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How Can You Live with an Alcoholic Spouse?

Deborah has been a member of Al-Anon, an organization for the friends and family of alcoholics and addicts, for over 37 years.

Do You Sometimes Feel That The Person You Love, Loves Alcohol More Than You? If So, You Are Not Alone.

If you love an alcoholic, it is possible to save your marriage.  However, it will be easier if you get the help you need.  There are free programs and books that can make a real difference.

If you love an alcoholic, it is possible to save your marriage. However, it will be easier if you get the help you need. There are free programs and books that can make a real difference.

12 Step Programs Saved Our Marriage

From the time that my husband and I began dating, he would occasionally have too much to drink. However, like a lot of young women right out of college, I never thought his behavior was unusual. After all, he mostly over-indulged on the weekends, he had a great job, and he was reliable and considerate. There didn't seem to be any reason why I should be concerned. Most of the guys I dated in college had been regular drinkers, too.

As the years went by, however, my husband's drinking became more frequent. When he wasn't drinking, he had hangovers ... although he always insisted that it was "the flu." Often, he couldn't control how much he would drink. He would plan to just have one alcoholic beverage with friends, and instead he would not be home until midnight.

In addition, he always insisted that alcohol be available no matter where we were. If we took a long road trip, we even had a portable bar in a briefcase that we would bring along, just in case we couldn't easily obtain alcohol wherever we were going.

What is amazing is the fact that I considered all this normal. It was almost a decade into our marriage before I began to believe that his drinking had gotten out of hand. By that time, there was nothing I could do.

Fortunately for me, my husband also saw what was happening to him. Without warning, he came home from work one day and told me that we were going to attend a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous that night. I knew nothing about it.

Alcoholics Anonymous changed my husband's life. However, by this point in time, I was angry and resentful because of his past behavior. I even resented the amount of time he spent going to AA meetings.

Eventually, I realized that I had to go to Alanon, the program for the family members and friends of people who are active or recovering alcoholics. I also read the book "The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage." (Available from Amazon, below.) This book helped me understand what was happening in my marriage and how alcohol abuse had almost destroyed the love we had once felt for each other.

I realized that I, too, had a program that could change my life, as well.

After 47 years of marriage and 37 years of sobriety, my husband and I are still married. Even after all these years, we both go to our separate meetings on a regular basis. He attends AA and I attend Alanon. I often read Al-anon books, as well as other Alanon literature, and they have helped get me started on my own journey of self-discovery and personal improvement.

However, there is more you can do to save your marriage and bring peace and serenity to your life.

More Ways to Find Peace and Serenity

I have found it was very helpful to our marriage when I began to go to Al-Anon meetings, got to know other members of Al-Anon, and read a wide variety of Alanon literature. The people you meet in Al-Anon are wonderful to turn to when you are upset or worried. You can get brochures at nearly every meeting. In addition, you will want to work the steps and work on improving your behavior and the way you react to your spouse.

Even if your alcoholic spouse continues to slide downhill (and, sadly, they sometimes do), you will at least have the emotional and psychological support you need to survive, even if your marriage does not.

If, however, your Alcoholic spouse does stay sober, you may convince them to also attend Alanon meetings. In many areas, there are meetings just for men. People who belong to both AA and Alanon are sometimes called "double winners," a humorous nod to the fact that they need help from more than just one program.

Reading Alanon literature, going to meetings and making friends with other Al-Anon members, when you can, are all good ways to keep your life together.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Deborah Carr


Deborah Carr (author) from Orange County, California on March 28, 2016:

I have sponsored a number of women over the years who are in love with an alcoholic or drug addict. I have given the same advice to many of them ... especially the ones who are young and single. When I tell them that he will NOT change and, in fact, is likely to only get worse, most of the single girls have gotten out of the relationship. The women who are already married have often chosen to stick with it and, sometimes, it has worked out. Do not feel ashamed of your decisions. You did what you had to do in order to raise your daughters and you were obviously a good mother who made up for a lot of other problems caused by your husband. You should be proud of yourself. I've been in Alanon for 35 years. You are right that it does not solve everything, but it has given me a circle of supportive, loving friends, and for that I have been blessed.

josephine on March 27, 2016:

If you love an alcoholic - get out - especially while you are young - I am still 33 years later with my husband and love is slowly turning to resentment. He chooses booze over us his family every day. I tried years in alanon - There is no answer there - just an acceptance of your partners drinking is not your fault. I will have lived my life - NEVER ever knowing what it was like to be loved enough . A bottle of wine is more important than the love and loyalty I have given this man. Our children are scarred by the years of alcoholic behaviour - no abuse - just abuse of the bottle. Never being able to rely on their father. Never having him being able to drive to collect them, because of no licence from DD. There are many who would love you - do not choose one who puts drink first. I am too old to matter , but are proud our girls chose men who put them first. I am ashamed of my life. I am ashamed I have not been strong enough to leave. I am ashamed I am too scared to split the house I love, and go my own way. Love someone else - it is a shame to waste your love.

Deborah Carr (author) from Orange County, California on May 21, 2015:

Au fait - Millions of people have been married to alcoholics. Sometimes there is no other option than divorce; in other cases, the marriage can be saved. It is a very difficult issue.

Deborah Carr (author) from Orange County, California on March 07, 2015:

Alcoholism has destroyed countless families. While not every marriage can be saved, some people have been able to improve theirs by using Alanon and the techniques that it teaches. Thanks for sharing this information with others. Who knows what a difference it could make in someone's life?

C E Clark from North Texas on March 07, 2015:

I was married to an alcoholic and before that to problem drinkers. It puts tremendous pressure on a marriage or relationship. I hope this will help people in those situation to take steps to help themselves. In so doing they will be helping their loved one, their marriage/relationship, and their family. Sharing on HP.

Deborah Carr (author) from Orange County, California on December 13, 2013:

@TransplantedSoul: I agree with you. If they are not abusive, you may be able to get them to find help. This would make life better for both of you.

TransplantedSoul on November 16, 2013:

This is a disease. If you love someone who has this problem (as long as they are not abusive) - try to work through things with them.

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