Confused and Cautious

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Dear Hoopers,
My husband and I have been married for over ten years. Before we married he told me that he had had issues with addiction in his past. He was abstinent for the first few months of our relationship, but then we began to drink in recreation. In hindsight, I see that this was a mistake and that addicts are great manipulators. Fast forward 4 years later and two children later in our marriage, he got a DWI while out of town. His parents are well connected and got this “matter” swept under the rug.

For the next 3 years he was sober, we also had another child. Slowly he began slipping with his sobriety and began to drink and smoke marijuana. This went on progressively until eventually I had to ask him to move out because our home environment became volatile. Four months after moving out he was arrested for his 2nd DWI. As time has passed, he believes that he’s not an addict and that he’s a “problem drinker.” He has latched on to a program called “Moderation Management.” We have been to 3 local psychologists, 2 of them specializing in addiction. They think it’s not even an option. So, now my husband refuses to go to counseling because, “people in this town are close minded and uncultured.” He also says this program is the only treatment plan that the American Board of Psychology supports. Please weigh in on this in anyway you feel would be helpful for me. My husband has a drinking problem and won’t get help. I’m so confused.
-Confused and Cautious

Dear Confused and Cautious,
I hear the confusion in your letter. It sounds like you’re not exactly sure how you got here. Although he was honest with you in the beginning, over time he tricked himself and you into thinking that everything was better. That he could hold it all together. Raising a family, being the husband you needed him to be, and enjoying alcohol and marijuana on the side. Unfortunately, trying to do all of this has cost him and it has cost your family.

Drinking alcohol in moderation can be a viable treatment option for many people who struggle with problem drinking. However, a treatment recommendation of moderation versus abstinence generally exists on a continuum, with more severe problems requiring abstinence. Even for those who believe that they can drink in moderation, they may need to transition to an abstinence goal if they find that their best efforts at moderation aren’t working.

While I generally encourage people to engage in any form of treatment, even an online support community approach such as Moderation Management, if it isn’t providing the level of support needed, it may be time to try something different. Moderation Management certainly isn’t the only evidence-based treatment for alcohol use problems, and other approaches may be more readily available in your area.

He is truly the only person who can decide if he is willing to do what it takes to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol in his life.

-Dr. Ryan

You mentioned that you asked him to move out at one point because things were becoming volatile. I’m sure that was a difficult decision but I applaud you for prioritizing the stability of your home for you and your children. I’m not exactly sure where things are for you now, but I would encourage you to put the ball in his court.

He is truly the only person who can decide if he is willing to do what it takes to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol in his life. Not just for a few years but for the rest of his life. It will be up to him to prove to you through actions, not words, that he is making the efforts needed in order to put his recovery and your family first.
-Dr. Ryan

Dear Confused and Cautious,
I am so sorry you are going through this tough journey. It is very hard when you love someone but have lost respect because of their actions. Your husband is fortunate to have a brave and caring woman by his side. I hope he realizes that. If not today, one day.

My question is what does he want? If getting two DUIs, being kicked out of the house, and having a strained relationship with his family isn’t enough to make him do whatever it takes to get his life back then what is? Whether he is in rural America with three psychologists in the whole town, or big city America with three psychologists on every block, if he’s not willing to get help then he’ll see all of them as being close minded and uncultured. If family and saving a marriage is important to him, your husband will not just be focusing on “moderation management” but rather how he can get his family back. No excuses.

If family and saving a marriage is important to him, your husband will not just be focusing on “moderation management” but rather how he can get his family back. No excuses.


If he’s fighting for a certain therapy so he can continue drinking, he’s not fighting for you. Next thing you know, he’ll insist on another definition of functionality. If he is not an alcoholic, he wouldn’t be having these problems stopping. I’m not telling you anything here that you don’t already know but what you may not have considered yet is getting help for yourself.

I urge you to do that whether it’s seeing a psychologist or joining an Al Anon group. Too many women suffer in silence in these situations. Unhealthy patterns of behavior can happen to you too. Your husband needs to latch on to the love that is in front of him; family and you.

Until he admits he has a problem and something needs to change, the struggle and manipulation will continue. Do you see him becoming a responsible father and law abiding man? How much longer will you be able to pick up the pieces? These are hard questions to ask yourself, but living in agony and in a miserable commitment is hard too. I urge you to get some help and hopefully he will follow suit.

my husband has a drinking problem quote