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Addiction to Alcohol/Kicked husband out, now what


My husband is currently in his early 40s and has been drinking for about 20 years. His drink of choice is beer, and on a regular basis, he would drink 3 to 4 cases of beer a week.  Last June he realized that he had a problem and wanted to stop.  He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with severe depression and prescribed Prozac.  He went to 1 AA meeting and didn't like it because he couldn't relate to any of the people there is what he told me.  "That's not me" he said.  I told him there are lots of meetings and he needs to try other ones, but he never went.  He was seeing an addiction counselor once a week for about 6 months.  The first 2 months were horrible and I almost kicked him out then, but then he didn't drink for about 2 months. The last 3 months things have deteriorated.  I will come home after picking up the kids at daycare and find an empty 12 pack on the counter, which he would have finished in about 2 hours from the time he came home from work until I got home with the kids.  Apparently there was beer left in the garage the first time. A few weeks later, he stopped on his way home from work. A couple weeks after that, I came home from work and there were 2 empty beer cans, leftovers from the garage even though he told me that they were gone.  At this point, I had had enough.  I gave him an ultimatum that the next time I came home and there were empty beer cans, he would have to pack his stuff and leave and would not be able to come back until he had been sober for 6 months.  That happened almost 3 weeks ago.  I did kick him out and he is staying at his sisters.  I work weekends, so he takes our kids on the weekends, they are 2 and 1.  He wanted to watch them at the house, but I told him no.  He won't go to treatment and believes that he can do it on his own, which I know is not true.  He quit going to the counselor the day after I kicked him out.  His reasoning is that she was trying to get him to talk about stuff that he didn't want to talk about and that was driving him to drink.  I don't know where to go from here. I don't want to force him into treatment or AA if he is not willing, because I feel it would be a waste of time if he doesn't think he needs it.  I have stood firm and not let him come back.  I went to an Al Anon meeting last week and plan to attend those when I can.  Should I let him come back if he won't get help?  I know he can't do it on his own, but don't know where to go from here.

Hi Tafline,

Well, these are difficult situations and I have fielded many questions like yours.  I've also sat in my office with a couple experiencing your same situation, and seen the ultimatum delivered.  Ultimatums are not a guaranteed strategy, for a number of reasons.

The best way to think of what is happening is to view one's relationship with alcohol as similar to another person.  Often, people in conflictual relationships who report ongoing tension and conflict, and who listen to their friends tell them to end the relationship ("You can do better") will usually not act. That is because the relationship contains rewards -- all the while it is creating calamity.

The rewards are the key here. Alcohol provides a very necessary alternative to your husband dealing with life in other ways.  The breakup is perceived as having a serious downside for him, and he's buying time with the "I can do it myself" arguments and the AA rejection. The breakup horrifies him.  Alcohol is a constant that is predictable, reliable, and effective. More so than people.  We all have our ups and downs. Alcohol doesn't. It's ready to please us any time.  

I don't feel spouses and families have to endure endlessly the turmoil of the alcoholic or addict.  Most people have been very patient and tolerant -- but there's a limit, and I don't think an alcoholic environment is good for children.  

Your husband may get quite worse before he gets better.  He may guilt trip you, blame you for his troubles, scorn you for your lack of sensitivity to his plight.  These are all maneuvers to continue the behavior.  

He needs treatment, but the user has to acknowledge - or accept - it may work.  I see treatment work and fail every day.  Some of my clients are recalcitrant and some probably will not recover.  We hear about them from time to time in the local paper.  We need to accept this cruel reality.

If he wants to come home, have him do it with an agreement he'll go into treatment.  But beware of his signing up for treatment just to reconcile, then dropping out just when he gets in the house.  Be mindful of aggressive behavior tendencies.  If your household is considered too threatening to your children, either he will be told to leave, or you'll be told they will be put in foster placement.  Child/family agencies don't put up with alcoholic households.

Ultimately, if he fails to accept help and change his behavior, you may have to arrange for a long-term separation.  I suggest you seek counseling for yourself through this tough time.  If he gets into treatment, try to encourage him to have conjoint sessions with the counselor, so you can participate in his change process.

Best of luck with this difficult situation,

Addiction to Alcohol

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Peter L.


Any questions regarding addictive behavior, withdrawal symptoms, selecting treatment options, relapse prevention, defining abuse vs. dependence, self-help groups, denial and resistance, building motivation, physical health effects of alcohol, substitution of other addictive substances; holistic approaches to addiction recovery.


I have been a counselor, educator, and supervisor in the addiction field for 28 years. I hold alcohol and drug counselor certification and licenses in three states. I have experience with adolescents and adults, ranging from those who are experimental/casual users of alcohol to those with very progressed addictive disorders.

Masters Degree - Behavioral Science CADAC, LADC, LADC1

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