I move back to my home town 300 miles away, where I have my family or stay down here as I don’t want to take my children away from their father? If he doesn’t change I am away from my family with no support. Do I stick it out for them? I don’t think I could break their hearts taking away from their dad. What a mess this all is. I feel so sad and I can’t do anything to save my family.

  48. I chose to stay in our marriage. My first has turned out well, with a strong understanding of alcoholism. She went through an angry stage and resolved it. She has determined that she will just love him as he is. He has gotten better (less drinking, agreed detachment when he has been drinking) and we are living fairly at peace, so I suppose he is an alcohol abuser vs alcoholic (read differentiation further up in posts by Dr). I have learned to name it when I see it with detachment and to separate us from his use. Not perfect, but ok. Next child is not doing well. He is angry and bitter as a young adult. Flunked out of college,not happy with himself, uses weed. He is mad because we don’t respect him, we judge him, and he hates BOTH his parents (so he says in anger). I do not respect his choices the last 2 years. I still love him but do not like him very much. He keeps losing jobs because he doesn’t get there on time or other reasons. He is living at home and paying rent. When we first found out he was using we brought him to counseling. He agreed to stop and we tested him every week. He has been paying us a small amount of rent and is required to work 40 hours. If he flunks his drug test, he pays more for rent. Now he has decided it is worth the money to use week and live with us. I don’t like that choice, but I left it open. He blames his emotional state on his upbringing. I think that is certainly a component (along with using weed, personality, and our culture). Dad does not recognize any part in his problems or acknowledge that he has feelings of anger about his childhood. He says it is all manipulation. I agree there is some of that. But I have hope that if we can help him resolve the anger and childhood issues, that would benefit and help take 1/4 out of his problem list. I am trying to get him to counseling but not sure he will. Also counseling is only one step at a time. How can we help my son? I am in counseling to help be stronger and healthier with marriage. Seems the only thing is to be healthy with our son as well accept that he will smoke pot (outside of our house), keep rules of the house (not in house), and try to love him. That is the toughest because he is so angry, paranoid and apparently dealing with issues of his parents’ problems. I am paranoid of even posting this on a public site for fear.

  49. I believe there needs to be more information and support for the separated partner. There is ample support for the addict, as there needs to be a safe place for them to not feel bad for what they cope with!
    Thankfully a high functioning alcoholic can function…therefore (in my situation) he continues to see the child. It is not one person’s right to deny a parent their child unless their child is in harms way. This situation is majorly difficult as it has major moral confusion for the non drinking parent. The relationship can be very difficult and I find that there is very little resources for people that have taken the step to separate with children. When attending support groups there is a major focus on how to deal with the abuser but not much specifically relating to parenting with a functioning alcoholic.

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