Married to an Unbelieving Alcoholic

Ask Angie: My husband is an alcoholic. Although I have committed to staying with him, I can't help but regard him with disgust even AFTER he's been drinking. Thanks to the biblical principles you teach, I'm learning how to detach when he's drinking, but in the days following a drinking binge I don't feel any affection for him. In the early days of our marriage (we've been married 20 years), I was able to warm up to him once the drinking passed. Now I am just filled with disgust. Please give me some advice. Thank you.

Marriage Guidance: We commend you for your commitment to your marriage. This shows your love for God and your willingness to please Him and do His will. You are an inspiration for others who are living with an alcoholic spouse.

Your feelings are understandable seeing that some alcoholics can be sloppy in behavior and unclean in appearance and habits. The behaviors and appearance of the alcoholic can cause much resentment build up, which is what’s happening with you. You are just now learning to detach and part of detachment is separating the alcoholic behaviors and sickness from the person you met, loved and married. When we allow the alcoholic behaviors to overtake our own thoughts we will become disgusted and resentful over the alcoholic, even during bouts of sobriety.

I’m sure that many spouses of alcoholics feel the same way as you do when it comes to physical closeness with the alcoholic. It is difficult to be affectionate and loving with someone who abuses you with words and behaves sloppy and unclean one day and then the next day they are like a different person.

This is what I call the Jekyl and Hyde syndrome. When they are Jekyl (not drinking) you are treated with kindness and they are clean and smell good -- they aren’t behaving sloppy drunk anymore. But…you’re tried of the emotional roller coaster ride because you know in your heart that it is going to start all over again. Hyde will come back out soon and you don’t want to have to deal with it. It’s not fair that you have to ride this emotional roller coaster with the alcoholic in your life.

It’s sad but this is just one of the symptoms or behaviors of the alcoholic that keeps loved ones from loving them properly or unconditionally and how they too don’t know how to get close to and truly love those around them in the proper ways! This is why they call alcoholism "the insidious disease". We have to get off of the roller coaster through detachment.

I believe that since you are still new at detaching that you are still allowing some of their drunken behavior to frustrate, annoy and disgust you, and even when they are sober you cannot fight off the images and thoughts of their drunkenness. Continue applying the principles of detachment -- that’s all you can do at this point…serenity does not happen overnight; it takes time, patience and love and a whole lot of prayer.

Keep your focus on God and pray about your troubles and situation. He knows our sufferings and He WILL help us deal with our trials but we must show Him that we TRUST Him. God doesn’t want only part of us…only when we have time for Him; He wants all of us -- everything! This means we need to trust Him with our troubles in this life! He wants for us to seek Him in prayer and in our hearts. This is how we build up our relationship with him. And when we do what is right in our sufferings, He will bless us!!

    But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. 1 Peter 3:14

    For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscience of God. 1 Peter 2:19)

Once we realize the spiritual and emotional sickness that comes with addiction we can begin to love the person but hate the disease or addiction. Not only must we learn to detach from the behaviors of the alcoholic but we also must learn to separate the person from the disease. Angie and Frank touch down on this issue briefly in this video.

Love the person--hate the disease.

The best way to help the alcoholic get sober is to first take care of you. You need healing from the addiction and this happens through education about alcoholism and through your emotional detachment. Then you can be an example to the alcoholic through your loving behavior and lifestyle. We should always seek God’s will for our own life and apply Godly wisdom into our daily life. This is a wonderful example for the alcoholic.

Here are some principles that we can apply into our personal life to help us to deal with the alcoholic we love and are married to. Being married to an alcoholic is the same as if you are married to an unbeliever. In fact, the same principles apply.

Let’s study the awesome and wonderful promise that God has for us.

    Commit your way to the Lord; Trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:5-6

I love Psalms because they provide so much comfort and peace. This particular verse is letting us know that when we commit, by entrusting our lives, our families, our jobs, virtually everything to God’s control and guidance, He will take care of our needs, whatever they may be. We must continue getting to know God better through our relationship with Him and He will take care of us -- he knows what we need better than we do ourselves!!

Forgiveness Principle

    Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

It doesn’t seem fair that we have to forgive a sloppy drunk day in and day out, but this is part of the agreement we made with Christ when we repented and asked for forgiveness for our own sins. God said, I will forgive you and you also forgive others their trespasses against you. Is it fair that we seek forgiveness with Christ for our bad behavior but we cannot find forgiveness for the alcoholic’s bad behavior? "Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

Life doesn’t always seem fair, but when we look at our own forgiveness of sins and relationship with Christ, it doesn’t really matter, does it? We forgive because it is the "right" thing to do. Forgiveness also releases the burden from our heart and from our mind. When we forgive unbelievers we are forgiving spiritually sick persons, who one day may seek Christ’s forgiveness for themselves because of our forgiveness of them.

Part of detaching is "letting go" of the disgusting behaviors that may be acted out by the alcoholic. If we do not "let go" we may hold in resentment within our heart and mind and later our heart be filled with so much resentment that we can’t seem to bear living with the alcoholic any longer.

If you are having a hard time forgiving, ask God to help you forgive and he will show you the way towards forgiveness. Forgiveness is a wonderful way to build character and growth in the Lord.

Compassion and Humility Principle

    Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9

When we become a part of God’s family, the Holy Spirit changes us as we grow in our faith. God may be using you in your circumstance to be an example and teach others in your family about compassion and humility. How do we show compassion to an abusive and sloppy alcoholic? By detaching with love and moving our personal life closer to God and following God’s will for our life. If were married to an alcoholic fussing and fighting back with them will not help our relationship with them.

By pleasing God with our life, as we live with an alcoholic, we learn to love the alcoholic unconditionally, and the chances for them to seek help for themselves is much greater now that the spouse has stopped allowing the negative behaviors of the alcoholic to bring them into the addiction with the alcoholic. Ask God to help you to show affection and love for the alcoholic during bouts of sobriety and God will guide you towards this gift because all believers have the Holy Spirit within them to help guide them to do what is right according to God’s will. All we have to do is TRUST and then ASK (pray).

    Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others. 1 Peter 4:10
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Copyright by Angie Lewis.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Angie is a noted author of

How Do I Detach From an Alcoholic Spouse?

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