Dr. Neill Neill
You both enjoyed a drink when you were first married. But unlike your drinking, his has increased over time. In fact it has become an integral part of everyday living for him.
It has become a familiar part of your life too, because you worry about what is happening to him and to your marriage. For present purposes I will limit my comments to home life.
Perhaps he is just a friendly alcoholic. He pours a drink as soon as he gets home from work and he keeps one going all evening. He watches television with you and the children and is easy to get along with, provided he always has a drink. He insists there is nothing wrong with this drinking and that he is functioning quite well. After all, he reasons, he does his job and he brings home the money.
However, he never goes to the children’s games, because he doesn’t plan ahead. By the time he is asked, he’s already drinking and can’t go. "Next time…"
If you enjoy sex in the evening, you are out of luck, because by bedtime he’s blotto. And sex is not the only area where you are feeling neglect. It’s hard to have a discussion about anything significant after he has had a couple of drinks. You spend a lot of time effectively alone. You didn’t bargain for loneliness in your marriage.
You are in deeper trouble if your husband tends to become confrontational when drinking. It is a common sign of advancing alcoholism. He might snap at the kids. Perhaps he yells at you. Certainly he blames you a lot. You worry that his emotional and mental abuse might escalate into violence against you and the children.
Sometimes he has corralled you into calling his employer to say he is sick, when you know he just has a hangover. He aggressively demands absolute secrecy. You and the kids are forbidden to talk with your friends about any of the unpleasantness at home.
He may insist on another definition of "functioning" to protect his ego, but in my books, if what I have said fits, the signs point to your husband’s being a minimally functioning alcoholic.
What has happened to you as his alcohol addiction has progressed? You have slid into codependency with your husband. You are enmeshed. Everything that each of you does affects the other. While he has become addicted to alcohol, you have become addicted to his care. Therefore, overcoming codependency is overcoming addiction. Your addictions support each other.
If his behavior has not yet deteriorated to the level of physical violence, you may still have time to recover from your addiction without leaving the relationship. But let "safety first" be your motto.
I’ve written elsewhere about useful steps to take to recover from codependency. The gist of my recommendations is that you independently do as much as you can to reestablish your identity, separate from his. This may mean having your own friends, going to church on your own, getting in shape or getting a job. It will certainly mean never buying or hiding his booze, never making excuses for him, and refusing to keep family secrets.
He will object vehemently, of course. But you have no more obligation to your husband to maintain your addiction than he has to you to maintain his addiction. In fact you will both be much better off individually and as a couple if you both recover from your addictions.
Get help from wherever you can whenever you need it and do not seek his permission in the process. The very act of seeking help independently is part of your recovery.
Click the tab "Alcoholism Test" at the top of this page to go to the test, "Is Your Husband a Functioning Alcoholic?". It will give you more clarity about whether or not your husband is an alcoholic.
Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill maintains an active psychology and life-coaching practice on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. He focuses on self growth, healthy relationships and life enhancement after addictions. He is the author of Living with a Functioning Alcoholic – A Woman’s Survival Guide. Get on his list for notification that he has posted a new article and receive his free report, "Addiction and Codependency Simplified."