Living with an Alcoholic Spouse
"Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature."1
A Daily Encounter reader writes, "My husband is a heavy beer drinker. He averages 12 to 18 beers a day. He is not convicted about his drinking habit. He feels that only 'drunkenness' is a sin. We are new Christians and I thought he would discontinue his drinking once he was closer to God. We have only been married a short time, but this is distressing me. I don't want to come across as holier than thou. He knows how I feel about his habit, and sometimes it is very difficult to keep from complaining. Please help."
Dear Anita (name changed): If your husband has twelve to eighteen beers a day, I'd say he's an alcoholic. Unfortunately, most alcoholics deny their problem and continually rationalize their behavior; that is, until there is some kind of crisis intervention. So what can you do?
First, while your husband is obviously in denial, it is imperative that you face reality or you will become a part of and reinforce his sickness. There is a reason why you were attracted to an over-dependent personality. Chances are you may have had an alcoholic father and are repeating a family pattern. Or you may be codependent with a need to be needed in order to feel loved. Whatever the reason, you need to see your part in the problem. You can't change your husband but you can change you. As you change, your husband is almost forced to change, but, in all probability, not without rocking the boat. He wants you to be there to take care of him and to put up with his drinking. If you decide you are not going to be his "savior" any longer, trust me, he won't like it.
Second, you need to exercise tough love and confront your husband with reality. This is the most loving thing you can do. True, tough love is tough—really tough. There's no guarantee that it will work, but if you don't exercise tough love, you are both headed for disaster. You need to lovingly explain to your husband that his heavy drinking has you deeply concerned, that it is affecting your relationship, that he needs to see that his drinking is a problem, and that he needs to get help.
Third, before you do this, however, you need to have a good support system in place. Don't even try to go it alone. Get help for yourself. Get into a twelve-step Al-Anon support group and I urge you to see a qualified Christian counselor who can help you grow and guide you through this rocky process.
If your husband refuses to face reality (which he is bound to do at first) and continues his heavy drinking, at some point you may have to tell him that unless he faces reality and gets into a recovery program, you will have to separate yourself from him until he admits he has a problem and gets help to overcome. If you don't make a stand now, you are heading for far greater problems ahead.
Fourth, and most important of all, seek God's help. Ask God every day to help you to be as Christ to your husband in everything you do and say, and pray that your husband will see Jesus in you and want the same for himself.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in every distressing situation I am in please help me to see what I am contributing to the problem, admit what it is, and get the help I need to overcome. Also help me to always be 'as Jesus' to anyone I am in conflict with, and exercise tough love where tough love is needed. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Romans 13:13-14 (NIV).