Knowing how much your spouse drinks, even feeling that they drink too much, is not the same as seeing your spouse’s drinking as a problem. Once you do recognize that the alcohol is interfering with your relationship, you’ll inevitably wonder could your spouse’s drinking problem mean divorce.
That can create a moral or ethical dilemma because when you got married you may have promised that it was in sickness and in health. If you understand that the problem with the alcohol is a disease, then you’re in a conflict situation. It may go against your vows to say, “I can’t do this relationship anymore.” Or is there a way to say “I want a divorce, but I can still support you?”
Al J. Mooney, M.D. co-author of the The Recovery Book: Answers to All Your Questions About Addiction And Alcoholism And Finding Health And Happiness In Sobriety recommends taking this step-by-step, not jumping to conclusions:
Dr. Al: There may not be a need for a divorce. There are two things that can be done. Either the person who has the alcohol problem can begin to look at alcohol and see if they can come to grips with the misplaced priorities that come from their disease, or you probably don’t want to give all that control to the alcoholic who’s very sick anyways so what I recommend for people to do is begin to find a path in life that you can be comfortable with in spite of an active alcoholic that you’re married to.
For some people this could be setting some boundaries that may lead to divorce. For some people it’s adjusting to live in a situation that’s a downward spiral. There are therapists and there are people that can help with this, but the most effective, efficient and available way to start the journey to returning to health is through a 12-step program for families called Al-Anon.
Al-Anon has a concept of detaching with love. I’ve seen all kinds of flavors of what people do with a good Al-Anon program, but some people will say, “I can’t live with this. I’m going to get a divorce if you don’t go to treatment.” I’ve seen people go to the liquor store and buy alcohol for the alcoholic saying, “If you want to die, I want to hasten it along so I get your life insurance,” not many people, but I’ve seen a couple like that. That wakes somebody up because they know that part of what’s been limiting their drinking is their spouse is angry at them all the time.
I’ve seen other people that just say, “Honey, I’m sorry that you don’t see that you’ve got a disease, but I’m told by professionals that you probably have. I can help you get evaluated if you want to, but, also, I’m going to go ahead and live my life.” There’s a way with a good 12-step program to detach with love.
I’ve got a family right now that I see. I’m not working with the man, but he is dying. He’s already had his heart stopped once and they resuscitated him. He’s alive again but he will be dead in a few months. His wife is basically understanding of that, is committed to the marriage, and yet she’s built a sane existence and a very constructive, productive existence, in fact, of him having this terminal disease of addiction.
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If you are trying to decide if divorce is right for you, I have some resources that could help. First, try my free audio program, 5 Ways To Know If Divorce Is Right For You. Next, my online divorce coaching program, My Divorce Pal has a entire track with ten modules devoted to this, including seeing divorce as an option, not wanting to be the bad guy and even wishing your spouse was dead (yes, that is not uncommon.) Take a look at what’s covered here. You can also set up a free 30-minute consult with me to discuss your particular concerns in private.