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When Your Husband is an Alcoholic or Drug Addict

If your husband is alcoholic or addicted to drugs, you need to get help coping – in person! My heart breaks for wives who are depressed and sad because of their alcoholic husbands, and who feel trapped because they don’t have the money or support to leave.

“I’m so confused, I love my husband very much but I’m so depressed and sad I can barely stand it,” says Kim on my article about the warning signs of a bad relationship. “We fight a lot…he drinks for hours, several days a week. When he is sober he is a wonderful, sweet, funny, loving guy. Our fights happen when he has been drinking and I am sober…I hurt my back and was prescribed painkillers, and he’s taken at least half of my prescription each time. Tonight I wanted the half tablet I had left on my nightstand. I asked him about taking my medication, he said yes he took it. I tried to explain that I actually need it because my back is hurting, but he didn’t want to discuss it. I don’t tell my friends any of these stories, I don’t tell anyone, I don’t want their opinion of him to change…think I need help…do you have any comments or suggestions? Thank you.”

My first suggestion is to contact Alcoholics Anonymous, or get a book like Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism. The book is invaluable, and not just for people struggling with alcoholism! If your husband is an alcoholic or drug addict, you need to start your own process of healing and coping with your marriage. You have some recovery to do, and the sooner you start, the better.

Alcohol is a drug, so the tips that apply to living with an alcoholic husband are applicable to other types of substance dependence (eg, drug addiction).

When Your Husband is an Alcoholic or Drug Addict

Every husband, wife, and marriage is different – but the general thought patterns and behaviors of alcoholics and addicts are similar. These general tips for coping with an alcoholic or drug addicted husband apply to many marriages…but it is still really important to get help in person!

Take care of yourself

Kim is struggling with sadness and depression. This is normal – alcoholism is a disease that can tear apart a marriage and ruin your children’s lives. One of the best things to do when your husband is alcoholic is to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. Don’t isolate yourself from your family and friends, and don’t internalize your husband’s drinking or drug problem.

How do you take care of yourself? I take my dog to the dog park, and watch her romp off-leash with her pals. I do yoga, declutter my office, and organize my closets. If you want to figure out the best way to cope with your alcoholic or drug addicted husband, you need to get and stay emotionally healthy.

Learn how your husband perceives his drinking or drug problem

The more you understand about alcoholism and the way an alcoholic thinks about his or her disease, the better able you’ll be to help with the healing process. Does he realize he is an alcoholic? Does he want to get help? His perception of his drinking problem is important.

If your husband doesn’t want to get help with his alcoholism, then there’s not much you can do to help him. Learn about alcoholism treatment options, but remember that you can’t force your husband to get treatment for his drug or drinking problem.

Are you thinking about leaving your alcoholic husband because you don’t know what else to do? Read How to Move Out Without Your Husband Finding Out.

Stop enabling your husband

“Enabling” is allowing or encouraging your alcoholic or addicted husband to continue drinking or doing drugs. Enabling an alcoholic includes covering up, providing alibis, minimizing the addiction, attempting to take control by getting rid of the alcohol, and removing consequences (such as bailing him out of jail or spending your grocery money on booze or drugs).

Another type of enabling is hiding what he’s doing from your family and friends. You’re protecting him and allowing him to continue drinking when you hide his actions from your loved ones. Instead, you need to be honest about what’s going on, even if it embarrasses or shames you. Remember that your husband’s alcoholism or addiction is his problem, and not a reflection of who you are.

Sometimes knowing how to love your husband means taking action that seems hurtful, but is helpful in the long run.

Be honest with yourself – recognize what you’re doing

To stop enabling your husband’s alcohol problem, you need to recognize what you’re doing. Alcoholism or addiction is not your fault, and you are not causing your husband’s problems! But, you may be enabling him by lying for him, not being honest with people, and bailing him out both literally and figuratively.

“You have to realize that it not only doesn’t help your alcoholic husband but actually allows – even helps – him to continue drinking,” write Olsen and Levounis in a book called Sober Siblings. “Sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line. No one’s perfect, and things are not always black and white. Allow yourself a few gray areas, for your own sanity.”

Think about your options

“Leaving your marriage is an option to take, particularly if you are married to an alcoholic who is being abusive towards you,” writes Deborah Morrow on Wives of Alcoholics. “This is a brave step to take and many who have been involved in an alcohol fueled relationship for some time find it hard to do. Why? Because their self esteem is at a low and such a brave decision is beyond them. It is generally advised to seek counseling or some other kind of help before making such a choice. However, if you are involved in an abusive relationship GET OUT AS FAST AS YOU CAN.”

If you can’t or don’t want to leave your marriage, read How to Be Happy in an Unhealthy Relationship.

The best thing to do when your husband has an alcohol or drug problem is to get help in person. Don’t let it go on longer than it has to – start the healing process for you and your kids today.

Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.

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