Helping an Alcoholic Husband Want to Get Sober - Free Self-Help

By Diana Holbourn

Article Summary


This article covers topics such as how it's recommended that the wife of an alcoholic does their best to value themselves and make time for relaxation and enjoyment and behave as if they deserve respect, advice on things they can do to keep themselves safer when the alcoholic's drunk, ways they can try to stop his insulting behaviour getting to them so much and to do what they can to avoid or calm arguments, and things they can do to prompt the alcoholic to begin to think he might prefer to change his ways. That will partly involve doing a lot less to protect him from the trouble he gets into because of his drinking, so he begins to think he has more to lose by getting drunk so giving up the drink starts to seem more appealing.

Skip past the following quotes if you'd like to get straight down to reading the article contents and self-help article.

Things People Have Said About Drinking Too Much

I made a commitment to completely cut out drinking and anything that might hamper me from getting my mind and body together. And the floodgates of goodness have opened upon me-spiritually and financially.
--Denzel Washington

I like liquor - its taste and its effects - and that is just the reason why I never drink it.
--Thomas Jackson

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.
--Ernest Hemingway

When some men lose their jobs, instead of learning new skills to find new and better jobs, they think to themselves, "I'm not a man without my job. I'm a bad husband and father because I can't support my family." Their own negative thinking causes depression and they start drinking. Many of them even abuse the family they were so concerned about before. If they can find the time and money for booze binges and beatings, they can find the time and money for a little training and education.
--Duane Alan Hahn

O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!
--William Shakespeare, Othello

  I used to be a drunk driver, and yes, I drank and drove even after my licence was suspended for a DUI. The reason I drove drunk so many times was because it was fun. When a person is drunk they do not have the ability to make a decision based on anything other than "will this be fun or not?" The reason I quit drinking was because I knew I could not stop myself from driving drunk. I gave up my love and passion for alcohol to make the roads safer because I was terrified I was going to kill someone. I don't miss the alcohol at all, and I don't miss the feeling every morning waking up thinking I could have killed someone the night before. Killing someone whether you intend to or not is an antisocial act, drinking is antisocial behavior (even if you are only a so-called 'social drinker'), so killing people with your car because you are drunk is very antisocial (it's almost like strapping a bomb to your chest and detonating it in a public place). I think people who are caught drinking and driving should be thrown in jail until they die, because there is no other way to stop them. I was fortunate to be able to see how my behavior was affecting society and to be able to make the decision to stop (and follow through with it). I have been sober almost a year and the most terrifying thing in my life is driving home from work every night at midnight and being so scared that the person driving toward me in the other lane is hammered that I practically pull over and stop.
--Charity Haggett (August 25, 2003)

The Main Contents

Background Information About This Article

The Self-Help Information in the Article

  1. Valuing Yourself
  2. Refusing to Take the Blame When the Alcoholic Drinks
  3. Giving Yourself More Peace of Mind
  4. Don't Worry About Whether He's Really an Alcoholic
  5. Don't Pour his Drink Away
  6. A Way of Relaxing
  7. Don't Be Afraid He'll Leave If You Change
  8. Don't Bother Arguing With Him Any More About his Drinking
  9. Doing At Least One Thing Every Day Just for Your Own Enjoyment
  10. Letting the Alcoholic Feel the Effects of his Alcoholism So He'll Want to Get Sober
  11. Don't Go in the Car with him When He's Driving Drunk
  12. Confronting Him About His Alcoholism
  13. Refuse to Tolerate Abuse Any More
  14. Don't Believe He's Really Having Fun by Getting Drunk
  15. Deciding Whether or Not to Tell the Families About the Alcohol Problem
  16. Only Say Things You Really Mean to Say
  17. Try Not to Let his Arrogance Get to You
  18. Don't Isolate Yourself by Moving Away with Him
  19. Deciding Whether to Hide the Car Keys
  20. Don't Feel You're a Burden When You Get Ill, and How You Can Help Him to Become More Caring
  21. Learn About the Memory Lapses Alcohol Can Cause
  22. Try Not to be abusive, Or Pity Him
  23. Don't Protect him From Crises Caused By his Drinking
  24. Don't Lie to his Boss For Him Any More
  25. Deciding How Much Time to Spend Apart From the Alcoholic
  26. Don't Allow Yourself to be Isolated If You Can Help It
  27. Don't Ask His Permission For Things
  28. Behave as if You Deserve Respect, and You'll Come to Believe You Do
  29. Try to Stop Spending Your Life Worrying About the Alcoholic
  30. Don't Feel Guilty About Feeling Angry With the Alcoholic
  31. Don't Discuss the Reasons for his Behaviour With Him, and Don't Tell him you're Changing, Just Do It
  32. Don't Tell Him How to Get Sober
  33. Don't be Scared When he Threatens to Drink
  34. Don't Bother Pointing Out that He's Been Drinking Again
  35. Don't Expect him to be Sober After he Promises he Will Be
  36. Stop Checking the Bars for Him
  37. Stop Pleading With Him to Stay With You
  38. Don't Worry He'll Leave If He Gets Better

Part One
Valuing Yourself

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too, can become great.
--Mark Twain


Karen thinks:

I'll read through this book and imagine the kinds of things I'd like to say to my friend Claire, just getting my thoughts together. And I bet it applies to loads of other people too! Here goes:

Claire, I've just been reading this book about how people who are living with an alcoholic husband or wife can make life more bearable and happy for themselves. I think it's got some good ideas that could help you.

I know you don't want to leave Tom, Claire. I'm not going to beg you to leave him any more. At least not for the moment. This isn't what I want to say.

But then, it might be worth considering leaving him at some time in the future if things don't improve. Hopefully they will get better. I think this book says some things that could help.

But if he doesn't sober up, I'm worried that even if you do leave him, you'll go back to another alcoholic. That's what happened before, isn't it. I don't mean this in a nasty way, but you seem to be attracted to men who seem charming at first, but then turn nasty. I think if you valued yourself more, you'd be attracted to nicer men, and nicer men would be more attracted to you, since nice men like women who respect themselves.

Feeling lost and embarrassed

I don't mean this as a criticism, I'm just concerned about you. Instead of valuing yourself for who you are and what you've done in life, you seem to think you'll only have value if you try to do the best you can for Tom, trying to prove to him that you're good for him. You don't seem to value yourself enough to make sure a man's good to you first before you get committed to him. It's as if you think you only have value or will only have a man if you're trying to do the best you can for him night and day, looking after all his needs, pampering him, trying to prove to him that you're the best woman for him.

But I think being good to yourself ought to come first. Men with personalities like his like people like you, because they know they can take advantage of you, making unreasonable demands on your time and energy. And he isn't even grateful, apart from the times when he decides to be nice, but they don't last long, do they. Just long enough to keep you hooked on doing the same things, in the hope they'll change him one day.

But when they don't work, you feel a failure, don't you, as if you're not good enough at making him happy. But you don't deserve to feel a failure. He's being unreasonable.

I know you want to defend him, because he can be so nice when he is nice that you feel close, and don't want anyone trying to come between you. But please can you have a go at hearing me out before you comment, because I'm not trying to be nasty about him; I'm just concerned about you.

I know you don't like to hear a word said against him sometimes, because you're sure he'll change, because he always tells you he will when he decides to be nice in between the times when he's nasty. But this is just typical wife beater behaviour. I've heard they all do that, but then they don't change. Not if things carry on the way they always have, anyway.

I think it would do you good to do more things that would help you value yourself more. Then, perhaps he'd respect you more. If you behave like a person who deserves respect, you might be more likely to get it from him. I know you're scared he'll leave you if you start behaving as if you're not prepared to be pushed around so much and you aren't so prepared to live as if you're only alive to take care of him all the time.

But even if he did leave you, what would you really have lost? And instead of leaving you, he might start treating you better once he starts thinking of you as a person who expects better treatment from men. I've heard it often works that way.

So there are a few things I think it would do you good to do for yourself:

I know it sounds as if I'm lecturing you. I don't mean it to sound like that. I'm just concerned about you.

Part Two
Refusing to Take the Blame When the Alcoholic Drinks

The chief reason for drinking is the desire to behave in a certain way, and to be able to blame it on alcohol.
--Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

I envy people who drink - at least they know what to blame everything on.
--Oscar Levant

Alcohol is perfectly consistent in its effects upon man. Drunkenness is merely an exaggeration. A foolish man drunk becomes maudlin; a bloody man, vicious; a coarse man, vulgar.

I know you think you're the one to blame for Tom's drinking a lot of the time. He's always blaming you, isn't he, and you believe what he says. So that makes you feel bad, and you want to try even harder to be good to him so he won't drink so much. But when he does drink no matter how hard you try, you get angry and shout at him. Then he acts as if he feels guilty, and you blame yourself and feel bad all over again. So you think you need to try even harder to be good to him, and then he isn't grateful and behaves inconsiderately and you get upset and angry, and then you feel bad because you've shouted at him, and the whole cycle happens again ... and again and again. I think he's got you hooked into a vicious circle! I know you don't like me saying this, but I'm sure that's what's going on.

I heard about a recovering alcoholic who said that while he was drinking, he would always look for things to get angry about, like the dinner not being ready or the television being too loud, because then he didn't have to feel guilty about drinking, since he could say he only did it because his wife and children did so many annoying things. He would tell them that if only they would do everything right, he wouldn't have to drink, so it was their fault. But really, he was just making excuses, to get out of the responsibility of changing his behaviour.

I feel sure that's what Tom does to you, Claire. I think it's probably typical alcoholic behaviour. But it's his choice as to whether he drinks or not. And even if he drinks after you shout at him, it's not as if you make him do it, or that he doesn't have the power to respond to things he's unhappy with in any other way. Alcoholism's hijacked his brain, and until something happens that really makes him want to stop drinking, he'll drink anyway.


I know you've been upset before because even some of his family have accused you of making him drink, even though he was like that long before he met you. The book I've been reading recommends that you just say to them firmly but calmly, only once because they'll take the message in better than if they think you're going on about it so they get fed up, something like:

"I'm not responsible for anyone's drinking. If he chooses to drink, that's his business."

Then it recommends you just keep quiet, leaving the room if that's the best way to avoid an argument.

It says that should give them the message, so you shouldn't have to discuss it again.

When you really start to believe you're not responsible for his drinking, he won't be able to emotionally blackmail you by making you feel guilty about it any more. You'll stop thinking you need to accept his bad behaviour as punishment for failing him. I know you do that. I've heard you say you can't blame him for what he does, because you behave so badly sometimes, yelling at him, that you think you make him drink, and it's no wonder he behaves the way he does. I'm sure he's very happy that he's made you believe that, because it makes him think he can carry on, and he doesn't have to make the effort to change.

Refusing to Take the Blame for his Drinking Can Be Like Complimenting Him

But you never know, if you start refusing to take the blame for his drinking any more, he might eventually be grateful to you. If he realises you believe he's fully capable of changing if he wants to, and that change is his responsibility, not yours, he might very well be really pleased in the end, because behaving as if you think he's capable of changing himself if he wants to is really like giving him a big compliment. It's like saying you think he's adult enough to take care of himself. When he thinks he's been credited with being capable of taking responsibility for his behaviour himself, it might boost his self-esteem, so he'll be grateful to you.

Part Three
Giving Yourself More Peace of Mind

For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing - just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?
--Ralph Marston

The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it.
--Author Unknown

You're always thinking you're a failure for getting angry with him. But it's no wonder you get angry and upset when things go wrong so much of the time. I'm sure anyone would. I think you should praise yourself when you manage to handle things any better at all, since it must be so difficult dealing with him.

But I know what you're like: You can get so optimistic when things go allright for a few hours, or as much as a day. You keep on and on hoping and thinking that this is the time when things will be different and he'll change. But then all your hopes are disappointed yet again when he goes and does something else that messes up your life. And then he refuses to accept he's got a drinking problem and accuses you of being crazy for thinking he has and "messing things up", and I know you even half believe him. But it makes you angry and depressed.

But you could get a lot more peace of mind if you try to change your behaviour so you aren't sucked into believing his lies or shouting at him and then feeling guilty any more.


Maybe next time your family has a crisis because of his behaviour, and he's trying to convince you there's nothing wrong and you're the one with the problems, it would help you get out of this horrible cycle where you get angry with him and then feel guilty for shouting and want to please him more, and then feel worse because he behaves just as badly and says such humiliating things to you, if you control yourself enough before you get annoyed to stop and think something like:

"No, this really is a crisis. I'm not going insane. It is happening. But I can stop it getting to me so much."

If you can have a go at doing things that calm you down, you'll get more peace of mind. I'm sure it'll be difficult to calm down when he's behaving so badly, and I'm not saying you should learn to put up with his bad behaviour or calm down for his sake. But it'll get you out of this horrible cycle where you scream at him and then feel guilty and think you're the one who behaves badly. I bet he likes it when you feel guilty, because it means he can get away with doing what he does. It's typical behaviour in households where one person's an alcoholic. The alcoholic might cry and convince you about how sorry he is for behaving the way he does, promising to change, and you feel bad for being angry with him. Apparently, it happens all the time in families like yours.

So a way to break the cycle is not to behave angrily towards him, but to leave the room and do something you'll find relaxing.


Think of what you find most relaxing. What calms you down? If you can't think of anything, you could try experimenting with different things. Can listening to music do it? What about getting absorbed in a good book?

If you can do something to calm yourself down just for half an hour or so, or just several minutes, so you end up feeling more relaxed, then it'll be easier to think about what to do about the crisis, since people's heads are much clearer when they're calm.

So when you're calming yourself down, it's best if you can try not to think about how angry his behaviour's just made you. I'm sure that'll be difficult, but it might be a bit easier if you try not to take it so personally, but remember that although he's responsible for his bad behaviour, it's the fact that his brain's been hijacked by the addiction that's at least partly what's turned him into the person he is. That might help you be a bit more detached from him.

Once you're fairly calm, it'll be easier to decide what to do instead of yelling at him and making yourself feel guilty all over again. If you don't feel guilty, you won't feel obligated to him, so you'll feel freer to make whatever decision you need to about what to do, whether that means separating from him for a while or whatever, and you'll be less likely to allow yourself to be manipulated into doing what he wants.

Give yourself some time to really think things through, and then do what you think's best without asking his permission or seeking his approval. You don't have to discuss things with him or explain why you're doing what you're doing.

If you can relax yourself often, and make decisions without feeling guilty because you've just shouted at him and you've been taken in by his behaviour, then you can help yourself get less angry and depressed.

And I know you suffer from back ache and stomach aches and headaches but the doctor said there's nothing physically wrong. Sometimes, they can be brought on by stress. So they might go away if you can learn to relax and change things for the better.

If Tom knows he can't make you feel guilty any more, then you'll actually be helping him change his behaviour for the better as well. He feeds off your behaviour. He probably enjoys the excitement and attention. It probably becomes part of his addiction. But if you don't allow him to make you feel guilty any more, because you've refused to yell at him, then he'll have no choice but to improve his behaviour, because you won't be giving him the usual things that trigger his normal bad reactions off. So you'll really be helping him to get out of some of his bad habits.

I'm not saying his behaviour's your fault when I say what you do might trigger his bad behaviour sometimes. Of course it isn't. I'm just saying that when people are angry or tense around him, it makes him worse.

Part Four
Don't Worry About Whether He's Really an Alcoholic

If drinking is interfering with your work, you're probably a heavy drinker. If work is interfering with your drinking, you're probably an alcoholic.
--Author Unknown

This is one of the disadvantages of wine:  it makes a man mistake words for thought.
--Samuel Johnson

When the wine is in, the wit is out.

I know he keeps telling you he's not an alcoholic. But actually, it doesn't really matter if he prefers to call himself that or something else, since the important thing is that he gets to want to cut down on the drink or stop drinking.

But I'm sure you're right about him being an alcoholic. At least, I know you don't like to think of him that way, but I'm sure he is myself, and I know you suspect he is and I think you're right. Someone's drinking shouldn't cause their family problems if they're not an alcoholic.

Some alcoholics can still hold down jobs and be quite good at them. And some can stay off the booze for some time before feeling they have to go back to it.


I know you're scared by the idea that he might be an alcoholic. But you don't have to be scared, because it's not as if nothing can be done about it. Not facing it's a worse thing, because his physical health will gradually get worse, with him maybe getting liver disease and other things. But once you think of him as having a problem, there are things you can do to help. And if he stops drinking in time, he doesn't have to get any of those diseases and your marriage can really improve.

I know you think that if he really loved you, he'd just stop drinking. But the pull of addiction is so strong that it can become the most important thing in a person's life. It hijacks the brain so the brain tricks people into thinking they really need to have the thing they're addicted to even though it's not good for them.

But there are things you can do that can make him more motivated to want to take his life back from the addiction. And there are ways of doing it. And lots of people have become successful at staying sober.

Part Five
Don't Pour his Drink Away

He always gets more when you do that, doesn't he, and I know you haven't got much money and it puts more of a strain on your finances when he buys more booze. I know it must be horrible to see him drinking in the house. But at least one advantage is that it might be that the quicker he starts to get health problems because of it, the quicker he'll start wanting help to get sober. Pouring out his booze will give him more of a craving for it, because people can crave something they've just been denied more than something they've got and can have whenever they want.

I know his behaviour gets worse the more he drinks so you're trying to stop him. But when you do, he just gets more angry with you, doesn't he. So he gets abusive anyway, whether he drinks or not.

And if he thinks you're not worried by his drinking, he might get scared and think it's about time he started worrying about it himself. It's human nature to do the opposite of whatever someone's trying to nag you to do. But if they leave you to yourself, chances are you'll realise you'd better take some responsibility for yourself.

I know it'll be hard on you to watch him get worse. But remember that the more scared he gets about his health failing, the more likely he is to give up drinking. So if one drink gives him a particular scare, it might lead to good things in the end.

So stopping him drinking a bit might make it take longer before he decides to get help.

I know it'll be hard on you to watch him get worse. So be as loving towards yourself as you can during that time. Hopefully, he'll decide to change soon, before something bad happens. But it still won't be nice to watch him drinking. So try and take the pressure off yourself a bit by treating yourself in little ways, whenever you can.

Part Six
A Way of Relaxing

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
--Chinese Proverb

Don't let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of your worries.
--Astrid Alauda, Dyspeptic Enlightenment

The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.
--Sydney J. Harris

There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want.
Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

Anxiety and Stress, and What They Can Do


I know you feel anxious a lot of the time. It's no wonder, given the strain you're living under! Most people would probably feel anxious all the time if they were living with an alcoholic. The book I've been reading says it's common for people to panic when they make big changes in their lives, even when they change to being good to themselves after a lifetime of feeling unhappy.

It says that when things begin to go well, many people are scared it won't last. And what scares a lot of people is that anxiety can produce physical sensations, and they're scared something's seriously physically wrong.

I know you've been really worried about your headaches and stomach aches and other things, but the doctor said there's nothing wrong with you apart from anxiety, didn't he. The book says that in some people, anxiety can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, and tingling fingers. Sometimes anxiety can cause diarrhoea or constipation. It can make people breathe too fast, and that can cause a load of other symptoms.

It says most wives of alcoholics get some kind of physical symptoms from the stress of living with them. They can include migraine headaches, and even gynaecological problems. Sometimes they can suffer from constant fatigue or back ache. Some get hypochondria, which is excessive anxiety about their health, maybe caused by the physical symptoms that are being brought on by their stress.

One reason stress causes physical aches and pains is that it makes the muscles tense. Stress can also damage the immune system, making people more likely to get infections.

Relaxing But even if your symptoms are just being brought on by stress, it doesn't mean you should ignore them. You should make it a matter of great importance to start looking after yourself. It's very important, because otherwise, your physical and mental health might just get worse. For instance, constant stomach aches could lead to something more serious in the end. So you need to start doing things to take care of your physical and mental health. You need to start doing things to give you more satisfaction in life and to stop his behaviour getting to you so much.


If you learn some relaxation techniques, that can help a lot. They could calm your tension down so all the aches and pains go away. The book says that if people get into the habit of relaxing often, it can even prolong their lives by years. It says that people who've had heart attacks have been able to prevent themselves having more, by getting into a routine of using relaxation methods to calm them down.

And it says that relaxation techniques can help reduce arthritis pain, help people successfully come off tranquillisers, help them give up smoking, help people cope with chronic physical disorders, and give them much-needed little breaks from the stress of living with an alcoholic.

When Anxiety Gets Worse And Worse


The book says that stomach discomfort and other pains can be caused when the body causes adrenaline to give people the strength to run away or fight when they're scared or upset. The release of adrenaline is an instinctive response. It can help people a lot when they really do need to run away or fight, since it gives the body extra energy.

But when a person doesn't need to run away or fight, and especially if they bottle up their feelings, the adrenaline isn't being put to any use, so it just hangs around in the system causing tension, which can cause physical symptoms of discomfort like stomach aches or headaches or back ache. And then things get worse because people often get scared of the physical symptoms, and because they're scared, the body releases more adrenaline because it thinks you need to run away or fight some more, but if you don't, it just hangs around in the system. And if that makes you more anxious, more adrenaline is released, and so on. And that can lead to a panic attack, which can be so bad that people can think they're dying, because the heart can beat fast and people can find it difficult to breathe because the throat tenses up so it's more difficult to get air in.

But panic attacks aren't really dangerous. The body just goes back to normal after a while.

But they are very unpleasant. And relaxation techniques can help cut down the number of times they happen.

These things that stress can cause sound like the kinds of things you describe as happening to you sometimes. I think you should try these relaxation techniques. It says they can not only stop people having those problems so much, but they can calm people down so they have times when they're not so scared of the symptoms, and that makes them less stressed all-round, so they calm down even more.

It gives some ideas on what to do.

A Relaxation Exercise


Try this one:

Twice a day, sit down somewhere comfortable for fifteen minutes, when you won't be distracted by anything like noise. Close your eyes, and try to clear all thoughts out of your mind.

Then think about the various parts of your body and ask yourself whether they're tense. If they are, try to let them go limp. If your shoulders are hunched, unhunch them. If your legs are crossed, uncross them. If your fists are clenched, unclench them. If you're frowning, let your facial muscles relax.

Don't try to make an effort to relax; just try to go limp.

If an anxious thought comes into your mind, don't worry about it, but try to replace it with thoughts of relaxation.

Then tense various muscles in your body and relax them:

  1. First, hold your arms out in front of you for the count of five, and then drop them.
  2. Second, hold them out again, and this time clench your fists for the count of five, and then drop them and relax.
  3. Next, hold your arms out again, this time stretching out your fingers wide apart, and holding the position to the count of five before lowering your arms and relaxing.
  4. Scrunch the muscles in your forehead up to the count of five, and then relax those.
  5. Squeeze your lips together and tense your jaw to the count of five, and then relax.
  6. Arch your neck to the count of five by putting your head back, and then relax.
  7. Touch your chin to your chest to the count of five, and then relax.
  8. Hunch your shoulders, letting your arms stay relaxed, to the count of five, and then relax them.
  9. Arch your back to the count of five, then relax.
  10. Hold your stomach in tensely to the count of five, and then relax.
  11. Point your left leg straight out in front of you, hold it there for the count of five with its muscles tensed, and then relax.
  12. Do the same with your right leg. Remember to still have your eyes closed, and focus on any feelings of relaxation in your muscles.
  13. Take five medium-sized breaths. Slowly breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth, (unless your nose is blocked, then breathe in through partly closed lips). As you breathe out, think of the word "relax", and think of a nice peaceful scene. Let your whole body relax as you breathe.

It might take a few practices till you can do the whole relaxation exercise with your eyes closed without forgetting what to do part-way through!

Try to spend a few moments several times a day taking slow breaths. It won't necessarily matter whether you're sitting comfortably for those; I've heard they can relax you anywhere.

And try to do that muscle relaxation and then the breathing at least once a day.

It doesn't matter if you don't manage to do it perfectly. Don't worry if you can't. Don't get stressed because you're worried you're not doing it right. As long as it feels comfortable for you, that's the main thing.

And it doesn't matter if you can't manage to do it every day. But the more regularly you do it, the better you should get at relaxing; and taking time to relax will mean you have times of peace, and times when you can calm down from the stresses of living. And breaks from stress will mean your body can relax more so your stomach pains and headaches and back aches and other symptoms might well go away.

I know you probably think it sounds like a lot of effort and you haven't got much energy for anything new. But if you can make time for it, you might find it's well worthwhile. Try it once anyway, as an experiment, and then decide if you want to do it some more, although the more you do it, the better you'll get at it.

If it calms you down, you'll feel more able to cope with things and less anxious. And if you're less anxious, you might not be so scared of Tom, and you might feel more confident about doing your own thing independently of him.

Part Seven
Don't Be Afraid He'll Leave If You Change

You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.
--Eric Hoffer

When you put somebody down, you have to be down there to hold him down. You could soar high otherwise.
--Author Unknown

You hate the idea of losing Tom, don't you. I wonder if it's because you haven't got enough self-worth to be convinced you can go out and find another man if you want. I'm sure you could. You've got quite a lot going for you really. I know you never seem to think so. But you have.

You seem to think it would be really difficult to live without him and that you need him. But when you think about how much happier I am than you even though I haven't got a man and don't want one, and when you think about how much happier my friends are than you, married to men who don't knock them around or drink, then don't you think you deserve the same happiness?

But I don't believe he would leave. I think he'd be scared to leave, because he knows that most people wouldn't want him if they knew what he's like. I know that sounds horrible. But you're scared he'll leave you. So you're scared to do anything he might not like in case he does. But I think he's far more scared you'll leave him than you are that he'll leave you. I've heard that alcoholics often are that way. I don't think he'd make such a fuss about how you can't leave him because you'll never find someone else if he wasn't scared of losing you. He might be trying to frighten you into staying. That's probably one reason why he does it.


It's him that's got you believing you'll never find someone else if he leaves, and even that you ought to be grateful he sticks around because you've got so many things wrong with you that no one else would want you. But that's just rubbish. I think he's just trying to drain your self-confidence so much that you don't dare leave him, because he needs you so much that he thinks he wouldn't be able to stand it! He tells you that no one else would want you, but he probably realises that he's the one who'd find it difficult to find someone else really, certainly if they got to know him. So perhaps that's why he thinks it's so important to keep you believing you couldn't cope if you left him.

It's not just you. I've heard that this is typical behaviour for alcoholic husbands. The book says they need their wives so much that they think they have to control what they do to make them stay. Lots of them do it, although they don't dare admit that they need them, because they want their wives to think their husbands are the strong ones.

The only reason your ex left you was because he thought you were about to leave him, and he didn't want to look bad when people thought he was the one who'd been dumped. But when he did leave you, there were times when you got along quite well on your own, weren't there. So you know there could be again if Tom did leave you.

You're scared that your self-worth would go right down the drain if he left you, aren't you. You'd think you must be worthless if you can be rejected by one of society's rejects! I know you don't like to think of him that way, but I know you have thought of him like that. You've spoken about him like that before. And you shouldn't feel ashamed about it, because a lot of people do look down on him. It's just a fact.

But you can help him change. The trouble is that he's said so many horrible things to you that you seem to have begun to believe you're the cause of his problems and you're just no good. That's why you're scared he'll leave you, isn't it. If even someone society looks down on can leave you, what hope is there for you? That's what you think, isn't it.

But he's been deceiving you all this time. He's been lying about how worthless you are. He just wants to make himself look better by putting someone else down so he can feel superior to someone, and blame his behaviour on someone so he doesn't have to take responsibility for changing it himself. And he probably knows that the less confident you are, the less likely you'll be to leave him. That's what I think anyway.

He's Really the One in Control


I know Tom makes a huge fuss every time you do something to try to change things, accusing you of controlling him, trying to make you feel guilty for it. But really, he's the one controlling you, isn't he. Think about it. From what I know, you're forever thinking about how to please him, how to do things the best you can so as not to inconvenience him, and how to be a better wife to him. You believe what he says about how his drinking is your fault, but he was drinking before he even met you, wasn't he. If he couldn't get better then, it's unlikely he'd get better if he left you, not unless he started doing something different, that had nothing to do with leaving you.

He probably keeps on saying it's your fault that he drinks and criticizing you, because he knows it keeps you feeling guilty, and that's what keeps you with him and doing what he wants. He probably thinks he couldn't stand it if you left, and he knows you aren't going to stay with him because he's good to you, since he isn't most of the time, so he has to try to make you stay by convincing you that no one else would want you, and by making you feel so guilty about the way you're treating him that you can't bear to leave because you'd feel so bad about yourself if you did, and you already feel such an inadequate person because of the horrible things he's made you believe about yourself that you're even grateful to him for sticking around, because you don't believe anyone decent would want you, so you sometimes even think he's doing you a favour by staying! I'm sure I'm right.

He knows he can make you feel especially guilty when he's in one of his apologetic moods, convincing you he'll never be nasty again for the hundredth time, and just taking it when you say angry words to him. Then you feel like a terrible person for having become angry with him, and you're even more convinced you're an inadequate person who no one else would want if he left. And you think that if even he could leave you, even though society tends to look down on him, then what must that say about you?! So you're scared he'll leave, because you think it would make you look really bad, and you'd feel so ashamed of yourself.

The Alcoholic Is Dependent on You, Just as He Is on the Alcohol


The book I've been reading about being married to an alcoholic says that it's very important to remember two things:

One is that the alcoholic is a very dependent person, and though he'll hate to admit it, he'll be as dependent on you as he is on the alcohol. He needs you.

The second thing is that it's typical behaviour for an alcoholic to deny things. Just as he denies he's an alcoholic, he'll deny he's dependent on you. He tries to convince you that you need him a lot more than he needs you. This is just common behaviour for alcoholics. But he will be dependent on you really.

Thinking About Making Changes

If you can come to believe these things, it'll give you the courage you need to start making changes, without worrying he'll be out the door as soon as you do.

The changes I'm thinking of aren't harmful ones, so you don't have to feel guilty about making them, or feel it's unfair to use that bit of information about his dependence on you to give you courage. You're not using it against him. The changes you make will be good for you as well as for him. And they'll be good for your children as well.

So even if he threatens to leave, you'll know that the changes you're thinking of making in your relationship will be good for him, and he'll come to realise that. So the fact that he needs you really can help you to make them without worrying so much.

If the Alcoholic Really Does Leave


Some alcoholics do storm out of the house, but most are just trying to scare their partners into going back to being the way they were before. But most will come back if their partners want them.

But even if he doesn't, you could probably have men just like him queuing up at your door if they knew what you were prepared to put up with in a relationship, the drinking and the abuse, and the inconsiderate behaviour. But when you start feeling better about yourself because of the changes you're making, you might feel good enough that you decide you deserve better than that, and you don't want to put up with that kind of behaviour any more, so you won't be so bothered if he does leave.

And it often happens that once people like you start behaving as if they deserve more respect and ought to be treated well, because you've come to believe you deserve it because you've started feeling good about yourself, your husband will treat you better. You might find it difficult to believe that things can change that much, but they often do.

Part Eight
Don't Bother Arguing With Him Any More About his Drinking

I mean if you can get a whole room full of drunk, stoned people to actually wake up and think, you're doing something.
--Jim Morrison

It is useless to hold a person to anything he says while he's in love, drunk, or running for office.
--Shirley MacLaine

You often tell me that you're upset about the latest argument you've had with Tom about how much he drinks or how abusive he is, where you keep trying to convince him he's got a problem, and he keeps denying it. It keeps happening.

But it's giving you more heartache than it's worth. You keep hoping you're going to persuade him he's got a problem one day; but I don't think you'll ever do it by arguing with him, because he already knows you're right. He just doesn't want to admit it. It's just typical alcoholic behaviour to deny there's a problem. Perhaps they think that doing something about it might be painful, or owning up to it might be humiliating, so they deny it no matter what, even though they know you're right really.

If you can accept and remember that denial is just a typical part of an alcoholic's behaviour, then maybe you won't be so upset or angry with him for doing it. And knowing that he probably knows you're right but just doesn't want to admit it will convince you that arguing with him will only make you stressed; it won't achieve anything, unless he actually wants to change.


I know that one thing that stresses you out is the nagging worry you get sometimes that he's right when he says you're making too much fuss about his behaviour and that you must be going crazy, saying you're imagining it's far worse than it is. But you know you're not really, don't you. Far better to avoid those worries by avoiding arguing with him so he has less opportunity to upset you by saying things like that. You know you're right really. Far better, if you have to say something, to say it once and then leave the scene for a while, than to expose yourself to more abuse by getting involved in an argument that never changes anything.

Keep reminding yourself that he's bound to keep denying his problem until he decides for himself that he wants help. It's well-known behaviour. But remember always that he's bound to know the truth deep down, no matter how he twists things to try to persuade family, friends and other people that you're the one in the wrong.

I know it's hard when he does that, but maybe it's just a defence mechanism that stops him having to admit he needs to take responsibility for changing.

Even if he's right every so often and you've over-reacted to something he's done, you can't blame yourself. If he's usually doing something hurtful, it won't be any wonder if you think he is on some occasions when he isn't, since you've come to expect it.

If you want to leave him for any length of time to de-stress yourself, you shouldn't worry about it. I know how wearing living with him is. So you're certainly not a failure for wanting a break. I've heard that people who go to Al-Anon are told that living with an alcoholic is too much for most people.

When you leave the room he's in because you refuse to argue with him in the old way any more, keep reminding yourself that you aren't going insane, and that he's just denying his problem like alcoholics tend to do, and he'll keep on doing that till he decides to change. Whether he denies it or admits it, it won't make a difference as to whether he'll do it again or not. Even if he admits it, he'll get upset about it for a while and apologise, but then go back to the same old ways like he always does. The addiction's got hold of his brain, and it's controlling him. So until he decides to refuse to let it control him any more, he's like a slave to it, so it's as if he'll do what it wants no matter what. He isn't just drinking to spite you.

It might help your peace of mind if you keep reminding yourself of those things, especially at the times when an argument would have started before.

Some people have found it helpful to leave the room rather than have the argument, and then to remind themselves of those things, and when they're convinced of them, they go and read a favourite book in another room or outside somewhere, or they do other things that soothe them or that they enjoy, and within a short time, they feel a lot calmer.

If it takes a bit of time for you to get the hang of doing this, don't worry. But you should start feeling much better when you have.

Part Nine
Doing At Least One Thing Every Day Just for Your Own Enjoyment

I would not exchange my leisure hours for all the wealth in the world.
--Comte de Mirabeau

He did nothing in particular, and did it very well.
--W. S. Gilbert

The real problem of leisure time is how to keep others from using yours.
--Arthur Lacey

Once in a while you have to take a break and visit yourself.
--Audrey Giorgi

If bread is the first necessity of life, recreation is a close second.
--Edward Bellamy

It'll help you feel better if you set aside at least fifteen minutes a day to do something fun, just for yourself. I know you think you're being selfish if you do things just for yourself, but you're not. Everyone needs to take time out for some fun to keep them healthy. You might think you get enough enjoyment out of cooking Tom's meals and cleaning for him and whatever else he wants, but taking a bit of time out every day just for you will help convince you that it's allright to put yourself first sometimes and you deserve to do things just to please yourself. That's not being selfish, because taking a break to do your own thing sometimes can refresh you, so you can cope with family life better.


I know that when you've given yourself a treat before, you've felt guilty, because you don't think you deserve it, because you don't think you can do enough things right for Tom. But you haven't made his drinking worse. It's his responsibility. He always likes to make you feel guilty, but I'm sure he just wants to get out of having to accept the blame himself and push himself to change.

And anyway, if you do something you enjoy, it won't mean you're seriously neglecting him. As I said, if it refreshes you, you'll be able to cope with his behaviour better, so it'll be a good thing to do.

I know you don't think you deprive yourself of pleasure, but when was the last time you really treated yourself or went out and spent the evening relaxing or enjoying something?

Worrying About Not Having the Energy for Fun

I know you don't feel as if you have any energy. But I think that might be depression. It'll be no wonder if you're depressed with everything you've got to cope with.


I know it sounds odd, but if you can find a physical exercise or sport you enjoy, that could raise your energy levels. People often feel more energetic after exercise. It can lift the mood, and people with depression often feel better afterwards. It gets the blood circulating around the body, and the blood carries oxygen and nutrients around the system that refresh it and give it more energy.

And if you find an exercise you enjoy that you can do with a group of others, like dancing or keep fit, you might make new friends, and enjoying life more could make you feel more energetic. And exercise can get rid of the nervous tension that can make you feel drained. So see if you can find something you'll really enjoy, or that seems new and interesting.

Worrying About Not Having Enough Money for Fun

I know you don't think you've got enough money to go out and enjoy yourself. But I think there are quite a lot of things around that are free or don't cost much. You might find some advertised in the local paper or on local radio. Maybe local universities or museums and libraries could put you on mailing lists where they write and tell you what's on. Even walking in the park can be nice, or even sitting relaxing in a comfortable chair at home with some nice music on.

Worrying About Not Having Enough Time for Fun


And I know you don't think you've got time for all that. But you wouldn't have to do anything drastic that often. Even just fifteen minutes a day would make you feel refreshed, and you should be able to find that somewhere if you have a think.

Feeling Guilty About Enjoying Yourself

You might feel guilty at first when you take time out just to have some fun. But that'll just be because you've got so used to thinking your sole purpose in life is to please other people. When you get used to having fun, the bad feelings should go away. As I said, you don't have to neglect anyone's genuine needs to take time out to have fun yourself. If you just try to live with your feelings till they go away, you'll end up feeling better about yourself than you have for ages. And the better you feel, the happier you'll be around your family, so they'll all benefit.

Part Ten
Letting the Alcoholic Feel the Effects of his Alcoholism So He'll Want to Get Sober

I know you hate to see Tom suffer, don't you. But at least the more he suffers, the more likely he is to decide he wants help. I know this doesn't sound very nice, but I think that sometimes when you think you're doing him a favour, you're helping him to stay contented with his alcoholism, so he's less likely to decide he wants to get sober.

Remember when he got that job last year but left after a few weeks because he kept turning up late and making mistakes, and he told the boss it was because you'd developed a nervous condition that had got worse recently and you were keeping him up all night because you were terrified you had a heart problem and you kept waking him up for him to check your pulse and reassure you that you were allright, and at other times you woke him up because you were scared of harmless noises outside? That was nonsense, wasn't it. But he got you to phone the company yourself and tell them that's what happened every time he was late because he had a hangover. You told them he hadn't had any sleep because you'd kept him up all night because of your anxiety problem. That must have been so embarrassing. I know you hated doing it. But you did it anyway, because you hated to think of the disgrace he'd be in if they found out he was an alcoholic, or you hated to think of what he might think of you if you didn't do it for him. You were scared he'd leave you.

I know you thought you were being a great help to him, but really, I don't like to say this, but you were making it easier for him to stay an alcoholic by solving his problems for him.

It's not just you. The book I've been reading says that lots and lots of wives of alcoholics do that kind of thing.


I know you were trying to keep him in that job as well because the family needed the money. But there are other things you do, thinking you're helping him, but that really stop him feeling the full effects of his alcoholism, effects that might make it more likely he won't be able to stand being an alcoholic any more so he'll want to get sober, aren't there. You try to find hangover cures, and pour his booze away to stop him drinking enough to get a hangover, but sometimes then you buy him more when he acts all pitiful and begs. When you stop him feeling pain or feeling upset, you make being an alcoholic a less unpleasant experience for him, so he's less motivated to give it up. The easier it is for him to stay an alcoholic, the more likely he'll be to stay one.

I know you don't like to hear this. And I know you'll feel really guilty if you stop doing those things for him because he'll suffer more in the short term. But you know how serious this is. The easier it is for him to stay an alcoholic, the more likely he is to stay one, so the more likely he is to get really ill and die in the end or get brain damage.

Try not to feel bad about all the things you've done for him in the past, thinking you were helping him. It must be really difficult not to do things like that when he's begging you to help him, or he's in pain, or you worry he will be soon. So it's no wonder you've been doing things like that. But the pain might be just what motivates him to give the drink up in the end.

It's bound to make you feel bad when you start changing and don't help him avoid the consequences of his actions. But at least you can handle your feelings. They'll be easier to deal with than what might happen if he keeps drinking because he's got no incentive to stop.

Of course, I'm not saying you should just leave him if he's seriously ill. I'm just saying that feeling a bit more pain could be what makes him decide that drinking isn't worth it after all.

He might thank you for it in the end, because really, you'll be leaving him alone to grow up and learn to take responsibility for his own actions.

I know you're scared that doing that won't work for Tom and he'll just get worse. But according to the book I've been reading, alcoholics are much more likely to get better if they're treated like that.

You don't have to worry that treating him like that will turn you into a nasty uncaring person. Your feelings will be telling you you still care. But you'll be behaving like a surgeon who has to cause pain to cure people.

Part Eleven
Don't Go in the Car with him When He's Driving Drunk

I know you've often been a passenger in the car when Tom's been drunk driving. I know you keep hoping you'll be able to persuade him to drive more carefully if you're with him, but he never listens, does he. He just accuses you of nagging and does stupid things sometimes like takes his hands off the steering wheel, thinking he can control it with his knees, to spite you or to try to prove he won't have an accident even if he does that kind of thing.

So you're putting your life in danger by going with him. I know you want to keep trying to persuade him to drive more carefully, but what would happen to the children if he did what he always does and killed you both one night?


And I know it's difficult to take a stand and refuse to let the children go with him when he accuses you of turning them against him and making a big fuss about nothing, or he insists he'll be extra careful, or says his driving actually gets better when he's been drinking a bit; but it really is dangerous to drink and drive even when you've only drunk a small amount, so you'll be doing the right thing if you insist they don't go with him, and find some other way of getting them to where they need to be. When you let them go with him, you're putting their lives in danger.

All the accusations and promises he makes when you try to take a stand about his drunk driving are just typical alcoholics' denial talk. People get out of touch with reality when they've been drinking. Remember the times we used to get drunk, and we did and said stupid things ourselves. People have bad judgment when they've been drinking. He is dangerous really.

I know it's really worrying to let him drive by himself when he's drunk, but since he doesn't listen to you, it's best to stay out of his way so at least you don't get hurt along with him if he does have an accident.

Perhaps the only thing you can do when he's driving drunk is to call the police and anonymously report "a drunk driver".

You don't have to argue with him or explain why you're refusing to go in the car with him when he wants to drive drunk. In fact, that would be useless, since he'll just argue and argue no matter how sensible your own arguments are. I know you get annoyed when he does that.

So as long as you'll be safe from being physically abused by him when you refuse to get in the car with him, I think you should just say no, and if you're tempted to argue, walk away. Afterwards, he might not even remember what happened anyway.

No One Can Protect him All the Time


It's impossible for you to protect him all the time, especially when he insists on doing his own thing. Trying wears you out. So try not to feel guilty about not being able to stop him. And if he is going to have an accident, you don't need to feel guilty that you won't be with him. After all, you probably wouldn't be able to do much for him, and if you're badly hurt, what good will you be to him anyway if he's hurt as well and needs nursing? And just think how guilty he'll feel if he sobers up long enough to get upset about hurting you! Far better to spare him.

You might feel bad for a while after you stop going with him when he's drunk driving, but remember that feelings can come and go, and your change of behaviour might make him stop and think seriously about what he's doing for the first time.

Part Twelve
Confronting Him About His Alcoholism

Speak when you're angry, and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret.
-- Lawrence J. Peter

Anger begins with folly and ends with repentance.
-- Pythagoras

I know you've tried to get through to him for years about how serious his drinking problem is and how much he needs help but nothing seems to work, or rather, he probably knows you're right, but he keeps denying it as part of his defence mechanism so he doesn't need to face up to it.

But the most effective way to get through to him is to say what you want to when he's sober and you're calm. Crying and shouting and threatening and refusing to speak to him doesn't work, because he doesn't listen. They might make you feel better for a little while, but then you feel just as bad again, don't you.

Trying to get through to him when he's drunk won't work, because he won't be thinking straight. It's best to wait till early the next day when he's sober.

And it's best to say what you want to say only once, saying it calmly and then refusing to discuss it or defend what you say, or listen to any excuses he makes, since then he'll turn it into the same old argument that gets so annoying for you. If you just say what you want and then leave the room before you're tempted to argue, you'll be leaving him to think about what you said instead of thinking about how he can defend himself, not paying attention to what you actually said. He's probably usually so busy thinking about what to say to defend himself that he's not concentrating on what you said. But it might sink in more if you're not there to argue with.

How to Tell him he Needs Help


When you can do it without being angry, describe to him what he does when he drinks. Tell him what effects his drinking has on you, the children, his and your families, and his career. Say he needs help. Tell him you don't feel ashamed of him, because you know his drinking's beyond his control because it's an addiction and he needs some kind of help to stop. But say you want him to get that help, because you want him to stay alive.

Read up about and tell him about all the damage alcohol can do to the body. Tell him it can even kill. Let him know you're concerned that those things might happen to him, and you won't believe him when he says he hasn't got a problem any more.

Only say all that once.

If he later denies that you said what you said or tells you it was all nonsense, don't believe he means what he said or argue with him. He'll just be trying to avoid the facts. But they might well be scaring him really. And the more they do, the better, because then he's more likely to want help.

Leave some literature about how to break free from addictions around the house. Try not to respond if he makes a fuss about it or sneers at it, because then you'll be trapped into the same old argument. Don't ask if he's read it, in case he gets annoyed because he thinks he's being nagged. Chances are he will read what you leave around, and given time, he'll have a serious think about it.

Part Thirteen
Refuse to Tolerate Abuse Any More

  Pleasure which must be enjoyed at the expense of another's pain, can never be enjoyed by a worthy mind. Pleasure's couch is virtues grave.
--Augustine J. Duganne

  To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.

  They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth.

Radioing for help

I'm worried that Tom's going to hurt you really badly one day. Remember that time when I was worried about him beating you up and I got someone from a women's refuge to come with me to try to persuade you to leave and go there for a while, but you refused, because you said you felt sure Tom meant it the last time he said things were going to get better, and he'd been so good to you since the last time he hit you that you couldn't believe he'd hurt you that much any more, and you felt sure you could persuade him not to anyway? Things got worse, not better, didn't they, because he broke his promises to change again like he always does. I'm scared things will get worse and worse until something terrible happens, even though you keep defending him and saying you're probably making too much fuss. I know you're not. You don't deserve to be beaten up.

I think he does it because wife beating's as much of an addiction as drinking. But you could try something new to help him.

I've found out more about why men beat their wives now. I know you feel hurt and angry and betrayed every time he does it, after he cried after the last time he hit you and seemed so upset about it and sorry, promising with all his heart that he'd never do it again. But he probably really meant it at the time. People can feel really guilty or bad about something they've done and never want to do it again, but if they get pleasure out of doing it, when the feelings of guilt wear off a bit, the feelings of pleasure at the thought of doing it again can get so overwhelming that it's difficult to resist them, especially if they fantasize about how much enjoyment they'll get.

I know you're shocked at the thought that he gets pleasure out of hitting you. But that's probably what makes him do it. He blames you for it, saying you drive him to hit you by doing such annoying things, and you believe you just must try harder to be a good wife because you believe it's your fault sometimes; but actually, it probably has far more to do with his brain. Bullying and cruelty and outbursts of anger can be just as addictive as drinking. They can give people an adrenaline rush that puts them on a high, a bit like a drug. If someone's a bit depressed, anger can lift them right out of it, at least for the time they're angry. It can get the blood circulating around the body faster and make people feel more alive, like good exercise. Bullying and cruelty can be enjoyable, especially since he'll be addicted to the feeling of power he gets when he does it that makes him feel like a big strong man, somebody in control. If he finds his behaviour entertaining to him at the time when he's doing it, that just increases the high his anger's giving him.

But of course, also, when people are drunk, their sensitivities are dulled, so they can hit people without realising how hard they're hitting. And alcohol can dull people's senses of right and wrong, so they do things when they're drunk that their consciences and common sense stop them from doing when they're sober.


I don't like to mention this, but I think that addiction to the feeling of power he's got isn't just affecting you. I think that sex is all mixed up with power in his head as well. I've noticed him behaving as if he's flirting with the children. I've heard that alcoholics often do that, because they fantasize about sexual activity with people they have power over, again to get that high from the feeling of being powerful they enjoy. You need to take this really seriously.

The anticipation of all the pleasure they'll get from the adrenaline rush can be overwhelming to someone addicted to it, so they find it very difficult to resist the urge to do what gives them it again. And worse, the pleasure of doing it wears off after they've done it several times, but when the brain gives them pleasure signals at the thought of doing it, it'll deceive them into believing it'll be just as enjoyable as it was at first, because all the memories of the pleasure it gave them will flash through their minds and convince them they're going to really enjoy it. Then when they don't, they think they have to do it more to get the same high. But it gets more and more difficult to get the same high. So their drinking or wife beating or other nasty behaviour gets worse and worse and worse, because they feel they have to do more and more of it to get that high.

So people who are addicted to things are being deceived by their brains, that are sending them signals that make them think that doing their addictive behaviour will be more enjoyable than it really will be. It's unlikely that they sit down in the cold light of day and decide to break their promises. They're being controlled by their emotions.

The memories that come to mind that give them the pleasure feelings won't be the feelings of guilt or other bad feelings they had after they did it before. They'll be memories of the good feelings they had while they were on a high because they were doing it. They might even be false memories that exaggerate how good it felt.

If people re-train their brains to bring up bad memories when they think about doing their addictive behaviour instead of the good ones that automatically come to mind that make them want to do it again because of the pleasure feelings they think they'll get from it, it's much easier to break free from their addiction. People can re-train their brains like that by deliberately concentrating on bad memories when the feelings that make them want to do it again come on.

Tom might not want to do that, because he might enjoy the high he gets so much he doesn't want to give it up enough, even though he gets so upset and says he does want to give it up the morning after. But you can help him decide he really does want to, or make him think of it as more of a bad thing, by increasing the consequences of what he does that he won't like.

What Might Help

You deserve better than to be battered. If you behave as if you deserve better and as if you refuse to tolerate it any more, then he might very well come to believe you deserve better and stop.

And if he doesn't, would leaving him be so terrible, when the alternative is years and years of further abuse that'll probably get worse? When you come to like yourself better, you'll fully realise you don't deserve that.

But it might not come to that. One thing that might help is if you plan together things you can go out and make time to do that he'll find genuinely enjoyable. If he's getting more genuine healthy enjoyment from life, then the high he gets from outbursts of anger and abusiveness might start to seem less attractive to him, because it'll pale in comparison to the more satisfying high he's getting from better things.

But when he does hit you or become emotionally abusive, don't put up with it any more. I know it's difficult to change, because he praises you so much sometimes, telling you what a good caring woman you are to stick with him through it all while he gets better. Sometimes, it makes you more committed to staying with him. But sometimes, you cringe when he praises you like that, don't you, because you feel ashamed of being such a door mat, and thinking about how you keep on being like that makes you angry, so you burst out in a fit of rage against him. But then you feel guilty about having done it, so you feel you need to stay with him and do what he wants even more, because you feel sorry for him and think you owe it to him. It just makes it harder for you to stand up for yourself.


So it'll help you if instead of shouting at him, you use your anger to motivate you to do something better. Anger can be good if you use it properly. It can give you the energy you need to change things for the better.

Don't worry that he'll leave if you start standing up for yourself and changing things for the better. If he's halfway decent, he won't leave you for refusing to be beaten up any more. In fact, he'll respect you more for it so he might want to be with you more. And if he isn't the kind of man who'll do that, then would losing him really be so terrible, when the alternative is putting up with more and more violence over the coming years?

I know you feel a failure and really depressed because you think you should have been able to help him improve his behaviour by now. But it isn't your responsibility to overcome his problems for him. That's up to him. Changing his behaviour is his responsibility, not yours. He has to be the one to sort his life out, not you, because only he can decide to stop drinking. And he'll do it when he wants to.

You don't have to feel guilty if you refuse to suffer alongside him till he does, taking his abuse. He might feel as if you're abandoning him once you stop tolerating his abuse, because he won't be thinking of your feelings but only his. Alcoholics can be selfish like that. But don't let his self-pity fool you into feeling sorry for him. In fact, if you do what you can to make yourself happy whether he joins you or not in what you do, then you'll be turning your home into a happier place, and you might even be a role model for him. If he sees you happy, he might decide he wants to change his life for the better too.

And certainly it'll be good for your children. They need to learn that people can be happy in life, and you'll be nicer to them once you're happier as well.

What to Do and What Not to Do When he Physically or Emotionally Abuses You

What Not to Do

What to Do After He's Been Abusive

Only do those things if it's safe for you and your children to do them.

Things Might Get Better After That

Don't be hard on yourself if you don't feel you're confident enough to do everything at once, or need time to think it over before you start, and you suffer abuse in the meantime. But it'll be good when you do start to do it. I've heard it works for a lot of people. It'll get you to respect yourself much more, and turn you into someone who won't take abuse any more.

When Tom realises you intend to take a no-nonsense approach from now on, he'll begin to realise that he won't get the high he used to get from provoking you and getting angrier and angrier with you any more. And when he knows you refuse to accept his abuse any longer, it'll be as if you're giving him firm guidelines as to what kind of behaviour's expected of him and what you consider unacceptable, to help him grow up and behave. By leaving him for a while, you'll be helping him break out of the old cycle of feeling sorry for what he's done and then wanting to do it again, just as you yourself will be breaking out of the trap of being a victim of it.


I know it's much easier said than done to tell you to leave. I mean, it's not as if you've got alternative accommodation just ready and waiting, and I know you've got precious things in the house that it would be difficult to carry. But I think it would be worth thinking it through now to see if you can think of various things that might be possible.

You'll probably be scared he won't take the separation seriously or that he'll threaten to punish you for it, or that he'll like being alone and won't want you back. It's only natural that you should be scared about things like that. But remember he's dependent on you. If you try doing those things, you might well find you'll be reassured. It might only be the fear of losing you altogether that makes him finally decide to get help.

Try to Get Help for Yourself

When you decide you don't deserve to be abused any more, have a look around to see if you can get help with finances and perhaps housing and other support for the times you're away from him. And make sure you get the emotional support of other people, to try and keep your spirits up. Or you could try getting Tom sent for treatment even if he isn't all that keen on the idea.

There are lots of different types of support you could get, like help getting a job, help with finding somewhere to live and other types of help. Look up organisations set up to help battered wives and see what they have to offer.

Don't be scared to have him arrested. If you want, ask at the court case if he could be sent for treatment for his alcoholism rather than put in jail. If you can find a counsellor who'll go to court with you to support you, do.

If You Get Back With Him Too Soon


It might take some time for Tom to get over his alcoholism. It often takes some time. When he's been in treatment for a while, if you're separated for that time, He might beg you to come back or ask to come back too early. It might be too tempting for him to slip back into his old hurtful ways, since they'll be like a habit that's hard to kick, especially if he's had it for a long time.

So if you do get back with him and it turns out to be too soon, you have the right to tell him it's too early and that he needs more help before the marriage can work again. In fact, it's important that you do that, to get things moving in the right direction again.

Don't think you're being harsh by doing that. You'll have his best interests at heart as well as your own. He might try to make you feel guilty about abandoning him, but that'll be because he's still too sick to realise it's in his best interests. Trust your judgment.

Part Fourteen
Don't Believe He's Really Having Fun by Getting Drunk

When the wine goes in, strange things come out.
--Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, The Piccolomini, 1799

Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness.

I drink only to make my friends seem interesting.
--Don Marquis

I know Tom keeps telling you he thinks drinking's fun. But he's probably trying to fool himself as well as you. The difference between the fun of alcoholism and real fun is probably like the difference between living on a diet of only chocolate and eating a variety of nourishing and tasty meals. Living on a chocolate-only diet might seem more fun at first, but after a while, you'd start to get scared about what it was doing to your health. You might still think it's fun so you might try to forget the fears. But soon, your health will start to suffer. Since you don't eat anything but chocolate bars, they might get boring after a while, so while eating them every now and then before was hugely enjoyable, you might not get the same enjoyment out of it any more. But you might still be able to kid yourself that it's fun, especially if the memories of how good it was at first keep coming to mind. And if you think it's fun to provoke someone who wants you to eat healthily, you might tell them your diet's fun, to spite them, even though you know the enjoyment's wearing off. And eating with spite in your heart would ruin any genuine happiness you could have.

But if you start eating big healthy tasty meals, you'll have more variety and start feeling better within yourself, so you'll realise that living on a chocolate-only diet wasn't that much fun after all in comparison.

The author of the book I've been reading on alcoholism where I'm getting this advice to you from is a therapist, and she says that one day, someone was in her office for a therapy session, and she was crying, finding it difficult to believe her husband wasn't really having fun, because he would come home looking all smug with a horrible grin, as if he'd had a great time and he was contemptuous of her. She was feeling despairing, as if things might never change.

She said she'd tried to take the advice of the author and not tell her husband what they were discussing in the therapy session but just change her behaviour without mentioning it to him, but the week before, she'd lost her temper and shouted at him that she knew he wasn't having fun really. That was a mistake, because it stirred up his addiction to baiting her and the high he got from belittling her.

She got upset, because he acted all serious, put on a social worker voice as if he was educating her, and said she was right that he wasn't having fun, but that she knew she was just going to have to be patient with him, because it would take time for him to get well. He made her feel inferior, and as if she was in the wrong and he knew better than her.

The author says that alcoholics tend to be good at manipulating people to make them feel bad, whatever techniques they use. They're good at getting to people's vulnerabilities.

She advised the woman that she could stop her husband's comments getting to her and making her feel as if he was like a doctor talking to her and she was the patient, if whenever he did that, she imagined he was in the hospital getting treatment for his alcoholism, and after she'd had a few days of peace at home without him, she'd gone to visit him, and he pretended he was one of the staff, welcoming her and admitting her to one of the wards of the psychiatric hospital, telling her where her bed was; but he was really the one in bed. And the real doctor was witnessing it all. The author told the woman to imagine the look on the real doctor's face when he happened to walk in at that time and heard her husband pretending to be the doctor, and to imagine what the doctor said when he told her husband that he (her husband) was the patient, and she was the visitor.

The next time her husband tried to make her feel like the patient, she tried it. She stopped listening, kept her mouth shut, and became very thoughtful, imagining the scene. It really helped her. She stopped getting so upset by his behaviour.

Her husband noticed she was detached from him and not falling for the old trick any more; but what pleased her was that she felt so much calmer.

Tom might not make you feel as if he's the doctor and you're the patient, but he certainly finds fault with you a lot and makes you feel you're not good enough. If you can remember that it's his alcoholism talking, and that he probably wouldn't say those things if he was really thinking clearly, it might help. If when he says something nasty, you try not to take it personally but think, "Oh, he just wants that addictive high again that he gets from angry arguments with me", then it might help you keep calm.

The author of the book says that alcoholics, like the one who made his wife feel like the patient, might kid themselves that they're having fun when they go out, but what really happens is that they're full of fears and resentment and anger. The kind of fun you can have when you're in that kind of mood is a very poor substitute for real fun. Since most alcoholics can be charming, they can make shallow friendships easily; but then their bad feelings come out when they start being nasty about their wives and others. They think they have good friends, but really, the long-term ones are alcoholics like them, despising themselves and each other. But they won't admit, or don't want to acknowledge, that their friendships are a sham.

She says that some people can find ways to become detached from the hurtful things their alcoholic husbands are saying to them while they're still living with them. But some find keeping their guard up all day too exhausting, so leaving for a while is better.

Part Fifteen
Deciding Whether or Not to Tell the Families About the Alcohol Problem

I know you're wondering whether to tell your family and Tom's how serious his drinking problem is, but you feel ashamed because you worry they'll think you must be treating him badly if he's like that or hasn't got better.

If you do tell them, explain to them about addiction and how it's not to do with you but to do with the pleasure he thinks he'll get from it.

But you don't have to tell them. They don't need to know. It isn't as if you owe them an explanation. And if you think they'll have a go at you and they do, you'll just get upset. So think about whether it's worth it.

Don't feel guilty about not telling them. Tell you what. For the time being, while it's bothering you so much, Think of things you'll really enjoy doing, do some things you like, and give yourself a bit of a break. You'll hopefully forget your guilt while you're doing them, and you'll end up feeling refreshed, and so you'll be able to think about the decision without all the anxiety clouding your mind and making it more difficult for you to think.

When people are feeling anxious and stressed, they can blow things out of proportion. So you might be worrying about it much more than you need to. After all, how much do they really need to know? If you decide they don't need to know much or anything, and knowing would just upset them, then you can stop worrying.

Part Sixteen
Only Say Things You Really Mean to Say

Nothing lowers the level of conversation more than raising the voice.
--Stanley Horowitz

The author says there was a woman who was separated from her alcoholic husband and saw him from time to time, who decided to pluck up the courage to just ask him to leave without any discussion when he got nasty, as the author suggested she did. But he took her by surprise and outsmarted her one day. He came in with a horrible look on his face and started to be emotionally abusive. But then before she could ask him to leave, he turned round and said he was going to leave because he realised he was being intolerable again. Then he smirked and packed his bag. Very soon, she was begging him to stay. But she felt bad about having done that afterwards.

He was probably playing a game, trying to spite her and make her think he didn't care about being asked to leave so what she was doing wasn't effective. He was probably after that addictive high that he would have been getting from doing hurtful things. If she'd just called his bluff and calmly agreed that he needed to leave, he wouldn't have got the high he was hoping for from her reaction.

If he was disappointed enough times like that, he'd have stopped even seeking the high, since he would know he couldn't get it.

And it may be that although he behaved as if he didn't care about leaving, he did really, and he said he'd leave while counting on her to beg him to stay. If she'd just calmly agreed that he needed to leave, he might have been put out about it afterwards, and when he realised she was serious, he might have realised that if he wanted to stay with her, he did need to change after all. So being firm with him would really be helping him to get sober.

If you try that with Tom, he might not understand why you're being firm with him at first, since his mind will be so clouded with drink. But if it motivates him to change in the end, he might even thank you for it one day. They call it tough love.


If you think it's going to be difficult to just ask him to leave calmly once and then refuse to discuss it any more, or if you're worried that staying calm will just make him provoke you more because he wants to get a reaction from you, you could ask him to leave and then leave the room or house yourself so you're not tempted into an argument, and say you want him gone when you get back. Even if he isn't gone, you'll probably have calmed down when you get back so you're more prepared to deal with what he says.

If you make a mistake and ask him to stay but then decide you'd prefer him to leave, you could tell him you've changed your mind and say you'd like him to go after all. If he accuses you of not knowing what you want, don't fall for the bait and argue with him. He'll only be trying to provoke you, for fun, because of that high he gets. It'll be best if you can stay quiet and calm, but be firm about what you want.

Then afterwards, you won't feel as guilty as you would have done if you'd shouted at him, so keeping calm will have worked out best for you really.

It's important that you do things to make yourself feel less guilty, since guilt can be what keeps wives of abusers running back to them.

Accusing angrily

I know it's tempting when he's just said something nasty to you to say something you think will hurt him or put him in his place and prove that you can win the argument, because you think he deserves it. But chances are he won't be hurt but angry, and when he responds in anger, he'll be getting that selfish high again that he loves to get when he says nasty things to you. So making comments to him out of spite will really be giving him what he wants, the opportunity to get that pleasurable adrenaline rush he gets when he gets angrier. So any spiteful thing you say will feed his addiction. But keeping calm will be depriving him of what his addiction feeds on, and so you'll be helping him to calm down and break free from it. You'll be helping to take his temptation to get that exciting adrenaline rush he finds so hard to resist out of his way.

But then when you do get through to him by shouting at him and he starts crying and telling you you're right to be angry because he's such a terrible person, you start feeling guilty for shouting and you pity him, don't you, and that keeps you trapped in the same old cycle of trying not to do anything that just might hurt him because you feel sorry for him, so you don't risk doing anything that might be good for him even though it's something he won't like at first; and then things stay the same, and you get angry and start the process off again. Keeping calm will help you avoid that. Pity won't help him. He needs guidance to change instead.

Try Not to Take What he Says Personally

It might be easier to stay calm and not retaliate by saying nasty things if you keep reminding yourself that he probably doesn't mean a lot of the things he says; he just says them because he knows they'll annoy you so you'll respond and he can have the excuse to get angrier and get that high he loves again. Try not to take what he says personally. People don't think normally when they've been drinking anyway, so they can say lots of things they realise weren't really true when they're sober.

I know he says all kinds of things to you that just aren't true. You get to believe them, which is a shame, because you just get upset by them and lose confidence; but I know they aren't true.


Like the time he convinced you that you must be a bad mother after you made some really nice clothes for the children, but he insisted that if you really cared about the kids, you'd have saved your money and bought them the same clothes as the ones their friends wear so they could fit in better. Never mind that you had to make the clothes because he spends most of the family money on booze, and they were actually nicer than the ones the kids' friends were wearing. He just wants to put you down so he can feel as if he's better than someone. He probably knows really that he doesn't mean most of what he says.

The more hysterically you react to his taunts and threats, the better he likes it in a way, because it can give him a feeling of superiority, since he can think that although his behaviour's bad, yours is even worse, so it can give him a sense of pride in himself and satisfaction with himself that he doesn't deserve at all, but if he can feel superior to you, he doesn't have to feel bad about himself for a while.

If you can think of his talk as just junk, rather than anything that really means anything bad about you, just a symptom of his alcoholism that just means he needs treatment, you'll get to the point where you can stop taking what he says seriously and letting it make you upset or angry.

If you do have an angry outburst, it won't last so long, because you'll realise there's no point trying to reason with someone who isn't likely to see reason because his thinking's all warped. So you can stay calmer, and that'll be good for you.

One problem with getting angry with him is that any apology you make to him afterwards when you're worried that what you said might have upset him might seem like a victory to him in his warped thinking. And it doesn't help you stay on his good side any longer than not apologising would. So there's no point apologising for things you said that were absolutely true.

Look to the Future

If you can stay calm, it'll also stop you getting so anxious, and it'll stop the stomach pain you get when you feel tense.

Feeling hopeless

But at times when you don't manage to stay calm, don't criticize yourself for it. It might take practice, especially since his behaviour can be so infuriating. Instead of feeling bad about having failed to stay calm last time, just promise yourself you'll try again next time.

Don't get upset about all the times in the past when you fed his addiction to anger by arguing with him because you were so angry with him and you didn't realise you were fuelling it. Anyone would find it difficult not to lose their temper with him. And you can't help that you didn't realise he was getting a high from it. The important thing is to look to the future and how things can get better from now on.

Part Seventeen
Try Not to Let his Arrogance Get to You

Alcohol is necessary for a man so that he can have a good opinion of himself, undisturbed be the facts.
--Finley Peter Dunne

Remember that job Tom got a few months ago, and he started boasting and sneering about how you could see he could manage to work perfectly well without your crazy attempts to stop him drinking, ... until he started becoming obnoxious and unreliable at work and he left quickly to avoid being thrown out? You hate it when he gets like that, don't you.

And it's the same when a woman happens to smile at him, and he comes home boasting about how he can attract the ladies and could go off with any woman he wanted if he liked and doesn't need a dowdy thing like you, acting all superior to you and proud of himself. It really gets you down, doesn't it, even though you're fairly sure his boasting isn't true.

It might help if when he gets like that, like he does when he gets a new job, you keep reminding yourself that his pride and boasting won't last long. You'll only have to put up with it till he disobeys his boss because he refuses to take orders, and when his co-workers realise what kind of person he really is under all the charm, when the strain of pretending to be a nice person at work wears off and they find out what he's really like, so he has to leave.

Remember that as his drinking gets worse, it'll take a shorter and shorter amount of time before he reveals his obnoxious side at work or with other people so he falls out of favour with them, so he stops being arrogant with you.


I know you feel humiliated when he's arrogant like that, and one reason is because he looks so well and behaves as if he's so charming in public that if you get angry with him in public, you worry that it looks as if you're just a mean unpleasant woman, picking on your nice husband, and you even begin to worry that you might be going insane, just imagining there are problems when there aren't really. But most people will find out what he's like eventually.

Actually, lots of alcoholics go through arrogant phases like that, and their wives often feel similar to you. So you don't have to worry that you really are going crazy and imagining things.

Don't get upset or show him you're scared when he tells you he doesn't need you during one of his arrogant phases, or it'll make him worse. Remember how warped his thinking is, and that most people abandon him when they find out what he's really like.

On a Social Occasion

A get-together

If he takes you to a social event like an office party or some other get-together, and acts all superior and proud and doesn't pay attention to you, don't plead for his attention or sulk about it. That'll just feed his addictive power trip. It doesn't matter if you've done it before. But you can make his unpleasant behaviour less attractive to him by refusing to stay isolated, by introducing yourself to other people, joining in with the spirit of things and enjoying yourself. Chances are that if you do, within minutes he'll come over to you, sulking that he wants to go home.

Don't go. Insist that you stay for a while. Leave later, taking a lot of time for goodbyes and smiling at people a lot.

You're not being cruel to him by doing those things. You're helping him realise his addictive behaviour has unpleasant consequences for him and so it would be better for him to give it up. And you're helping him get over it by stopping behaving like a victim, so you deprive him of the high he gets from antagonising you.

Part Eighteen
Don't Isolate Yourself by Moving Away with Him

Alcoholics sometimes kid themselves that everything would be allright if only they could move away from their problems, forgetting that it's their own behaviour that's causing their problems so they'll take them with them wherever they go.

The author of the book I've been reading tells of one alcoholic who told his wife after he'd lost yet another job that he wanted her to leave their "pesky" five-year-old with their family and move to Alaska. Another one told his wife he wanted her to move to rural West Virginia where he was born, even though he'd be away in the navy for the next few years. Another alcoholic came home one day and proudly announced he'd bought a mobile home for him and his wife away on a beach, and she just needed to dump her job and the children and move there with him.

Sometimes alcoholics say they'll allow their wives to bring the kids along, so all they need to leave is their job, their friends and family, and the place where they're settled, in the search for somewhere their husbands say they can get sober!

Wives can often despair because they've tried so many things to help their husbands get sober. Or they can feel close to them, planning their new lives. But any closeness won't last, since people can't escape all their problems by moving, especially if their problems are bad habits and things difficult to resist like addictions. People will have problems everywhere they go. And the craving for drink will be with an alcoholic wherever he is. Moving is unlikely to change anything for long. He needs to learn to cope without alcohol so he can be sober wherever he lives.

Part Nineteen
Deciding Whether to Hide the Car Keys

I know you've worried yourself about this. You have to decide what's best.

But I'd advise that if you do, you don't tell him you're doing it, so he'll hopefully assume he's just lost them, so he won't start a big argument with you about it.

If you don't think you'll be able to hide them without a fight when he finds out they're missing, it's a difficult one, but I think you're better off not doing it, since it'll only be feeding the addictive high he gets from arguing with you again. And if you think he might hit you, you need to protect your safety.

Part Twenty
Don't Feel You're a Burden When You Get Ill, and How You Can Help Him to Become More Caring

It's typical of alcoholics to be extremely selfish after they've been drinking, thinking no one's important except themselves, and that nothing means much to them except things that make them look good. They're like little children, always demanding, expecting you'll look after them no matter what, only thinking about themselves and what they want. They need to grow up while they're getting sober.


So it's no wonder if they throw a tantrum and refuse to take responsibility and care for you when you get ill. You wouldn't expect a baby to care for you.

I remember that time you had the flu, and you rang me up and told me Tom had stormed out of the house, saying he was going to stay with a friend for a few days because he wasn't prepared to play nurse to an invalid, and you were really upset that he should treat you like that after all the things you'd done to care for him.

So I know you're worried about who would take care of you if you got really ill. He's not going to become more caring unless he gets sober.

It might sound a bit odd, but you can motivate him to become sober and more caring by stopping caring for him so much. When you're no longer allowing him to behave like the demanding baby he behaves like, he'll just have to take more responsibility for his life and grow up. People often behave the way others expect them to behave; so if you develop the expectation that he'll be able to solve his own problems instead of relying on you, then he'll have to start behaving more responsibly.

I'm not suggesting you don't care for him when he's ill. I'm saying that if you stop revolving your life around him so much and trying to cater to his every desire, he'll have to start taking more responsibility for things himself; and when he learns to do that, he'll learn to behave more responsibly towards the family.

Part Twenty-One
Learn About the Memory Lapses Alcohol Can Cause

I used to drink quite a lot just for fun when I was a teenager, and I remember one night, I went to a party at someone's house, and a couple of days later, I met a couple of my friends who told me I'd broken the lid of a toilet seat in half. I couldn't remember a thing about it, but one said that at the time, he could hear banging from outside, and he kept calling to me, asking if I was allright, and I kept saying yes. When I came out, he discovered the toilet seat lid was snapped in two.

When I went to the house next, I found it like that. But I couldn't remember breaking it.


I've heard about people doing much worse things and claiming afterwards that they couldn't remember what happened because they were drunk. The book I've been reading says a lot of people in prison don't remember the crimes they committed that got them put there, since they were so drunk at the time.

Sometimes, when you complain to Tom about something he did the night before and he says you're making it up, he might truly think he didn't do it, because he can't remember having done it because he was so drunk when he did it.

Confronting him About the Problems

I think the only way you can know if he genuinely doesn't remember something he said or did is if you tell him about it, and he seems surprised, denies it and looks genuinely scared that either you or he has gone mad.

If he does that, then if possible, it can be good to bring other people into the room who will confirm what you're telling him about what happened, people he usually believes.

It could actually be a good opportunity to confront him about his alcoholism and try to persuade him to get help. He might be more open to listening and want help more if he's disturbed by what he's done.

But when you've suggested it, drop the subject, to give him time to think about it, before he thinks you're nagging him and gets all defensive and stubborn. Just say what you want to say once. You can leave the room or the house if you're tempted to say anything that might antagonise him.

If he refuses to listen anyway, don't lose your temper. Leave the room if you're tempted to. He might think seriously about it later.


If he genuinely doesn't want help at that time, it could mean his drinking will get worse. But don't let him see you worrying about it, because if he does, he'll think he doesn't need to bother worrying, since you're the one thinking about what to do. And his focus of attention will be off his problem and on what you're doing, whereas you want him thinking about his problem.

When he Lets the Children Down

It may be that during one of the times he's saying and doing things he won't remember the next morning, he'll make a promise to the children, maybe to take them out somewhere. When the time comes, they'll get ready and enthusiastic and tell him to get ready. He genuinely won't know what they're talking about. He might get angry, thinking they're trying to drive him insane by making out he said things he didn't.

If he does that, confirm to him that he did actually promise what the kids are saying he did. Then don't protect him from the children's disappointment that he isn't going to do it after all. It might be that kind of thing that eventually makes him decide to get help.


Later, explain to the children about how people can do and say things they can't remember when they're very drunk. You could tell them they've got a right to be angry about what he did, but that staying angry won't help, because he's got an addiction that he finds hard to resist, so it's not all his fault.

Pampering Yourself

One thing that will help you is if you do things for yourself that'll please you. If you can find something that'll make you feel pampered for even just a little while every day, That'll make you feel refreshed and better able to cope. And you deserve some stress-free times every day.

Part Twenty-Two
Try Not to be abusive, Or Pity Him

If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.
--Chinese Proverb

The greatest remedy for anger is delay.

Reasons Not to Punish Him by Shouting at Him

It's perfectly understandable that you should get angry with Tom. But when you yell at an alcoholic, you can lower his self-esteem if he takes in what you're saying. And the worse he feels about himself, the less likely he is to want to get sober.

Angrily using bad language

On the other hand, he can enjoy it when you shout at him, partly because you're giving him attention. So he can annoy you more, maybe by saying insulting and horrible things, to get more of the same attention.

If, on the other hand, you treat his annoying behaviour like a child's tantrum and ignore it, he won't have the incentive to carry on with it, so it's more likely to fade away.

If you need to buy earplugs to block out his annoying talk so you stay calm, do that; do whatever it takes to stop yourself getting annoyed. Try to concentrate on other things.

Maybe leave the house for a while if you can. But if you do, leave with a smile, so he doesn't get the high of thinking he's getting to you. When he isn't getting the attention any more like that, his behaviour won't be so much fun for him, so it should fade away.

Reasons Not to Pity Him

Remember I said people often behave in the way you expect them to behave? The book I've been reading says that teachers of children who've suffered emotional problems have discovered that if you pity a child and treat them as if they're unlikely to succeed in life, chances are they won't. But if you ignore what happened before and treat them as if they have as good a chance as anyone else, chances are they'll live up to expectations and do much better.

The same thing can happen with alcoholics. They often end up coping well with things their family feel sure they can cope with. For instance, if the family behaves as if they're absolutely confident the alcoholic won't miss paying the rent, chances are he won't. But if they're nervous, and show it in the fearful and angry way they complain to the alcoholic about other bills he hasn't paid, with the expectation he won't pay the rent either, chances are he won't have so much confidence in himself, and he won't expect himself to be capable of doing it either, so he won't.

If you expect an alcoholic to be able to behave like a respectable person, you'll raise his self-esteem, so he's more likely to take responsibility for behaving respectably.

So your compassion can be channelled into doing what's best for him in the long term, rather than pitying him. If you act as if you deserve and expect the same things from him that you'd expect from a non-alcoholic husband, he might be pleased that you're crediting him with being capable of those things, and his self-esteem and sense of responsibility should grow.

Pitying him and not expecting much of him, on the other hand, is like treating him as if he's incapable, and so both of you can get stuck believing that.

If you treat him as if he needs help with everything, you might feel better for a time, but though he might like it at first, he might resent you in the end, because it made him feel less capable. And if you act as if you're willing to cater to his every demand because he needs looking after so much, he'll respect you less than he will if you don't let him manipulate you into doing everything he wants but treat him as if you have standards of behaviour you expect him to keep to and he's capable of taking responsibility for himself.

Part Twenty-Three
Don't Protect him From Crises Caused By his Drinking

If he has to deal with the crises that happen because of his drinking all by himself without your help, it might be just what he needs to get motivated to seek help and get better, because he'll feel the effects of them more and that'll make him think more seriously about giving up the drink. And you'll feel better for not covering up for him and being his protector all the time as well.


I'm talking about times like when he wakes up with a horrible hangover and doesn't want to get out of bed, and he's already been warned he'll lose his job if he's late again, so he asks you to phone up and say he's got some infection or something.

Mind you, Tom did worse than that last year, didn't he, when he got you to phone up and tell them he'd be late and less able to concentrate on things when he got there because you'd kept him up all night!

And then there are the times when he collapses because he's so drunk outside the front door in the cold.

Or the times when he's been put in jail and wants you to come and bail him out.

Mind you, it doesn't often get to that stage, does it, because when he's hit you and you have called the police, he's become tearful and said he's a terrible person and that you're so good for putting up with him, and he promises never, never to do it again, so when the police come, you've made friends again, so you don't want him arrested after all. It happens time after time, doesn't it.


But his behaviour is just typical wife beater behaviour. A lot of them behave like that, maybe even most of them. You think Tom's special, don't you, and you always feel sure he really means it this time when he says he realises he did a terrible thing and promises to change. But really, he's just doing what they all do, hitting their wives and then making up with them before the police come, convincing them they're sorry, only to do it again some other time.

Knowing that might make it easier for you to stand your ground and have him arrested; and also, being disciplined for what he does might help him resist the temptation to do it again, because he'll know what's coming and he won't like it. And also, once he's in the hands of the authorities, it might be easier to get him some treatment, which might mean his behaviour and health improves. If he's got a choice of either treatment or prison, that might motivate him to get treatment even more, so you'll both hopefully end up benefiting.

Anyway, talking of crises, other crises happen when he's run out of drink and wants you to buy more for him but you don't like to because you know it's gradually killing him, don't they, or when he promises the children something and then forgets and they get upset. All kinds of things like that happen, don't they, nearly all the time.

I know that in the past, you've always stepped in to try to make things better for him, so he wouldn't feel too many bad effects of the crises he gets himself involved in. You've felt sorry for him and wanted to please him.

But the more he feels the effects of his unpleasant behaviour, the more likely he is to decide that alcoholism just isn't worth it any more, and decide he wants to change.


I know it'll be hard to just let bad things happen to him without intervening to rescue him from them at first. You'll probably feel guilty that he's hurting. But try to keep reminding yourself that it's for his long-term good, because he's more likely to give up what's killing him if it becomes so hurtful he can't stand it any more. If he gets cured, he'll be glad you did what you did, since it motivated him to get well.

But while he's still a drunkard, he might get angry and threaten you for not helping him like you used to. If you can manage to stick to the plan and let him feel the consequences of the mess he's got into despite his threats, and despite your own anxiety and depression and any other bad feelings you might feel, then you could really be helping to change the situation.

Of course, it might mean you have to do things to protect yourself when things like that happen, like leaving him for a while.

The first time you try this will be the hardest. But if you prove to yourself that you can do it despite everything, you'll get more confident that you can do it again, and the more you manage it, the easier it'll become, till you can leave him to his problems and not be nearly as scared as you were at first. A lot of people find the first time the hardest, but then find it easier and easier as they go on. It's probably like that with all kinds of things.

So don't help him out of the trouble he brings on himself. In fact, it might sound callous, but you can even be pleased in a way when bad things happen to him because of his drinking, such as if he loses his driving license, because the more bad things happen to him, the more likely he'll be to decide he just can't stand being an alcoholic any more and wants to change.

If he seems to recover quickly after his crises and looks as if he feels good, don't worry that what you're doing isn't working. He might just be pretending he feels good, while inside, he's scared of what the drink's doing to him. After all, he's used to denying things. But there should come a time when that gets harder and harder.

If Other People Rescue Him From his Crises After You've Stopped


You might find that his family and friends, and even doctors and counsellors, unwittingly help him to stay alcoholic by making it more comfortable for him to stay alcoholic, because they help him out of the crises you've stopped helping him out of, because they hear his pitiful stories and believe his half-truths and his under-statements about how bad his behaviour really gets and how much he drinks, and they feel sorry for him. I've heard that kind of thing often happens.

There are a few things you might be able to do:

If you keep reminding yourself of those things, they could calm you down when you're feeling angry and scared about what's happening.

Don't think you have to defend your behaviour or discuss it with people. The fact that you know it's the right thing to do is the important thing. If he gives up the drink eventually, you'll be the one he can thank, and he won't want people who see him as less than capable of taking care of himself around any more.

Part Twenty-Four
Don't Lie to his Boss For Him Any More


Losing jobs might be helping him come to the eventual decision that alcoholism's ruining his life and he wants to get sober.

I know you're finding this difficult to listen to, because you feel guilty when you're not doing what seems best for him in the short term, and you worry that you won't have enough money to pay all the bills every time he loses another job. And I know you hope that if you do what he wants again, it might make him love you so much he'll stop drinking, or think you're wonderful and you'll get closer. But you know deep down it never does that, don't you.

But the more comfortable you make it for him to remain an alcoholic, the more likely he is to stay one till something really serious happens to his health. I know you're worried that something serious will happen to his health. The sooner he starts feeling uncomfortable with being an alcoholic, the more chance he's got of deciding to get sober before something really serious does happen.

I know it's a really tough decision for you to decide not to spare him from his boss's anger when he's too hungover to go to work, because every time he loses a job, money gets really short and you worry you won't be able to buy things for the children or even stay in the house. But you might be able to think of ways you could earn money yourself. And anyway, making excuses for him to his boss will only be postponing the day when he's taken so much time off and made so many mistakes at work that his boss realises he's really an incompetent worker who drinks, and he loses his job anyway.

You've known that happen before, haven't you, only he tends to leave jobs himself when things get a bit tough for him.

But there are things you could do to help yourself:

Things That Might Help

Secretary with too much work

Perhaps one thing you could do is to learn a job skill, so at least you can go out to work and become more financially independent. And it would do you good to get out of the house and mix with other people so you have more companionship as well, and you might get that from work and training courses where you might make friends. There might be free or inexpensive courses run by government organisations or local colleges you could go on to learn useful job skills. I'm sure it'll be worth finding out.

I know the kids are a bit too little for you to get a full-time job now, but you might find a part-time one, or you could maybe work from home. If you learned to type, or used your cooking skills to earn money, or maybe something else, you could perhaps put signs up in several places advertising what you've decided to do.

You won't have to pay anything to put signs up in a lot of places. Maybe you could put some in the local college newspaper, and on a noticeboard in the library, and you could probably think of other places. Try to think of where you might have seen adverts that other people have put up offering to do typing for people or whatever. And find out how much it would be usual to charge for that kind of thing.

I know you need money in the meantime, before you've learned something like typing. Could you perhaps do a bit of child minding? Or do people have to have a license for that? Probably. You might be able to do something you don't have to train much for anyway, and it might even be something you enjoy.

How about putting some money in a bank account every week in your name only. That way, you'll know your money won't all be used up on the drink, leaving you and your children to go without food or something.

You might feel a bit mean doing that, but if you're protecting your children and yourself, it's sensible, not nasty. Far better to keep money from Tom than let him spend it on drink.

You might be angry at having to do all that, because it means he's getting away with not facing up to his responsibilities to the family. But you might like the job you get, and when you think about what he's doing to his health, he's hardly well off, so he's not really getting away with what he's doing.

Part Twenty-Five
Deciding How Much Time to Spend Apart From the Alcoholic

I know you're nervous about leaving him. And sometimes you're annoyed with yourself for not having plucked up the courage to do that before. But it doesn't necessarily have to be a major step, because you only need to leave for the length of time you decide on at any one time.

For instance, you could just leave the house or room till you hope things will have calmed down; you could leave for a few days, or for weeks and months at a time, where you just see Tom when you choose to.

It'll be easier when you recognise how much he needs you, even when he says he doesn't. I know he's threatened to stay away from you for a while before, and he's even done it sometimes after you've threatened to leave him, hasn't he. I think he's just trying to scare you into not daring to threaten to leave again when he does that.


But now, he does it because he knows it scares you, doesn't he, even though you don't threaten to leave him any more. Remember he does sick things like that because it gives him that addictive high; but also, he probably thinks that the more he can keep you scared, the less likely you are to realise you don't need him as much as you think you do, and he needs you to stay dependent on him because he's so scared of losing you, so scared of being abandoned himself. At least, that's the way a lot of alcoholics think.

Remember that even when you try hard to please him, he still upsets you, so whether you do or don't try to please him probably doesn't make that much difference to his behaviour.

And begging him to be nice only makes him think it really matters to you so he's got power over you, and so he thinks he can use that power to manipulate you into doing what he wants and to upset you, to make himself feel like the strong, significant one. He likes to feel like the powerful one in the relationship, and when you behave as if he's really got all the power and you have to beg him for things, it just inflates his ego and he thinks he can use his power to upset you, to get that sick high he's so fond of.

So if you stand up for yourself and do things that'll help you calm down and get more out of life, and he says and does things to upset you, remember that he probably would have been doing upsetting things anyway.

The more you act as if you're not so dependent on him as you think, the more you'll come to believe it.

It isn't your responsibility to make him happy all the time no matter what. Husbands have a responsibility to make their wives happy. If he isn't doing it, you have the right to make yourself happier even if it means inconveniencing him. So you have the right to walk away from threats or other bad behaviour.

If you act as if you're not afraid of his threats to lock you out of the house for good or find another woman or whatever for long enough, chances are you'll become unafraid. People who act more confident often find they start feeling more confident.

He Can Turn On the Charm, But it Never Lasts

Sinister look

Even if he did find another woman, what would she be getting? Do you really, really believe he could be so nasty to you one minute, and wonderful with her the next? You know what he's like. He was charming to you at first, wasn't he, but he didn't keep it up; and he isn't charming now, apart from in the odd moments when he decides he needs to be nice to keep you hooked on the relationship. He wouldn't be able to keep it up for that long with anyone. If he did find another woman, you ought to feel sorry for her, not jealous of her and upset he's gone! And if she had any sense, she'd soon come to you and start begging you to take him back!

I know you don't like me saying this and you think I'm just being cynical. But I've read in a number of articles, and read in this book, and heard on the radio that being alternately charming and threatening is typical alcoholic/wife beater behaviour. I've even read that a typical characteristic of a psychopath is that they can be charming when they want to be. You think Tom's unique, and he probably is to some extent, but when he treats you as if you're really special one day and then he's really nasty to you the next, he's behaving just like other alcoholics and wife beaters. These things are typical characteristics of people like that. And they typically behave like that with any woman they have a relationship with.

If You Want To Try Seeing Him Again After You've Left

Talking on the phone

If you've left him for a few weeks or months, don't be afraid if you want to meet him again for a weekend or however long you decide you can handle it, but then he says he doesn't know if he needs you any more. He might just be playing the old game of scaring you to get an upset response from you that will boost his ego and make him feel powerful and high, because he thinks you need him so much. You might be able to react more calmly if you pretend he's just a casual friend you're phoning up because you want to know if they're free to come out for coffee and a chat but they're busy, so you don't care much but just say something like, "See you then" in a friendly way, and then drop the matter.

If you keep reacting like that, instead of being upset, you should come to feel like that. And because Tom will know he can't play his games with you any more, chances are he'll develop a new respect for you.

Make sure you're the one to decide when you see him. If you worry that you won't be able to handle it, don't worry about putting the visit off for a while. Don't worry about explaining why.

In the meantime, you might get to enjoy the extra tranquillity in your life, and you might be free to do more of the things you enjoy. I think you need some time to care for yourself sometimes, and putting your own needs first will be good for you.

So feel free to be your own boss and leave whenever you think you need to.

Part Twenty-Six
Don't Allow Yourself to be Isolated If You Can Help It

The more isolated a person is, the more they're likely to believe what someone else says, because the less alternative opinions they'll be hearing.

A lot of alcoholics might know they can have more control over their wives if they isolate them. Or they might do it because they're scared their wives will find someone else, or because they genuinely think that escaping from their problems will help them get sober. But it takes more to break free from an addiction than a simple change of environment.


I know a lot of alcoholics tell their wives they want to go and live somewhere in the countryside in an old-fashioned cottage away from other people because that would help them to get sober. The wife thinks it's very romantic and has high hopes that her husband will get sober, so she agrees. But it often turns out badly, or his demands become more and more unreasonable.

The author of the book I've been reading says a couple saved money for twelve years to buy a log cabin in the country. They had six children, but they both worked. All the money the wife earned went towards the cabin they were going to buy, while any money the husband earned that they didn't need went towards his drinking. She hated her job, and was annoyed because she knew that normal couples would be able to spend their extra money getting nice furniture and going out regularly. They couldn't.

They bought the cabin in the end, but her husband started using it as a place to drink at weekends!

His demands grew more crazy, when he demanded she just abandon the children and come and live with him there! She thought that was just too much!

When things went well, he'd often tell her he didn't need her. But at other times, he'd feel so threatened because she was giving attention to other people that he couldn't even bear to share her with their children!

Another wife said her husband refused to allow her to get a pet she wanted to get to cheer their home up, because he couldn't even bear to share her with an animal!

This is how insane and selfish alcoholism can make people!

Grinning maliciously

The author says that one alcoholic managed to isolate his wife from a best friend of hers by phoning the friend up and bringing the conversation around to sex, calling his wife in to listen. Then when he'd put the phone down, he told her he had an almost irresistible urge to go to bed with her friend. She didn't phone her friend up for months.

Isolating Yourself Could Make him More Contemptuous of You

A big problem with isolating yourself because an alcoholic promises he can get sober if you do is that if he thinks you'll do everything he says, even if it's as drastic as doing that, he'll feel contempt for you. So you might think you're trying to please him, when really, you're making him more contemptuous of you because you can be so easily manipulated by him.

And if the guilt of doing such things to you gets to him too strongly, he'll dump you, because he can't stand to live with the guilt his behaviour makes him feel any more. It's sad that you'll probably think it's your fault and feel a failure. You'll be letting a man whose thinking is all warped determine what you think of yourself! His thinking isn't sane.

If he has contempt for you, it'll be because you're prepared to live with him when he has such contempt for himself. You know the kind of thing: "This person must be a loser if she can let a loser like me push her around!" It won't be because you've failed him.

So actually, if you stand up to him, refuse to leave the kids, get pets if you want, see your friends, or whatever you want to do, it might make it much more likely he'll stay with you, since he'll have more respect for you because you haven't allowed him to push you around. And you'll have more respect for yourself, which might be the most important thing.

If you do even one thing out of self-respect instead of fear, it'll make you feel good, maybe better than you've felt in a long time. And you'll want to repeat that feeling, so you might do more things that mean you're being good to yourself, which should increase your self-worth, and that might become more important to you than giving in to his unreasonable demands in the hope that you'll keep him that way and it might make him better.

Part Twenty-Seven
Don't Ask His Permission For Things

Asking Tom's permission for things might make you feel secure and as if he's taking care of you, but really, it's just giving him another opportunity to get a kick out of feeling like the powerful one. Sometimes, he says you can't do something, and I know there isn't a good reason why.

I know you think you're pleasing him so he might just not be so nasty or not drink so much, but it doesn't work, does it.

Standing up for yourself will probably get easier the more you try it, because the more you find you're capable of doing it, the more confident you'll be about being able to do it, and the more you'll probably be comfortable with doing it. And you might find out that the consequences of doing it aren't as bad as you were worried they'd be. And you'll probably feel better about yourself once you do. I think trying to make him feel like the strong one even when you know he isn't by asking his permission will just keep him on his power trip and stop you having more confidence.

There are a few things that might help you stand up for yourself if you bear them in mind, things the book I've been reading suggests:

Of course, I'm not saying you should do what you want in a selfish way, not caring who gets hurt, like Tom does when he insists that no one's going to tell him what to do, like when he says nasty things about you in front of the children, and then says he isn't going to let anyone boss him around when you ask him not to. I'm just saying I think you should do the things that most people would do without feeling the need to ask anyone's permission, without asking his.

Part Twenty-Eight
Behave as if You Deserve Respect, and You'll Come to Believe You Do

Don't rely on someone else for your happiness and self worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can't love and respect yourself - no one else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are - completely; the good and the bad - and make changes as YOU see fit - not because you think someone else wants you to be different.
--Stacey Charter

Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.
--F. Scott Fitzgerald

Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

If people behave like the person they'd like to be, it can often happen that they end up being like that. And you can change your feelings by acting differently. Some people think they'll need years of therapy delving into the root causes of their unhappiness to help them feel good, but people can start to feel good without all that.

The book I've been reading tells the story of a recovering alcoholic who wanted to be a better father, to make it up to his children for the times when he was a bad one when he'd been drinking. He had some ideas about what a good father should be like, and he asked people who he thought were good parents how they treated their children.

He found out they spent more time with them than he had, were more patient with them, and gave them more attention.

Child playing

He started acting as if he cared about his children, even when he didn't. He listened when his son came home from school and wanted to tell him something, even when he wasn't interested. He wasn't in the mood to listen, but he made himself. And he chose one time a week when they'd all go out and do something together, and stuck to it.

He said he felt bad at first because he didn't actually feel caring towards his children, and he felt as if he was play-acting. But he kept at it, because he believed things would change.

A couple of months later, he realised his feelings had changed. He hadn't noticed before because it was gradual. But he realised he'd started looking forward to seeing his children when he came in from work. He started to enjoy being with them.

The author says someone else whose personality changed a bit when they changed their actions was a young woman who'd been neurotically dependent on men. She'd learned to be like that from the way her mother behaved with her father.

She'd spent eight years in therapy and hadn't got any better. And she'd read several books and articles that told her she needed to stop being so dependent on men. But she still was. She was always choosing alcoholics or drug addicts or people with warped personalities for boyfriends. She'd assumed she'd have to go through a lengthy process of uncovering the causes of that before she could change. But she got to the point where she couldn't stand things the way they were any more.

She went to a friend who was mentally healthy and had a good marriage and asked her advice. The friend pointed out to her that in the past, she'd always gone into a relationship with the attitude, "What can I do for you?" Her friend advised her that in future, she should turn that around and take the attitude, "What can you do for me?"

That meant she had to behave differently when it came to all kinds of things. But she managed it. After that, whenever she went out with a man, she would always make a conscious effort to stop herself going out of her way to please him and put herself out for him when it was inconvenient for her without demanding much at all from him, as she had before out of fear of being rejected. She realised that decent men want women who like themselves. She found that if she acted in the old way, she got the types of men she used to get again. And if she acted in the new way and those types rejected her, she just thought of it as a process where the good ones would be selected out from the bad ones. She said the more healthy she got, the more she was glad to lose men who were like the other ones.

She said she was learning to expect to be treated well by men, rather than acting as if she was indebted to them every time they did something nice for her.

She said that when she started behaving as if she valued herself, she didn't really believe she could change, and wasn't convinced anyone would want her if she did. But she thought she had to have a go, and so she decided to act as if she believed things would get a lot better if she behaved differently.

She said if she'd waited to be convinced it would work before she changed, she never would have changed. But she's glad she started behaving differently before she was convinced things would get better, because they did.

So if you act as if things can change even though you're not sure they will, you might be really pleased about what happens. Even if you're feeling discouraged, if you act as if you feel more positive, things might improve.

I'm not suggesting you go out and find a new man. But if you start treating yourself as if you deserve respect, and showing the man you've already got that you respect yourself more now, his own behaviour towards you might change. And whether it does or not, you won't allow yourself to be pushed around so much, and he'll probably respect you more for that.

Part Twenty-Nine
Try to Stop Spending Your Life Worrying About the Alcoholic

I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tommorrow. It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us.
--Dorothy Dix

Feelings are not supposed to be logical. Dangerous is the man who has rationalized his emotions.
--David Borenstein

You know, I think you're addicted to Tom in a way. He hooks you in with his manipulation games, telling you you're so good to stay with him and you'll really be doing him a favour by doing this, that or the other. So you do it, hoping he'll be pleased. But then he treats you like dirt, and when you've got over being angry, you feel a failure and crave his approval again, because you think that if only you can do better and be good enough for him, you'll please him. And just to keep you hooked on trying, he does praise you sometimes to make you think it's worth the effort. But then he treats you with disrespect again, you get angry again, and the whole cycle starts off again.

I know you're always hoping he'll start putting you first, before the drink. But alcoholics never put anything before the drink. It isn't going to happen, because people put whatever they've got a strong craving for first, because the craving takes over their emotions.

Biting fingernails

Is it your need to be put before the drink that keeps you falling for his games? He isn't going to put you first and treat you with more consideration till he gives up drinking, because the drink's the most important thing in his life right now.

But I think your craving for his approval and your constant worrying about whether he's allright and your anger towards him might be a bit of an addiction too. It reminds me a bit of something that happened to my dad. Nothing like what's happening to you, but just one or two things seem a bit similar. He used to be addicted to smoking. He managed to give it up one day, and never wanted to smoke again. He'd given up cigarette smoking years earlier, and was just addicted to smoking a pipe. He would always be asking one of us kids to go and buy him a little bit of tobacco.

But someone went abroad for a week or so when I was a teenager, and brought him back lots of tobacco. He found he lost the urge to smoke after that. He said that what had kept it going was the craving for more that he got when he worried he might be going to run out. When he had lots and lots, there was no urgency to get some more, so it took the excitement out of it and he lost interest in smoking.

I'm not saying that would work for everyone. I expect that lots of people would smoke more if they got given lots of tobacco.

But I'm wondering if things are a bit like that with you and your attitude to Tom. You crave his approval, and you always seem to be in a state of anxiety and excitement, wondering whether you'll manage to work things out so you stay on good terms with him for the day, whether he's allright, or whether he's about to do something bad again and whether you'll cope with it. If he stopped drinking and calmed right down, you wouldn't be living with this excitement all the time, so maybe you'd lose the craving to revolve your life around him all the time.

You might think your life would be boring if you missed out on all that excitement. But maybe you'd get to enjoy being calmer and having more peace of mind. And he'd be treating you better as well.

But you could get more peace of mind by doing things that make you feel calmer and bring you more enjoyment in life anyway. The excitement of revolving your life around him is a poor substitute for the real enjoyment you could find if you spent more time looking after your own needs, enjoyment you could have without the terrible lows of the depression you get when he's nasty to you.

The Way He Makes You Revolve Your Life Around Him


I know you think you have to revolve your life around him, because he manipulates you into thinking that. You've told me that if someone starts talking to you when you're walking down the road with Tom, for example, he won't let you take your attention away from him for long. He'll try to hog the conversation, or make nasty jokes about how you're so irresponsible you'd stand there talking all day and forget to buy any food if it was left up to you.

Or if you want to go out to enjoy yourself with a few friends, he'll tell you he needs you to stay with him in case he passes out or dies, because you're so good and caring. So you feel you have to stay with him, and you miss out on your time out. But is he grateful? Not from what I've heard.

Or if he wants you to come out with him, he'll shout at you when you beg him not to drink that much, saying you're always nagging him and trying to control him and he doesn't want you to come with him after all. If you act as if you're happy to stay at home, he'll quickly change his mind and say he needs you, and he promises not to behave badly. But of course, he breaks his promises when you're out, and when you get upset, he gets abusive and shouts that you should have stayed at home after all. But even though you're upset, you're glad you went, because you worry he might have done something worse if you weren't there. So you're hooked into doing something that really upsets you.

He likes you to be hooked into doing it, because if he can accuse you of nagging or controlling or stressing him out or whatever, it means he can blame you for his drinking instead of taking the responsibility for it himself. It means he thinks he's got an excuse to do it.

And being abusive towards you makes him feel good for a while because seeing you upset makes him think he's the powerful one. And you believe him, so you feel worse and worse about yourself.

The reason alcoholics do that, according to the book I'm reading, is because they feel so bad about themselves and out of control of their lives that instead of focusing on how they can improve their lives, they feel they have to make themselves feel they're at least better than someone and in control of someone. That makes them feel good for a while, but the feeling doesn't last, so they have to do it over and over again to get it again.

Doing More Things to Make Yourself Happier

If you try to detach yourself from his behaviour so it's not as if you're hooked on revolving your life around him any more, and you start to do things that'll make your own life more satisfying without him, you might actually be doing him a favour, since if he thinks he might be really ill one day and maybe no one will be there to rescue him, he might get so scared it'll motivate him to seek help after all.


You're worried he'll do worse things if you stop giving him so much attention. But actually, he probably won't. Alcoholics tend to be very afraid of losing their partners, even though they don't like to think so. In fact, if you were to do everything he wanted, dump the children on someone and run off with him to the countryside and revolve your entire day around him every day, that's probably when he'd become most contemptuous of you for being so easily manipulated, and so that's when he'd probably be most likely to leave you.

But then, it's not as if you own him anyway; the alcohol does. He'll never put you first while his cravings for it are so strong. So you need to do something to make your life better yourself, and to try to stop worrying about him all the time. Here are a few things you could do:

  1. Do at least one thing a day just for you, something that'll make you feel more calm and relaxed, or something you'll enjoy. Either way, you'll feel refreshed afterwards. Try and take half an hour out to do something nice for yourself if you can.
  2. Think back over your life and try to remember what hobbies you've had, or what things you've enjoyed doing that you've been good at, like painting, pottery or whatever. Develop your talents again. You might have new ones just waiting to be discovered. What would you like to learn more about or do more of? Find something calming that will absorb you and give you more confidence in yourself, as well as giving you a bit of fun and taking your mind off him for a while.
  3. Get in touch with old friends again. If you tell them why you've ignored them and that you've missed them, since I know you have, they might even be sympathetic. I expect you'll enjoy catching up on all their news.
  4. How about getting a job, whether it's full-time, part-time or whatever. Get something that'll get you out of that unhealthy atmosphere in your house so you can have a break from thinking about alcoholism for a while. Thinking about outside things will do you good. And you might make new friends. And I think you should keep any money you get for yourself. You need to have an emergency fund you know he won't get hold of for drink, and it's only fair that you have some money you can use for enjoying yourself as well, so you don't have to beg him for some.
  5. If not for you, at least do all this for your children. If they learn to relate to people in the sick way you and Tom have been relating to each other, chances are they'll grow up to be alcoholics, or marry them, or to be mentally ill in some way. I know that isn't a nice thing to say. But you can do your best to make things turn out the opposite way. Parents can be powerful role models for their children. If you get healthy and improve your life, and become the kind of parent you'd love them to imitate, then chances are they will imitate your example, and so they'll end up mentally healthy as well.

Part Thirty
Don't Feel Guilty About Feeling Angry With the Alcoholic

Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way... that is not easy.

I know you're angry with Tom, and you're angry with yourself for staying with him and being scared to leave. It's natural to be angry. It'll help if you can accept it, rather than feeling guilty about it. It's healthy to feel angry about being treated like dirt.

Don't feel guilty about having been angry with Tom. Putting up with his behaviour's worse, because that makes him think it's OK.


But try to tune him out when you can, rather than becoming angry with him, for your own sake, so you can break out of the sick cycle you're both in, where you shout at him and maybe even hit him, and he gets angry and rinks more, and then he shouts at you and you really have a go at him, and he gets upset and cries like a baby and tells you what a terrible person he knows he is, and you feel guilty and sorry for him for having been so terrible to him yourself that you've made him break down like that. You're angry and upset with yourself for having been angry with him, and think you owe it to him to stay with him and try harder to be nice and caring to him. But then he soon goes back to being nasty, you get angry again, and the whole process starts again.

You don't have to be trapped in this horrible cycle of events.

If you kept calm instead of shouting, you'd avoid that guilt. I'm sure he deserves to be shouted at - his behaviour's enough to make anyone angry. But when you don't get angry, you don't provoke his crying sessions that make you feel so bad and so indebted to him, and that has to be a very good thing, because it's your feelings of guilt at having been nasty to him that stop you moving forward with your life and taking a firm stand and giving him less attention so you can develop a more fulfilling life for yourself. So when you don't feel guilty any more, you'll feel freer to make efforts to get you and your marriage more healthy.

I know you don't like the thought of him getting away with his bad behaviour without being punished for it by you. But when you think about it, is he really getting a good deal? He behaves at his worst when he's been drinking, and every time he drinks, it's ruining his health more. The drink's killing him. So he's suffering the consequences allright.

I'm not suggesting you feel sorry for him. Pity won't motivate him to get better. Realising how much he's hurting himself is more likely to do that. He might need to feel a bit of pain to motivate himself to change.

Try and remember that next time you want to shout at him. And remember your shouting gives him an excuse for drinking, because he can say it's your yelling that makes him want to do it. If you don't shout, at least that's one excuse he can't use. And that'll make you feel better, because I know you sometimes wonder if it is really all your fault, and it makes you feel even worse about yourself.

When He Doesn't Pay Bills

I'm not saying you should put up with unacceptable behaviour, especially when it affects your family's security or comfort, like when he doesn't pay bills or do other things he's responsible for doing. Don't make excuses for him. That'll make him less motivated to change. You've got a right to be angry.

The thing is that being angry doesn't make him pay the bills. You've often been angry with him for not paying them, but it hasn't made him do it, has it.


If you get a job, you can at least pay the important ones like the electricity bill yourself, when you know your children will suffer if it isn't paid. But if it's a bill he's going to take the consequences for himself if he doesn't pay it, then don't pay it, and let the consequences happen to him. The more a person gets another person out of trouble rather than letting them face the consequences so they learn a lesson by it, the more they'll have to do it, because the less painful trouble is to a person, the less desperate they'll be to avoid it in future. Feeling the consequences of his actions will make him more likely to end up deciding that alcoholism isn't worth it.

But try not to be angry with him, since among other things, anger can give you tension that can lead to physical ailments like migraine and other things.

Part Thirty-One
Don't Discuss the Reasons for his Behaviour With Him, and Don't Tell him you're Changing, Just Do It

I feel that any form of so called psychotherapy is strongly contraindicated for addicts. The question Why did you start using narcotics in the first place? should never be asked. It is quite as irrelevant to treatment as it would be to ask a malarial patient why he went to a malarial area.
--William S. Burroughs

I think you tire yourself out sometimes trying to explain to him where he's going wrong and listening to him justify himself by telling you about his horrible childhood. I know you feel closer to him when he does that, but then he soon goes back to doing the same things as before over again, doesn't he.

And don't tell him you intend to change your behaviour. If a wife of an alcoholic says she's going to change but then finds it harder than she realised so it takes longer than she thought, her alcoholic will just have another excuse to sneer at her. It would have been better not to tell him, but to let him find out by her actions. Alcoholics tend not to listen much to what people say anyway. He'll learn better if he just sees you acting differently.

The author of the book I've been reading tells a story about a support group meeting for spouses of alcoholics, where one very tired woman told the others about how she'd been up literally all the night before, as she had done several times in the past, explaining to her alcoholic husband where he was going wrong and how much he was hurting her and the children, and listening to him telling her about how bad his childhood was, and about people who'd "let him down" over the years. She'd heard a lot of it before, but some of it was new to her, and she wanted to hear more, hoping to hear something that would give her an idea of why he drank and behaved in such a "crazy" way, because she hoped it would help her help him.

They'd talked and talked all night, and she finally began to think things were looking promising. But then half an hour later, they were back to fighting again. She realised the whole night had been wasted, and she got very depressed, knowing she'd have to go to work without any sleep.

Most of the women in the room said similar things had happened to them. When they weren't too angry, anxious or depressed, they tried to be their husbands' counsellors, trying to help them understand why they did what they did. Two had done that for over ten years. It had never worked for any of them.

But all of them said their husbands liked those times because they made the two of them closer. They couldn't understand why they liked them though, since nothing ever changed between them. But then they themselves liked them as well, even though nothing ever changed.

The author says that the reason the alcoholics would have liked those sessions was because they knew they didn't do any good, but on the other hand, they knew they were opportunities for their wives to let go of all their anger and fear and calm down by talking and talking, as if the sessions were a "safety valve". They would know that while their wives were talking, their wives wouldn't be doing anything to change things. I'm sure they loved all the attention as well.

She said the wives liked those sessions because they really hoped they might do some good, and while they were going on, they felt close to their husbands, which was a nice break from fighting. Also, trying to change things that way seemed easier than more drastic ways of changing things that might have been recommended to them.

And when things went wrong again, they could put the blame on their husbands, since they knew it couldn't be them, because they'd done so much to help, so they could take a nice break from being blamed by their husbands for their drunken behaviour and wondering if it really was all their fault.

Why Talking Doesn't Work, and What Works Better

Alcoholics are often so used to being told off and sympathised with that they tend not to listen. But most important is that they don't see why they should change till they have an incentive to change, till they really want something they'll only get if they do. Telling an alcoholic husband how much he's hurting the children won't be an incentive; he has to want something for himself that he knows he'll have to change his behaviour to get. Alcoholism makes people selfish. He has to want something new, not just be dissatisfied with the old.

So if you want him to be nice to you, you need to make sure it's in his best interests to be nice. One way of doing that is to make sure he knows there will be consequences of not being nice that he won't like, such as you not doing something he wants.

Dinner time

One woman in the support group said she used that method at dinnertime. She said her husband would always start doing something when she called the family for dinner just to annoy her, and not come in till it was cold. She decided to stop shouting or feeling depressed and change things.

So one day, she didn't say anything after she'd called him and he didn't come, but when everyone else had finished dinner, she took his and put it in the fridge.

He came in and shouted angrily, asking why she'd done it, but she simply calmly answered that dinner was put on the table when it was ready, and when those at the table had finished, the table was cleared.

Then, she didn't get into an argument with him or try to justify herself, but just walked away.

The next time it happened and he started shouting and making sarcastic comments, she kept just as calm and firm about what she was doing. She didn't fall for the bait and get into a discussion about it. Alcoholics tend not to see reason, but just get more and more stubborn till the person they're arguing with gives up and just gets depressed. But if you know you're right, you don't need to discuss it.

The woman's husband started turning up for dinner on time after that, and had more respect for her, because she was behaving as if she deserved it and wouldn't put up with not having it.

The author advises people to start off with small changes where they know they can act differently and more firmly without discussing it with their husbands, rather than trying to change their behaviour all at once. Changing gradually will feel more comfortable, and people are more likely to succeed if they start off by doing things they feel fairly sure they can do. Each success encourages them to try something more challenging. Trying everything at once might make you feel like a failure if you can't manage it. But building up to big changes will be more likely to make you feel more and more confident you can act differently.

Part Thirty-Two
Don't Tell Him How to Get Sober

Not unless you feel fairly sure he's in the mood to listen, such as if he's thinking seriously about what the alcohol's doing to him.

You know you've tried to give him ideas on getting sober a number of times before at other times, and he goes and drinks more, to spite you. Defying you makes him feel like the one with the power, so he feels good.

Banging your head against a brick wall

He'll do whatever he wants no matter what you say, until he decides for himself that he wants to change.

That might sound depressing, but remember he'll have to change sometime; he can't go on like this forever without dying or getting brain damage, no matter how often he says he intends to keep drinking. And when you change your own behaviour, it'll have a positive influence on him, and might motivate him to change.

Till he really wants to change, it won't matter what you say to him and how you say it; when the craving for alcohol overtakes him, that'll become the most important thing in his life.

If he doesn't want to get sober for a while, I think the best thing you can do in the meantime is to concentrate on making yourself happy regardless of his drinking. You deserve to be happy. And if you carry on the way you are, worrying about him and showing you're scared of him and what he's doing to himself, then in his alcohol-warped mind, instead of being grateful you care, he'll feel contemptuous of you, thinking you're weak, and getting that addicts' high he gets from feeling like the powerful one, which goes hand-in-hand with his addiction to drink. He'll hurt you more to feel even more powerful and get even more high from it.

So caring about him in the way you do is really feeding his sickness. I know that's hard to take. But the more you show him you're worried and scared, the more pleasure he gets from hurting you, not because he's hurting you, but because it makes him feel big, and gives him that adrenaline rush he likes, which is a substitute for real happiness. If you can detach from him and the emotional roller coaster you're on and find happiness for yourself and show him it's possible to be genuinely happy, he might end up wanting what you've got.

I know you're a bit scared to do that, because improving your life might mean leaving him for a while every now and then, and you're not sure you can live without him, and you're scared you'll be lonely. But the more you achieve on your own, the more confident you'll get that you can live without him. If you start off by leaving him for short times, you'll be able to find your feet gradually so it isn't so daunting.

And friendship can stop you being lonely.

You could really help him by doing new things that make you happy. He needs to know there's a better life for him if he breaks out of the unhealthy lifestyle he's living. You can show him that, by doing more things that make you happy first, to give him an example.

Part Thirty-Three
Don't be Scared When he Threatens to Drink

You know that if you show him you're scared, he'll just get that sick addicts' high he gets from feeling powerful, and he'll want to hurt you some more, to get more of the high. You need to help him by taking the temptation to do that out of his way. You can do that by acting as if you're not scared.

And the more you do that, the more you might find you're just not scared any more.

The author of the book I've learned about alcoholism from says that one woman told her that she'd never have thought she'd get to the point that she was so unafraid of her husband's threats that she just didn't care whether he threatened to drink, leave her, or do or not do anything else, but it happened.

Before it did, she'd been getting more healthy in a lot of other parts of her life, becoming calmer and looking after her well-being better, but she'd still always lose her temper when he hinted that he would go somewhere where she knew he might drink. He would pretend to be surprised when she did that, saying he didn't realise he'd said something upsetting, and that he wouldn't want to upset her; but then he'd grin, knowing he'd managed to manipulate her into an argument again, feeling powerful because he knew he could make her react like that. She knew he was manipulating her, but she didn't think she could stop her behaviour.

But then one day, she realised she was feeling much calmer than she used to. Improving other parts of her life had been slowly making her more healthy all-round, though she hadn't realised she was getting better, and had been depressed about her habit, thinking it might never change.

But she said that that evening, she felt calm and peaceful for hours while she was thinking about things that used to upset her. That had never happened before. She realised she'd even walked past places that sold drink that day without getting upset. They had frightened her before, but now they didn't.

After that, she started living in a way that proved to him beyond all doubt that she wasn't afraid of him and his threats.

When he told her she only looked good in black and that he'd flirt with other women if she wore bright colours, she bought a shocking pink outfit to wear.

He said he beat up the wife he'd had before, and she looked him straight in the eye and told him that if he even threatened to do that to her, she'd have him in jail before he knew it!

The author says that the more you behave as if you're afraid of the alcoholic's threats, the more arrogant he'll feel, puffed up by the feeling of power that's making him high, and so the more he'll threaten, to get that feeling some more. But the less afraid you are of his threats, the less likely he is to use them, because he knows he won't get that pleasurable feeling of power over you when he does that makes him feel so big.

Things You Can Do to Stop Yourself Reacting to his Threats

If you don't like the idea of just ignoring his threats, you might still be able to let them go without reacting. It might help him as well as you if you can make the consequences of his threats more painful for him than pleasurable, which will be like a discipline that's good for him because it helps him get motivated to give up his hurtful behaviour.

One way you can do that is by leaving for a few minutes, an hour or however long you want, every time he makes a threat to drink or be hurtful in some other way. Do whatever makes you feel you keep your dignity.


One thing you can do when he goes out drinking is to go out somewhere nice yourself and get back later than he does, radiant with the good time you had, smiling at him, and telling him you enjoyed your evening. Ask how his evening went, and look vaguely sad if he tells you it went badly, or if he pretends it was good. Then look distracted and start doing something that'll make him think you're thinking about yourself, not him, like brushing your hair or removing your make-up.

By doing that kind of thing, you cut down the number of unhealthy addictive highs he can get by feeling as if he's got power over you by controlling your emotions. And an addiction that isn't being fed can slowly die, which is a good thing.

So try not to make him feel all powerful by begging him not to hurt you or not to drink any more.

If he Threatens to Commit Suicide


Even if he threatens to kill himself, don't panic, but call the emergency services. They'll take him to hospital. This might sound strange, but if he's serious about killing himself, that could be a good thing, because he might get the help he needs to get sober and sort his life out. If he isn't serious, he probably won't threaten to kill himself again, since the consequences will be embarrassing for him, rather than being what he wanted, which will have been you being manipulated into becoming afraid or whatever.

Calling the emergency services will also mean you've acted responsibly in seeking help.

It might take a bit of practice before you can always be unafraid of his threats. But don't be discouraged; the more you try, the easier it'll hopefully become.

Part Thirty-Four
Don't Bother Pointing Out that He's Been Drinking Again

It never makes him stop and think, does it. It doesn't achieve anything, but just makes him start an argument. I'm not telling you you shouldn't say it because you're nagging him; anyone would want to nag him! but it's just another excuse for him to get annoyed with you and take out his frustrations on you by arguing with you.


I know you want to point out to him you know when he's been drinking so he doesn't think he's fooled you into believing he hasn't been drinking when he says he hasn't, but he never stops and admits you're right, does he, because he's so stubborn. He just gets angry and denies it some more, and then an argument starts, and he ends up going and drinking some more and blaming it on you. Then you're just upset.

You might be angry and not want him to get away with trying to fool you into believing he hasn't been drinking, but you're the one suffering the consequences of these arguments that start, not him.

Getting Out of the Habit of Arguing About it


Arguments like that can get to be such habits that people can get into them before they've even had time to really think about what's happening. So they can be difficult to break out of. But you can stop yourself pointing out his drinking, if you make very deliberate efforts to do other things when you feel the temptation to criticize him for drinking again.

You could leave the room as soon as you realise he's been drinking and you've got an urge to point it out. Or you could leave the house and phone a friend, one who's supportive of the changes you're trying to make in your life.

If you can't leave the room, try making an effort to get absorbed in thoughts of something else for a little while. Perhaps you could think about something enjoyable you'll be doing soon. If you're not planning to do something enjoyable soon, perhaps you should be.

Don't tell him what you're doing or why, or make any comments that might annoy him unnecessarily, because that will encourage him to start an argument with you. And keeping quiet will mean he can't blame you for any more drinking he does after that, saying it's because of your nagging.

What the Alcoholic Might Do if you Stop Pointing Out his Drinking

He'll probably be confused about what's happening, and scared of your new attitude and what it might mean.

But for a while, he might be relieved you're not complaining about it, and comment about how much nicer it is to come home to you now you're not nagging any more. If you're not careful, you'll be irritated and say something that lets him start one of the old arguments he loves.

If you refuse to let him, but just carry on with your behaviour, he'll soon start missing all the attention and the high he gets from arguing, and he'll get scared of losing the attention. He'll realise you're beginning to focus on your own needs rather than him, and he'll start trying to get you to react to him again so you're giving him all your attention again and so you're getting upset so he can feel like the one in control again. But you won't let that happen. So soon your self-esteem will be going right up. You'll be doing new things to make your life better, and you'll realise you can do things you never thought you could do before. That'll make you more confident.

Then, the alcoholic will have a lot more time to think and worry about his drinking, because he won't be focusing all his attention on defending his behaviour and upsetting you. The more time he has to think about his drinking, the more likely he is to get concerned about it.

Part Thirty-Five
Don't Expect him to be Sober After he Promises he Will Be

I know you get really upset because he keeps promising he'll stay off the drink for the day or forever or whatever, and then he goes back to it that same day. You feel betrayed, don't you. But he probably really does mean it when he promises to stay sober. The trouble with addictions is that they can give people such strong cravings that people can't defeat them using will power on its own. People have to come to find the addiction really emotionally distasteful to get over it, because if they can, they can counter the emotion that gives them the craving with an equally strong one that makes them feel disgusted by the addiction or something. Emotions are much more powerful than just thoughts. So no matter how much of an effort of the will he makes, it'll be difficult to stay off the drink unless he comes to have a strong emotional reaction to it that puts him off.

Sign saying I'm going insane

The author of the book I've got on alcoholism says that one woman she knows often told people that her husband had been in Alcoholics Anonymous for twenty-five years, and she had been in the support group for families of alcoholics, Al-Anon, for thirty years; and for all that time, her "insanity" was that she believed her husband every time he walked out the door in the morning and said he'd come home sober. She'd spend the day half-believing and half-fearful, but when he didn't come home sober, she'd get angry and scream at him as she always did on such occasions, believing it would make him come home sober the next day. But it never did.

Try to remember that when he comes home drunk after he's promised you he'll be sober, he isn't just doing it to annoy you. He probably really thought he could come home sober, thinking he had the will power to manage it. But emotions like cravings for addictive things can easily overpower will power. So despite his good intentions, he won't have been able to manage it.

But that doesn't mean things won't change. Actually, when you stop expecting him to change and getting angry when he breaks his promises, he's more likely to find he can change. When you can be more calm around him because you've stopped taking his broken promises so personally, and when you've decided to make yourself happier no matter whether he's drunk or sober, so you start making your life more interesting and going out more, perhaps he'll start feeling less stressed and wanting what you've got. If a life of doing things he can enjoy better if he's sober starts to appeal to him more than a drunken life, the emotion of longing for something better and enjoying it when he gets it that that makes him feel will begin to be what he needs to fight against the emotions he gets when he craves alcohol that make him want to drink.

And when you're more peaceful around him, he'll start to realise he can't blame you for his drinking any more, so he'll have to start facing the fact that it's his responsibility and that it's up to him to do something about it.

Part Thirty-Six
Stop Checking the Bars for Him

I know you're often going out at night to find Tom in a bar because you're scared of what he might be doing there, for instance you worry he'll be chatting up other women, and you're worried that if you stay at home, you might panic because you imagine him doing worse things than he really is.

And I know you think you can stop him getting away with some things if you go and find him, and you don't want him to think he's got away with lying to you when he tells you he hasn't been drinking.


But the craving for drink's the most important thing in his world at the moment, so you won't make him drink any less by catching him at it. He always drinks whether you're there or not, doesn't he. He just gets angry when you criticize him for it, and then blames you and says you're making him want to drink more.

If you find something enjoyable to do instead of searching for him in the bars, then you won't be spending time worrying and worrying about what he might be doing. And you're so familiar with what he gets up to nowadays anyway that you probably wouldn't really imagine he's doing worse things than he really is, anyway.

Try cutting down the amount you look for him or to stop looking altogether, and see what happens. Try to focus on doing things you enjoy when he's out, instead of spending your time worrying and checking on him. You might find you get more peace of mind.

Often, you're the one who ends up worrying that you look bad when you go to the bars to find him, aren't you, because you end up shouting at him, and worry you might be thrown out. So you get more upset by going there, don't you, not less.

I know you hate it when he's chatting other women up and you're scared of what he might do if you're not there, but knowing it scares you just makes him more cruel, doesn't it, when he uses it to threaten that he's going to go off with other women and do things far more hurtful to you than anything he probably will do.

And if he wants to do something hurtful to you, there's the risk he'll do it whether you're there or not if he can, and you being there might even make him more likely to do it, because of that heady feeling of power he enjoys when he can feel like the strong one, the one in control.

So I think going out to look for him makes you far more upset than you would be if you decided that whatever he did, you were going to improve your own life by stopping caring so much and working to find new things to do that you'll enjoy doing and that'll make your life more worth living.

I know you know deep down that going to find him usually just ends up with you more upset than you were before, so when you can stop doing it so much and stop worrying about what he's doing, it'll mean you're getting healthier. Remember that, and you can feel entitled to congratulate yourself and feel pleased with yourself when you stop checking on him so much, even when you've only managed to cut it down a little bit so far, or resisted the temptation only till later in the evening than you went out before. It can take a while when people have been in the habit of checking for some time, but you'll probably succeed more and more, since it'll get easier the more you come to think you're better off not doing it.

Part Thirty-Seven
Stop Pleading With Him to Stay With You


I know you know you should stop doing that, and you feel ashamed of yourself because you can't seem to. But you don't need to feel ashamed of yourself. It's no wonder you keep pleading with him not to leave you when he threatens it, after all the years he's been convincing you you can't live without him by telling you you're no good and no one else would want you, and being so nice to you when he is nice that you keep feeling sure he's the one for you and means to change and be like that all the time, only for you to feel let down when he does something cruel again. Then you shout at him, and then you feel guilty, wondering how you could have said such nasty things to someone who gets so apologetic and can be so nice. Then you can't bear the thought of splitting up with him, even for a while, because you think you owe it to him to stay and try and make life better for him, and you know you'd feel even more guilty if he left, because you'd think you'd let him down when you might have been able to help him, and you don't think you could stand to feel like that.

So you've got all these things making you want to stay with him. I'm right, aren't I. But things don't have to stay like that.

One thing you've got going for you is that at least you admit these things are happening, so you know what you've got to deal with. Try not to get upset by people who look down on you for letting these things happen. They might behave in ways that are just as unhealthy and let bad things happen to them in other ways, but they don't like to admit it. I've heard of people who try to keep busy all the time, even if they get exhausted because of it, to try to block out feelings of hurt, and then they criticize other people who allow themselves to feel upset at what's happening to them. I've heard of other people who pretend to look down on other people for doing things in their lives, when they themselves do the very same things!

But you blame yourself for his alcohol problem sometimes when you know really that it's his responsibility. And you do often deny that it's as bad as it is, when I can tell it must be bad, because you tell me what goes on at other times.

I think you've done these things so often that they've just become a habit. I know old habits are hard to break, but you could try.

When you're feeling as if you can't stand it any more, try to behave differently:

How You Can Behave Differently


When he threatens to leave, show him the door instead of begging him to stay. You could even offer to pack his bags for him. If you keep that up, he'll eventually realise his threats haven't got the power over you they used to have, so he can't get that nasty addicts' high that makes him feel powerful by threatening you that he'll leave any more. When that message has sunk in, he might very well stop threatening you with that so much.

Try your best not to raise your voice if you start acting as if you don't mind him leaving though, because that'll make him more aggressive, and a heated argument's more likely to start.

He might feel so scared though that you might not mind him leaving, that he tries to frighten you into changing your mind, by threatening never to come back, or threatening to find someone else. Or he might go out and come in soon afterwards, telling you he doesn't really think you really wanted him to leave.

He might do all those things one after another.

Really, he'll probably be doing that kind of thing because he's scared to lose you, since no matter what he says, he's dependent on you. Alcoholics often are far more dependent on their wives than they like to admit, anyway.

Dealing With Feelings


You might be able to get out of this horrible cycle of feeling angry enough with him to throw him out and then feeling guilty and scared about him leaving you, if you try to remember that feelings can make people think things are much worse than they really are, and so they shouldn't be what's in control of your life. If you can try to think of them as not all-important, and try to let your head rule your emotions, then you might find it easier to do what's really best for you and best for the relationship in the long term.

It's not easy to do that, since feelings can be strong. But they can be quite changeable. If you decide on something like a length of time you'd like to separate from him for, and on when you're going to meet up while you're separated, and then you keep reminding yourself of why you're doing it, you might be able to override and change your emotions.

It's just as it is with Tom: If he wanted to break free from his addiction, he'd have to stop giving his craving feelings the significance he does now, and counteract them with logical thoughts that tell him how bad the addiction is for him.

If you try your best not to let your fears rule you and drive you to do things any more, but you let your reasoning mind stay in control as much as possible, then you'll behave in a way that gives you more respect for yourself. And then, your relationships will be more healthy as well, because you won't let yourself be pushed around.

If you start telling yourself it was never really that bad or that you could learn to cope with it, then the temptation to go back to old ways will creep in. But that won't be good for either of you. It'll be good for him, as well as for you, to know he can't push you around like he used to. If people haven't given in to a craving for something for a while, they get out of the habit of craving it. So if you don't let him get that high he gets from upsetting you any more, by being firm with him about how much you'll take, the urge for it will probably die down after a while.

And the more you practice letting your head rule your feelings, the more the feelings that make you want to plead with him to stay with you should die down.

Remember your feelings might not get so bad in the first place if you can try not to take what he says that personally, remembering he's probably just saying it because he's either scared of losing you, or he wants that sick high feeling he gets from upsetting you again.

If you've told him to leave and he has, but then you're tempted to phone him up and beg him to come back, you could try phoning a friend for support till the craving dies down.

When you are on the phone to him, try to speak as kindly and with as few words to him as you possibly can, since the more you talk, the more he has to use as ammunition to start an argument, and then you might end up shouting and saying horrible things to him, and then feeling guilty and wanting him to stay and wanting to please him again. You can try getting out of that horrible cycle by trying to be as kind as you can to him and reminding yourself all the time not to take what he says personally.

Slipping Back Into Old Habits

If you do slip back into old ways, don't get too upset with yourself. Old routines can be very hard to get out of because they've become such habits, and it can take practice. So forgive yourself quickly when you've acted in the old way again, and just get back on track and move on forward again.

Part Thirty-Eight
Don't Worry He'll Leave If He Gets Better

Alcoholics who've truly recovered don't usually leave, since they're so grateful to their families for standing by them through everything.

If he's coming off the booze but still threatens to leave, it might be because he hasn't really recovered. I've read that Often, alcohol changes a person's brain, so even when they've come off the booze, they still have a distorted way of thinking, and they have to be trained to think differently. They're called "dry drunks". They still think the way they did when they were drinking, thinking in extremes, as if they think people are either good or evil with no in between, or that you're wonderful or worthless with no in between, and that kind of thing.

I know he's almost convinced you he could just go off with another woman at any time, so you're scared that if he gets sober, he'll be even more likely to leave. But it's really a trick he plays. I've read that almost all alcoholics threaten to abandon their families. I'm sure your husband likes to boast that he could easily find another woman and that he'd be so desirable if he was sober that every woman would want him, because he wants to scare you into not putting any pressure on him to get sober, or even to encourage him to stay drunk. If you fall for that one though, he'll only blame you for his drinking!

Try to remember that when you find yourself beginning to worry about losing him again.


Also, remember that if he carries on drinking, he'll either die, or his brain will get so damaged he won't be able to get well. So he really does need to get sober.

You've said that sometimes, you think you'd even prefer him to die, than to get sober only to leave you. I know you feel bad for thinking that; but don't feel guilty, because it's only natural.

But you can start feeling better when you recognise that you deserve good things and start raising your self-esteem by improving your life so you're doing things that make you feel good about yourself. Then, perhaps you'll realise you're not so reliant on him as you thought, so you don't need to do everything he wants to keep him happy.


People can never please alcoholic partners anyway. They're typically very critical. They might accuse their wives of being too timid or too loud, no good at cooking, or any number of other things. No matter what wives of alcoholics do, it typically won't be enough to please their husbands. If it was, then their husbands wouldn't know what to do, since if they didn't have anything to complain about, they wouldn't be able to get that sick high they get from belittling their wives to make themselves feel powerful, and they wouldn't be able to make their wives feel so inadequate that they don't feel confident enough to leave so they're trapped in the unhealthy relationship.

The more you believe your efforts aren't good enough and try to please him so he'll approve of you more, the more puffed up with the high he gets from feeling powerful he'll get, because he's dominating you. Then, he'll accuse you of trying to control him at the merest hint of that! He does that, doesn't he! And you take what he says seriously and really believe there's something wrong with you.

You try to please him more and more, trying as hard as you can to get his approval, even though he'll never be satisfied while he's still addicted to his pleasures, because if he was, he wouldn't be able to get that high he gets from putting you down. But you try as hard as you can, so he comes to expect even more from you, and you expect a lot from yourself.

But he doesn't do the same! He lets you down a lot. But because you've come to think you ought to be able to cope with his behaviour, you're the one who feels most of a failure! And because you feel so much of a failure, you're scared you won't be able to cope or find someone else if he abandons you. I'm right, aren't I.

But you only feel that bad because you've come to believe the unkind things he says about you and you think you ought to be able to cope well with far more than it's reasonable for anyone to have to cope with! In a different environment, you might get a lot more confidence.

I know you're scared he'll get sober in a way, because he threatens you that if he does, he won't want to hang around "sick" people like you any more; he'll want to be with people who are going places.

But if he's really well, he won't do that or threaten he'll do that, because he'll be grateful for the times you've stuck by him, and he'll want to make amends to the family and make life better for all of you.

If he behaves in the same old way, it'll mean he's still thinking the way he did when he was drunk, so he still needs to change some things about himself, like the kinds of thoughts he lets dominate his thinking. They're sick thoughts. Try not to get sucked into believing them all.

If he stops drinking but carries on with his same old nastiness, it means he's still behaving like an addict, still addicted to the same old selfish high of getting a buzz from upsetting you. If he carries on with addictive behaviour, it might not be long before he goes back to the drink. So his addiction might end up killing him. He has to learn to stop addictive behaviour altogether. He needs to learn to take on new healthy attitudes to his family and start treating you all differently if he's really going to stop being an addict.

Remember that if he gives up drinking and gives up his nasty behaviour, you'll have a much better life with him because he'll be a much better person. But if he doesn't, then if he does leave you, you could still make a better life for yourself, one where you'll be better off than you would have been with him. So you haven't really got as much to lose as you think.

If he Does Decide to Get Sober

Couple dancing

I've heard that when alcoholics do decide to get sober, a few things that can help them stay sober are learning skills to help them not give into temptation when someone offers them a drink or they go past a bar, or something else happens to tempt them; so they learn such things as good ways of refusing drinks and doing things instead that'll take their minds off drinking; and also it helps if they learn communication skills, so they can handle anger, criticism and arguments better. Also, if they suffer from any mental health problems like depression, it can help if they learn ways of getting over those.

I've heard that the best treatment programs teach people those things. So if he goes for treatment and you have a choice of where he goes at all, try to get him onto a scheme where they teach those things.

Or at least you could find self-help literature that teaches things like that, and discuss it with him when he's in the mood.


This article is written slightly differently from most articles. It comes with a very short fictional story about someone finding out information to help her friend cope with her alcoholic husband, and it's presented as if it's what she's thinking about telling her friend, based on what she's found out, though it's really meant for everyone with a similar problem.

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The Story


Karen is concerned about a friend of hers, Claire, whose husband Tom is an alcoholic and beats her sometimes. Claire doesn't know what to do, but refuses to leave him.

She had a previous relationship with an alcoholic who hit her, and when it looked as if she was finally being talked into leaving him, he decided to leave her.

She was relieved to be free for a little while and swore she'd never have a relationship with another alcoholic. But it wasn't too long before she did, and she married him.

Now, Karen is concerned for Claire's safety. Having read in the news about battered wives who eventually get killed by their husbands, she's scared something like that might eventually happen to Claire. And she worries that if it doesn't, Claire might just live in misery for the rest of her days. So she thinks she must try to do everything she can to help.

She finds a book that gives advice on living with alcoholic spouses, that suggests things that can be done to increase the chances that they'll decide to get sober.

She decides to tell Claire what it says. So she invites Claire to visit her every Saturday afternoon for a few weeks.

Before she does, she rehearses in her mind what she'd like to say to her.

Thankfully, after their talk, in the coming weeks, things do get better.

The End

Note that if you choose to try out some or all of the recovery techniques described in this article, they may take practice before they begin to work.

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Literature Used in Creating This Article

The articles are written in such a way as to convey the impression that they are not written by an expert, so as to make it clear that the advice should not be followed without question.

The author has a qualification endorsed by the Institute of Psychiatry and has led a group for people recovering from anxiety disorders and done other such things; yet she is not an expert on people's problems, and has simply taken information from books and articles that do come from people more expert in the field.

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