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My Husband is an alcoholic, what should I do?


By Sr Dr Judy Lewis, UFS

Mangaluru, Dec 4: Alcoholism is a global phenomenon that has destroyed innumerable families. If the head of family is an alcoholic, the whole family suffers; obviously, the person who suffers most in the family is his own wife. In many cases the wife is helpless, miserable and a silent sufferer. She is tormented from all directions. On the one hand, she has to bear with the misery of the children whom she has to look after, on the other, the addiction of her husband over whom she can have hardly any control. Millions of families have been shattered due to the addiction of the head of the family. How can we help the wife to cope up with her alcoholic husband?  

In my profession as a Counsellor, I have met, in a month, as many as 16 wives with alcoholic husbands, who were in distress and hence came to me seeking comfort and counsel. These had experienced untold misery, sorrow, rage, distrust, anxiety, fear, depression, self-pity, shattered expectations, broken promises, unfulfilled dreams, rejection, deception, despair, and dishonesty - all this just because their husband was an alcoholic.

The case of a particular woman is worth mentioning. Her husband had become addicted to alcohol at the age of 16 and now he is 36. He was forcefully married to this woman by his family members, hoping that he would give up alcohol after his marriage to her. But in reality things became worse. He enjoyed the company of alcoholics more than that of his wife. Everyday evening he came back home fully drunk just to bash her, manhandle, abuse and torture her. “My husband is an alcoholic, what shall I do,?” was her first question. In this family, it is not only his wife, but also his parents, grandparents and his own brother and sisters suffered. This shows that the family crisis related to alcoholism is a serious, complex and pervasive social problem as it is linked to violence, disrupted family roles, impaired family communication precipitating physical and psychological illness.

Hence alcoholism can truly be declared as a ‘family disease’, which increases sorrow, tension and stress of family members. For this reason families with alcoholic members very often become ‘dysfunctional’. Similarly the children of alcoholics have greater tendency towards violent behaviour. Many a times, they are a failure in academics, have higher incidence of depression, anxiety, stress and low self-esteem than their peers. This happens because the children of alcoholics sufferfrom lack of parenting, poor home management, and lack of family communication skills.

Definitely, alcoholism can destroy the entire family as every member of the family gets affected. The family of the alcoholic would likely to experience stressors and find no meaning in life. The end result of this is the family disorders, enhanced poverty, loss of assets and strained relationships. The family conflicts due to alcohol can easily result in marital separations and divorces, causing untold existential hardship to the family.

In every family the mother is the core personality. If she has to live with an alcoholic husband, then she ismost likely to have highly stressful emotions and negative meaning in life. The alcoholic loses control over himself, over his speech and activities. He may even become unpredictable and erratic in his behaviour.  Alcohol has been considered to be an important risk factor in husband-to-wife marital violence. If the husband fails to care for his wife and assaults her under the influence of the alcohol, how can their relationship continue in a stable manner? In such cases, the family relationships are bound to break down.

The important point here is to help and support the wives of alcoholics, and, instruct them on how they can handle stress and have the situation under control. In order to improve the ways of coping among the wives of alcoholics, they should be made aware of the coping mechanism. ‘Coping’ basically consists of human reactions - mental and physical - to stressful experiences. Whether one is managing a particular situation well or not, whether one is trying to resolve the situation or not, is determined through coping.

There are numerous cases of women all over the world who just try to cope with their alcoholic husband. They being the core members in the dysfunctional family system, they need to achieve functional stability in the family. In addition, the good mental health of a woman in a family is very important to the alcoholic husband and their children.

The best and very effective help that can be rendered to a wife with alcoholic husband is through counselling. Counselling helps them to alleviate the stress they experience, to find positive meaning in life and to cope with painful circumstances. It can also help them to establish stability in their spousal relationships and encourage healthyinteractions between spouses. Counselling can open the doors for dynamic women who can live with dignity and respect. It can be offered individually or in a group.

The individual counselling is done in one to one basis. It facilitates the exploration and resolution of personal problems and issues according to the needs of the individual. Moreover, in this method, the counsellor provides insights to wives to learn to understand themselves. Also, the counsellor can teach them to learn effective techniques and mechanisms of coping during the process of counselling.

In the group therapy the clients could be either a group of wives with alcoholic husbands or all the members of the family of the alcoholic. In the former case, the group gives the opportunity to decrease the sense of loneliness, and lessen stress, and increase the coping strategies and also to learn new ways of coping with the alcoholic husbands. It is an occasion to share and discuss the vicissitudes of life which are bound to strengthen them psychologically and socially to face their plight. In the latter case, namely, the group-counselling of all the members of the same family, it is the opportunity to conduct the family therapy. The marital and family therapies are two of the most outstanding current advances in the area of psychotherapy. The family therapy allows sharing and discussion on interpersonal misunderstanding which can be reinterpreted and explained by the Counsellor as a facilitator.

Many of the wives of the alcoholics narrated in the process of counselling sessions that after their marriage with addicted husbands, they underwent frustration and suffered from the feelings of despair and hopelessness, guilt, humiliation, wretchedness, and a few of them even were tempted to commit suicide. But thanks to counselling that has helped them to experience a certain amount of relief and relaxation and made them confident of leading a meaningful life with patient endurance.



(Sr Dr Judy Lewis UFS, Sampoorna Counselling Centre, St Ursula Convent, Bolar, has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and Counselling from St Thomas University, Manila, Philippines. She is presently working as counsellor and animator in Mangaluru, Udupi and Bengaluru. You can reach her at Judylewis77@gmail.com)


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Comment on this article

  • Shanthi, Udupi/Mumbai

    Fri, Dec 7 2018

    Very informative article!

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [3]

  • Praveen. A, Udupi

    Fri, Dec 7 2018

    Dear Sr. very informative article and created the awareness. guide the members of the families as well the loved one to treat the sickness and focus on family counselling.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [2]

  • Philip Noronha, Moodubelle

    Fri, Dec 7 2018

    Dear Sr. Judy my personal appreciation to you for this well written n informative article. This article is the outcome of your involvement with women affected by alcoholics. How to handle this sickness is helpful to all.
    Good work.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [3]

  • Saritha G., Mangalore

    Fri, Dec 7 2018

    This article has brought awareness where we can help people through counselling and accepting the loved one. Alcoholism is a sickness let us help the families. it is interesting and useful article.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [2]

  • Dr Kusuma Kumari Gunji, Nellore

    Fri, Dec 7 2018

    The Government must ban this deadly liquid Alcohol is the root cause of all evil in life. It spoils your family and spoils your family life too. Many marriages are broken because of this. Please do not drink it. I have families getting destroyed because of alcohol

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [2]

  • Fr. Naveen, Bangalore/Mangalore

    Thu, Dec 6 2018

    Congratulations Sister. very useful and interesting article. Good awareness God bless you.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [6]

  • Mark Denis D'Souza, Niddodi/Sharjah

    Thu, Dec 6 2018

    Dear Sr.Dr.Judy,
    This your article is interesting,thank you.Alcoholism is a sickness as other chronic sickness and curable if the members and loved one wish to do so.Unfortunately most victims are neglected,insulted and used to have upperhand for many reason. the result is hide from real life till the end of life.Hope continue educate the members as well the loved one to address and treat the sickness.
    Thanks & Regards,
    Mark Denis D'Souza

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [7]

  • Ravi, Dubai/Bangalore

    Thu, Dec 6 2018

    It is an awareness to everyone. People those who are in agony, helplessness, frustration, despair in lives. It is useful and interesting article.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [7]

  • Revees, Udupi

    Thu, Dec 6 2018

    Congrats sister, informative and useful article.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [6]

  • Salim, Bagalkot

    Thu, Dec 6 2018

    Why blame anyone....Just ban alcohol. Has the government the guts to do that????...NO...A BIG NO.....then people will write....do lectures....give advises....write theses.....etc.....but the fact of the matter is BAN ALCOHOL....

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [4]

  • Antony D'Cunha, Permude/Muscat

    Thu, Dec 6 2018

    Readers are giving very intelligent inputs on this debatable issue.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [8]

  • joeal, Dubai

    Thu, Dec 6 2018

    Sr.Judy Congrats. Very excellent awareness created through article with regard to alcoholism. God bless you.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [6]

  • Joe, Mangalore

    Thu, Dec 6 2018

    Yes I agree with you Sr. And good artical congrats.

    But in some cases its not always the husbands, some become alcoholic because of their wife's too.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [13]

  • Elvita, fajir

    Wed, Dec 5 2018

    informative and useful article sr.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [6]

  • Vinay Raj rao, Lourdes bantwal

    Wed, Dec 5 2018

    This is absolutely wrong.wifes are the main cause for a husband for alcolism. If a husband drinks n come home he should be handled with care affection in the beginning giving him hopes for a better future and health basically..later slowly he will too show affection towards his family. Just see his good deeds and appreciate him for that. Don't search for his negative deeds and point him. Apply this and see many families are saved already and will be saved

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [11]

  • Judy Lewis UFS, Mangalore

    Thu, Dec 6 2018

    I feel you have missed the main point of the article. It does not aim analysing the causes of alcoholism, nor wishes to blame or condemn the alcoholic, nor it proposes cures for the addiction due to alcohol. Its focus is only to help the wife of the alcoholic to cope with her husband. What you say can be practised ONLY if the wife is able to cope with her alcoholic husband. It will be the result of successful coping, which will become evident once she accepts him as an alcoholic.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [16]

  • Sr Susheela, Kallianpur

    Wed, Dec 5 2018

    Congratulations dear sr Judy for sharing your experience of women with the alcoholic husbands.May many more women benefit from you.All the best to you.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [9]

  • Wilson, Bangalore

    Wed, Dec 5 2018

    Alcoholism is ‘family disease’, which increases sorrow, tension and stress of family members. Due to Alcoholism many youths are affected. due to Alcoholism accidents have taken place. family gets affected also children.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [8]

  • Sr Leena D Souza, Bhatkal

    Wed, Dec 5 2018

    Sr Judith very good article. Congratulations. May it help the people those in need.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [8]

  • Willy, Bahrain/Bangalore

    Wed, Dec 5 2018

    It is a mental disease. counselling and proper diagnose will help the person to over come from this disease. Creating awareness very much is needed.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [10]

  • John Tauro, M'luru / Kwt

    Wed, Dec 5 2018

    It's high time awareness must be created about the dangers and evil effects of alcoholism and serving alcoholic drinks in community functions especially weddings must be discouraged at homes and prohibited in community halls and public places. I humbly request community leaders and social organisations to come forward in spreading awareness about this menace.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [11]

  • NN, NN

    Wed, Dec 5 2018

    Having alcoholic in the family is not a disgrace to the family. Alcoholism is a mental disease just like any other diseases like leprosy, TB etc. The family need to show compassion for the diseased person and not kick him/her out from the home. About 100 years back a leprosy patient was kept out of town and considered cursed by God. People used to throw stones at them. Today we are doing the same thing for alcoholics. It is quite possible that a family with the support from others, can change an alcoholic to be a normal person. It takes lot of patience and understanding. I have changed one person and he is now one of the best persons I have known. We used to drink together. The difference was that I had a control over the limit and timings and he didn't. After couple of rehabs, he has given up completely. Now, I still drink with my limits and he doesn't even have a sip. We need to understand that some people have no control for whom we need to help. They are not at all bad people. Only understanding and compassion from the family and friends can straighten them up. An wise and intelligent wife knows how to handle her alcoholic husband. Disease is not anyone's fault.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [21]

  • Sr Milly Fernandes, Derlakatte

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Dear Sr Judy,
    The article is well written. Congrats to you!
    I wish that what you have written reaches to all those who are distressed due to alcoholism in the families, and helps them to take some proactive measures to face or prevent this menace.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [10]

  • Robin, Mangalore

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Very informative article. Thanks sr.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [7]

  • Anil, Udupi

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Sr. useful and interesting article .

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [9]

  • Jakson, Mumbai

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Family councelling is very important. Try to help families. Congratulations Sister. Very good.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [14]

  • Dan, Kuwait

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Congratulations Sister Judy.Very informative article and useful to everyone.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [16]

  • shan, dubai

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    One sided story..... I was watching a programme regarding how to bring your children.... If the child is having wrong habits i.e.drinks or any criminal mind etc only mother or wife is responsible. The child will go to wrong habits because of family or friend circle. When child is going with wrong friends than mother has to keep proper watch on the child. Parents will think when the son is already spoiled than they will think if we marry him than he will improve. If he is married than the girl will think that he is my husband and whatever I am telling him that he has to listen.. So man will go in depression and start taking drugs,alcohol,or some other criminal activities. So please don't blame only husband.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [12]

  • Sr. Judith Lewis UFS, Mangalore

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Sr. Judy Lewis
    The article no where blames the husband, but highlights only one point, namely, how the wives should cope with her husband IF he is addicted to alcohol. The causes of addiction could be multifarious and it is not possible to discuss them in a short article. Neither the article refers to the causes why children go astray. There may be innumerable causes for that too. No one can deny that the mother is primarily responsible for the good behaviour of children. I have only referred to the point that IF the head of the family is a drunkard, then children do get affected.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [26]

  • shan, dubai

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Sr. I am sorry.... I watched the world and commented on your article. Most of the people will blame only the man is an alcoholic but they will not try to bring him out from this. Just blame game. Sorry may be shortly I will see you soon.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [10]

  • Rudolf Rodrigues, Mumbai

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Very informative article!

    BTW, it's not known why only some people get addicted, while many are responsible drinkers! It is known that those who suffer from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, those suffering from PTSD are susceptible to addiction; also there may a genetic propensity too!!

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [11]

  • Augustine Daniel DSouza, Udupi Mumbai STATE OF KUWAIT.

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Congratulations Sister JUDY Lord Jesus bless you. My Late Father was heavy drunker he died because of ALCHOL.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [12]

  • Veera, Udupi/Isral

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Wonderful article. Very true Millions of families have been shattered due to the addiction of the head of the family.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [11]

  • ALBERT MATHIAS, Saudi

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Counselling can be provided to the wives of alcoholic husbands, but an urgent attention is required to minimize the use of alcohol in functions.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [10]

  • Peter, Udupi

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Very useful article Sr. Judy . After the councelling please direct them to attend the
    ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS meetings run hereby.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [11]

  • Latha, Bangalore

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Congratulations Sister. Very good.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [10]

  • Fr Richard Mascarenhas SJ, Puttur/Dharwad

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Congratulations Sr Judy for your wonderful article "My Husband is an alcoholic, what should I do? The article is very powerful in expressing the agony, helplessness, frustration, despair and other painful experiences of a drunkard husband's wife. Certainly the article will be a great help for our young people not to get addicted to alcohol and ruin families but but remain faithful to their spousal relationships.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [14]

  • MELWYN, Mangalore

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Dear ones

    we in the society looking for one side only. we blame and point out the alcoholic persons only saying that they are spoiling the family . but in the other side we totally support the manufacture and dealer and supplier of such items like alcohol, tobacco products, drugs etc. we use to allow to distribute alcohols in our community halls, private halls , there is no any restrictions to serve these items in public places like , church/temple/mosque or such other places while conducting personnel functions.
    In the other way we pray for the donors in public prayers like church/temple /mosque or any other public prayers for the donor who donates in large ; for such people or the owners who is having above said business . we pray and shower all our blessing to them for the development of their business.
    but we cry unknowingly we it effects to us .
    so everybody has to think to whom we have to support , and what business we should do and also should think who should be our donor.
    Regards

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [20]

  • Lancy, Bantval

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Very useful article

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [8]

  • Joswin, Mumbai

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Very nicely presented and explained. Congrats.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [11]

  • Reginald, Thottam/Kuwait

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Very nice and useful article for everyone in society

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [10]

  • jason, Udupi/Thottam

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    very good and interesting article. Congrats.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [13]

  • Arun DSouza, Qatar, Kulshekar

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Very nice and useful article for everyone, congratulations SR.Judy

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [11]

  • Alwyn, Mangalore

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Congrats very inspiring article.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [11]

  • Arun DSouza, Qatar, Kulshekar

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Very nice and useful article for everyone, congratulations Sr.Judy

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [8]

  • sam, Kuwait

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Very useful article .

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [9]

  • Veena, Isral

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Very good article and Useful to us.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [9]

  • Rems, Mangaluru

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Thanks for addressing the No.2 problem ailing the society. (No.1 being talking to one's own child in a foreign language and the issues arising from it). Problem of alcoholism is taken very lightly in society even though it is killing many young people. Youngsters should be made aware what alcohol can do to their liver as they are not aware of the medical implications when then start drinking. Very useful article

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [17]

  • Vincent Rodrigues, Katapadi/Bangalore

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Quite useful and interesting article indeed to come out of this serious social menace which has taken the life of many innocent families.

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [18]

  • HENRY MISQUITH, Bahrain

    Tue, Dec 4 2018

    Alcohol Leads to Different Effects in Different People

    Reply Report Abuse Agree [24]

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