I think I have to leave, but I don't want to. What else can I do?

self-care
alcohol
relationship

#1

Hi, Apologies in advance about the length of this post. I’ve previously described what’s happening for me and my husband who has a problem with alcoholism.

In brief, my husband has had a problem with alcohol for years. But prior to my son’s arrival in October and then Christmas 2018, his drinking escalated. We had our newborn son, he was running a large job (he’s a carpenter) and winding down for Christmas - he then completely crashed. He didn’t come home at times, making no contact about where he was / is. He drank and made dumb and risky decisions including driving behind the wheel. He couldn’t look after himself let alone me or his son. - basically sleeping off his hang overs and depression (what ever comes first). I eventually said to him I couldn’t do it (our relationship and the drinking anymore) but he said he would change (for the 100th time) - but he didn’t. It happened a couple more times and then I’d had enough. He ended up at a friends place and told them this crazy story about someone who tried to commit suicide. Turns out he was talking about himself. He hadn’t attempted suicide but was basically trying to say he was unsafe. After a long chat and hard decision, my son and I went to stay with my mum for a week, there were so many tears. I felt like I had to make a decision to stay or go. I ended up deciding to go home as I didn’t feel ready to give it up - we’ve been together for 16 years, and ultimately I love him and our life we’ve built together. He went and sought help - started antidepressants, started to see a counsellor, was under mental health services and even began crossfit - it was awesome. Just a few weeks ago, he was the best he’d ever been. It was great to be around him. As soon as he acknowledged how well he was feeling he seemed to drop the ball. Slowly all of this ceased and hes back to drinking most days again (often secretly), stopped his medication, as well as his crossfit, his counselling and seeing the mental health team. He’s hiding bottles and cans, coming home late etc. He loves his job and does a good job (from what I hear) but it takes every bit of his energy - so drinks to unwind, drinks to destress and to function - to feel upbeat and happy. It’s just a downward spiral and I’m watching him lie to himself and to me. I don’t know how else to bring it up with him. I feel we’ve exhausted everything to get him to stay in recovery.

When he sought help at the beginning of the year, I went and got help as well. I am having counselling every week and its been amazing. I am discovering my truth, who I want to be, how I want to feel. Deep down know that the way we are living isn’t sustainable. Living from problem to problem. The ups and downs in our relationship. This week, he said to me he feels he hasn’t been enough for me for such a long time which I think is untrue but I guess whenever he drinks (which is most days) I want little to do with him. When he’s sober I make more effort to connect with him. But when ever I step back he steps back too and causes him (and I) to feel more lonely and old habits come back.

Through my counselling, I have discovered my part in his addiction and have been taking responsibility for the harm I have caused even though it was never my intention - trying to control and manage every aspect of his life to avoid situations where he drank and ended in a state or would be unable to meet his obligations - work, caring for our son etc. I enabled him for YEARS. I feel I have been codependent. He has said he feels the last 2 years have been so hard as I’ve blamed him for his drinking causing our problems. He says that if I had never banned alcohol from the house that he wouldn’t have ended up with the issues he developed. If we treated alcohol as being “normal” that there wouldn’t be a problem.

But the issue is his drinking has been a constant factor in all the years we’ve been together - it’s his crutch for everything - he drinks alone, drinks to be social / to be liked, drinks to stay awake, drinks to feel OK. I don’t like the person he becomes - he’s obnoxious and hurtful. He only talks about himself and talks with a chip on his shoulder. When he drinks, I withdraw to protect myself which he says makes him feel more alone and worse so gets pushed into drinking. There are moments usually after a big night that he will take responsibility for his behaviour and acknowledges his drinking problem to the extent that it is. I have tried to be light hearted about it, detach with love, look after myself, to listen to be there for him.

I think I love his potential, I even love the person that comes out when he’s crashed after a binge or whatever - someone who wants more for himself and us, someone who wants to make our life better, someone who wants to be sober - I think I literally live for this - the crash cause I know everything will be OK even for a brief time. But I can’t stand the fact that he drinks, even if he doesn’t drink as much these days, he’s still not addressing his part in the problem. If he could drink and still live his life I think it would be OK. It’s not just about being sober, it’s addressing the underlying issues including his personality. He literally lives from nap to nap - he just wants to sleep All. The. Time. and if he isn’t asleep, he just talks about how tired he is and that he can’t wait to sleep. I swear this is what causes him to drink half the time.

Since the beginning of the year, things have slightly changed in that he is more aware of what’s happening. If he drinks, he usually lets me know where he is and when he will be home which is good - but often doesn’t come home when he says he will. He mostly doesn’t drink drive anymore which is great except for when he does. I guess, what’s annoying is that since I have taken some of the responsibility for how I react to his drinking, it’s as if I’m not allowed to have a problem with it anymore. If I am not happy with the state he is in, he tells me not to make a issue out of it, that it doesn’t need to be a problem, that I’m making it one. Am I? I mean if he didn’t have a problem he would be able to keep him his responsibilities at work and at home, he wouldn’t need to sleep for hours.

I am currently writing him a letter with my experiences in my life which have shaped me to be who I am in hope he will understand why it causes so much angst. I realise I have no control of what he will do / how he will respond but I guess I can only tell him my perspective and why I want him to receive help.

And YET despite all that I’ve said, I don’t think he will ever change, being with me I don’t think he will or can change. I don’t know what else I can do to help him. To help us be the family I want us to be. I have been looking after myself - doing things to build myself up, to feel stronger, to be the best mum I can be yet I feel like I’m failing as a wife / a person. I’m not living the full life I can. I don’t want to blame him as I now believe I am in control of my own happiness. The more I move towards what I want the more I become unclear if I can live with him as he is right now. Our life is complicated by that we have a huge mortgage, a baby and 2 beautiful dogs. I don’t want to lose this. I don’t want to lose our future yet right now I don’t know if we have one.

I’m sorry for the novel - any advice or direction anyone can give me would be so appreciated. What should I do? Should I leave him? Should I stay? What else can I do?


#2

Thank you for sharing your story @Vetti. My heart goes out to you and your husband. Your story isn’t uncommon and you are not alone. I understand the emotional turmoil you must be going through wondering if it’s worth sticking by him to support him through recovery or leave him to figure it out on his own after so many attempts to help. I have been in a similar situation and ultimately, you have to do what you think is best for yourself. For me, I told myself that I would not stay in a relationship with someone who refuses to change and continues to blame me for the problems he creates for himself. If he wasn’t going to get better or only put in minimal effort, it’s not worth my time and energy. Why should I put in all the effort and he doesn’t meet me halfway? And this is much easier said than done. I know that it gets much more complicated with a house and family.

Just remember that relapse does not mean failure. I have to remind myself this sometimes when it feels hopeless. I have been reading “Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change”. It’s been really helpful so far. I recommend reading it as I’ve heard many others highly recommend this book.

I hope that somewhere you’re able to find peace and hope but most importantly (and it sounds like you are already setting healthy boundaries for yourself), focus on you! Starting building a life you love and finding hobbies and activities you enjoy doing - volunteering for something you care about, hiking, drawing, etc. I found that doing what I enjoy (just for myself) helped me find myself and gain some clarity.

Here for you :heart:


#3

Vetti,

You are doing an amazing job. Look at the positive ways you’ve been handling this:

  1. You’re seeking counseling for yourself.
  2. You’re spending time exploring YOUR wants and needs
  3. You’re taking responsibility for your part in your relationship and the addiction
  4. You’ve sought out community to support you (this forum!)
  5. You love him and you’re looking for solutions.

Take a moment to appreciate yourself for all of this! You’re doing great.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my own experience (my boyfriend struggles with meth and heroin addiction - almost a month sober now): compassion is your #1 tool to help your husband. Compassion for YOURSELF, and for your husband. Most addictions and substance use disorders stem from trauma of some sort. This is a generalization, but many times our loved ones have gone through so much trauma that they’re unable to identify their emotions and they don’t know how to deal with them, so they buffer with substance use. Imagine when you’re crazy stressed or anxious, not knowing why and not knowing how to deal with it naturally and in a healthy way.

So when we view our partners through the eyes of compassion for what they’ve been through and understanding that they are dealing with their negative emotions the best way they know how, it makes it so much easier to relate to them. Our only job is to love them.

Keep doing what you’re doing with counseling! Read all you can about addiction (I’ll link to some good reads below), go full speed with the self care and keep focusing on building the life you want. It’s totally okay to stay if you’re not ready to leave. Give yourself that permission. Trust that you are exactly where you need to be. You are learning amazing lessons about life, yourself and your relationship. If it’s ever time to leave, you’ll know and it will be a peaceful choice.

Some reading I’ve learned a lot from:

Be A Loving Mirror: The Loving Path to Family Recovery by Beverly Buncher
When Your Partner Has an Addiction: How Compassion Can Transform Your Relationship and Heal You Both in the Process by Chrisopher Kennedy Lawford
Refuge Recovery by Noah Levine (Refuge has meetings all over, I go with my boyfriend and they’re amazing!)

You got this! :wink:


#5

Dear @Selfcare31
Thank you for listening and taking the time to read my novel. It funny (not so funny) how isolated you can feel when you’re in the middle of this. My husband has made attempts but slowly yet quickly loses sight of why hes trying to be in recovery. Its almost like it gets too hard and he just wants to be “normal” so tries to do what everyone else does… but it never lasts. So he tries and as you said I’ve always said that as long as he was tracking in the right direction I felt there was hope he could get on top of it. When I feel in despair about this i feel hope is a ugly trap which only keeps the cycle going longer cause I’m not ready to give up on us. The other member who replied to this, @Karilyn said I can give myself permission to stay if I’m not ready to leave and that for now makes me feel much better. I do need to keep working on me, doing what I love or what I like to think feeds my soul, will give me as you say more clarity in time.
Thank you so much for your kindness and support. It is everything xx


#4

Dear @Karilyn

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and listen. It was so validating and reassuring to get your perspective. You’re encouragement is appreciated- listing what I am doing well at the moment was so good to hear. You’re right when you said I need to trust that I am exactly where I need to be. I also agree that if I choose to leave that although it would be hard I will know and it will feel right. Everything you said i felt i needed to hear - that I’m doing the right things. I need to work on self compassion for sure as I do alot of self blaming and over thinking. Thanks for the resources I am definitely going to look them up.

It sounds like you’re doing an amazing job standing by your partner. I wish you all the goodness and light in your journey. Thank you again xxx


#6

Thank you for sharing your story. My heart goes out for you. You’re doing an amazing job loving someone through addiction. Your courage and resiliency are inspiring. I hear your disappointment and despair with your husband’s maladaptive behaviors.

One tip I’m offering is to take the recovery process slowly. My recovery journey taught me that going slow can do magic. Sometimes when you let go of expectations, blame and shame on the person in recovery, it’s easier for healing to naturally occur. Of course, support on the side is always needed. But effective support should make the person feel safe, aka. not judged. So in your case, i think what you can do as a family member is to allow sufficient time and space for your husband to recover. Be patient and allow necessary distance. You don’t want to stress him by expecting him to handle more responsibilities than he is able to at this stage. Take it step by step.


#7

Thank you for sharing your story @Vetti . There is so much strength and hope in the responses - I agree with everything @Selfcare31 @Karilyn @Ada_Wu shared as well.

My husband is a recovering heroin addict and I have definitely had to ask myself “Do I stay?” When I couldn’t take any more lies, I did end up leaving for a bit just to distance myself and my son from the situation. My husband ended up getting clean and we are still together. But I have set a boundary that I will stay and keep fighting as long as he is fighting, too. I cannot live in the cycle of lies that comes when my husband is in active addiction. I pray I won’t ever have to leave, I’m scared to death of having to face that question again, but I know that worrying about it doesn’t help. I stay grounded in the present moment and grateful for the progress we’ve made and the happiness we’ve found today.

You probably know in your heart that you are the only one who can decide whether to stay or leave. Trust your gut. Keep working on your own recovery. Be patient. Practice empathy. Practice gratitude. Let go of expectations. And a few years ago I would’ve rolled my eyes at this advice but in a time of complete desperation and loneliness I prayed. I discovered a higher power in the universe around me and began to trust that it would all be okay. Maybe not turn out the way I wanted or envisioned, but it would be okay. I have faith that as long as you keep going on this path, it will be okay for you, too. :pray:t4::sparkles: