DEAR AMY: My husband’s drinking has gotten out of hand. Recently, I discovered that he has been leaving the house after I go to bed to purchase more alcohol (I buy a 12-pack of beer a day for us to split, but he is purchasing hard liquor.) I was raised by an alcoholic, and I know what the signs are. Last week, he snuck out twice (that I know of). We went out to dinner, and he had already been drinking beer all day. He had three mixed drinks. Before we left he asked to have a couple of shots of tequila. The waitress asked who was driving. I asked her not to serve him. We fought about it when we got home, and in an effort to express my concern for his health, I gave him the choice: Me or the bottle. He proceeded to get up, go to the kitchen and open a beer. The fight ended with me in tears, begging him to get help and him laughing at me. He stole my debit card and used it to buy alcohol the next day. I confronted him, and it turned into a fight. Now I am a “nag,” when I used to be the “cool wife.” He says he’s wanted to die since he was 10 years old. Last night he said, “Happy anniversary ... I’m leaving you.” He says he doesn’t want to be a financial drain on me any longer. He hasn’t worked for the past five years, due to back problems. Amy, am I being a “nag” for worrying about his drinking? Should I just let him do what he wants until he gets this out of his system? Do I try to have him committed to a rehab program? I love him, but I can’t sit here and watch him do this to himself. I am now hiding my debit card so that I know he can’t get to it.
Can’t Watch Anymore
DEAR CAN’T WATCH: Your husband is basically committing a slow and painful suicide. He is addicted to alcohol, and please understand that he might not “get this out of his system.” This heartbreaking hurtle might only end with the worst possible outcome.
Because you grew up in the household of an alcoholic, you are a compassionate “fixer.” As much as you know about the ravages of alcoholism, your “nagging” is your desperate attempt to control something, which is not at all in your control.
Get yourself to an Al-anon meeting today (al-anon.org), and attend a meeting every day after work, if possible. Doing this should help you come to terms with your powerlessness over his addiction. You should also take a hard look at your own alcohol consumption.
Unfortunately, your husband seems to be racing toward a steep cliff. Your message to him should be, “I won’t watch you kill yourself.” Ultimatums don’t mean anything unless you follow through.
DEAR AMY: I have a son, whom I adore. He is the dad to my two wonderful grandchildren. They live several hundred miles away, but we are in touch frequently and see one another several times a year. My husband and I both have very busy, stressful jobs, as well as large extended families (and other children). I travel extensively for work. Several times now, this one son has decided to “surprise” us by showing up at our home with the kids in tow for stays of several days. Of course we are thrilled to see them, but I am stressed beyond the limit by the element of “surprise.” This son recently asked if he could bring the children to one of my evening work functions, which is being held two hours from their home. I offered a kind “no,” along with an explanation of why that wouldn’t be a good idea. I can tell he is upset. What should I do now?
DEAR MOTHER: There is no need for you to do anything. Let this lesson sit with him, and, if necessary, follow up with a further explanation of the burden these surprises place on you. You can assume that he means well, but bringing the kids to one of your work functions is unacceptable, and if he doesn’t understand this, you should clarify it for him.
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