If anyone knows what it’s like to live with an alcoholic wife it would be my husband, who for several years, battled with my addiction with me. That’s right, he battled alcoholism with me. Because I have been sober for fifteen years I can write about addiction with confidence. Alcoholism is a family affair and without knowing how to handle addiction, being married to an alcoholic is an ongoing battle. It does not matter who is the alcoholic, wife or husband – what matters is how you handle the affects. If your wife is an alcoholic there is great hope in her recovery by how you manage the addiction.
Through Al-Anon my husband finally learned how to stop enabling me and to move on with his life. “Moving on” with his own life does not mean that he left me, but that he learned to detach from my emotional outbursts brought on by alcoholism. We still lived in the same home, its just now my husband was not allowing my verbal abuse to affect him. It is not the end of your marriage because your wife is an alcoholic; it is through your strength to overcome the insidiousness of addiction that may bring the beginning of a new life for your wife and yourself.
It wasn’t always easy for my husband, but for him just having the ability to understand that my condition was not a reflection of him but a reflection of my own inner problems that needed healing, made a big difference in his attitude towards my addiction. What I’m saying is even though your wife may blame you for her drinking, you don’t have to believe that nonsense. Anything that comes out of a drinking alcoholics mouth is devoid of making much sense.
The alcoholic will always need to find someone to blame and you happen to be living with her. If she lived with her aunt she would probably blame her aunt. Alcoholics are good at trying to find someone or something to blame for their behavior. That’s because anytime they can find justification for their drunken behavior they will certainly jump on the chance to validate in their mind that it’s all your fault. When she blames you, simply ignore it, don’t fuss or fight with her because that makes you look like the one with the problem, and not her.
Your wife’s emotional problems do not have to be your emotional problems. Be of support and encouragement to her when she is NOT drinking but do not enable her negative emotions and verbal spurts of abuse. Distance yourself from her mentally, emotionally, and spiritually by telling yourself that your wife is sick and needs healing. By walking away you don’t take the emotional abuse. Tell yourself over and over again that by not arguing, blaming, yelling, fighting, and being verbally abusive back at your wife you are actually helping your wife to look at her drinking as a problem.
When a husband carries the burden of the negative emotions of his wife, the addiction will suck him in with it, and he will become just as emotionally and mentally sick as his wife. The more you allow the addiction to overshadow your own thought processes, the least likely your wife will get better or want to get better. A spouse can either be a detriment to the alcoholic or advantageous – it’s all up to how you handle the alcoholic.
A husband may love his wife with all of his heart and feel it is his responsibility to help her, and that is mostly very true, but it’s not a husband’s duty to help his wife to kill herself by enabling and rescuing her addictive behaviors – there is a huge difference here. He should not enable her antic behaviors or console her emotional impulses. It is a husband’s job to love and care for his wife, even when she is sick, but it is not his job to allow his wife to drain him of his own life in the process.
A husband must learn to detach with love before the addiction strangles him too! This is the only way he will be helping his wife to come to grips with her addiction and seek the inner healing she needs. A husband surely does not have to feed into his wife’s guilt trips – remember she will blame you for her problems. Be assertive about your feelings and let her know that you love her but not the addiction. Tell her you will not help her to kill herself. That means don’t give her money to buy alcohol with. Don’t drive her anywhere, even if she pleads with you. Do not carry her to bed, even if she passes out on the living room floor – leave her where she passes out.
Don’t allow emotional abuse to control what you do, or how you feel. If your wife feels like arguing, blaming, or screaming, simply walk away, or if that doesn’t work, take the children out for ice cream. Don’t stand around taking the abuse, do something about it, for your and the children’s sake. The more garbage you take in by the alcoholic the more you will begin to believe and even behave like the alcoholic.
Do let your wife know that you are praying for her to seek the healing she needs. Do let her know that you love her but you don’t love what the addiction does to her. You can love your alcoholic wife when you separate the addiction from her. God did not create alcoholics – alcoholics chose addiction. Do let your wife know that you appreciate her and need her but also let her know that you will not help her to abuse her body and mind. Do let your wife know that when she is ready to get the help she needs you will be there to support her every step of the way.