My spouse is amazing. Almost daily I’m told how beautiful I am, how much I am appreciated, and how wonderful life is with me. I truly feel blessed that my spouse honors me, loves me and supports my ambitions.
But, my spouse also has a drinking problem.
Society continues to emphasize this idea that if you don’t drink, you are not normal. Having a bad day? Drink a beer. Kids are acting extra wild today? Have a glass of wine. While I do not have a drinking problem, and I have occasionally enjoyed a glass of wine or a beer, I have also seen how uncomfortable and awkward it can be when your choosing not to drink. The stigmas associated with an alcoholic does not help encourage someone from seeking help or choosing not to drink. Alcohol is constantly thrown in people’s faces. When I would think of an alcoholic, I would think of someone in a movie slumped over the bar, spending all day drinking. Not everyone diagnosed with a drinking problem has that kind of drinking problem.
I really hate using that term “alcoholic.” Maybe it’s because I still envision how the media shows an alcoholic, maybe it’s because I still don’t want to believe that it has engulfed my marriage. If you look up the statistics for alcohol abuse in the United States, you would be shocked to learn that alcohol abuse occurs in way more homes than you realize. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, approximately 14.4 million people from the age of 18 and up had an alcohol use disorder (2018, NSDUH).
My spouse always drank around me. Did he ever get out of control? Sure. Even I have been out of control, but I grew out of it. I learned when an appropriate time was to put the drink down. My spouse struggles with knowing when that time is for him. And, alcohol affects him significantly different than it affects me. I always assumed he would stop and finally learn, but he never did. I soon learned that he just had a problem with alcohol.
I was full of resentment…I still really struggle with it.
It affected our marriage.
It affected the relationship with our children and our overall family dynamics.
It affected friendships and our social circle.
It affected my self-esteem.
My spouse doesn’t crave alcohol. He doesn’t have to have a drink every single day. I look at him and I see an incredible father, someone who works hard to take care of his family, he has so much success in his career. If you were to look at him, you wouldn’t even think that he struggle with alcohol abuse. This is what makes it hard. I wish the negative aspects of alcohol abuse weren’t so stigmatized. What you see in movies is not who my spouse is. We can’t go anywhere without worrying what will be said if someone offers him a drink…or even worse a shot. We are still really working on gaining control of it, and how to work through it. I don’t share my story with friends and family because I worry about the image they will see. I think they will miss that he is still a good man, he just has a struggle in life that he has to work through.
You may read this and feel I’m part of the problem by not being open with friends and family about what my family is going through. I don’t have the answers on how to shine a light on alcohol abuse, maybe it needs to start with me. When the show “This Is Us” came out I was relieved to see a good character portrayed with a drinking problem because that’s exactly how I see my spouse. A good man, struggling with something that is way more common than recognized. A wife, who loves her husband but also has to take care of herself and family while helping the love of her life with alcohol abuse.
Next time you’re out or you have friends over, don’t question why they’re not drinking. Respect them and their decision. Their reason may not necessarily be in regard to an alcohol use problem but in today’s society, it is much more difficult to go against what seems to be a normal thing. If you are walking through something similar or you struggle with alcohol abuse know that you are not alone. I have found a few people I can open up to about my journey with and it has lifted that heavy feeling off of my shoulders. It is not your fault, and it is not your spouse’s fault. Don’t be afraid to seek help, and take the process day by day.