Monday, March 2, 2015

Just Ask Joyce: “My husband is an alcoholic.”

Q: “My husband is an alcoholic. I’ve lived with this for more than 12 years now. He started off as a casual drinker but gradually escalated into something uncontrollable. He works, but his performance has begun to suffer greatly. I’m afraid he’s going to lose his job. Nowadays we argue more than we do anything else. Sometimes he’s angry and frightening, other times he’s docile. It has gotten to the point where it is emotionally affecting our children. They’re embarrassed to bring friends over because they never know how he’s going to react. I’ve tried to encourage him to get help, but he refuses to admit he has a problem. I don’t want to lose everything we have built together, but if I leave, I cut it in half. There doesn’t seem to be a happy ending. What would you do if you were in my shoes?”

Joyce: I didn’t like the way those shoes fit, so I traded mine in for a different size.

My alcoholic nightmare was in the form of my dad, and although the responsibility of the family wasn’t on my shoulders, the unrest in the home was no less impactful. From a child’s perspective, I often wondered why my mom didn’t protect us. My father was a violent alcoholic, and that made life even more difficult. I empathize with your children’s angst for bringing friends home. Many of our most embarrassing moments were when one of the eight of us brought over a friend or someone we were dating.

The effects, however, reach far beyond embarrassment. Out of eight children in our family, seven struggled with bondage to alcohol — some to greater degrees than others. Decades later, they are attempting to unravel the tangled generational hardships that developed as a result of the legacy of alcoholism and abuse — a legacy of the choice one man made to “drink rather than think” of the consequences.

I chose not to drink. Having borne the brunt of much of the abuse spilled over from the bottle, I didn’t want to gamble with the possibility of the genetically inclined behavior. I made the choice not to; I wish my dad had considered the same. Contrary to what some label as a “disease process,” it is my strong opinion that it is a person’s “choice” to become an alcoholic. I often tell people that God gave us two gifts in equal measure: time and self-control. It’s up to each of us as to how we spend them both.

Now, what would I do if I were in your shoes? Intervene. How? Here are some things you might consider:
  • Instead of getting him to admit his dependency, get him to admit he’s having problems at work and that his home life is suffering. Then seek to find the source of those problems. Pinpointing the alcohol use as the source of other life-altering problems could give you a start to helping him find a solution to this one.
  • Your husband suffers from more than alcohol misuse. There is likely an underlying source for his addiction. You probably know his history better than anyone. If you suspect a reason behind it, encourage him to seek help to conquer the issue once and for all. This might make it easier for him to step out of addiction when the past doesn’t haunt him.
  • Do your homework. Find an intervention facility you trust when the necessary time comes. Put it on a PostIt note and stick it to the refrigerator. Don’t bring his attention to it; he will know it’s there.
  • He may need a wake-up call. Perhaps giving him an opportunity to see what life would be without you and the kids could serve as a great intervention tool. It’s a tough call to let him fall, but it often takes a “shock” to bring us to our senses. I’m not encouraging divorce, but separation. It might or might not work for him; however, you will trade unrest for rest with different issues. Initially it might feel like a bed of roses, but there will be a few thorns you’ll have to work through.
Intervention doesn’t look the same for everyone, but when it comes down to “choices,” I believe your children’s well-being and futures must weigh heavier than what might be the best for you financially. As a child, I often wondered why my mom would not remove us (and herself) out of the situation. Once I become a mother, I questioned it even more.

Change your life … NOW! Write Joyce Oglesby, Family-Life Fix-It Pro™, at joyce@justaskjoyce.com. I’m here to help! Check out my books and other resources today at JustAskJoyce.com. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and get connected to great family nourishing ideas! Join me on Just Ask Joyce live on WFIA 94.7fm/900am weekdays at 3pm.

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