Addiction to Alcohol/alcoholic Exhusband


QUESTION: Trying to understand
I was married for 16 years and recently divorced for 10 months now.  I wish I could just understand and accept what has been going on.  My exhusband is an alcoholic and that is the reason for our divorce back in February 2012. I over heard him on the phone with someone stating he was thinking of divorcing me.  He has been without a job for almost a year back then and I seen no change for the better with our relationship. I started to go to Alanon and learned to no longer enable.  Which I did for the most part.  Before we both agreed to the divorce I asked him 3 times if this is what he wanted and also asked if he would go to AA, counceling or rehab. This makes me feel like I called his bluff.  I still cannot believe he told me he will not quit drinking. He was willing to loose his wife, daughter and home. At that point I had no where to go but proceed with the divorce.  It seemed to be all ok in the beginning with promises of co parenting, still there if I needed him.  But by May 2012 that changed.  He got bitter, ugly, blaming me for everything.  I kept telling him this is what he wanted.  He started to date right away which made me feel like our 16 years together was a big fat lie.  He has gone threw all the money that I owed him after the divorce and has not found a job yet.  He now has a new girlfriend (5 months) that is a bartender and shares the same life style that he has chosen.  Sleeps until noon and drinks everyday.  Again all the money has ran out.  I cannot believe this is happening to him.  I was the bread winner for our family.  Took care of the home, bills, daughter and worked full time.  He would stay up drinking until 2 or 3 am and sleep until our daughter came home from school.  By 4 my day was wrapping up where his was just beginning.  He looks very unhealthy with high blood pressure, over weight by 50# and now with sleep apnea.  He has spread so many lies about our marriage and the divorce.  Still it continues.  He spends almost no quality time with our 13 1/2 year old daughter but also she does not put much effort into this relationship too.  It is a very hard age with her coming to find herself being a teen and also now with the divorce.  I find her very angry with the whole situation and  is in theorpy. I too have been in theorpy trying to move on.  Sorry for lengthy story but I need to know what is going on in his head???  I cannot believe he has moved on so fast with someone that accepts this behavior, has no money, no ambition, health issues and has been resently divorced.  I know he can lie and manipulate but he cannot truely be happy. Is it a mask of emotional problems still?  How can a dysfuntional person find happiness with someone else and not what to be with his family of 16 years?  Please try to put this in perspective for me.  I do not know any recovered alcohlics and would love to sit and speak to them about this.  These questions in my brain are holding me back from moving on.  Please help me understand


ANSWER: Hi Joanne,

You are talking to a recovered alcoholic of 28 years so I am very familiar with everything
you mentioned.

I understand it can be confusing to see the apathy of a person you have certain expectations of.
You wanted him to fill all the usual roles of husband, father, provider and companion but
he did not.

First let's examine his main problem which is alcoholism, addiction, dependence
or whatever term feels most easy to use.

This means he cannot stop using alcohol on a fairly frequent basis and it sounds like
he has no intention of stopping soon. He has come to rely on drinking to sooth
his feelings and his mind. This is a mental obsession and a physical compulsion as
they say in AA.

A few other things come with that label. A lack of normal human emotional development,
a deterioration of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual conditions.

This is how the illness works, all those parts of an alcoholic's being go slowly downhill as their
condition worsens. Only abstinence and recovery stop this progressive illness.
Recovery is a choice only he can make and sometimes only happens after much negative
experience and sometimes people do not make that choice at all.

There is also a strong element of self centeredness in most alcoholics.
They want their own way and often react like a child when thwarted.
This is due to the emotional stunting that occurs when hiding from
life experience in a bottle.

The alcoholic also turns his self-hatred outward and is quick to blame anyone
but himself for problems.
He sees himself as the victim of others and is blind to his own behaviour.

Once sober he also has to work on emotional growth and learn how to
act in an adult world. He has to develop new ways of looking at others
who have their own problems and to let go judging the condition
of every human being he sees.

We all have our challenges and our lack in various ways but that is just humanity.
Your ex-husbands life is his own and that does not stop you from living
your life in a new way.

Often people do not fit in the box of husband, father, mother, wife as
we think they "should". They may be unloving and ungrateful no matter
how much we give (bribe) them. This is reality no matter how ugly it may seem.

We can learn how to let go and work on ourself, we can give others the space
to be sick or ill in whatever way they are. The more we see them as being
a growing or not growing person the easier it becomes to accept they are who
they are right now. Maybe he will change some day but for now
you can be caring and gentle with yourself and nurture your daughter as best
as you can.

Expectations can only cause pain, letting people and things be what they really are
takes away that pain. The space you give him has all the love you need to heal.

Feel free to ask me anything that will make things more clear for you.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: thank you for your quick response to my questions.   I have spent hours upon hours doing research on alcoholism and all the information is the same.  I guess with dysfunction there is no healthy function and my expectations are my own.  I keep telling myself he in unhealthy if he wasn't he would have chosen to keep us.  Does he feel shame, remorse, hurt?   Does he regret each day of his choices he has made which make him hit the bottle?  Does his new girlfriend fill the emptiness? Is he able to really love? Did he really love me? Was I this replaceable?  I know everything I read says his first love is the bottle.  As of February 2012 before the divorce he loved me and his daughter. I thank God that he did not continue to lie to me and told me the truth that he had no plans on quitting.  10 months later I am scum and for 16 years I did everything that a loving wife would do to take care of my family.  I guess I want to know that he hurts more than I do. That hopefully one day he will hit his rock bottom and get the help he needs.   Loosing a job, wife, daughter, home, health, money and he is not there yet.   What else is left?   I ask God everyday to keep leading me in the right path and to take care of him.  I know I should let go and let God but this is so hard to do.  I would have done anything and everything to keep my family together. There are so many unanswered questions in my head and I am looking for.  I would like closure but I don't think I would get the answers from him.  They would be lies anyways.   I read stories of others who are effected by the alcoholics in their lives and I am lucky in some respect that it could have been worse.  My heart is still in a million pieces.  I lost my first husband to cancer and now my second to alcohol.  This is so much worse to deal with.  I am very scared of what the future holds for me and my daughter.

ANSWER: Hi Joanne,

An alcoholic that is not actively trying to recover lives with alot of confused thoughts
and tries in various ways to control the uncontrollable.

At some point in his drinking he becomes addicted to alcohol.
This means that even if he feels fear, shame, remorse or even good
feelings of love, affection and desire he cannot stop drinking.
He can try but alcohol has his mind and body locked down permanently
unless he hits bottom and is willing to do whatever it takes to recover.

This leaves loved ones in the dust so to speak. Since he cannot possibly
meet your expectations or desires on a long term basis he cannot
really have a normal loving mature relationship with anyone.

He is emotionally regressed due to the effects of drinking and he cannot
control when and how much he will drink at any certain time.
This makes it easier to seek out companions that will fit into his
drinking lifestyle. If he is to drink which he must then he cannot
make time for a family or wife even if he tries.
This is what addiction does to people, it takes them over and dictates
how they will act and live. They lose their life before it is even over.

He will get punishment enough from alcohol be certain of that.
Often we must accept that life holds the best path for us if we
gently keep moving forward. Something that looks like it is all
wrong can later prove to be our salvation.

If we continue to refuse to accept things and people as they are
we will be battered into submission by reality and life.
We cannot play God, our self-will stirs up bad thoughts and feelings
until we surrender and let things be.

We can always try to change what we can but we must also
accept there will be some things we cannot force to happen.
When you realize he has been taken by alcohol and that
may be part of God's plan for him as it was for me.

I have no regrets for my wife leaving, I look back and I see
that if she had not I may have died instead of recovering.
I needed that shock to wake me up.

Life always knows what you need, the trick is gently finding your way
without so much resistance. Don't let the fear of the future keep
you from enjoying this moment.

The past and the future are only worriesome thoughts at times,
thoughts are not reality, the present is your only time to be.

When you find yourself stepping into yesterday or tomorrow,
stop and take a breath and come back into this moment.
This is now and all the fear is for a time that never comes.
It will always be this moment, one moment at a time or
one day at a time. That is all we have and all we have to handle.

Be free and let your ex be free too, he can deal with his own stuff.
You can not be made whole by having a troubled man around.
He would be more trouble for you, believe me.
Thank God for setting you free, she must trust you to carry on with your
own strength now?


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Druideck,  thank you.  I have been re-reading your follow up answer and I know deep down you are so right.  I guess what hurts the  most is the years I put into with the hopes all will and can get better.  He chose alcohol over me and his great daughter and has chosen someone that accepts him for what he is.   Time will tell for his future.  All his dysfunction did not come out in the beginning at first so I guess his new girlfriend will have to realize this for herself and is smarter than I was.  I was 31 when we met and widowed for 3 years.  No children from my first marriage nor he which helped start our life together with no baggage.  I realize now we did have baggage (alcohol).  Your comment "He will get punishment enough from alcohol be certain of that."
Does this happen even when he has the next enabler in his life?  Your next comment " You can not be made whole by having a troubled man around.
He would be more trouble for you, believe me. Thank God for setting me free."  I keep reading this over and over and over holding on to these words and praying for the release and freedom of my heart, mind and soul.  I still love my first husband and there has always been a place in my heart.  The good Lord took him from me at a very early age 28.  I was blessed to have met my 2nd husband which gave me a great daughhter.  Unfortunately a very stressful 15 years came with it.  I reflect in these 16 years how many times I was taken advantaged, lied to, manipulated, broken promises and disappointed.  I must have gotten used to it and did not realize all that did happen.  Always waiting for that shoe to drop and needed to figure out how to fix it because he couldn't. The philosopy of "it is what it is".   How I dislike these 5 little words.  My therapist keeps telling I didn't get replaced because I am not irreplaceable.   Doesn't feel that way to me. I have a great friend that tells me if I drank all of this would not feel this way and I would be living in a dysfunctional world that would make sense.  This is how it is for him.  Again, thank you for your words of wisdom.  May God keep you strong and continue your sobrity forever.. one day at a time.   

Hi Joanne,

I can hear in your messages that you still carry much resistance to your past and the hurt keeps you
trapped there. One problem that occurs in relationships is when a person gives too much and
then is not rewarded for their loyalty. This is a danger in any relationship. Giving more than the other
always results in resentment.

It does more good to look at your own behaviour in regards to the past to prevent making the same errors again.
We all have a need to be cared for and want to please others in our life. This can sometimes become a problem
when we give so much without the giving being returned in equal measure by our partner.

Our love and attention start to look like a bribe which makes our partner pull away due to the discomfort
of unwanted expectations.

It sounds like you were trying to draw water from a well that was dry. Your ex did not have the things that
you were trying to get from him for whatever reasons. This is common with alcoholics as they are
broken people so to speak.

He will have to deal with his progressive alcoholic illness no matter who enables him.
Alcohol has already taken much away from him and will continue to do so.

Sometimes to get better all we have to do is allow ourselves to feel what we feel.
It doesn't help to candy coat what feels real to us.
We can just sit with our pain for awhile and give it the space to be without any mind talk.
We give up resisting and let the pain out so it can be seen and healed by our inner presence.

Thoughts are not reality they are only thoughts and can be changed.

Write down on paper all the things you feel and then things you could be thinking or doing now instead of
focusing on your past. Feel the pain, allow it to be and then bless it as it leaves your body
and your mind. It is okay to hurt and to feel bad as resisting it too much keeps it locked
inside of you.  The past is not now, this moment is always new and is yours alone.


Addiction to Alcohol

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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.


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

Advanced counsellor certificate, Melbourne ORYGEN Research Centre volunteer consultant

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