She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I’m married to a guy who struggles with addictions to cocaine and alcohol. I've been with him (on and off) for over a decade and married for five years. We have a four-year-old and a new baby. The longest I've seen him completely abstinent is around six months (the time leading up to our marriage).
He's a great guy in a lot of ways, and I don't want our children to lose their father, but I'm getting fed up with this cycle. He never completely beats it, just holds it at bay for a bit then gradually increases his use till it's out of all control then back down again, a semblance of control and straight back up.
I know how this uncertainty and unpredictability in my life affects me and increasingly I worry how it affects our oldest. My husband always says he wants to stop and seems genuine but then he doesn't seem to particularly put any effort into seeking help.
Am I flogging a dead horse? Is it time to give up or do I honor my marriage vows and stand by him?
I want him to know I love and support him but I don't want to just enable him which it feels like I am doing at the moment. On the other hand, I don't want him to feel abandoned and like there's nothing worth trying for anymore.
Any words of wisdom for me?
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I’m not sure if you’ll like what I’m going to say. Walking away from a marriage is hard. It’s harder when you have kids. But, this is even more crucial because you have kids. This is affecting them, and the longer you stay, the greater the repercussions will be for your children.
You need to leave.
Or rather he needs to leave, hopefully to head to rehab. That doesn’t mean there is no possibility of reconciliation. However, you don’t want to come back to what you have now. Because what you have now is broken.
I have been the addict and the partner of the addict, and I can tell you this: The relationships we have when in active addiction are not healthy, and both parties contribute to that. Every relationship I had while using drugs depended on my partner’s codependency. This is not to blame you, but rather to open your eyes to a dynamic that you are capable of changing.
And most importantly, you have children who you are looking to the two of you as a model for what a relationship is.
The first step is leaving. I believe your husband when he says he wants to stop. Most addicts and alcoholics do. Sometimes we don’t know how. Sometimes we need to be pushed in the right direction.
Make a plan. If you can stay with family or friends, do so. Alternatively, you can tell him that he has to stay elsewhere. Communicate with his family to get some support there (for all of you). In your shoes, I would make some calls and look into treatment options. Give him the information, and then the next step is his. Medical detox and a 28-day residential rehab program would be a good start. If possible, access the guidance of an intervention specialist. (If you’d like some direction finding resources where you live, please email me again.)
In addition to putting the focus on your kids, you need to make the time to work on your mental and emotional health and prioritize self-care.
Your babies need a healthy mama, and a happy one, too. You all deserve that.
I recommend seeking the guidance of a therapist — one who specializes in families and addiction. I would also encourage you to check out some Al-Anon or Coda meetings (These are helpful for anyone in a codependent relationship, but especially for those with loved ones struggling with alcoholism/addiction or in recovery.).
This is not going to get fixed overnight. If your husband does seek treatment and continues to focus on his sobriety, with time you can potentially rebuild something brand new, something much stronger and healthier — a true partnership. Whether you end up divorced or together again in the future, this is the right decision right now for your family. I know it’s tough. You don’t have to do this alone. As I said, please don’t hesitate to reach out again if I can offer you any further resources or support.
**If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, there is hope. Call the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Helpline for free and confidential help at 1-800-HELP (4357).
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, recovery, friendship, sex, consent, what I’m watching, Rhodochrosite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. xoxo