Ask a counsellor: My husband has a drink problem – what do I do?

The problem…

“I love my husband, but he has always had a drinking issue and when we first met, he would have 10 drinks daily. Things did improve to the point where he would only drink once or twice a week. That is until about a month ago, when he again started drinking large amounts almost every day.

“Now I don’t want to be around him and hate it if he’s drinking when I get home from work. I’ve told him that I really don’t like the amount that he drinks, but he says he wants to relax and it’s not hurting anybody – and what’s more, he’s an adult and can do what he likes. I find this hurtful and it makes me think he doesn’t love me anymore.

“When we argue about this (which happens a lot) he calls me a s****y wife and a terrible mother. He also says that if I don’t take care of him and his drinking, he will find someone else who will. Please help, I am at the end of my tether and just don’t know what to do.”

(iStock/PA)

Fiona says…

Ten drinks a day is not a drinking issue, it’s a drink problem. Not only is your husband wrecking his family life, he’s probably also doing irreparable harm to his health.

He needs help but, unless he accepts that he has a problem (something alcoholics are reluctant to do), nothing you’ve said about him leads me to believe he is going to change any time soon.

He’s selfish, inconsiderate and shows you little or no respect. Moreover, he seems willing to swap you for someone else the moment you stop facilitating his drinking; hardly the actions of a loving husband. Given this, my first thought is to suggest that you take yourself and your children out of this toxic environment and make it clear that you’re not coming back unless he gets help.

However, you say that you still love him, so are you willing to try and help him to change? He’s managed to reduce his drinking to reasonable levels once, so there’s no reason why he can’t do it again. Something seems to have triggered his excessive drinking again about a month ago and it may help if you could identify what this was. Perhaps a change in his job, other stress at work or a health issue?

Try to get him to talk about this. Choose a moment when he’s still relatively sober and ask him if something is bothering him and explain that you want to help. Try to stay calm and avoid blame or criticism. However, if he starts being aggressive or argumentative, walk away and try again another time.

To help you through this process you may find it helpful to contact Al-Anon, a charity that provides support and advice for people affected by someone else’s drinking. It operates a confidential helpline, online virtual meetings and a network of support groups that offer regular meetings. This is likely to be a difficult and perhaps a lengthy task, even with Al-Anon’s help, and there is no guarantee that it will work. As such, you may want to consider setting a time limit on how long you’re prepared to give him before reverting to my Plan A.

:: If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

- Press Association

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