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Addiction to Alcohol/My husband wants to give up alcohol, how do I help him

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Question
Hi, I have been with my husband for over 4 yrs now, married for 1.  I found out he had an alcohol problem (binge drinking) about 2 yrs ago.  We seem to be going round in circles with it.  He says he wants to give up, so he will for maybe a few weeks, or recently a few days, then he will turn to it again.  He sets a date in his head for him to give up again but he has to have a final blowout so he feels so awful the next day which is suppose to kick start him.  When he comes home pissed out of his head he breaks down and says he needs my help giving up.  I have been trying to help him for 2 yrs now but as I'm not in his boat I'm finding this really difficult, its like I don't know how to help him anymore.  He has gone to AA once or twice but didn't like it.  I keep trying to get him to see a psychiatrist/counselor but he doesn't.  He's on anti-anxiety tablets as well for the last yr or so.  He suffers from server bouts of depression and when drunk often says he wants to kill himself, he says hes trying to drink himself to death.  I really don't know how to help him, what to say to him every day, everything i have tried doesn't work, thank you for any help you can provide

Answer

Hello MrsM,

It is very difficult to understand the behaviour of a person addicted to alcohol.
A few things make it difficult for the person to quit.

Once drinking for so many years your husband may have developed
a dependency on alcohol. This means he is driven mentally and physically to drink.
Mentally it becomes an obscession of the mind and physically it becomes a
terrible compulsion to drink over and over again.

This cycle that repeats itself is what alcoholism is, an illness of the body and mind.
Breaking free of this cycle requires a few things to happen and most
of them depend on his choices each day.

First thing he needs to have a true desire to stop drinking.
Second, he has to start giving up all the excuses he is making.
To stop drinking no excuse is an excuse, in other words he has
to do whatever it takes to begin the process of recovering from
this illness.

Of course he did not like AA as they will interfere with his drinking again.
Avoiding AA in the beginning is not an option as it will
fill in the time normally devoted to drinking plans and behaviours.
AA is where you go when the compulsion to drink is very strong.
The meetings provide a place to learn new ideas about dealing with
life and being sober.

I recommend going to AA until he feels that he is on steady sober ground.

One thing to remember in all this, he cannot say no when the alcoholic compulsions
take over. He is addicted to alcohol and he will drink again and again until
he stops fighting sobriety and surrenders to getting help and sticks
with that help until the alcoholic fog in his minds clears.

In alcoholic illnesses there is very little you can do other than
support any move he makes toward AA or staying sober.
It will not help to lecture or be critical of him.

I know it is very frustrating but alcohol has more power than
a person. Without help we are lost in the circle of denial,
broken promises and defeat.

He cannot keep his promises of sobriety without help,
you have seen him repeat his behaviours over and over.

He may have to hit bottom before he is humble enough to try
AA and alcohol  counselling. Alcohol will eventually strip him
of all that is good and matters in his life.
It may even take his life if he does not wake up in time.

My suggestion would be stop all excuses for quitting.
Talk to people in AA and tell them you need help but
don't like being there. Find somebody that he feels
some trust with in AA, ask them to guide him.

Realize that alcohol will try to seduce him back with mental
thoughts and a powerful compulsive feeling in his body.
This is when he needs to give up excuses and go to
a meeting or talk to somebody fast.

If he really is not ready to give up drinking then
you must let him go his own way. He will drag you
down with him. You cannot make him stop, you can
only offer a path of hope and maybe he will take the path.

Remember to talk to people yourself so they can help
you see the truth of this illness.
It is easy to get pulled into the round and round drinking
episodes and never get out.

If you have Al-Anon meetings there are people there with
the same problem you have with your husband.
Maybe they can help you if you are willing to try it.

Encourage your husband to keep trying for sobriety,
even if he fails it is better to fail then to stop living.
He can discover a new world with some effort and hope.

Druideck
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Addiction to Alcohol

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Druideck

Expertise

All questions are important, I have over 30 years of personal experience with alcoholism and recovery issues. Advanced Counsellor Training / Experience with treatment and AA.

Experience

Over 30 years of recovery from alcoholism. Counsellor in an alcohol outpatient office. Experience as client and as counsellor in treatment center.

Education/Credentials
Advanced counsellor certificate, Melbourne ORYGEN Research Centre volunteer consultant

Awards and Honors
AADAC volunteer award

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