Recently, a mother of three children and wife to a successful businessman contacted me. She was reaching out looking for information on how to best help her husband whose drinking and recreational drug use was getting out of hand. We will call the mother Jan.
Jan explained that the problem was putting strain on the marriage and the children were becoming more anxious when the husband, who we will call John, would start drinking. She said she was feeling confused and at a loss as to where to turn for help. If she could not find a solution to John’s problem she was thinking of leaving the marriage, as this was not the man she had married, and she was fearful of the long-term effects on her children’s well-being.
I asked Jan if we could meet so I could get a better understanding of her situation and explore the best way to support her and her family. Jan expressed feelings of anxiety about talking to a stranger about her personal problems, and felt she was betraying her husband by taking the issue outside the family. I assured her that these feelings were normal given her situation, and that other families also express similar feelings of anxiety and betrayal. I explained that I understood the sensitive nature of what she was going through and guaranteed the upmost discretion and confidentiality. Jan agreed to meet with me.
At our first meeting Jan explained that her husband John was a good person, a loving and caring father and husband.
But over the years she felt that his drinking and social drug use was becoming a problem. When I asked what her concerns were, she explained that when he started drinking his personality would change and she never knew if he was going to be a happy or angry drunk. When she spoke to him about his behaviour John would tell her she was making it up, as he had no memory of what she was talking about. Jan had noticed that the drinking bouts were becoming more regular and he needed less alcohol before his behaviour and mood would change.
Jan went on to talk about associated problems, which were arising from John’s drinking and social drug use. Jan spoke about money issues, parenting problems, intimacy and relationship concerns and conflicts with close friends and family. When she tried to speak to John about her concerns, John denied that there was a problem and justified his behaviour reasoning that he was just enjoying himself, and that it was his right because he worked so hard at providing for the family and that she should stop nagging and get off his case. John blamed everyone else for the conflicts in his life and stated to Jan that he did not have a problem. Jan told me that the arguments about drinking and associated problems were becoming more frequent.
After we had discussed Jan’s situation at length, she said she felt hopeful for the first time, that there was a solution and that she better understood the impact alcohol and drugs were having on the whole family. We talked about how the support process at Bridging the Barriers worked and reassured her that together we would bridge the barriers preventing John from addressing his alcohol problem. At the same time, we would work together to provide Jan with the tools and support to best care for the family while they dealt with John’s problem.
Most of us like to a have a social drink or two, it is a big part of our culture. We grow up celebrating special occasions with alcohol being at the centre of our festivities. Or, we have a couple of drinks at the end of a hard week’s work with the intention of relaxing and just chilling out. So, how do we tell when this culturally acceptable pastime has become a problem and how do we best help our partner when this way of life starts causing problems?
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