When is it Time to Leave an Alcoholic?
Written by Wendy · Print This Article
Many of you have shared your personal stories of the pain of living with an alcoholic in your life in the comments below. I encourage you to share what you want, and read through what people have said as well.
I am not a counselor, and am not able to provide you with professional help with your situation. I do highly recommend the following resources that will hopefully offer you guidance and hope that you can get through this (yes, you can).
The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships
This book literally changed my life.
Hazelden Books and Resources
Hazelden provides trusted resources to help prevent, treat, and recover from alcoholism and other drug addiction as well as other related disorders.
Al-Anon / Alateen
Al-Anon has one purpose: to help families of alcoholics.
I leave this post here, originally written in 2007, because of the thousands of visitors who come to this site every month seeking help as the spouse of an alcoholic.I also hope that it serves as an inspiration to you that you are not alone, and that you really can live the life you want – I’m living proof.
Ever since I wrote the Married to an Alcoholic series, I have watched in heartbreaking sadness at the keywords people have used to find this site:
- divorcing an alcoholic husband anger
- when is it time to divorce an alcoholic
- married to an alcoholic when should i leave
- how to leave your alcoholic husband
- how do i get my alcoholic husband out of our house
- married to an alcoholic, why am I so angry
To each and every one of you, first of all, my heart goes out to you. I have been where you are now. I did the Google searches too, seeking a way out of the pain and anguish of my everyday life.
But the truth of the matter is that you have found this site because you already know you can’t continue to live your life the way you are currently living it, with an alcoholic spouse at your side.
The answer is probably one you don’t want to hear, but it is the only one that will work for you:
ONLY YOU CAN DECIDE WHEN IT IS THE RIGHT TIME
TO LEAVE AN ALCOHOLIC SPOUSE.
Below are some questions you need to ask yourself. These are not easy questions. And don’t bother taking them on unless you are willing to give yourself honest answers. Set aside some time away from your home environment in order to give these questions your full attention, because you will likely get a bit emotional as you uncover your own truths:
- What is the cost of my leaving this relationship?
- How will this decision affect others?
- What will I leave behind?
- What will I have to let go of?
- What will I have to face within myself once I am gone?
- What is the cost of my staying in this relationship?
- Who else is being hurt by staying in this alcoholic environment?
- What will happen to my self-worth, my health, and my happiness if I continue on this path for another 5 years? Another 10 years? Another 20?
- What am I teaching my children by staying in this relationship?
- What are the benefits of staying in this relationship?
- I’m still here for a reason – what am I getting out of staying here?
- Will these benefits continue for the rest of our lives together, or will they change with time?
- Do these benefits outweigh the costs? Yes or No?
- What are the benefits of leaving this relationship?
- What will I be able to achieve if I end this relationship now?
- How will I be living my life differently in 5 years if I end this relationship now? 10 years? 20?
- Do these benefits outweigh the costs? Yes or No?
Additionally, I would encourage you to take this decision seriously. I don’t know any person who has not ‘threatened to leave’ an alcoholic spouse as a leverage chip to try and get their spouse sober.
The problem is with the word “threaten”. If you say you will leave, yet don’t, you are reinforcing the fact that you think it is OK that they continue to drink.
So once you make your decision, you must also be willing to stick to it. And if you aren’t, then you aren’t in a position to make your ‘half decision’ a bargaining chip.
Remember also, if you decide to stay, then you must also take responsibility for that. You know at this point what staying means.
I can tell you this:
Making the decision to leave my husband was the ONLY THING that could have happened in his life for him to make the decision to get sober. I had to take a huge risk, knowing full well that I could have ended up single, or he could have been lying to me once again. So by sticking to my guns, in the end, I got what I wanted most of all. But I had to be willing to let that all go to raise my standards.
This may or may not be what happens with you. Your spouse may decide to continue to drink. You must be willing to face that reality if you are indeed going to decide to stick to your guns, too.
In the end, I did what I will tell you to do:
Follow your heart.
Only you know what is right for you – and your heart is where you will find that answer. I can say from personal experience that following your heart is not always easy, nor does it feel very good at times.
But in the end, it will always lead you in the right direction. Always. And it will feel good with time, and with continued listening. I can promise you this.