Ask Amy: He's a Good Father, but a Bad Drinker
Dear Amy: I think my husband has 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. And 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.
In this situation, 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: If you think your husband has an alcohol problem, that first thing you should do is connect with an Al-anon group (or other “friends and family” support group).
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 could make everything worse for him. Obviously, his drinking is having a huge impact on your home life; 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; 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.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2020 by Amy Dickinson