Living With an Alcoholic
"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."1
A Daily Encounter reader writes, "I am having a very difficult time and need help. I am angry a lot and do not know how to go about changing to be how I should be. My husband is an abusive alcoholic and keeps verbally jabbing me until I get angry and then he uses my anger against me. What should I do? Please help me."
Dear Jennifer (name changed). Unfortunately you can't change your husband. If you try to, it will make him angry and more abusive. The reality is that the only person we can ever change is ourselves and when we change, those around us are forced to change in their relationship to us. This is not always for the best, however, as people don't want us to change and can get very mean and nasty if we do. However nothing changes if nothing changes. Husbands like yours refuse to take responsibility for their actions and need someone to blame their anger on, so for your own sake you are the one who needs to change. If you don't change what you are contributing, you become a part of the family sickness.
It won't be easy but what you need to do is to exercise tough love. Make it very clear to your husband that you will no longer tolerate the way he treats you and if he continues to do so, you will have to distance or separate yourself from him until he gets into a recovery program and overcomes his addiction to alcohol and treats you with loving respect all the time. So while you can't change him, with help, you can change you. For your survival it is imperative that you do so.
You also need to realize the reason you were attracted to this type of man in the first place. Chances are that you are a codependent and, as such, mistake need for love. In other words you need to be needed in order to feel loved. I urge you to ask God to confront you with the truth about you no matter how much it hurts and to lead you to the help you need to overcome your problem. This is difficult. I know. But as long as you blame your husband for your problems and not look at what you are contributing, you will never find peace, love or contentment. And as it is nigh on impossible to make these changes by yourself, I urge you to get some qualified counseling help and at the very least join a twelve-step Al-Anon group—a group for the spouses of alcoholics. You will be able to find information about these groups by contacting the Al-Anon and Alateen web site at http://www.al-anon.org/index.php.
And above all, every day ask God to help you to be "as Jesus" not only to your husband but also to yourself. And remember, Jesus used tough love to drive the money changers out of the temple when they were abusing it. To be like Jesus we all need to exercise tough love when required. Tough love is the most loving thing you can do for your husband—and for yourself.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in all of my problems and conflicts, give me the courage to see exactly what I am contributing and then lead me to the help I need to change. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Proverbs 15:22 (NIV).