DEAR AMY: I think my husband may have an alcohol problem, but I am not sure how to help him. He is great dad to our young toddlers, and a devoted husband to me. But as soon as the kids go to bed, he starts drinking beer. He drinks all night and I often wake up alone, to find him sleeping in the basement on the floor. He is never sick or angry. He doesn't "black out." He's not abusive or harmful to me in any way, but this behavior feels unacceptable. He tells me that he is depressed and hates his job, but he feels like it is his duty to take care of us, even though I work. I want him to feel like he can leave his job and make changes if he is unhappy, but he seems unwilling to. I have asked him repeatedly to talk to a counselor, but he won't. I am afraid that my girls will think this behavior is an acceptable coping mechanism as they get older. I am also concerned that it will negatively impact his health if he does not stop. I don't want to leave him, but I'm not sure I can tolerate this much longer.
Lost, but Still In Love
DEAR LOST: The first thing you should do is connect with an Al-Anon group (or other "friends and family" support group) in order to share your story, your burdens, and your questions with people who have tread this challenging path. One thing you might learn is that, if you find your husband passed out on the floor of the basement, you should leave him there (and not usher him up to bed). Waking up alone on the basement floor might be a wake-up call for him.
He is sharing his feelings of depression with you. Unfortunately, alcohol is a depressant, which will make everything worse for him. Obviously, his drinking is having a huge impact on your home life, and I would guess that your toddlers are already gaining an awareness of their dad's problem.
Yes, your husband should initiate a job search. His depression likely makes him feel paralyzed; his inertia might also be a red herring, providing him with a "reason" to stay exactly where he is, in order to keep drinking.
It wouldn't be wise for him to leave his job until he finds another job, because many hours at home could increase his drinking.
You must take care of yourself and your children. If this situation is intolerable (I could imagine it might be), you should take whatever steps you can to temporarily separate from him. You must not martyr your family to his addiction, but instead you should recognize your own powerlessness to force him to stop.
DEAR AMY: I wanted to share my view on the "Independent" woman who was offended when her in-laws visited her vacation home, cleaned it and did some repairs. My sisters and I used to complain every time my mom did something for us. One day my dad said four words that clicked and changed me forever: "Just say thank you." WOW. That moment was magical for me. Not needing to prove to others you are in control makes you more in control. When my parents would come to visit, I learned to stop trying to control them, and enjoyed whatever they came to do. My dad would fly across the country with his essential tool box, and my mom would also bring her things, including gloves! They loved it if I had projects for them in advance! Now they cannot travel, I have the memories of the projects and things they did around the house. I wish I could still call my parents to come over and enjoy their company as they enjoyed themselves doing little projects! Thanks for pointing out that refusing help is not proof of adulthood! People who love to give, need people willing to receive. It's a beautiful dance.
DEAR BLESSINGS: It is a kindness to let others show their love through "acts of service," as long as they don't also show their love by going through the underwear drawer.
DEAR AMY: "Sensitive, or Reasonable?" was wondering if her 10-month old relationship with her boyfriend was a good keeper. You wrote: "When a relationship is really clicking, it feels like a happy-ever-after, not like a messy first draft." I read this aloud to my wife, and we both loved it.
DEAR HAPPY: Well, I'm a writer. I know a thing or two about messy first drafts.