My Partner is an Alcoholic, Should I leave Him?

Lou – and the subject that we’re talking about today is My partner is a problem drinker, should I leave him?

John – Sadly when I look at websites or read agony columns where this question is asked – Help my husband is an alcoholic? The most common answer is Run, leave, get out. And This kind of blanket answer fails to understand where the person might be.

L – In terms of safety, if you or your family is in physical danger, if you are being punched or sexually being abused then absolutely run, as quick as you possibly can. But here we are talking more about emotional and psychological damage which is much harder to gauge.

I walked this path for 29 years and there were crisis moments when I felt absolutely dreadful and if I had a dollar for every time I said, I can’t do this anymore, I’d be a millionaire but actually I was there for 29 years and I found ways of staying for a set of reasons that were particular to my situation.

J – My wife actually did leave, and I can’t blame her, but she tried her best before she went.

 L – So we represent the different outcomes. One reason we put the Bottled Up website together is that we recognised many people really do love their alcoholic and want to stay with them if they possibly can.

For me, it was often about the children, they were worried I would leave their dad. They loved their dad and there was enough going on in our situation, especially when I learned to handle it well, that was worth staying for.

J – I think it may surprise people that someone could still love an alcoholic. But what we need to understand is that this is who you chose to live with, chose to spend your life with, and yes, they have a problem at this moment in time but there is a great hope that they may recover. They may not recover immediately, it could be short term, medium term or even long term and we can’t tell exactly who or when but what we can say is that many do recover. I mean I’m sitting here over 25 years sober. So it does happen.

L – Bottled Up respects your journey. If you are at the end and need to go, then of course you should go. If you can’t give it any more then, of course, go. The only thing we would say is to try not to do it in a knee jerk way.

I work with a lot of couples as a counsellor, people in crisis; one thing I say to them is – Look even if you feel this relationship cannot be redeemed that we cannot actually help you through, lets look at it, let’s do our best, so that when you look back, and often people do have regret, that you can honestly say to yourself and to each other, we did what we could to make this relationship work.

At Bottled Up we have thought these things through very hard using his experience as a drinker and mine living with a drinker, making sure that a/ you’re not doing things that are unhelpful and b/ that you are doing things that are helpful. So that again, you do the best you can and then we give you interventions, for your drinker. The benefit of that, if you can hang on in there, is you can say – I’ve really applied this, I’ve done everything I can and it’s the end of the road for me. And you may be glad that you did that.

J – But you also need to make a life for yourself. You need to take a look and see where you’re at. One thing that happens with a drinker is that your social life gets smaller and smaller and you become more secretive, hiding the shame and you need to reverse that process. You need to get support, you need to get out there and get some kind of social life. Because if you are going to leave you need to leave to something. We talk about all of these things on the website as well.

No one can tell you whether to stay or whether to go, no one can tell you which is the right thing to do, that’s your decision. My wife when she left, she made the pronouncement that she didn’t like me, she didn’t love me and she wanted to leave before she hated me. Years later we were friends. We never got back to together again, but that was ok. She was in a good place and I was in a good place.

L – Chances are that you are feeling your situation is really difficult but the Bottled Up program is to bring you to a position that is less difficult. I could not have stayed with my husband if things had stayed the way they were and if I had remained in all the emotional state – incandescent with rage, that I was in for a long time. I couldn’t have stood that for 29 years. I stayed to the end because I found ways of managing my life and reducing the impact of his drinking so that I tended to be around in the good bits and found ways of taking myself away in the bad bits. We’re certainly not saying – hang on in there, we’re just saying look at your situation.

J – In the Bottled Up forum you will find people who are together with their drinker, who have left their drinker, who have left on a short term basis, who are getting divorced. They’re all there and we support them all.

L – Come and join us

4 Replies to “My Partner is an Alcoholic, Should I leave Him?”

  1. Thanks for this posting. My sons both drink heavily and I consider them alcoholic. I live with one of them due to health reasons. the relationship with my sons just wasn’t working anymore due to my own codependency and the alcoholism. My program was slowly not working any more. The COBID-19 virus has brought out the worst in my family. I was working on finding my own place just before the virus hit. Now leaving is not going to happen for awhile. I have to dig real deep sometimes to make it. Yet, there does seem to be a turn around in something I just can’t figure out. In this time of stress, there has been a more open dialogue between my one son and I. It has not been always healthy in how the dialogue transpired but stuff came out into the open. Luck? Maybe it was because we just couldn’t run away anymore? For now the tension seems less and hopefully it will last until I can find my own place.. I know talking with an alcoholic or even a codependent isn’t always easy. Coping with everything is complicated at times. The virus brought us with living one day at a time and yet it also has taught to be pro-active and mindful of possibilities and consequences. It can be a heavy burden for each individual involved. Coping is not a one size fits all. I have found that there is a place to listen to each individual and their perspective and honoring their situation does help ease the tension and turmoil. I still may leave but for now I can’t so this frame of mind is helping me get through so far.

  2. I do hope things change for the better Margaret ,certainly things are changing for everyone at the moment ,as we watch people loose their jobs and businesses and yet see many stepping forward to help . My alcoholic son lives with us and like you say he is talking more and engaging in talk about the crisis , He is now working from home and so avoiding the awful habit of drinking on the way home or sometimes not getting home at all . A dry period at last !! , even if it is only for a short period it is most welcome . Stay safe .

  3. While I know I’m not leaving, he is disabled also, I have distanced myself socially. I very rarely go to social functions with him….if I do, it’s on my terms. I wont go any distance in a car with him or too far away..he has 2grown kids who enable him, and they will drink with him. The daughter is alcoholic as well. I don’t have any more gatherings at home…. I do things with my sister, niece, and her family. They are very aware of my situation and encourage me to travel and do things with them. He now does outings with his kids without me. I have let them know why I don’t attend things with them. While I love him very much, years of dealing with this have taken a big toll on me and my life. If he was not disabled, I would ask him to leave my house. We are not married.

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