Q: My husband drinks alot all year but summer is even worse. All his spare time seems to involve drinking. He goes to work every day so he insists that he’s not an alcoholic. He can’t understand why our young sons and I are upset. Am I just a nag like he says?
A: Alcohol brings many a family to ruin. What is often hard for the drinker to understand is that although he (she) is the only one drinking everyone in the family is affected. The effect of alcohol is tremendous and I can only begin to scratch the surface in this limited space.
Firstly, lets debunk your husband’s misconception that “alcoholics miss work”. There are three main patterns of alcohol abuse/addiction these being:
1.Regular daily intake of large amounts of alcohol
2.Regular heavy drinking limited to evenings and/or weekends
3.Long periods of no drinking with binges of heavy drinking lasting weeks or months.
What this means then, is that because someone makes it to work daily or because they can go for long periods of time without a drink, does not mean that there is not an alcohol problem.
I often refer to alcohol as the deceptive lover. It becomes the “other woman” in your life. It promises the user fun, fulfillment and excitement, but the next day he (she) finds that he has been robbed and left alone. Alcohol, rather than you and your sons, has your husband’s attention. The time and money that should enrich the family, instead, goes to the bottle. He is probably too tired to do things you and the boys would like from a husband and a father—he is spending time with ‘his lover’. Maybe he does and says things that embarrass or hurt you or the boys. Behaviour is often frightening to children because it can be unpredictable and different from the norm. Because he spends his time with his “lover” communication within the family is certainly affected. Some children want to protect mom from the hurt of dad’s “lover” and so they become mom’s partner—the one who stays home so mom will not have to be alone. They allow themselves to be taken advantage of. Other children pretend to not hear or see anything. They learn to deny reality and feelings. These behaviour patterns will cause later problems.
Yes, you have a right to be upset. Will nagging help? Probably not. The alcoholic has to decide to help him/herself. At that time, counselling can make all the difference. Until then, however, counselling can help you and your sons deal with this in the best way possible and minimize the damage.