The Bible vs. the bottle

I was raised in a Christian family, and have professed my faith since I was a young child. I was also homeschooled in the middle of nowhere, with my only socialization being in the church and youth group I grew up in. As you can imagine, I was a very sheltered child.

Because of this, I was extremely shy, withdrawn and anti-social. I waited until I was 21 to move out of my parents’ home. (I did not go to college because of an accident my parents were in when I graduated: I stayed living at home, working to be able to pay them rent to help them out for a while). When I moved out I remained anti-social for quite a while. I had very few friends that I talked to, and pretty much stayed in my shell until I was 23. That is when I had my first boyfriend, started drinking with friends and going out to bars, etc.

During this time of trying to “find and define” myself, I experienced a very traumatic event that left me scarred; probably for life in some aspects. Because of that, I simply stopped following God for quite a while.

When I was 24 I met the man who is now my husband. He is not a Christian, is a borderline alcoholic, and a pretty much just plain apathetic. We did move in together 10 months before we got married, simply did a court house wedding, and really had nothing monumental to mark the day that we married. I knew what kind of man he was before marrying him, in regard to his alcohol use, and his apathy, but was hoping (and I KNEW at the time that the hope was a stupid thing to have) that he might grow out of it or change.

Fast forward to two years later, and I’m slightly at odds. Not only am I struggling with how much and how often he drinks (not to mention the stupid stuff that happens because he drinks), but I am also struggling with the lack of intimacy in my marriage. My husband is quite fine if we only have sex once a month (as a matter of fact he prefers that, because he says that he is not sexually driven in any way), but he does not supplement the dry times with any other kind of real intimacy. So, we are lacking a physical connection, but also an emotional connection because he does not choose to offer it. I have talked with him numerous times, told him how he has been making me feel because of his refusal to engage in any intimacy, even threatened to leave him because I am tired of feeling like his mom. Every time I have that discussion with him, he will relent (and I really mean relent) and have sex with me, and make everything seem better for a total of 10 hours. Then everything goes back to the way it was.

I guess I’ve been hoping that he would fight for me, and he really hasn’t. The problem recently is how much he has been drinking. The past few weeks he has gotten so drunk that he can’t remember his weekend, nor will he have any leftover energy to spend with me doing anything besides sitting at home and playing video games. He will have friends over during these drinking fests, and I have come home to find out that they have had the fire department called on them for having a bonfire in the back yard, window damage for them falling into the windows, and worst of all, random episodes where someone during these fests will “forget” where the bathroom is, or where the toilet is, and I am left with random urine messes.

My husband’s never hit me, never gotten abusive in any way, shape, or form. But he’s also never really tried to meet me in the middle on anything regarding intimacy or his drinking. And after the last couple of drinking nights of his, I have really felt like a mother having to care for a petulant child.

I also feel like a horrible wife because I don’t want his friends at my house anymore. I’m really tired of it all. I know that I should not be looking for a way out of a marriage that I went into with my eyes wide open to all the issues, and as long as he is willing to live with me I should stay (1st Corinthians 7:12-13), but I know that if I were to leave, he would not fight to keep me. Even if I were to just go stay with a friend for a night or two away, he will resign himself to us divorcing because of it, even if I assure him that is not the case. I am too emotionally invested to try and view all this in a logical fashion, and I really don’t know what to do. I don’t want to leave him, I don’t want him to feel as if I am being unreasonable, and I do not know how to deal with this. Is there any advice you can give at all?

First, I don’t think your husband is a “borderline” alcoholic. I think he’s a full-blown, 100%  alcoholic.

And you’re not “slightly at odds.” You’re in a horrendous marriage that at this point you’re pretty sure isn’t salvageable.

And it’s not true that your husband has “never gotten abusive in any way, shape, or form.” The man is okay with you cleaning up piss left by his friends in your house. How could he debase you (or himself) any further?

And listen: you’d be hard-pressed to say a crazier thing than, “As long as he is willing to live with me I should stay.” What the fuck is that? That’s not true. You quoted 1st Corinthians 7:12-13—but forgot the very next verse: “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife.” Does your husband strike you as sanctified? If he is, I’m Pope John Paul the I Don’t Think So.

Trust me: Paul would not want you being treated as your husband treats you. And if you can’t believe that, you can surely believe that Jesus loves you too much to be okay with you being as unhappy as you are.

If ever you find yourself using the Bible as a justification for keeping yourself down, know one thing: you’re defying and insulting God. Stop doing that. Stop making God a party to your subjugation, which I guarantee you grieves him.

Do you know what part of your whole letter I find by far the most troubling? It’s when you call yourself a “horrible” wife because you don’t want your husband’s fire-starting, window-breaking, randomly pissing white-trash “friends” to come over to your house anymore. That concerns me. Because that tells me that at your core you believe that you don’t really deserve a life any or much better than the one you’re living. Which means you’re terribly unlikely to ever have one.

Sister, you do deserve a better life than the one you’re leading. But only you can make that better life for yourself. Which sucks. We sooooo want to believe that daddy, or our spouse, or God, or Cosmic Justice, or something that isn’t actually us will magically swoop in and bestow upon us the life we know we deserve.

And we wait and wait and wait and wait and wait for that to happen. And if waiting is all we do we die filled with that longing still in us, having never lived a life that we didn’t know was embarrassingly beneath us.

Ugh. Get out. You. Right now. Go pack some shit. Prepare to exit. Gather your finances. Make a plan, stick to it, and exit stage you’ve-done-the-right-thing. (About all this sort of thing please read my book below. If you can’t afford it or whatever, let me know.)

You know why so many people erroneously believe that the Bible says that God helps those who help themselves? Because we all know how true that is. It should be in the Bible. God definitely pitches in once we roll up our sleeves and actually do something to improve the life of ourselves or anyone else. But before then? Before then all he can do is acquiesce to our manifest desire to keep things exactly as they are.

Sweetheart, you got the man you married. And now you have exactly two choices: You either keep and continue to live in the marriage you have, or you change your life for the better. That’s it. You either pick a lane, or life will pick one for you.

And there’s only one way your life is ever going to change, and that’s if your husband admits, today, that he is an alcoholic, and takes a clear and positive step to stop drinking. If he does that, you might actually have a freakin’ man on your hands instead of barn animal you couldn’t give away. If not, then you need to leave him to his bottles, and go get a new life for yourself.

Alcoholics don’t change unless they get extremely hardcore about changing. You can’t whine, plead, beg, or bitch an alcoholic into stopping drinking. Only the alcoholic can stop him or herself from choosing the bottle over anything and everyone else. Trying to get an alcoholic to do what you want them to do is like trying to stop a tidal wave from moving toward the shore. All you do is drown.

Talk to your husband. Wait until he’s sober, and then sit him down and tell him that if he doesn’t, right then and there, admit that he’s an alcoholic who needs to stop drinking, and then do something real to show he means it, then you are going to leave him. And make sure he understands that if he says he’s going to stop drinking, but then doesn’t, you’ll be gone before he’s swallowed his first pull on his bottle.

Don’t be angry about it. Don’t be accusatory. Just let him know that you’ve decided that it’s you or the bottle—and that you’ll understand if he chooses the bottle. Lots of people make that exact choice every day. It’s his call. He can have you, or he can have booze. But he can’t have both.

Good luck with this. I hope he chooses you. But if he doesn’t, tell him where you keep the mop and kiss him good-bye. And then get busy creating a new life for yourself that doesn’t include him. The excellent news for you is that you’re very young. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. And now you’re so much wiser than you were before you married.

If wisdom came cheaply, everyone would have it. But you’ve paid for the wisdom soon to be yours. So now you’re good to go.

It’s a big, bright, happy world out there. Go get you some of it.

God is with you. Always.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jill.joiner.5 Jill Joiner via Facebook

    Very well said John.

  • Jill Hileman via Facebook

    As ever, beautifully done. I’m sorry for the writer’s pain.

    If leaving someone we loved for our own sanity was an easy choice, well life would look very different. If someone we love is making us live small, then we have make that very tough choice.

  • KarenAtFOH

    My ex was alcoholic, and I think my parents were too. I have been helped greatly by all the forums on a website called Sober Recovery. They have many specialized discussions for users and their families for alcohol and other substance abuse. It is very helpful to hear others’ stories and the advice they get from folks who are successfully coping. And, dear letter writer, you might find it helpful to find a local AlAnon support group (for family members of alcoholics). Many churches host meetings in the evenings.

  • Liza

    Letter Writer, I know it is overwhelming to think about leaving. I know, I had to leave an abusive marriage 20 years ago and it was hard and it was scary. I was fortunate that I had a lot of support from my family. It doesn’t sound like you have much of a support system, you need to connect with people who have been where you are and can offer you emotional support and an ear to listen. Here is the link to an organization that can offer you support, they have meetings all over the US : http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/home. John is right, you deserve a better life than what you are living now, please don’t rob yourself of the opportunity.

  • Alice Palm Lester via Facebook

    Excellent advice John

  • Tara Molina via Facebook

    THANK YOU!!!

  • Momma Ivy

    To the woman who wrote this letter,

    YES YES YES everything John has laid out here is true. I am so sorry you are in this situation, and you MUST get out. I was in a similar situation; my husband, children, and I were living with my in-laws and they were alcoholics. You are describing the same type of mental abuse that we suffered. We were so scared, but we left. While I am sad that my children lost their grandparents, and my husband lost his Mom, and we’ve been excommunicated from the family for speaking of the big family secret, that was the price of freedom. That was the price we had to pay to live in manner that honors who we are. And we love them too much to enable that type of behavior. Standing by and pretending like it isn’t a problem sends a message that the drinking and its associated behaviors are a-ok. You know first hand that is not true. What lies ahead is not going to be easy, but I swear to you there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can do it. You do deserve better.

    Please keep us updated.

  • sb

    I second the motion to find an AlAnon group to help you — even if you decide to leave him. Because you will be dealing with this for a while, and you need a little help. And I second John’s motion not to misuse God to justify staying in a bad place. And your decision to marry does not make you responsible for his life nor condemn you to losing yours.

    John’s last couple of paras are brilliant. Oh, and check out Friedman’s Fable The Bridge: http://books.google.com/books?id=ebIKH_UL2QAC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

  • http://www.facebook.com/jacinta.roth Jacinta Snyder Roth via Facebook

    in a year, you will still be asking why you stayed, leave now, and in a year you’ll have your own life, and be looking forward to everyday.

  • Connie Marshall Thompson via Facebook

    I spent 19 years married to an emotionally abusive alcoholic. Waiting waiting waiting for him to change. That was 15 years ago and he is still drinking. Sadly, I chose next another emotionally abusive alcoholic. Left him a year ago. I hope I have finally learned how this invariably plays out. I believe I have finally set some boundaries, some behaviors are red flags and I have a zero tolerance policy if I see them.

  • Nancy Crocker

    To the original writer,

    In some ways, your husband sounds like a person with Aspberger’s syndrome. It’s a mild form of autism that makes it very hard for people to express intimacy because they don’t understand it or aren’t comfortable with it. In many cases, it also leaves them uninterested in sex, or, in some cases, even slightly repelled by it. (Because the level of contact that is required for sex is overwhelming to them – imagine being trapped inside an elevator full of screaming, jostling people who are gently poking you with their elbows. You can’t escape, and you lack the ability to ignore any part of it.)

    Aspies will often turn to alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to self-medicate themselves by reducing the amount of sensory input that they have to endure.

    Anyway, this is only a guess based on a few clues. I’m not a doctor and I’m certainly not able to make any kind of judgement about your husband. It’s just something that you might want to check into. Unfortunately, it’s not curable, but if he really does have autism then he isn’t “choosing” to be a bad husband – he might, in fact, be doing the best that he can – he just isn’t capable of meeting your emotional needs.

    That doesn’t excuse his conduct, of course, (Not at all!) but it might provide a clue as to why he is the way that he is. If separation ends up being your only realistic solution, pray let it be done with understanding instead of animosity.

  • Ashley

    My now ex-husbands drug of choice was cocaine. I stayed through three years of robberies, prostitutes stealing my underwear while I was work, 7 different moves, and countless COUNTLESS sleepless nights. You know why I stayed? Because I had been told over and over that I needed to be a good wife and pray that God would save him and deliver him from his addiction. That if I left I was being selfish and not a good Christian wife. THREE YEARS of my life were wrenched from my hands by people who were just reciting the same old vomit they heard every Sunday at our fundamentalist church. NOT ONE person in my church family stepped up and said “you know, you shouldn’t have to put up with this mess.”

    In the end I was the only one who could save myself from that daily nightmare. It took a lot some planning, a lot of hard work, and a good chunk of disillusionment and heart break to go with it, but it was definitely worth it. You have to save yourself sweety, no one else is going to do it for you.

    • http://www.heathercostaras.wordpress.com Heather

      Wow, Ashley! **respect!!**

    • Chris

      Dang, Ashley, I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’m glad to hear things are better for you now. That’s very heart-wrenching to hear that nobody stepped forward to say anything to your defense; I definitely would have.

    • Jill H

      Ashley, I give you so much credit for your bravery. You stood up for what is right even when no one would stand with you.

      • mike moore

        You’re a brave woman, brava!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Jones/50402231 Chris Jones via Facebook

    “And if your hand–even your stronger hand–causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Matthew 5:30

    To me, what that has always meant is that sometimes, even if something is important to you, you have to let it go before it can drag you down. One should always try to work things out; get him to couple’s counseling or to rehab. If he’s unwilling to work things out, then there’s little choice but to sever the ties and do what’s best for both of them. I pray that she’ll make the right decision, to matter what the situation turns into, but I hope she’s still able to work things out with him and get him the help he obviously needs.

  • http://www.heathercostaras.wordpress.com Heather

    Well written, John. And I concur.

    To the letter writer: Get OUT! While you’re still young… before you have kids… before you get trapped in that rut indefinitely… get out! My ex was also an alcoholic. We were married for 5 years. The best decision I ever made was walking away. I am now married to a very wonderful man (who doesn’t drink – at all) and we have 2 kids. I’m very very happily married and my life is beautiful. I don’t even want to IMAGINE where I’d be right now had I NOT walked away. PS: My ex is STILL an alcoholic… 15 years later. He’s just been through his second divorce.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Jones/50402231 Chris Jones via Facebook

    But reading through the whole letter again, I’d say it would definitely be best to get out of that situation as soon as she could, that this guy clearly doesn’t want help or to evolve.

  • Barbara Rice

    ” He will have friends over during these drinking fests, and I have come home to find out that they have had the fire department called on them for having a bonfire in the back yard, window damage for them falling into the windows, and worst of all, random episodes where someone during these fests will “forget” where the bathroom is, or where the toilet is, and I am left with random urine messes.”

    … you don’t see this as abuse? I do. You don’t have to hit someone to be abusive. Abuse can be emotional and spiritual.

    A marriage will not work with only one person doing the heavy lifting. Get out now.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    I couldn’t possibly add a thing to what you’ve said, John. You said everything I would have and then some.

    Prayers being sent up for the writer that she gets out and gets some counseling for her horribly low self-esteem issues. I hope the next time she gets married its because she finally found a man who was good enough to deserve her.

  • Megzee

    Dear Friend,

    I will not tell you that you SHOULD leave your husband. I have been there, though. I did leave, and I am much the better for it. I would be happy to share my experience, strength, and hope with you in order that you can find some serenity. I can tell you where I found mine.

    Al-Anon is a fellowhip of friends and relatives of alcoholics who gather together in order to solve our common problems. You cannot change him; you cannot help him do anything that he’s not willing to do for himself. Most (even the very smallest) towns have Al-Anon at least weekly, and you can find it online as well (http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/); there are even meetings online if you feel more comfortable doing that.

    You can have serenity whether or not your husband is still drinking, and you can be secure knowing that you did the right thing FOR YOU if you choose to leave him. Neither does the the Bible say you should stay in such awfulness nor does God or ANY Higher Power want for you to be miserable. And you are. You are so miserable. I’m so sad thinking about where you are, where I was…

    John’s right, though. God loves you. Just as you are. He will come to meet you where you are, and He loves you FAR TOO MUCH to leave you there. Having to clean other people’s urine, being made to feel as if intimacy is an inconvenience, and choosing any substance (money, drugs, alcohol, work…) over a relationship is cruel and and abusive. Al-Anon will help you find the strength to MEAN IT if and WHEN you feel you’re ready to give the ultimatum.

    You can email me and I’ll give you my number if you want to talk: megzee@gmail.com

    Also, I’ll plug John’s book Seven Reasons etc… as an excellent read to help give you courage.

    I’ve been out for three years. Please join me. :-)

    Meagan

  • Greg

    John, I recommend reading the chapter, “Working With Others” from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (see link below). If 70-plus years of experience is any guide, then it is certain that this woman will be best served by the guidance and support of a recovering alcoholic who has meaningful experience in 12-step recovery work.

    http://www.aa.org/bigbookonline/en_bigbook_chapt7.pdf

    She may want to attend an open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Al-Anon, then speak with someone after the meeting: http://www.aa.org/lang/en/central_offices.cfm?origpage=373

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    The lady needs to get into Al-Anon. She’ll still need to make her own decisions, but at least she’ll be better equipped to do so.

  • textjunkie

    Ummm–I’m not sure what the “traumatic incident” is that the letter writer referred to without any details, but if it’s important enough to mention as though it played a role in this story, maybe it’s important enough for her to get counseling for? Just a thought.

  • Tim

    A few observations as per the other commenters, John, and the dear Letter Writer,

    I agree about Al-Anon. I have never had to go to that specifically, but there are 12-step programs for everything (including former cult members, i.e. myself) and they are generally great places to start.

    Second, you do need some individual therapy besides that. Your issues run deeper, the trauma and maladjustment are powerful. If nothing else but to re-center you need 6 months or so of good therapy and help building a new social group from the ground up. Church can do some of that (if you want it to), but not all of it.

    Third, I agree there is something wrong with your husband besides Alcoholism, or some of this wouldn’t have manifested quite so early. The problem is, until the Alcoholism is laid bare and dealt with/treated, you can never know what is underneath. Addiction sucks like that, you can’t treat the cause because the symptom is so damned evil and damaging.

    Finally, you are 25 (at least if I do the math right). My recommendation for after you shed the husband: Go back to school. There are commuter campuses in most major cities, online programs, small campuses near you, community colleges. By all means, rise above. Pair the Wisdom and street-smarts that your life has given you with some good, old-fashioned knowledge and the sky will be the limit. Colleges are also a great place to figure out where you want to give back, once you are whole enough to do so.

    My best to you

  • Pat Hux via Facebook

    Great reply, John! Kudos!

  • http://www.facebook.com/elstrom99 Eric Hays-Strom via Facebook

    Wow. I’m impressed by the depth of many of the comments. A lot of it is excellent advice for all of us! And to the writer… please, please, please follow thea dvice you see here and get out now! You are such a good person. You deserve better!

  • Mike McKelvey

    Several people have suggested that the LW’s husband may have more going on that just alcoholism. It is very dangerous to make psychological diagnoses based on slim, secondhand evidence, but several of the things you mention–apathy, low sex drive, compulsive video game playing, avoidance of intimacy, his “really relent[ing]” to your demands–could indicate that he has severe depression. Many depressed people self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs, which makes them feel temporarily better but ultimately feeds their mental illness.

    Your husband might not be able to make a decision between you and the bottle, because that bottle might be his coping mechanism for a psychological disease over which he has no control. The best thing for him would be to see a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in addiction and depression. I do not mean a social worker, or counselor, or therapist, or a minister–if his drinking has taken over his life this much, and if he would just relent to a divorce without resistance, then he really needs to see a clinical specialist with a specialized degree and the ability to prescribe medication.

    But I do not mean that you should “stick it out” and try to be a good, supporting wife for your sick husband while he gets his life together. This is hard for me to write, because I have lived with severe depression (though I never developed an addiction), and it was one of the reasons that my own marriage fell apart. But you have to protect your own health and happiness, just as my ex-wife had to protect hers. Even if he is depressed (and, like I said, we couldn’t diagnose him based on your letter), he is still abusing you. Unconscious, unwitting, or involuntary abuse is still abuse–just because he doesn’t want to hurt you doesn’t mean that he isn’t hurting you, and that he isn’t going to keep hurting you as long as you stay with him. You also need to realize that you cannot fix him, whether he is really depressed or “just” an alcoholic. The only ones who can help him are a doctor, his Higher Power, and himself. In fact, it sounds like you are enabling his sickness at this point and it may be that leaving is the best thing you could do for him and yourself.

    Finally, that verse you referenced. That’s not about you. You are over-interpreting it, and putting words into the Apostle’s mouth (actually, I presume that someone else taught you this incorrect reading, maybe years ago, and it has poisoned your thinking ever since). Paul was advising the Corinthians about mixed marriages: All the Jesus followers in Corinth at the time were converts from non-messianic Judaism or Greek paganism, some of them had spouses who did not follow Jesus, and they wondered if they should leave their unbelieving spouses or stay married. Paul said that IF the spouse is willing to stay (that is, if they don’t mind being married to a member of this freaky new religious group, and are otherwise happy with the marriage), then they should stay married. Do not try to twist that into a metaphor for your situation–Paul was not writing about abusive or dysfunctional relationships, and was absolutely not addressing a woman married to a man with mental illness and an addiction.

    God wants you to live abundantly, joyfully, and at peace. God wants the same for your husband, for that matter. Your husband is not capable of living that life right now, and neither are you if you stay with him. The bonds between spouses should be made of love and freedom, not misery and obligation. It is not selfish or un-Christian of you to seek out the happiness that God wants you to have.

    • Allie

      There’s a good point to be made here: your husband has his own issues. He’s not a villain and you don’t have to hate him. But that doesn’t mean you need to stay with him.

  • Tim Kelly

    Great response and this should speak to lots and lots of people who are sitting around waiting for something magical to happen to be happy.

  • Matt

    I hear a lot of “I deserve this” in your letter, LW.

    You don’t.

    It doesn’t matter what you knew about him going into this marriage. It doesn’t matter what he does, or what he says. Maybe it’s that traumatic incident you refer to that contributes to you feeling this way.

    So I’ll go ahead and blow that out of the water: You are human. You know how human you are? You deserve to make every stupid decision on Earth, and not be injured, killed, or your physical, psychological, emotional, social, and financial boundaries violated in any way. You can’t earn your humanness. You don’t to be smart, beautiful, kind, or good. You’ve got it for life.

    Other than that, John pretty much said all that needs to be said. I hope you find a fulfilling life, with or without your husband.

  • Allie

    Kiddo, I’m concerned with how you ended up in this marriage in the first place. It sounds as if your background didn’t give you the tools you needed to identify a man worth having, or the self-respect to believe such a man would have you.

    Thank God you don’t have children and get the hell out.

    When Jesus said what he did about adultery being the only reason for divorce, he was speaking in an era when a man could ruthlessly and for no good reason kick out his wife, condemning her to STARVE TO DEATH because no other man would have her. Marriage was a woman’s only means of support. That’s not true now. Jesus was not a jerk, not a big meanie. He could be harsh with people who were mean, but he wasn’t himself.

  • Karen Miller

    To the letter writer:

    Your husband is not going to change until he wants to. I don’t know if he’s an alcoholic but he certainly has all the signs. I am a recovering alcoholic. By the grace of God, I will have 24 years sobriety on Oct. 30th. I had to hit bottom before I became willing to stop drinking. My husband divorced me, my 5 yr old son was taken from me, I was homeless, and I turned to prostitution. You would think any of those things would have been enough to get me to stop drinking. It wasn’t. My husband begged me to go to counseling and I wouldn’t go. I didn’t believe I had a problem. Even after I lost everything, I still didn’t think alcohol was my problem. I believed everyone else caused my problems. My family didn’t understand me so they were the problem. The cops picked on me so they were the problem. I had a shitty childhood so God was the problem. I blamed everyone. An alcoholic or drug addict is a selfish, self-centered person. They lie, they cheat, and they steal. They don’t think about how their behaviour affects other people and they don’t care. If your husband is an alcoholic, and it sounds like he is, he is not going to change unless he decides he needs to change. He’s not going to quit just because you ask him to. He’s not going to quit if you leave him. He has to hit rock bottom. That bottom is different for every alcoholic. I lost everything and it still wasn’t enough. Most alcoholics don’t get sober. It’s a sad fact. The majority of the ones who arrive at AA don’t stay sober.

    Now here’s the bad part. You are enabling him. You clean up after him and you take care of him. In his mind his life isn’t too bad. He can drink when he wants and do what he wants. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be intimate with you. He CAN’T be intimate with you. If he drinks as much as you say, his sex drive is just not there. His love is the alcohol. Spending time with you takes away time from his booze. He doesn’t want to sober up to spend time with you because then he has to take a look at himself and he doesn’t want to do that. As long as he stays drunk, he can deal with his life. I know that doesn’t make sense but that’s how an alcoholic thinks. As long as you stay with him, you are going to continue to make it easy for him to drink. Has it ever occurred to you that you leaving him might just save his life? In his sober moments, he will know that his drinking ruined your marriage. He might not quit but that thought will always be in the back of his mind. And one day he might get sick and tired of being sick and tired. He might actually decide to stop drinking. Pack your bags and leave. Leave for your own well-being and for his. You’re making it too easy for him. That’s not your fault. No one’s blaming you. Alcoholics are really good at getting people to take care of them. So, call the number for AA and get a list of meetings in your area. Tell him you’re leaving because you can no longer live with his drinking. Give him the list of AA meetings and then walk out that door with your head held high. You’ve been taking care of everyone else for too long. It’s time to take care of yourself. Good luck my dear and Godspeed.

  • Lee

    John, thank you for using the phrase “what the fuck is that?” Perhaps it will help shock this young woman into really hearing you. Also, I swear and don’t mind if you do.

  • Don Rappe

    Most of us alcoholics also suffer from depression and other mental illness. This just means there is more to the problem than just the bottle. It doesn’t make the problem less. Al-Anon is likely to be helpful, but don’t let it stand in the way of leaving his useless ass behind. Many men have to lose three or four wives before they get the message, if ever.

    • Elizabeth

      This. Every alcoholic I know has other behavioral or mental issues, too. It doesn’t matter which came first, chicken or egg. Nothing should stand in her way.

  • Michael Davis

    I want to reply as a recovering alcoholic whose wife has been tough with me. Please do it, get tough and as John said, go get you some life. Maybe he’ll get serious and get better, but maybe he won’t. You have to stand your ground because you deserve better. I am so grateful for my wife and her unwillingness to put up with my alcoholism. We have a truly wonderful and blessed life now and I owe it to her being tough with me. Trust me, you deserve better and if your husband doesn’t see it that way, then so be it. Get out there and improve YOUR life!!

  • Sue

    Thank you for telling it like it really is. I was married to an alcoholic for 26yrs. Two months before our 25th wedding anniversary, he left to go “find happiness”…in the bottom of a bottle and in the arms of the other woman he met at Happy Hour. Abandoned a wife and 3 teenagers. He wouldn’t admit he was an alcoholic and did not want to be controlled. Four months before he left, I finally took that first step and went to an Al-Anon mtg…best thing I ever did for myself. Life has been hard but I also realize that if he never left, I would have stayed living like that for a long time because I was afraid of change. I didn’t cause it, can’t cure it, and can’t control it but I sure contributed to the chaos for way too long. Now I’m trusting in God’s plan for me and my kids.

  • Jamie Stanek via Facebook

    I’m not going to lay any blame on the writer of this tortured letter. I only hope and pray, she can escape this situation and learn from it to find the happiness she deserves and God wants for all of us. Good luck, and Godspeed.

  • Brooke

    Maybe someone’s already asked this in the comments, but I’d ask the LW: Do you actually love this man? He hasn’t shown any love for you, that’s obvious. But do YOU love HIM? I’m not hearing that from your end, either, and you know … if you don’t love someone, that’s enough to go. You made a mistake, but now you can fix this. Please do it for yourself!

  • Amy

    Dear letter writer:

    I spent 18 years in the kind of life you describe, more or less. My ex husband was dry for many of those years but was unable to connect with me emotionally and unwilling to connect with me physically. I allowed my self-esteem to be decimated by my marriage and even though he really did try to make things work, it wasn’t the right relationship for either of us. It took me a long time to relinquish my guilt and admit that I needed to leave.

    He and I are both happier people now. I freed him to lead the kind of life he wanted. I freed myself to live the kind of life I wanted! However, I carried the stones from that marriage into my new relationships and ended up building the same kind of house – twice. If you leave (and I hope you do) then make sure to do great things for yourself, like joining Al-Anon or another support group, and going to therapy or counseling so you can understand why you made the choices you did and learn how to make new ones.

    You really do deserve so much better in a relationship than you have with your husband! And he deserves a life of sobriety and healing, which I hope he will find. But the truth is you can’t fix or change him. You can only change yourself.

    Take gentle care,

    Amy

  • mike moore

    Dear letter writer, John’s response is spot on.

    Abusers come in all shapes and sizes, and they don’t have to hit you to horribly abuse you. And, when I read your letter, it’s clear you are being horribly abused. I know, because my Mom took us away from an abuser like your husband.

    I think you should divorce this guy and never look back.

    If you do, have a plan in place, first: have some money put aside, even if it’s just a little; if you don’t already have a job, find one you will enjoy; have a place to go to when you walk out the door … a new house or apartment, or friends with whom you can live while getting yourself set up … or, be prepared to give him the boot out the door and let Mr Apathy find himself a new home.

    A very hard part of this: line up a divorce attorney before telling your husband it’s over.

    From the abuse you describe, you would probably be able to stay in your home with spousal support, as appropriate, but only a divorce lawyer can answer those kind of concerns. If that isn’t practical, there are many people/resources out here who can assist you while you are transitioning into a new life

    The hardest part? When he realizes you’re serious, he will, as he has done in the past, tell you he’s going to change. He will become a different person overnight. But he won’t change, and the overnight transformation will not last.

    If you’re still asking yourself, “what if he really does change?”, then remind yourself that he will then have ample opportunity to prove it to you, to put aside his apathy, and to work to win you back.

    (But honestly, when talking about guys who don’t know how to use a bathroom, I can’t imagine why you’d ever want him back.)

  • Lisa Hardgrove

    Dear writer, whether or not your stay in your marriage, you have been affected by your husband’s alcoholism. Please contact Al-Anon or AA, both can help you to find a meeting. It will feel weird to go – but please, please do this for yourself. These people have the ability and willingness to help you – and they UNDERSTAND.

    You may find that your choices become much easier as you work on becoming a healthier person for yourself. And don’t worry about whether or not divorce is wrong – GOD knows your situation, better than you do, and HE FORGIVES ALL.

    Good luck and God bless you!

  • Valerie

    Dear Letter Writer,

    Honey, get out. Get out now. If he doesn’t care enough to fight for you or about your feelings then get out there and find someone who does. Believe me when I say they exist but don’t hook up with the first guy you meet. You need some time to yourself for a while. You need to work on you and feel like you deserve to be happy before you can be happy in a couple. Just get out! Please get out!

    • mike moore

      Valerie, I love what you wrote here. So concise. So loving.

  • Stuck

    This sounds all too familiar to me. Although some of the details are different, I too feel stuck in a marriage with a man who is not capable of emotional intimacy, is a workaholic, and consistently critical and demeaning. We’ve been in therapy for years now, and though there have been periods of small progress, it’s really not getting better. I feel responsible to stay and help him work through these issues because I made a vow to support him for life, but I am weary of the constant fighting and lack of emotional support and connectedness. I see him building up a tolerance to alcohol as he drinks to cope with issues he won’t admit or can’t see, and my attempts express concern or ask for what I need from him to feel closer are met with anger, guilt trips, and justifications. But he’s not a terrible guy, which makes it harder to leave. He does care about people, works hard, and has a great sense of humor, and at times he can be sweet and show me briefly how kind and caring he can be…but he is also a hot head, is confrontational with strangers, and has trouble in relationships with others, so it’s not just me. But I am not them, I am his wife, and I don’t take that lightly. The very thought of divorce makes me feel so guilty, concerned about what others will say, particularly our Christian friends…which is not a reason to stay in a marriage, I know. There is no more romance, but I have a sliver of hope that things could improve, but if they do I’m pretty confident it would take several more years, and I don’t know that I have it in me to fight for our marriage that much longer. I don’t expect marriage to be easy, but should it be this hard?

    • Allie

      So, when you say there is small progress, what exactly do you mean by that? I’m all for staying as long as he’s still trying. But if he’s not trying, if YOU are trying and trying to pretend that he’s trying or might someday try, then leave.

      • Stuck

        Small progress means periods of improved behavior when he is nicer, not condescending, demeaning or controlling…but it never lasts because those are symptoms of bigger issues he can’t face and is still avoiding in therapy. I can’t make him deal with the real problems, and I know if I leave that the same issues are going to keep resurfacing in his next relationships, romantic or otherwise, and I feel a sense of responsibility to see him through this…but I honestly do not know if he will ever get to the point of being able to face the reality at the core of the issues, or if he does, how long that will take. There is emotional and psychological abuse going on, and thankfully I have several supports while going through this…but I can’t do this forever. I’m exhausted and don’t know when I should or can decide I’ve given enough and it’s ok to not have to live this way any more. Essentially, I probably need to determine where the line is between being a dedicated wife and being codependent.

        • Allie

          It is NOT your responsibility to fix what you didn’t break.

    • sb

      Dear Stuck,

      In your post, you name 4 of the 7 reasons why women stay in abusive relationships from John’s mini-book. Might be worth a read.

      1: the challenge of having to create a new self image

      2: the fear of the unknown

      3: the fear of embarrassment

      5: You love the lovable in him

  • roger flyer

    home schooled, innocent christian girl meets sexually abused boy. :(

    John Shore is the Dear Abby for the new milennium..

    .

    • Matt

      Nowhere in the letter does it say her husband was sexually abused. There’s been some baseless labelling and diagnosing of LW’s husband in this thread–let’s focus on her, because we don’t know him.

      • Elizabeth

        You nailed it. She’s the focus. Maybe for the first time ever.

    • LW

      How dare you!?

      I wrote to John to finally express what I have not told ANYONE, not even my closest friends or family, and to ask for advice. Most of the comments received here have been very positive, up lifting and useful. Your comment, however, really pisses me off.

      Yes, my husband was abused by an alcoholic father growing up. Yes, he has had a very rough time reconciling and moving on from his past. But to have the nerve to just assume and throw out there that he was sexually abused is absolutely positively infuriating. You do not know him. You do not know his past. You do not know what he is or who he has become through his struggles.

      Please do not read into this assuming that I am defending him for his actions, nor justifying myself for staying in this marriage. I am simply calling you out for the BS, lowlife, condescending remark that you somehow have ALL the answers as to who we are. Please keep your inane, ignorant perceptions to yourself.

  • charlie wooten

    I have a question for John also about drinking too much but from a different point of view and perspective. I don’t care if it makes the website I just want some advice. I got a concussion about 4 years ago and drinking is the only way I can get any sleep. I don’t want to be a alcoholic but I think this has turned me into one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelly.withee.1 Kelly Withee via Facebook

    John is right. Leave him. You deserve better. God bless you.

  • Janet

    My husband is at the bar, so I have a minute for the first time since this was posted to respond. My situation is almost exactly like yours.

    You are not a bad wife. I thought that the first years of our marriage, then I realized it’s not me, it’s him. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin, and I feel ok with God in planning one now.

    His first wife left him because of intimacy issues, and he has a poor relationship with a grown son because of those issues with him, as well.

    Plan to leave. Then have the talk, because he is 90% likely to refuse to admit he is alcoholic. If he does admit it, he will most likely drink in secret. For awhile.

    You want a plan in place, because when you have this talk with him, you must follow through on the consequences of his continued drinking. I doubt he will care about you enough to make a change. No addict can love another when they are loving their drug of choice.

    Think also of the financial and legal danger being married to him can put you in. DUI’s are not cheap. You will spend several years driving him everywhere. The cost of legal fees might have to be put on credit cards, which you will have to split in the event you do divorce (depending on your State laws). He could fall and incur medical bills. As he ages, he is at risk for alcoholic-related disease, such as sudden-onset dementia. Think you are taking care of him now?

    You mention his video games, but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that you aren’t mentioning an Internet porn addiction. That comes with the territory of intimacy issues.

    Oops, I may sound like I am telling you what to do. I hope you chose to leave. I have a standing offer from three friends who will take me and the pet in when I leave. Get a safety deposit bos (very inexpensive) or a secret on-line account and start putting away every $20 bill you can. Decide what you can and cannot live without of your possessions. Have a travel bag packed and hidden. This may sound extreme, but you really must be ready to go if he doesn’t stop drinking.

    Actaully, now that I write that, it doesn’t matter if he stops. Alcohol is a symptom, not the issue, which is the inability to be emotionally intimate. It is very lonely, where we are. Please think seriously about cutting your losses and going. Remember, you may not love him as much as you love the idea of him – the times he’s fun, or nice, or funny. But that’s not really him.

    May Jesus guide you.

  • LU

    Dear Writer,

    I don’t know you, but I am so sorry to hear of your situation. I’d love to hear what happens next, and hope very much that you take John’s advice. I wish you all the very best, and pray you find joy and peace in whatever lies ahead.


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