Alcoholic wife and what to do


I have never posted on these sites but have always looked to them for support. But I think I’m at the end of my rope.
My wife of 10 years (together for almost 20) is a alcoholic. I guess she is a high functioning one. Ever since we started dating alcohol has always been around. I have never really thought she has a problem till 2 years ago. She was admitted to the hospital because she was sick. Her eyes yellow and all other ailments. Turns out she has cirossis and I’m sure other things she isn’t telling me. I thought that would be the wake up call she needed but I was wrong. She says she wants to get better but only goes 1 or 2 days without drinking. I have tried to set boundaries but she will not stick to them. I have dealt with this for at least 10 years and I’m tired and drained from being a single parent to our 9 year old. I just don’t know what to do anymore.
Thanks for any advice

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Hi @Needingachange,

My best advice would be to check out Their program is suuuuuuper helpful with practical advice on how to handle this situation.

About the boundaries: you mentioned “she will not stick to them”, but boundaries aren’t meant to control our partner’s behavior, they’re something WE set and stick to. It up to YOU to follow through on consequences. For example, if you have a boundary that you won’t allow alcohol in your home, then a consequence of her bringing alcohol into the home or coming home after drinking might be that she needs to find another place to stay. But, you should only place a boundary when you’re clear that she is an adult and can choose to do whatever she wants, so she can react to your boundary however she chooses, and you’re still sure that it’s the best thing to do for you and your child. Also, only place a boundary when you are 100% sure you can follow through on the consequences, otherwise it’s useless.

Boundaries are hard and it’s uncomfortable to communicate them, but it can really help us feel confident that we’re taking care of ourselves and our families.

With that, it’s important to stay in a space of compassion for her. There’s a reason she copes with her emotions by drinking, that’s how her brain has learned to deal with difficult emotions. It’s not hard to understand that when you’re dependent on something to feel normal, there would be resistance to giving it up. You can let her know that you’re here for her if she would like support in getting help when she’s ready, but only when she’s ready and willing.

Stay strong, I know it’s a hard road but there are many beautiful lessons to be learned from our partners who struggle with substance use. Recovery is possible :hearts:


I commend you for your efforts, perseverance, and your love for your wife and child. I once had a live-in girlfriend that was a non-functioning alcoholic. It is not an easy task to forego when you deal with your daily responsibilities on top of your challenges and heartache on the home front. It wasn’t until years later when I succumbed to my own battle with alcoholism and substance abuse that I realized the concept of one “hitting rock bottom.” Rock bottom can be so many different things for so many different people. It can be loss of employment, home, illness (as with your wife), legal consequences, etc. I’m sure that you are surprised to see that illness is not your wife’s “rock bottom.” Unfortunately, this is common with the disease of alcoholism. When I went to treatment for my own alcoholism and substance abuse after years of legal consequences, I learned of the insanity of this disease. Alcoholics will continue to drink as they always have while expecting different, more positive outcomes. That is the insanity of it all. As an individual that has completed a 12 step program and have been deemed capable of sponsoring other alcoholics, may I suggest what the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests when approaching an active alcoholic with the concept of seeking out help/treatment: the 1-2 days of lucidity she has when she is not drinking, gently suggest the idea of treatment, attending an A.A. meeting, or talking with a licensed counselor for substance abuse. When she is “emotionally high,” approach with extreme positivity. If she is emotionally low during this 1-2 day period of abstaining, try to re-enforce the negative consequences. It is common knowledge, however, for us members of A.A. that most of the time only another alcoholic can help an alcoholic due to the playing field being leveled, and the active alcoholic having someone that truly understands the battle that they are waging against alcohol. For more information on this, you yourself can read the chapter of the Big Book book titled “Helping Others” for a more in depth understanding of how to approach your wife, and why a recovering alcoholic may be the only person that can truly reach your wife. I would also suggest utilizing the immense resources of this community (The Village), and continue to post on this forum for you never know when another member might have succeeded in overcoming the exact situation that you are in. One thing I stress to everyone that I meet in your situation is that you cannot save an alcoholic. Only they can save themselves. They have to want to change and get well. I had to let go of my alcoholic girlfriend whom I loved dearly, and just kept the hope and faith that she would finally seek out the help she needed. The welfare of yourself and your child is of the utmost importance. The concept of organized intervention could also be explored, as well. I, along with other members of this community, are here to help at any time. If you need any further encouragement, advice, or suggestions, please feel free to contact me at any time. Take peace in knowing that you are not alone, and I will keep you and your family in my prayers.


Hello @Needingachange, thanks for joining this community and taking the time to post. I’m sorry that you are going through this and have been experiencing this for 10 years. Something I learned is that you cannot make the decision for your loved one or control them. However, you CAN support them by guiding them to the right direction. The village gatherings they do weekly are really helpful in learning different strategies to motivate your loved one to take a step towards recovery.

I think this is the best time to take care of yourself. When I’m feeling like I’m at the end of my rope, I take myself out of the situation for a moment and do things for myself - hiking, walking on the beach, hanging out with friends, etc. I know what it’s like to be so drained from trying to support and take care of an alcoholic/addict. It’s not easy and probably one of the most challenging things we’ll experience. You can only help them if you help yourself first. It’s really important to make sure that your mind and health are in a good state. It’s also really important to stick to your boundaries! If she doesn’t respect your boundaries, then you have to show her there are consequences. I have told my loved one that if he doesn’t want to get better or get back to recovery, then there is no reason I need to put the energy into this relationship.

I hope this helps. My thoughts are a little scattered today but I hope you know you are not alone! I hope you take care of yourself!