Detaching from Alcoholic Wife

Old 11-27-2010, 09:40 PM
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Detaching from Alcoholic Wife

My wife is an alcoholic, and has been for several years. We have two kids, aged 6 and 7, and my wife has just gone into treatment for the second time this year. I am trying to figure out what to do when she comes out again, and have been reading-up on codependncy and other problems that can effect the relatives of alcholics.

The problem I'm having is that I understand the need to stop trying to control my wife, but I don't see how to make it work in the context of having kids. For example, if I have to work late, I'll often call home frequently to check if my wife's been drinking (I can always tell from her voice) and if she has, I'll have to rush home so that she's not alone with the kids in that state. I also do all the classic things I'm apparently not meant to do, like searching for the hidden booze, nagging her to stop, threatening her with divorce. And I guess I know that these don't work.

But if I can't control her, and if checking up all the time is wrong and futile, then is the only conclusion divorce? If we didn't have kids, I could be around her and "detached" as per the advice I'm getting from everywhere, but with kids there, I don't have that option as that would mean leaving them to her mercy, drunk driving and all. The only way I can see to own the problem and address my needs and the kids is to get them away from her.

And yet divorce is not only such a huge step, but it's a hell of a risk. Leaving asside the ridiculous amount of money I'll have to pay her, what if she gets the kids? I know that ought not to happen with her history and so on, but it's a big thing on which to roll the dice.

I am at my wit's end. Any comments would be welcome.
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Old 11-27-2010, 11:53 PM
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Welcome to SR, Redbaron. I'm afraid I can't really offer advice on how to detach from the A when kids are involved. I don't think I did detach while still with STBXAH (soon-to-be-ex alcoholic husband). I left with DS (dear son) and only now am working on really detaching. I'm not saying that's your only option, just saying it's what I did. There are others here at SR who can offer their experience, support and hope, on detaching while still with an A.

I really like the book "Letting Go with Love" by Julia H. It's helped me quite a bit. Not so much about the dealing with an A when kids are involved, but just detachment in general.

DS is 6. I'm making sure he knows how to dial my cell phone number and 911 (and that 911 is for when the police, firemen or ambulance are needed). We have a plan in place in case of fire or very generally 'other danger'. I'm hoping the counselor I've recently started taking him to for help processing the separation and divorce can do additional safety planning with him.

Maybe it will help both you and your kids to do some similar safety planning. Let them know that while they can't control whether their mom drinks or not, they're not completely powerless: they can call you, or a grandparent, or a neighbor; or they can go to one of those houses, if nearby, and have a grown-up call you.

Wishing you strength and peace.
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Old 11-27-2010, 11:57 PM
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Hello RedBaron, Before you start running around in circles looking for answers to your questions, I highly recommend you visit an attorney about your situation. That way a lot of your legal rights can be presented to you. Another resource for your questions might be your wife's treatment facility. The treatment facility that I have had contact with will include the families. As part of your wife's treatment plan will be a discharge plan. Express your concerns to the treatment facility director.

I would recommend that your wife finds herself somewhere to move to after her treatment is finished at the facility. The house is where your children live, and you
are their only primary caregiver. Your responsibility is for your children and yourself only!

You can separate without getting divorced. Divorce, if it happens, can be down the road and only when you are ready.

******************************** ************************

Any time I am in resentment, I am not taking care of myself. I am blaming someone else for something I need to do.
An expectation is a premeditated resentment.
The higher the expectations, the lower the serenity. I try to keep my boundaries high, my expectations low, and my heart open. ??
Learn to give from my overflow rather that from my reserve. This is self care, we learn to let go of burdens we were never meant to carry. Learn to ask,
“What is the best thing for me?”
I remove the other person’s dignity if I try to make their decisions for them.
Learn to live with the “disease” that comes when you stop something and practice new behavior, the feelings will pass.
Anger can be constructive in telling me that someone else is stepping on some boundaries that I need to enforce.

**************************************** ********************

The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is in how you use them.
It is futile to spend time trying to figure out what makes some one else tick.
When I blame someone else for something, I give up my power to them.

****************************************** *****************

On the Steps:

Willingness comes from the pain, the healing comes from the steps.

Step 1. Surrender
Step 2. Sanity
Step 3. Serenity

There is a difference between “relief” and “recovery”.

Steps 1-3 bring relief
Steps 4-9 bring recovery..
Steps 10-12 maintain it…

Steps 6 & 7:

Step 6 Be willing, Be ready and let God do the work

Step 7 Humbly ask (acknowledge who I am in relation to God)

These steps have grown and I expand with the steps?.

Codependency Recovery is meant to be worked with another and with God.
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Old 11-28-2010, 04:01 AM
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hi redbaron and welcome-

you can detach from controlling her drinking, even if there are children. you don't have to divorce her if you don't want to. the main thing is to keep those children safe, which sounds like it means finding someone else to care for them while you are at work.

you know, she doesn't have to come home after her treatment. she could go to a sober living home, she could go live with relatives, she could live by herself.

how much time do you have before she gets out to figure out your plan of action?

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Old 11-28-2010, 04:29 AM
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Welcome to the SR family!

Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us.

You will find information and support for yourself here at SR. Please make yourself at home by reading and posting as much as needed.

I was married to my Alcoholic for 14 years. We had three children in our home. I tried pleading, begging, screaming, silence, and praying to get my A to change. I was exhausted from the efforts and resentful of all energy I was spending focused on the A.

I found support and tools to help myself here at SR and through Alanon meetings.

I did leave my A because he continued to drink and put our family and finances at risk. I chose to legally protect myself and my children from the chaos and drama of active alcoholism.

I felt trapped in the marriage for a long time. I was a SAHM (stay at home mom) for 12 years. I was allowing stinking thinking (awful-izing) to keep me stuck in an unhealthy pattern. Consulting with a lawyer helped me to understand my options and formulate a plan for myself and my children.

I recommend consulting a few lawyers for a free legal consultation to see what your rights are as the sober parent according to your home state.

In the meantime, reading the permanent (sticky) posts at the top of the forum pages will provide lots of wisdom. Some of our stories are in those posts. Here is a link to a post that contains steps that some of us have taken while living with active alcoholism:
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Old 11-28-2010, 06:36 AM
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to SR RedBaron.
Calling and checking on the welfare of your children does not sound like controlling behavior to me. It sounds like a healthy attitude and behavior. For me, in this situation, I would need to do some work on identifying exactly what are the controlling behaviors and exactly what aren't. It helps me a lot to write things out. If it were me, I would sit down and think about my behaviors and list them out. One list for the healthy behaviors and another for the non-healthy behaviors. I would put the searching for bottles in the non-healthy behaviors because having to do that is probably making you crazy.

but it's a hell of a risk. Leaving asside the ridiculous amount of money I'll have to pay her, what if she gets the kids? I know that ought not to happen with her history and so on, but it's a big thing on which to roll the dice.
I agree because I have seen it happen. But if you stick around here and keep posting about this, many people will respond to you exactly what they did that worked and didn't work when they were in your situation. I suggest you keep coming here and reading and posting about this.

I also suggest AlAnon. There you will find invaluable support and likely be informed of other types of resources that exist in your community that you may not know about yet. I have never been divorced but I do know that if it is something you are contemplating, it is a good idea to start writing down significant events such as drunk-driving, etc. Write everything down in a calendar book.
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Old 11-28-2010, 09:06 AM
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I don't think looking out for the safety of your children should ever be considered codependency. Their very lives could depend upon you doing just that.
I agree that being assured that she would not get custody in a divorce is crucial. There's no point in leaving her if she's going to have the children alone more than she does now. You do have to put them first, even before yourself perhaps in this case.
I also think a strict boundary must be in place before she comes home again. One drinking episode with her alone with the children, and all bets are off. She too must recognize that their safety is paramount.
It's very tough love, but this is serious business, especially if she gets behind the wheel with those kids in the car. Unacceptable on every level...and potentially deadly.
This is one of those cases where ultimatums apply. Don't you ever feel guilty for trying to keep your kids alive.
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Old 11-28-2010, 11:23 AM
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Thanks everyone for your comments. To answer to some points that were raised, she's away for at least two weeks this time. Her first time in treatment was four weeks, and this time she's signed up for a shorter period, although I have told her that I'm concerned that two weeks isn't enough. Hopefully, the facility will want to extend it if they think it's required. On the legal advice, I spoke to an attorney last time she was in treatment, and her comments weren't too comforting. Yes, you could get custody, but it's not sure thing, especially since my wife is the stay-at-home mom. The crazy thing is that I am the one who takes time off for the parent-teacher conferences and in general does all the things she's meant to be doing, but if she gets a good lawyer (which I'll be paying for) it's still far from certain. I'm scheduling another consultation for this coming week. I do like the comments about her moving somewher else after treatment. I'm not sure her relatives would have her at this point, but I'll think on it somemore. I'm also having a good look around this site to gather what advice and input I can. It just seems my options as a man are so limited...
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Old 11-28-2010, 02:59 PM
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Hi RedBaron, I'm in almost the same situation as you are, although a bit further down the line in terms of getting a divorce.

My advice is, go the mediated route. Not to compromise your children, but to demonstrate a willingness to engage in dialog. You will see how ridiculous her demands for custody are if she's an active alcoholic, and the professionals involved will see it too.

I don't have custody yet, but I'll be very surprised if I don't get it. We're at a point where she's admitted she has a major problem with alcohol, is claiming to see an addiction counselor but is still drinking as hard as ever.

My point about mediation is, the cracks will show themselves naturally as both parties put forward their cases to the mediators. I too was terrified initially of her getting custody of the kids. With mediation, there is a clear and documented track of the progress of your divorce.

Get a forensic psychologist to assess the children, do interviews with yourself, her, and anyone else who plays a part in the welfare of your kids. Be forthcoming with the reality of your situation with the psychologist, express openly your distress, your fears. This is very real stuff. Get a legal mediator around the table too, to guide you both through the legalities of custody when there is substance abuse in the mix. Again, I can say with a fair amount of certainty it's her who will be on the back foot.

Part of your fear now, like mine was and still is, is that a part of you is still bought into her version of events, for example, I'm not really an alcoholic, you're just paranoid, what's your problem, don't blame everything wrong with our relationship on my drinking, and so on.

The reality is, you're the sane parent here, and you, you alone stand between your children and the wolf of alcoholism. Focus on the kids, don't get sidetracked with your interpersonal issues with her. Keep asking yourself, what is best for the kids here. This includes ways in which you can let them have access to their mother without them being endangered. Keep in mind, if you go the divorce route, she will be your ex but she will always be their mom, for better or worse.

Please also realise you're not alone in this horrible situation. Reading your story is like reading my own, and is the story of many of us here.
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Old 11-28-2010, 04:42 PM
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FiftyPence -- Thanks for this. Very much appreciated.
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Old 11-28-2010, 04:47 PM
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I am a recovered alcoholic wife and I would echo the comments of fiftypence: it is not about you or her, it is about your kids. Who is the best caregiver of your children right now? If you put your proposals forward with nothing but your children's best care in mind, that will be noticed and appreciated by the courts.

And to be rather blunt and to the point: you need to prepare yourself with legal advice and counsel: stop guessing about what will happen and dish out a few bucks for legal advice. Your post reflects haphazard guesswork about the law. Make yourself an expert. And don't diddle around with your relationship.

My husband never wanted to divorce me. He wanted me to get sober. He made that clear. Did I hate that choice? Yeah. I hated him and I hated that choice. I wanted him to divorce me so I could just drink myself into self pity oblivion. He didn't agree with that: he wanted me to step up to the plate and get sober.

You mention controlling issues. Most codies fall into the catagory of either trying to control us alcoholics or trying to fix our messes. My husband is codie to me in that he tried to always fix my alcoholic messes, but he never tried to prevent them.

I was the accident, our kids were the victims, and my husband was the ambulance. In my husbands case he got tired of being the ambulance driver. Yet, in other codie relationships, people get tired of doing all the preventative actions.

Maybe you need to ask yourself what kind of codie you are and how you can start the healing process.
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Old 11-29-2010, 04:55 AM
  # 12 (permalink)  
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hi redbaron-

regarding where your wife could stay after treatment, i would imagine that the treatment facility will know of options available. perhaps share with them that you do not want her home because you are concerned for the safety of the children and see what they propose?

really, tho, it's your wife's problem to solve, isn't it? it is more than reasonable that you do not want her home caring for the children if she has a history of drunk driving. she needs to understand the seriousness of what she is doing and while she is in treatment would be a good time to tell her, because she'll be able to discuss it with her therapists, who i would imagine will support your point of view 100%.
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Old 11-29-2010, 05:57 AM
  # 13 (permalink)  
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Hi, I was able to ignore but I was not able to detach while married to an xah. There were to many things I could not control that were making my life unmanagable. Finances, co-parenting,the behavior he was modeling for our four sons, and our interpersonal relationship were the big things. Of course our interepersonal relationship was a two way street and I had my share of work to do but I refused marriage counseling while he was active in his alcoholism. This all led to way to much resentment and anger for me to parent well myself.

My husband worked very part time and I worked full time. He stayed with the boys while I was at work. I was also very worried about custody. I eventually got daycare (before I asked for a seperation/divorce and before he went to rehab) so that my boys were never alone with him because he was drinking way to muc before I got off work. I was told by the lawyer that this would help my custody standing and that I should keep that daycare in place even after he came home from treatment if I thought there was a chance I wanted to continue with the divorce. He started drinking again within a week so I'm glad I did. We filled out temporary custody orders and the fact that I did all the appts, conferences, missed work when they were sick etc. was documented. Keep track of those things.

In the end he was back to active alcoholism and didn't even fight me on custody. A mother might chose differently, don't know your wife.

I wanted him to move elsewhere for 6 months when he came home from treatment and he manipulated and cried and carried on like I was asking him to cut off a leg. I caved in and agreed to him moving back home. I regret that. It definitely led to way to much drama and trauma for the kids. It was awful but I was already on the path to divorce and if your not, then my experience might be a little off.
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Old 11-29-2010, 08:13 AM
  # 14 (permalink)  
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This is a difficult thing to have dawn upon you.
NO, you cannot change her, that is her job.
NO, you cannot cure her.
No, you are not at fault.
Neither are the kids.
I have a 5 year old with an alcoholic.
He lived terribly for years. I did keep our son with me, let him see the child during days, he was forbidden to drive him. HE was, though, also very aware of his alcoholism, and would not have driven him if he did get that drunk.
I made a lot of mistakes over 5 years, I tried everything you listed: threats, control.

I guess, in the end, it just comes down to your kids and their safety, and then, also, you and your sanity so you can be there for them.

Perhaps if you make the break, she will hit bottom, and take steps. But you must not take your steps to affect hers. It is a bit of a trick of the mind, finding inside of yourself the resolve to change YOUR life, and if she follows suit, then good...but you will make the change regardless.

It sounds like it has been discussed, it is no secret. She may be in denial,, and you will burst her little bubble.
But reall, since you are responsible for the kids, and since you are the only functioning, trustworthy parent, you do not really owe her an explanation for your choices. She knows. And if she cannot see it, now, she will when she is alone, and misses her kids.

What she does with that is out of your control. Some people would wake up, shape up. Others would use the "bad things that are happening to them" as a good, solid reason to drink, as if they ever need one.

Your happiness will nurture their happiness, and you making a choice for a healthy life is something they will see and learn from you.

I did my best to keep my sons father at bay when he was in bad shape. I got blamed a lot, I made bad choices, and good ones.
One of the bigger steps that I took was to put him into the child support system, and that was one in a string of wake up calls to him. He did go into treatment, eventually, and is now doing well...but it is a life long commitment.

I wish you luck and clarity in your choices.
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Old 11-29-2010, 08:14 PM
  # 15 (permalink)  
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A quick update...

The kids came home today from staying with my wife's parents over Thanksgiving while my wife was going into treatment. My mother in law came down and is staying for a few days, helping with the kids while I can get organized. She and my wife's sisters were meant to all be coming over to discuss what we should all do, but that fell through, and in a way, "what we should all do" is perhaps the wrong way to be thinking.

Apparently, there was a lot of discussion between them all about whether the best thing for me to do is to tell my wife not to come home, but my father in law is saying that they shouldn't express an opinion because if I then "throw her out" (not something that is legally possible, I suspect) and she kills or harms herself, they will feel guilty. Not a very helpful approach, although I do understand to some extent, and in any case, it's really my call, not theirs. I guess my concern is that the way this will likely play out in reality is that if she fights it, she'll just come home anyway and there'll be nothing much I can do about it UNLESS the whole family intervenes and insists that she go to some sort of sober living facility. If they're wobbly on that and it's just me, it's going to be a million times harder.

So, they are all punting and saying I should get professional advice from someone who understands alcoholism. I'm going to do that, but after a few days of thinking about it more clearly and reading the wisdom on this board, it seems almost obvious: (1) The kids cannot be alone with her; (2) I cannot hire a nanny and expect them to, say, stop my wife from driving drunk and generally police her; (3) I cannot police her drinking myself with constant checks, searching the house, etc; (4) Therefore, the only option is that she cannot be in the house unless she's proven herself sober for a significant period of time. So, yes, I'll get advice, but short of my mother-in-law moving in for the next six months, I don't see anyway for my wife to be back here any time soon.
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Old 11-29-2010, 08:20 PM
  # 16 (permalink)  
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Your circumstances are what they are. Your main responsibility is the safety of your children, and it sounds like you are doing your best in that regard. So far as what your wife does if you don't allow her back in the family home, that is completely, 100% on her. It isn't your responsibility and it isn't her parents' responsibility.

I admit, I don't know your story, but if you haven't considered attending Al-anon, I would highly suggest that you do. There are a lot of people there who have gone through, and are going through the same thing you are. You will learn how to detach from your wife's actions and how to take care of yourself and your children.

I wish you all the luck in the world. Keep yourself and your children's welfare at the forefront and you will be okay.
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Old 11-30-2010, 07:24 AM
  # 17 (permalink)  
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I know the inlaws may seem removed, and their input inanae sometimes, but try to be grateful that they are willing to work with you, look at it at all.

I spent years up against full on denial in the face of horrible behavior, it would cause my head to spin out.

Sounds like you are on the road to making a decision. Good luck with this. And savor the sanity and calm while she is away.You deserve it.
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Old 11-30-2010, 08:36 AM
  # 18 (permalink)  
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You're right, 66. I understand it's hard for them.
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Old 11-30-2010, 08:53 AM
  # 19 (permalink)  
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RedBaron...I have three words for you: document, document, document.

If you're headed for a legal battle and/or mediation, you need documented proof that it isn't safe for your AW to be alone with her children. This isn't about "winning", it's about what's best for the kids, i.e. a healthy and sane family life.

And you're nice as it is to have your in-laws concerned and involved, this is your decision to make, especially because you have to consider the safety of your children. To poorly translate a Québécois expression, "they can wring their Kleenexes all they want", but in the end, none of you control your AW's actions, whether she chooses to drown in a bottle again or complete suicide.

If I were you, I'd consult a few other lawyers to get a good lay of the land, legally speaking, and clearly discuss what can be done to prevent your AW from coming home after treatment. Others on this board have dealt with similar issues so perhaps they can offer advice. Some have left with the children, and others have petitioned the courts for emergency use of the family home. Alternately, you could call the rehab she's in and ask them what kind of options they have post-treatment (perhaps a sober living facility)...

In the meantime...get thee to Al-Anon! It'll definitely help support you in this difficult period.

Keep posting!
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Old 12-01-2010, 07:40 PM
  # 20 (permalink)  
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You are a power of example in terms of coming to terms with a very difficult situation and moving into action. You must focus on the things you can affect and control -- yourself and your children. I think you know that you're powerless over your wife and her disease.
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