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Helping Alcoholic Husband To Quit

QUESTION: My spouse is dealing with alcoholism. I am my husband's fourth wife. He told me his past wives found fault with his drinking. After several years of marriage, I agree with them. We have three kids; two from my previous marriage and a son together. He is a very good husband and father, but the drinking makes him arrogant and insensitive. What can I do to get him to stop?

ANSWER: Your husband has already lost three previous wives to alcohol, but this was before fatherhood. Let your husband know that his drinking is not only interfering with the your ability to feel close to him, but that he is putting his children's lives and welfare at risk, too!

Although your spouse has not been motivated to seek help or change in the past, he may listen to you on behalf of his children. The clinical definition of alcoholism is when it interferes with a major aspect of life. Clearly, your husband is denying the extent his drinking is affecting his personality and is damaging his marriage. Let him know you still love him, but that his drinking is causing you a great deal of sadness and pain. If he has difficulty listening, write him a heartfelt letter about your distress and the effects you see his drinking is having on his children.

Ask him to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in your area. Even if he refuses to go, attend an ALANON meeting to learn more about your husband's disease and how to address his denial. Information on local meetings in your area may be obtained from your local information directory assistance or by calling the ALANON world service office at (800)356-9996.

Ask him about his family and the role that alcohol may have played in his childhood. When did he begin drinking and why? Did one or more of his parents drink to excess to deal with life stress?

Patterns of running away from problems are common in family histories of alcoholism, resulting in depression instead of coping. Ask your husband to face the fact that he is medicating himself in order to get through the day. It is likely that he has covered up depression with drinking. Why not seek a consult with a mental health professional if he feels he needs to numb himself to deal with daily stress? A consult with a psychiatrist who can prescribe appropriate medication if necessary may also be an alternative to self-medicating with alcohol. Learning effective coping skills, reaching out to others for help, and developing new meaning in life will be key factors in liberating himself from his alcoholic addiction.

Let your husband know that he is driving you away. Perhaps it is a part of a self-fulfilling prophecy of abandonment that he recreates; pushing those who love him away when he needs them the most. But you are his wife, not his savior. If your husband refuses to get help to address his dependency on alcohol you will be faced with saving yourself and protecting your children from the fallout of this disease.

The writing on the wall is clear, and your spouse has navigated troubled waters of past relationships by opting for divorce rather than looking at the role of alcohol in his life. But this time, there are children in his wake. What alternative does he have if he is to continue to be a "good" father? Ask him to be your partner in stopping this disease from spreading to the next generation. After all, you took a vow to be his wife, not his drinking partner!

Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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