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Living With An Alcoholic Husband-How To Survive Living With An Alcoholic Husband

Updated on June 16, 2016

How to Survive Living With An Alcoholic Husband

I was asked to write about Living With An Alcoholic Husband and How to Survive Living With An Alcoholic Husband. Mighty Mom asked me to write about what it was like to love and leave a man who was an alcoholic and the effect it had on me.

I hesitated, set the thought aside, made some inane comment about thinking about it and how horrific the pain was and then, ultimately decided that after twenty three years, it wasn't such a bad idea after all. "What did I have to lose?" I told myself, "Why not."

Twenty Three years ago I met and married a man who drank. A lot. When he drank, he was mean. I was foolishly and naively optimistic that we could make our marriage work. I became instant mother to an 11-year-old, and six years later a grandma at 33-years-old. My husband was 13 years older.

- Antoine de St. Exupery

                        " It is such a secret place,

                            the land of tears. "

How to Survive Living With An Alcoholic Husband

By the time I left, 2 years after I became a grandmother, I was more heartbroken to leave my stepdaughter and granddaughter than I was my husband. The pain was deeper and stronger to walk away from them.

Knowing that I had to cut all ties so that I didn't risk putting them in the middle with address information and a way to contact me that might jeopardize my safety was hideously painful. I couldn't take the chance.

As long as we had friends around, he was fun and happy-go-lucky, but as soon as they left the mean mask came out and his hands around my neck are what I remember.

As he backed me up against a door frame, making sure he had me by the shirt collar as my head met the door frame in a repeated striking motion until I wanted to throw up.

I thought I would die in that house. There were never any visible marks on me. Not on the outside. Grabbing my clothing instead of my skin helped prevent that kind of identification.

Negotiations with god, begging, pleading, crying, bargaining, counseling, threatening, yelling, hiding alcohol, drinking with him, nothing could convince him to stop drinking.

I believed that nothing mattered to him except alcohol and being able to control the people closest to him.

Everyone around him was to blame, no fingers were to ever be pointed at him for his own behavior. Or so I thought.

Living With An Alcoholic Husband Won't "Fix" Anything

And so I gave up trying to fix him and I began to go to Al-Anon. Saving myself was the only option I felt was left at that point.

I had never seen him as someone with a disease until then. I believed I would never be capable of forgiveness either.

I found a way to get better, and he got worse, just as the counselors told me would happen.

I learned that sometimes we really can't help anyone else unless they seek out that help themselves. I learned that I was an enabler.

I learned about my own arrogance in believing that by my recognizing 'his problem,' that I was somehow absolved from any responsibility in dealing with it from a personal viewpoint.

I learned how foolish that arrogance was and how it cost BOTH of us.

None of us truly knows or understand what is "BEST" for another person until we walk in their shoes. When you pass a man on the street and he asks you for beer money,

You may be thinking, "How dare he ask me to support his bad habits," and maybe you tell him so. But, What makes you so sure that a beer isn't the best thing in the world for that person, at that time? Who are you to judge?

Probably makes you feel better about yourself, doesn't it? A regular model, angel-like citizen, huh! I used to think that of myself, too.

Put That whiskey Bottle To Your Head And Pull The Trigger
Put That whiskey Bottle To Your Head And Pull The Trigger

Living With An Alcoholic Husband Forces You to Examine Your Stuff

We've all done that. I just have this to say

- borrowed from Mighty Moms hub, "Is an alcoholic ruining your life?"

She asks these important questions,

"Do you believe you have the power to heal your loved one from a fatal disease?

If you do, then you must be God.

Are you God?"

"Recognizing that, "YOU did not cause it.

YOU cannot cure it.

YOU cannot control it.

And frankly, neither can the alcoholic!" She continues in her Hub.

I remember finding these alanon words hugely absolving and liberating because I had bound myself to feelings of shame and guilt and failure.

Which leads me to my final word. I walked away. Two years after I left my (ex) husband quit drinking. Drinking would have easily killed him if he hadn't stopped.

Living With An Alcoholic Husband Can Teach You To Live

I saw him about 5 years ago, looked into his clear, bright and happy eyes and hugged him, laughed with him and felt pride for his success.

I learned so much once I got past the heartache.

I learned patience where I had none. I learned tolerance, where I felt very little and I learned forgiveness, when I thought it would never come to me.

I learned that waving a wand of "righteousness" over someone's head doesn't mean that I am less responsible for myself or my own actions and behavior and thoughts.

It only means that I am arrogant and foolish enough to believe that I am any 'better' than 'that other' person.

I am re-married to an amazing and wonderful man who inspires and encourages and supports me. There is only one person on this planet who I can honestly do anything about.

It's me, and sometimes that just takes a lifetime to learn.

How To Survive Living With An Alcoholic Husband Comments

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    • mwatkins profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Sierramtngirl - There is no easy answer. I am not a psychologist, but I can share my personal experience and what worked for me.

      My staying did only ONE thing for the alcoholic. It enabled him.

      I cried, screamed, begged, scolded, pleaded, made deals with God - And the devil, tried drinking with him, tried abstinence, tried withholding sex, tried spending too much money on personal items so there was less money for booze, tried to manipulate and control him. All these things were merely an instrument to my getting back the control I felt I had given up and lost.

      The leader of your destiny is . . . YOU. If you decide that you were put on this planet to babysit a drunk and tolerate their bad behavior then the problem is with . . .YOU

      The person - The ONLY PERSON you can control is . . . YOU.

      I had to give up completely. The opposite of love is not hate - Hate inspires a passionate response. The opposite of love is Apathy.

      When you stop caring more about controlling the drunk than you do about your own safety, sanity and solitude then you will begin to make changes. They may feel like nothing at first, but step by step you will free yourself of the madness.

      When nothing works - try doing nothing. Unless (the drunk)something changes, you definitely will see another one you love DEAD.

      From what you describe her - Nothing you have tried (all standard - desperate - predictable - methods of dealing with a drunk.) has worked for you. And from what you describe, it is NOT going to.


      IS . . . Y O U!

      It is you who needs help resolving the issues of your past so that you stop repeating the behavior of trying to fix the people you care about. That in and of itself is a sickness - your own sickness.

      I discovered this ugly truth about my own self and fought against it until all I could do was accept it and that is when my world began to change.

      Get help. Start with small steps.

      Go to Al-Anon,

      Start setting aside something for yourself, even if it is $1.00 a week, or a can of food, or extra pair of socks that you'll need, a kitchen supply.

      Be prepared to take action on threats you make - Like leaving if things don't change. If you don't then all you'll succeed at is validating the control of the drunk (who is out of control - Isn't that a paradigm!)

      Prepare to be alone

      Find out WHY you keep getting involved with people who have drinking and social problems. This step is essential to your health and well-being.

      If you find yourself single again, Take time off from dating - 2 years AT LEAST! Getting involved with other partners too soon does nothing for your self esteem or confidence or ability to care for yourself and find a healthy partner.

      Stay out of bars if you are married, OR Single - Find healthier outlets to meet people.

      Get a mentor - you'll need one you can trust

      Disconnect from family and friends who drag you down

      The focus to get better is not on the drunk.

      It is on . . . YOU

      You can control one thing in this world - YOU.

      I am not here to judge you - These are the things that worked for me and I achieved the results I wanted and hoped for. I dated my 2nd husband 12 years before I married him. I was in no hurry and neither was he. We have athletic and compatible interests - Together we are one.

      My ex hasn't touched a drink since I left him. I am so proud of him. He was a good man and he is a good man now, but the damage was done by the time I left and we are the best of friends now - that took years.

      You don't need permission from anyone to take care of yourself. You have a right to be selfish about it - To the point of bitchiness. You can't change the drunk. Stop trying. Work on the one person you can change. That's the person who deserves your attention.

      It is YOU.

      God Bless you and Keep you safe, but it's up to YOU to take the action you need to take to resolve your life.

      And You can be a success. I wish you every good wish. I wish it for both of you.

      Wake up every single morning and say to yourself, "I am a good and worthwhile person and today I will respect and care about myself." You'll get used to talking to yourself in this tone - Trust me on that one!

      You can have the relationship you want and dream about. It may NOT be with the person you are with right now. It may be with someone you haven't even met yet, and don't know exists - Yet.

      Help starts - truly - With YOU.

      Imagine your life and what it can be (there are endless possibilities) right now. Go from there.

      God Speed!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Please help! I married an alcoholic, 2 boys later I realized it and got out. Later I found a wonderful man. Years later, I realized he was too an alcoholic. I left, to save myself, though not entirely, I only moved out and saw him most days and those were filled with "how he could get better." One day, I visited as usual. He was dead. Fast forward, met a wonderful man, great job, great morals, convictions, etc. 2007-his last parent passed. Drinking. 2008-job eliminated, drinking. 2009-house foreclosed, blame it on --/ or maybe drinking. Fast forward to present. Constant drinking, he gets unlimited unemployment but it must go to support drinking, everything else is on me. Can't even allude to a problem. When I drink with him, life is bliss, but I'm losing mine. Can not see another I love dead. I'm entrenched in this madness. Help!

    • mwatkins profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Hi Leslie - Thank you!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      great post! thanks for sharing!

    • mwatkins profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      . . . One more thing to think about, Dee - Did you know ... that you can be an echo of your past, or the glory of your future. Past is connected to future through the present. At this very moment, at every moment, you are choosing to carry on the past with all its troubles on your shoulders, OR to let it go and see bright future pull your forward. Choose wisely.

    • mwatkins profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Hi Dee -

      I am neither a licensed counselor or therapist, so I cannot offer that kind of advice - although I went to those people myself for help. I also went to Al-Anon for awhile and it was helpful. I noticed that the stronger I became - the more independent, the worse he became because he lost his 'grip' on me. I was warned about that so I knew and understood what to expect and prepared myself for it. I FINALLY realized that I could only control myself, no one else. I realized, also, how I had played out my 'part' in our relationship and I take FULL credit for that.

      I am taking your quote - "Although I do love him and we get along great when he is either ill or sober (which is rare), . . ."

      Make no mistake. He is ill. Alcoholism isn't something you turn off and on like a valve on a faucet. You are nurse to an ill person. Please take a moment and read the hub I posted a link to above by Mighty Mom for some insight to alcoholism as a disease.

      There is one person on this planet who you can control completely.

      It is yourself.

      When you are ready to do THAT you will know.

      Then you will be ready to take action, but until that happens there isn't a soul on this Earth who can help you. I can't tell you a single thing - nor can anyone else - that you haven't already heard from your family and friends. You must help yourself first, whatever that means for you.

      Reaching out is a step worth congratulating. Keep it up. I wish you every success - I wish it for each of you.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Mwatkins, I admire you for finding the courage and wish I could find the same. I live with a high functioning, angry alcoholic, but I have a bit of a situation which makes me feel trapped. I'll try to make a long story short, I've known my guy for 27 years; been together for 13 and moved in with him 5.5 years ago. When I moved in with him I had the fortune to give up my job (big mistake) thinking I'd go back after a year or so and then the economy tanked and then a year or so ago the engine blew in my car but am able to use one of his. To sum it up I am now, unemployed, no transportation of my own and am more or less dependant on him; he knows it and likes to control my use of the car. Although I do love him and we get along great when he is either ill or sober (which is rare), i can't take the emotional abuse, his passive aggressivness and his controlling nature much longer but I am overwhelmed with not knowing what to do or how to go about it? Can anybody help or direct me?

    • mwatkins profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Hi Kowality - Sometimes the kindest thing people can do for each other is say Goodbye.

    • kowality profile image


      7 years ago from Everywhere

      We are all responsible for "our" happiness. We all hold the key to our perceived happiness. My observation is that it is not the alcoholics problem if someone chooses to stay with them.

      That battle is complicated like the battle some people have with low self esteem, a confused unfulfilled life and many failed relationships.

      We all have the power to change our destiny and the way life looks to us.

      I suggest people who are not happy in a situation, change it immediately and stop projecting their unhappiness onto others. Life is truly to short to waste it on trying to fix uncertainty.

      It's like touching a hot element when we were kids. Learn from it and try to avoid the same situation. If you touch the element again and's gonna hurt again and again.

    • mwatkins profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Thank you, Quill. It took tremendous courage, two years of battling with my fears and belief in myself to leave. It is something you remember a lifetime. I hope that there is someone who is comforted by this. I know there are too many to count who helped me in this way. I just want to pass it forward. Wherever you are, whatever bad place you endure, only you have the power to change it. Never let the hateful words demeaning your abilities deter you from that fact. Congratulations, too, Quill, for your 35 years. I applaud your happy ending!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great Hub and one I just know will help many spouses who suffer watching loved ones consumed by this disease. There is hope and there is life after for both the addicted one and the family they leave in a trail of destruction.

      I have much experience in this area as it has been 35 years since I quit drinking and through the love of others I have managed to win the battle. For me I found peace in God's creation, the place that I turned to where I found peace.

      When there is nothing left but to leave you leave, no matter what side of the fence you are on. I applaud you for taking a stand and looking after yourself.

      Blessings and Many Hugs

    • mwatkins profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Hi Nell, I am sorry to hear about your situation. It is heartbreaking, I know, but You have the power to change it. Nobody but you can do that. I wish you every success and God Speed in healing. On the outside looking back gives you an entirely different perspective.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi, this is so true, and isn't it amazing how by just writing and reading other peoples life stories on here can help us? I have a different situation going on at home, but reading these stories have really helped in the way of seeing it. thanks nell

    • mwatkins profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Thanks, baggz, Control is an illusion. It sneaks up on people.

    • baggz profile image

      franky joe hanson the third 

      8 years ago from bakk woods of sksk

      yeah...they have to change period... the other thing is yes change yourself. Some great stuff here.

    • mwatkins profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Hi Nelieanna, walking away was truly the hardest thing I ever did in my life. It was heart wrenching. I remember the exact moment that I said to myself, "I am worth it and I am going to change me." I even remember what I was wearing, where I was sitting and what I was doing. That's how profound it was for me. I realize that mine is a success story and I understand how hard it is to change yourself. Change is scary. But change yourself is exactly the only thing you can do - Control over yourself is what we are all limited to, even though we like to sometimes believe otherwise. Thank you!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      "There is only one person on this planet who I can honestly do anything about." It is difficult to learn and even more difficult to teach. Of course - teaching is only possible if someone is ready to learn.

      When it's come up have been when someone I cared about was being manipulated by a dominating person. I wanted to help her realize that nothing she could do - whether she conformed or resisted - nothing would change him. It was hers only to change HER being a victim and thinking it was her only choice unless he changed; otherwise, she tought nothing would change & she would have to continue to be manipulated.

      She did catch on and began to assert herself, but I suspect she continues to allow him more authority than is rightfully his.

    • mwatkins profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Mighty Mom - thank you so much! Not just for your kind words, but for your inspiration and encouragement. Thank YOU!

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA


      I am so glad you wrote this! Your Al-Anon experience is definitely showing. Instead of focusing on the problem(him) you talk alot about the solution (getting yourself well).

      Your story has a happy ending for all concerned. That is not always the case. So glad you were able to see your ex get sober, and that you have found true love.

      I will happily link my hub to yours! And I look forward to reading more about your very interesting life!



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