Get support to deal with alcoholic who is ruining your life

Question: My husband’s been an alcoholic for 20 years, holding down a successful job, then hiding in his workshop to drink every night.

I cover for him, keeping the peace and the shameful secret. I have a very responsible job and think I’m smart, but how can that be when I stay in this twisted life?

When he drinks, he’s ugly and verbally mean. I never ask friends over, hate going out with him, never know if the nice guy or monster will greet me.

Lately, I’m feeling angry and disloyal to myself by lying about and buying into his sickness. I can’t handle this in isolation any more. Would it be wrong to let people know he’s an alcoholic and that it causes problems I’m trying to handle?

Sick of It

Answer: For a smart woman, you’re coming up with diversions instead of focus. Venting publicly may relieve some stress, but only briefly. His drinking and meanness will continue without you understanding why you accept it, and what your options are.

You need a true support group of people who’ve experienced living with an alcoholic, the kind you can find at Alanon/Alateen.

You also need individual counselling to probe your own role as his enabler. You must face, honestly, whether you’re afraid to live alone, or to give up the positive perks of a successful partner, or if you still love him. If the latter, you need better strategies for living with him.

Question: I’m a teenager living with my parents and younger brother. My father becomes angry at everything, yells at us kids, but turns harshest on my mother.

Recently, she wanted to spend time as a family. When she didn’t know exactly where, he started yelling and swearing and wouldn’t move from the TV.

He has said horrible things to my mom, such as that she’s emotionally undeveloped, a bad mother, and that she can’t function properly in society. Once, he left for several days, and wouldn’t answer his phone.

Mom plays the dutiful old-fashioned housewife, her only goals to keep house and please him.

My brother and I beg her to stand up to him, but she won’t. I’ve told my father that his treatment of her is unfair, but he spins it onto her fault for not being a better partner.

Every time she tries to make things better after he’s upset, she wants the four of us to do something together. If I don’t go along with it, I’m accused of being selfish. But if I do go, I feel guilty, like I’m supporting his behaviour to her.

I hate how he treats my mother, but I don’t know how to stop it.


Answer: It’s not your responsibility to “stop” their unhealthy dynamic. They’re both choosing it.

Instead, state once only, firmly, that you find him unfair and mean to your mother and you won’t listen to complaints about her.

Suggest that he see a doctor about his anger and whatever’s causing it internally, since it’s making life miserable for him and everyone else. Proceed carefully so that he doesn’t lash back physically.

IF he’s ever physically abusive to your mother or anyone else, call the police. Do NOT let Mom convince you otherwise . . . the next assault could be worse.

Going out as a family doesn’t support his actions. If anything, it supports your mom’s efforts to feel “normal” after his tirades.

Depending on your age, work toward the time you and your brother can become independent and leave this unhappy household.


Living with an alcoholic requires understanding yourself and your reasons.

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