Married to an Alcoholic

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*Trigger warning: this post discusses substance abuse and suicide. 

Dear Husband,

I am writing this under cover of darkness and tomorrow I will submit it. I am writing it
today knowing that unless something drastically changes, I will not be here next to you in a few months either because I have left you or because you will have killed yourself,
voluntarily or involuntarily, while in some alcohol-induced fog.

I am married to an alcoholic.

Please, can you hear the fear and desperation in these words to know how scared I am?  I am not the enemy. I am your wife, but you have a mistress – alcohol – that you love more
than me. I love you, but the you that is ‘you’ is gone and addiction has left a shadow of
the man I fell in love with all those years ago.

I write this now knowing that you won’t read it or, if you do, you won’t hear it. You only
hear the siren’s call of the physiological and psychological pull that alcohol has on you.
Me, the kids, everything else is like a dull hum in the background while alcohol is the
Technicolor foreground with its serpent promise of momentary release. We – with our
demands for attention, love, and kindness – are obstacles to your sweet alcoholic oblivion.

When we met, partying was our thing. I knew you were a heavy drinker, but we all were
at that age. We were young with a fair bit of disposable income, fast metabolisms and the ability not to feel hung-over after a long, boozy night out. Yet slowly, one by one, we
grew up. You missed that memo somewhere along the line. I have held on for a long
time thinking that things would get better, but they have gotten immeasurably worse.

I have been sober now for a long time. I don’t drink. There are many reasons why I don’t drink anymore, but the prevailing one is that one parent needs to be in control, one parent needs to be responsible, one parent needs to show our kids another version of normal that isn’t soaked in last night’s IPA, vodka or whiskey. I am sober, in large part, because I am terrified that our children will turn out like you and I want a clear head to guide them through the maze of trauma that is headed our way for children of alcoholics.

The addiction has control of you. I don’t blame you. I don’t. Please hear me . . . I don’t
blame you. Alcohol is addicting, and both nature and nurture conspired to make you the
perfect storm for alcohol to lay root. I don’t blame you for the addiction, but I do blame
you for not even wanting to address the problem, for not making any effort to acquire
sober time or to seek professional help to fight through Post-Acute Withdrawal
Syndrome (PAWS). Even as your life unravels, you see no need to seek any type of
treatment or program. I have read the literature, attended the meetings and I know that
you won’t stop drinking until you’re ready, but I’m not sure that day is coming anytime
soon. You continue to feed the habits and the urges. I blame you for not finding a ‘why’
to fight through to the other side where it’s actually ok most of the time, a little raw
sometimes, but generally ok and infinitely better when you’re not nursing a hangover.

You’re a mean drunk and the emotional, verbal, financial and psychological abuse that
has often accompanied your blackout episodes has escalated with my sobriety – or maybe I’m just more clear-headed about them now. The holes in the walls that you punched and the things that you broke when drunk are things that can be fixed or replaced, but the things you repeatedly say and do to me while drunk can’t be glossed over with a new coat of paint. You have ripped my soul to shreds and then poured salt into those wounds. There is no trust anymore.

Again, I forgive you and in time I pray that I will learn to forgive myself. And if you ever
come to that place to ask for it, you have my forgiveness. Even if you don’t ask for it, I
forgive you. But it’s time for me to go.

I have given you that one last ultimatum and I’ll see it through with flickering hope, but I know that it’s time for me to go. I pray that you will get sober one day. You need to
know that, for you, it’s not the second drink. Or the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and so on.
For you, it’s the first. You are not someone who can drink, but ultimately, you have to be
the one to realize that.

I love you, but with every drink you have taken, I have taken a small, imperceptible step
out of this marriage. I am almost at the edge and I’m ready to jump off this track. I want more for my life and for my kids.

Please choose us over alcohol.

Sincerely,
Your Wife

*If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse issues, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information. The phone number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The phone number is 1-800-273-8255. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.  

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