Alcohol Addiction And Divorce Often Go Hand In Hand

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 I remember hearing awhile back that alcohol addiction was the number one cause of divorce. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, I wouldn’t be surprised. Alcohol addiction and divorce go hand in hand if the addict doesn’t get help. Read this reader’s story:


My husband and I are in our 60’s and have been married for 22 years. We are in the process of getting divorced, but now I am having second thoughts. My concerns are my husband’s use of alcohol and other drugs.


He doesn’t get falling down drunk, but seems to need alcohol, pot, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety meds to manage his anxiety. He has struggled to stop drinking, but always starts again. I have done my best to detach from his drug use and Iive my own life, but I worry about our future together. Recently, I found him drinking wine in a coffee cup on a Sunday morning. He had told me that he had stopped drinking, but then it came out that he had hidden a box of wine in the basement. He won’t go to AA or otherwise seek help; he wants to do this on his own. I see his mind slipping; don’t know if this is due to all the drugs or just age.


In addition to this, we have very poor communication. Any discussion about anything important devolves into an ugly argument, often with him making insulting, hurtful comments. For example, in an argument about money, he threatened to cut me out of his will and called me petty. We have tried 4 couples’ therapists, with little or no improvement in our relationship. I still love him, he can be a sweet, sensitive guy, but there is another side to him which is not so nice. We have a beautiful home together, travel with each other, and basically like each other. He has so many good qualities, but I never feel heard when we have a disagreement. We are more like companions than a couple. I am realizing I will really miss our life, but I don’t feel that I can rely on him and don’t know how to be close to him. 


I subsequently corresponded with this woman, and found out she did decide to go through with the divorce, but that it was a very, very difficult decision for her, and that she has decided she will still stand by her husband and help him. In other words, she isn’t just going to abandon him.


Here is how I feel about this. Every couple has marital issues. There’s no getting around it. But the problem here doesn’t seem to be the marriage. The problem is an ugly ugly disease called addiction. This woman’s husband is an addict, in my opinion.




I feel terrible for this couple because addiction is a tricky disease that causes so much conflict and pain, and destroys marriages and lives.


The husband, in my opinion, cannot break his addiction on his own. He needs to go to a professional place and let doctors and therapists help him. It works in so many cases. I have seen it work. But he has to want it. Hopefully the separation will jar him to do it.


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Addiction has a personality of its own, which is why the guy and his wife can no longer communicate. It’s like she is trying to have a conversation with a bottle of wine. It’s not possible. Addicts (even during the times they are sober) can’t cope with any type of stress or conflict, and therefore cannot communicate effectively with others, especially a spouse. They tend to get angry, irritated quickly, impatient, mean, and hot-tempered, whether they have been drinking or are sober.


I personally think this woman did the right thing leaving. But, I would never judge anyone for staying, either. The decision to stay or leave an addict is very personal and there are lots of factors that go into the decision. No one should judge someone for staying or leaving or how long they wait before leaving.


Here is the good news. I know someone who has been in AA for two years. He said the reason he went into AA is because his wife said she was going to leave him if he didn’t.


In his recovery, he realized he was an addict and has never had a drink to this day. The couple and their children are so much happier and life is good (even though he says it is still very difficult not to drink.)




Having an addiction is like having another disease or chronic condition, like cancer or Parkinson’s or anything. But, in my opinion, it is much more difficult in the sense that because loved ones around the person get angry and hurt and frustrated and disappointed, and so it ruins relationships.


You don’t get angry with someone for having cancer, right? So, how can you be angry with someone for having an addiction? It’s not their fault! But, people can get angry with their loved ones for not being willing to go get help. But that’s not their fault either. Addiction is a very very very frustrating disease.


On the upside, there are countless stories of addicts living in recovery for very long periods of time—some for the rest of their lives.


I hope this guy ends up getting the help he needs, but I also want to stress that his wife needs to get help, too. She has lived in an abusive situation for a long time. (Not that the guy meant to be abusive because he’s a bad person, but the addiction is the abuser.) She would benefit by therapy or going to Al Anon. She is greatly affected by this ugly disease, too, and she would be comforted by hearing the stories of others and how people cope with a loved one who is an addict.


Addiction is an ugly disease. It creeps in and ruins relationships, it lies, it’s tricky and plays with people’s minds. And, there is no cure for addiction, only management of the disease. The number one weapon to managing addiction (getting it under control) is education and support. I hope this couple understands that and takes steps to do that. But, the wife has to realize that she is powerless. The desire and realization that he needs professional help has to come from him, not her or anyone else close to him. I pray for these people, and for all addicts.  If you think you or your spouse might have a problem, PLEASE tell someone: a therapist, or your physician, or contact a local AA support group. 

Like this article? Check out, “When That Nightly Glass Of Wine Becomes An Issue”




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