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Addiction to Alcohol/Guilt after divorcing alcoholic husband


My divorce was final in August of 2008.  My ex-husband and I were married for 28 years.  When we married he was actively drinking.  I left him after 2 years of begging him to quit.  He immediately stopped drinking and went to AA for the first few years.  That dwindled off.  He was moody and irritable most of the time for the entire time we were married. There were times when we would have fun together but I never knew how long these times would last.  He was a good father to our children for the most part.  They knew he loved them dearly and they loved him back even though he had drastic mood swings.  He was diagnosed with clinical depression 18 years ago.  He started drinking again unbeknownst to me a few years ago. He was sleeping all of the time, didn't do anything to help at home whatsoever, and became verbally abusive to our son who was 13 at the time.  I dragged him to doctor after doctor - psychiatrists, neurologists, sleep specialist, psychologist, urologist, and internist.  He had a laundry list of symptoms that no one really could figure out. Some doctors speculated that he might be bipolar.  He was taking all sorts of medications and the combination of alcohol with these drugs caused bizarre side effects. Neither I nor his doctors knew he was drinking.  He would not take his medicine as prescribed.  He always said "if one works good, two must be better!"  He thought this was funny and couldn't see the irony in it.  He owned his own small appliance store the entire time we were married.  His business was failing and I think that might have caused him to start drinking again.  I closed the business in July of '07 because he wasn't mentally capable of closing it himself.  I also had to file bankruptcy in both of our names because he had let the business losses spiral out of control.  I found 5 years worth of unopened mail at his store. He got 3 jobs after that but was fired from all of them.  He began yelling and screaming horrible things at me at random times for no reason.  Our older two children had moved out of the house to go to college by this time.  Our younger child bore the brunt of his anger and abuse.  When my son would say "Dad, I'm hungry.  Could you get me something to eat?", he would mimic him and just repeat whatever he said right back to our son.  During this time I later found out that he would also tell our son "don't tell Mom because if you do, she'll divorce me and it will be your fault". Finally after years of day in and day out problems, I had enough.  I filed for divorce. Six months after the divorce was final, he was still calling me, sometimes up to 50 or 60 times a day.  I ended up getting a civil protection order.
Since then my ex-husband has continued to spiral downward. My 28 year old daughter has power of attorney for him.  She obtained social security disability for him and handles his money.  She is so hurt, sad, and disillusioned at what her dad has become.  He has been in and out of rehab and the psychiatric ward of the local hospital.  He constantly tells our children, "I just love your mom so much that I don't want to live without her".  He has tried to commit suicide twice.  Now that we have been apart for a year and a half, the horrible memories of what he did when we were together are starting to fade.  He is in rehab right now but they are going to send him to a mental health facility.  They took him off the tranquilizers that had been prescribed to him and he is severely depressed and despondent.  His counselor said he is feeling his real feelings for the first time in years and he can't deal with the reality of what has become of his life. I have not spoken to him or seen him since the day of the divorce.  Any communication I had with him just encouraged him prior to that.  I had to sell our house for financial reasons.  Because we refinanced so many times to try to save my ex's business and because of the economy, we were each only going to get $3500 from the sale.  At the last minute before the title transferred, I found out there was a lien against the house from his business.  I ended up having to negotiate with the lienholder and give them $7000 - the entire profit from the house - to have the lien removed.  
I met a wonderful man right around the time my divorce was final.  I wasn't looking for a relationship so soon but what I felt for him was not something I could set aside.  I am so happy with him and realize in retrospect that the way I lived my life was not normal.  The reason I am writing this letter is because as it has become more and more apparent that my ex does not want to recover if he can't have me back I am suffering enormous guilt feelings.  My kids are feeling so much pain and are becoming a bit ambivalent towards me.  I have no desire to see or be with my ex, I just feel sorry for the pain he is feeling and causing our children to feel. Not a day goes by that I don't feel tremendous guilt.  Any advice would be very much appreciated.  I'm sorry this is so long.


Thank you for your question Connie and  I apologize for the late reply.

It is very sad that you are also one of the many thousands of women who have been entrapped in a dysfunctional alcoholic relationship.  

I might’ve a no-nonsense approach to an alcoholic but paradoxically my heart goes out to these sufferers.  No one wants to be an alcoholic.  No one ever wants to be afflicted by mental illness.  It is not their choice.  An alcoholic is not responsible for his disease but he sure is responsible for his recovery.

The first thing is to understand the Cycle of Addiction which your husband  is in and into which you had become entrapped. By understanding that addiction is a physiological illness, based on chemical dependency, which then dominates and warps the psychology of the addict, one is better able to see that the addiction is solely an individual journey for that person.  In an alcoholic relationship, the passive partner often suffers as much or more physically and psychologically as the alcoholics themselves. They can get caught up in the behavioral crises of alcoholics in ways which then affect their own behavior and physical and mental health. Poor communication and negative habits or schemes actually affects the other person and unconsciously he/she develops these negative patterns.  

Since, you had become a co-dependent in an alcoholic relationship which is also an illness.  I suggest you go Al-Anon (an offshoot of AA for family and friends of alcoholics) meetings.  Here you will find and identify persons who are facing or have faced similar problems like yours.  You can draw a lot of strength from this group and also find solutions for your problems

The general focus of Al-Anon is getting free of the unnecessary pain and suffering that results from living with an alcoholic. Even though you’ve come out of this relationship you will have to continue your relationship with Al-Anon because you would have developed the traits of an alcoholic unconsciously during all your years of living with an alcoholic.  By interacting with the members of Al-Anon you will learn how to deal with addicts in future by not being an ‘enabler.’  These traits have to be developed over a time and you will learn enough to be more proactive by attending these meetings.  So, even if you come in contact with an alcoholic/addict in the future you would have enough ammunition against being an enabler.  

There is no point in being guilty of what has happened.  Accept the things you cannot change.  Move on Connie.  There’s a beautiful life ahead.  You’ve suffered enough and you’ve done your bit for your family.  I'm glad you have met a man and you are in a relationship again.

If there is some area of your life that you are seeking to change, first practice acceptance. By acknowledging where you are and giving thanks for the good that you have received, you will release an energy that will transform you and your present circumstances.

Forgiving can also help you take back your power. As long as you believe that someone else's actions are the cause of your present difficulties, you are powerless to change. Letting go of blame allows you to take responsibility for your life.

I can’t tell you how important the process of daily prayer can be. Not only does it bring you closer to God but it will also get you into the habit of going to God with your life challenges. God does hear your cries of pain and He will give you the answers you need to get through your trials and tribulations, even if your spouse continues to drink. Be patient and remain faithful in the Lord and He will deliver you from your suffering.

I hope I was of some help to you Connie, but if there is anything else or if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to email me anytime.  I wish you well Connie in your new found life & lots of blessings.

I pray that your ex-husband recovers soon and you and your family have a great life ahead.

God bless


Addiction to Alcohol

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Helping build recovery in the lives of individuals, families and communities affected by alcoholism, drug dependency and related diseases. Involved in counseling/rehabilitation. Can answer any question on this subject.


10 Years of Counseling in chemical dependency.

MIND Rehabilitation Center, Bangalore, India. Karnataka Association of Psychiatric Disability,Bangalore, India. Consultant - Addictions: Florence Healthcare Services Email:,

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DLCAS Hazelden/Addiction Studies/Theory & Practice of Addiction Counseling/Dual Disorders. HIV/AIDS & Substance Abuse. Can answer any questions on Alcohol related problems.

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