What it feels like…to be living with an alcoholic husband.

By anonymous, Nottingham.

Living with someone who is an active alcoholic feels like living in a prison cell with no chance of parole or a normal life.

Think this sounds melodramatic, well let me tell you that It is all consuming; it’s terrifying, relentless. This is the first time I have actually written about how I feel and it has been strangely liberating. It’s only taken 20 years but it has afforded me an hour or so to think about how I really feel about the life I have chosen with my husband Alan.

I love Alan, as do our children. I do not love him when he drinks.

The fear, the oppression, the worry, the not knowing how long it’s going to be til the next episode is utterly soul destroying. I can’t make plans, I have to micro manage the smallest of life tasks, I have to manage our finances, our diary, daily tasks – everything and all the while I am teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

My husband Alan has been alcohol dependent for 20 years. I am now 43, he is 56. He is successful in business, has family who love him, he is active in our community and from the outside you would never know that as a family we have been battling alcoholism for decades.

It is an illness that doesn’t care if you are happy, healthy, successful, well loved, revered or celebrated. It is a deep rooted illness which in my opinion needs more research, more treatment centres and a more scientific approach to this illness which affects all of those close to the still suffering alcoholic.

It’s a hellish condition that strips the sufferer of their dignity, their health, their sanity and ultimately their life if it is not treated.

We have been together through thick and thin. Through years of detox programmes, in and out of hospital, hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of AA meetings, sessions with therapists, Buddhist retreats, private counsellors, endless appointments with our Doctor and 20 years on Alan still cannot kick this life-destroying and fatal illness.

I do not know where we would be without AA and it’s support groups. It has been a lifeline for so long. Al Anon gives me respite and hope, little comfort really but at least I have a support network with fellow families who also suffer through the living hell of life with an alcoholic.

I really feel this is Alan’s last stab at sobriety. Despite the warnings, despite pleas from our children, the doctors, his fellow AA supporters and all his friends saying “If you pick up a drink again you will die!” I do not know what will happen, I do know that both him and I are at the end of our tether.

In AA they speak of keeping it in the day – I am consumed with worry and fear 24/7. I think I myself may have become addicted to feeling the all consuming fear.

At any moment he could just change his mind and pick up a drink. It could be because he is feeling good or bad or worried or lonely, sad or regretful or happy, relaxed and in a celebratory mood. I have run out of the reasons as to why my beloved cannot kick this addiction.

As I look back I actually have no idea how our shattered family managed to keep it together, there have been many ups and downs, mostly downs. Alan had to take early retirement and as a result he has too much time on his hands, part of me wishes he was still working, then at least managing his alcoholism would be less pressure, as he always managed to work, he is by definition – a functioning alcoholic.

There is no one cure for addiction. Why hasn’t science come up with something?

Addiction, in my experience isn’t something that is openly discussed without judgement. It is an illness – like cancer or depression but one which people do not really understand unless they have had first hand experience of coping with it or in my case living with it.

Who really knows if the decision to stop drinking for ever can ever really mean for ever? Relapses are all too common, I know as we have had our fair share of them.

Alan is almost sixty and I am gravely concerned that the end of his life is nearer than we ever thought, this is one thought I cannot keep in the day.

30 November : I emailed Heather after she had posted my story as I thought my post came across as angry and resentful. It wasn’t intended to be but that is how my story unfolded. I would like to thank all of my Al Anon friends who have supported me along the way and cannot recommend the support of Al Anon highly enough. If you or someone you know needs help, visit AA. It will help no end.