Savage Love Letter of the Day: Not Another DTMFA?!? Yes! Another DTMFA!


DRUNKS, unpacking your e-mail and rearranging a bit, and four themes emerge: (1) Since you met your wife, you went from being heavy drinker to being an alcoholic; (2) you cannot stop drinking so long as you are with your wife, she is not supportive of your efforts to change your behavior, and this is hurting your relationship; (3) drinking is keeping you from establishing a career; and (4) you do not have a normal life, and alcohol is ruining your life.

"I had never drank more than three or four drinks in a day, and never before 5 o'clock . . . Now I'm a certifiable alcoholic, I wake up to a beer three days of the week."

"I don't have the willpower to not drink when she does it too. I've talked to her about it, I've even been in rehab for a week . . . the minute I slipped she happily had a beer right beside me . . . This kind of substance abuse is hurting our relationship."

"After we moved in together I've had a spate of jobs, but nothing that would be called a career . . . I cannot be productive in any way, shape, or form the day after drinking."

"I can't live a normal life drinking like this . . . It's ruining my life."

DRUNKS, you are in a terrible situation, but you can make the changes in your life that you need to avoid the life and health crises that confront you. Alcohol has taken over your life, and you will never stop drinking so long as you stay with your wife. Get into a serious rehab program, and do your best to stay sober. That means saying goodbye to a woman who is not ready to face her own alcohol problems.
I have an ex that was like this with smoking. I went from non-smoker (save the occasional hookah rental or hit off a friend's e-cig) to two packs a day in the three years we were together.

This was an abuser's way of controlling and isolating me. I couldn't move back in with my parents to get away from him and his crap, because I'd have to quit cold turkey. (My dad, an ex smoker, had zero tolerance for it.)

I tried to quit several times while with him. Every time, it was ended the same way. I'd get upset with him, he'd shut down my legitimate grievance with "you're just bitchy because you haven't had a cigarette," and I'd have one in a (futile) attempt to get him to listen and see that the issue I was raising was serious.

Getting me to smoke was also his way of shutting down any complaints I might have about his smoking (he left butts everywhere, he smoked indoors and stunk up everything, he spent so much on tobacco, beer and weed that he skipped bills consistently).
LW, you are in a pickle. The gf is supporting you and you're killing yourself to thank her.
Get a job, become independent and leave. Go to AA, take getting clean seriously.
Rehab for a week? That's hardly long enough to dry out, and you're going to need some follow-up. It's going to take more than that. Dan's advice to dump her may be good, but it's going to take more than that too. I'd say start with a serious addiction program. AA works for some, but its success rate is hardly wonderful. There are other methods/programs to choose from. One thing AA has going for it is that it's in the phone book, and there's follow-up available pretty much day and night if you need someone to talk to. If the particulars of AA don't suit you, they're the folks who will know about other resources. If your wife has the steady job, you may be covered by her insurance, and that insurance may cover a good program. For that reason, I suggest not dumping her-- yet. Get the intensive therapy that a good addiction program can offer you, and with their advice and support, uncover, well uncover everything, why you're drinking in the first place, the co-dependency, the works. Then see if getting away from your wife is a good idea. I'm guessing it will be, but with an illness this serious, go to the experts, not advice columnists. Asking Dan is fine first step, but you know the way there's a disclaimer on webpages about not getting advice online for serious injury and illness and to call 9-1-1? This is that situation. Even a primary care doctor can direct you to the sort of alcoholism treatment you need.
LW, I totally get that you feel a craving to join in whenever your wife is drinking. It's a social sport, and at this point it's become your primary family tradition. As an ACOA (Adult Child of Alcoholics) on both sides of the family tree, I'm comfortable with my own social drinking, but I've got excellent reasons to stay wary and keep my drinking in check. Since you may not be ready or willing to take Dan's advice to DTMFA, or at least temporarily separate from your wife until both of you are able to get your drinking habits under control, I'll offer a few practical tips I've developed in living and drinking with a heavy drinker (not an alcoholic, there is a BIG difference) for many years, without going over the edge myself.

First, since beer appears to be your beverage of choice, try switching to a mug instead of drinking it out of the can. Use a mug that's non-transparent and fairly upscale, since this will become your new healthy ritual and it deserves the correct props: an elaborately decorated German stein is perfect, or a distinctive ceramic mug that connotes BEER. When your first beer of the morning/afternoon/evening is done, refill the mug with some non-alcoholic beverage you enjoy. (Including non-alc beer, although personally I've yet to find one that doesn't SUCK - other alternatives include lo-cal lemonade, Bai, iced tea, flavored seltzer, half-seltzer-half-juice, etc.). Drinking it from your designated "Beer Mug" (or "Wine Glass," in my case) lets you enjoy that chummy feeling of drinking alongside your partner, without the alcohol poisoning your system so you're no good the next day. Repeat as necessary. You are likely to get a few pangs for the real thing, especially in the first week or so, but with a little practice this bit of psychological trickery really works. And if you absolutely MUST have another beer before the day is out, then go ahead and have one - but then go back to your lemonade routine.

Secondly, GET OUT OF THE DAMN HOUSE DURING THE DAY. When you're not working outside the home, try to find yourself a good cause and volunteer, hike, work out, find friends to hang with, go to the public library or a coffee shop to work or read or write - but do whatever it takes to keep you away from the convenience of those six-packs in the fridge during daytime hours. That way your first beer of the day can happen at 5 p.m., rather than 9 a.m.

Herbal tea can be another good beer replacement during the heavy-drinking "danger zone" between supper and bedtime. It's very comforting to put that kettle on right after the evening meal, and quaff it down as soon as it's cool enough to drink. YMMV, but I'm not tempted to revert to wine (my own beverage of choice, but also of danger) after I've had a cup or two of hot tea.

Please DON'T play high-hat or criticize your wife for continuing to drink a lot of beer, while you tread your saintly path of semi-abstinence. But every so often, you can casually say something like: "I'm going to the kitchen for another lemonade. You want one?" Who knows - your wife, despite her high capacity for holding her liquor, may be looking to taper off a little herself. You might be able to help each other cut back.

...Oh yeah, one more piece of ACOA advice. If your wife throws a fit about your efforts to replace your day-through-night drinking rituals with healthier routines, or keeps manipulating you back into codependency with her, as XG17 @2 describes about her own experience with an addicted smoker? Then you have no choice but to DTMFA. As in yesterday. RUN don't walk. Then seek out an Al-Anon program in your area. Unlike Fichu @4 I don't think you're a candidate for AA or similar programs,'re way too self-aware of your drinking problem already, without any serious bad stuff happening, YET, that would force you to admit to having a problem. But Al-Anon will help you understand that you can love someone deeply without supporting all of their bad choices, and that it's important to let them figure out on their own how to deal with all the bad consequences of their choices. Otherwise, what motivation do they have to change and grow?

Good luck, DRUNKS. I think you can beat this.
As someone who gave up the needle now for twenty five years, I would tell you that when you go into recovery, you lose the relationship. The relationship you have is based around your using behavior, when you cease using, the two of you will have less in common. You will reach the end rather quickly. That is called "normal." Get on with your life. Otherwise, the ramifications will start to pile up. Make the move now, while it can still be your decision.
LW please listen to 4-6, they speak the truth and their advice is helpful.

I'll add don't try to save your wife. Not because she doesn't deserve it, but because in the end only she can decide to stop drinking. But if being with her means drinking yourself in to cirrhosis then the relationship SHOULD end.
Get out of that house, DRUNKS. I'm not going to go so far as to say divorce your wife (there are plenty of commenters happy to do that, and they may be right), but figure out your finances, get an apartment, and at least limit your time around your wife to dates or visits to your place during which she agrees not to drink. Maybe she'll change her tune when she sees you're serious. Probably not though, so be prepared to call that apartment home. In the meantime, see a doctor and ask for advice on good treatment programs. AA is a great program, but if you don't like it there are alternatives, albeit not ones with meetings literally every day. Don't let your drinking escalate, it'll jet make it that much harder and more miserable to quit later. I quit recently and would up in the ICU recovering from delerium tremens; I wouldn't wish that shit on my worst enemy. Google it, and be aware that it's Wikipedia entry really downplays how bad some of it's symptoms can be. Get sober before things escalate to the point where you even need to think seriously about it.
Maybe this is just the way the letter is written, or edited for print, but if his wife is drinking when she gets home from work everyday she is not necessarily an alcoholic. Unless we are to consider half of Europe alcoholics. It sounds to me like this guy is likely an alcoholic, but his partner may have a perfectly fine relationship to alcohol, albeit one not very helpful to living with an alcoholic.
6 knows what he's talking about.

She won't change until she recognizes the problem. Probably (alas, the statistics bear this out) not even then.

You cannot be around people who drink. Period. Full stop. No exceptions. Not for your wife, your family, co-workers, your best friend. If they are not going to support your decisions by not drinking around you, you need them gone. You need people in your life pronto who will support you.

Lots of people have already suggested AA. That's a good place to start, although be aware that many AA groups are fairly Christian (some may close with the Lord's Prayer, for instance). Groups vary considerably so shop around.

Consider NA as well. Most people there will be recovering drug users, but they make a point of being substance agnostic. Both their groups and their literature are much further removed from Christianity (although ultimately the 12 steps are derived from a form of Protestantism).

Or you can make your own support group from friends you can talk openly with. I suggest that you actively seek out at least a few recovering alcoholics (or addicts) to get close to. This is a bit more of a risky strategy, but it works for some people. One main common denominator in successful recovery is surrounding yourself with a supportive community and giving yourself commitments. Hell, even a good p&p RPG group is helpful.

If you need a place to stay, consider a sober living house. Yes, they can be a little on the crappy side. Yes, you'll be living with roommates again. Yes, there will be rules to follow. That's OK. Cultivating a little humility is a good thing to do.

And seriously, unless she starts making a real honest-to-Dog effort to clean herself up (and not just to manipulate you into staying) you need to dump her, lose her number, change your own, cut off all social media links and get her completely out of your life.
@9 the most widely accepted definition is someone who thinks they might have a problem. DRUNKS articulated that pretty well. Doesn't matter how much or how often he drinks. If it's problematic, he's an alcoholic.
@11: Ziptag (#9) wasn't talking about the LW; they were talking about the letter writer's wife. Not that it makes much of a difference (Dan's advice is still sound-- LW has a problem, is not being supported by his spouse and needs to leave), but let's look at the story with a somewhat skeptical eye for a second. It's possible, I guess, that the wife, presumably a female, presumably a smaller person than the LW, just has a super-human ability to drink as much as the LW, metabolize alcohol extremely well, and then get up and be fully functioning and maintain a job. On the other hand, it's possible that she isn't drinking nearly as much at the LW because she works all day. I know a lot of people who drink beer or wine after work, are fully functional, and don't (right or wrong) feel that they have a problem with alcoholism.
Great advice, Dan. Just go do the thing you can't really do. All the mice needed to do to know when the cat was coming was to bell the cat.

Seriously, Dan, you know better, knowledge isn't action. How does he break out of a relationship that fulfills his number one drive, the need for alcohol? He doesn't really have a job, doesn't really have anywhere to go, and is drunk enough by most afternoons (my guess) that he shouldn't drive or even walk outside. Is there a number he can call that will bring the guys in white coats to take him to a hospital? Is there a web site to summon an intervention? Break it all down into baby steps, Dan.
Just tossing in the neglected fact that AA is NOT a 'program.' It is self-defined as 'a fellowship of men and women.' That said, you might walk into a meeting in any number of places and find yourself surrounded by 'program' zombies.

One week into a 'program' is way too soon for your head to have stopped spinning. SOME sober people live with spouses who drink. Very few live with drinking alcoholics. Anything is possible. People I know have gotten sober, and stayed that way, while working as bartenders etc. etc.

For now: staying with your spouse is a dumb idea. No permanent decision needs to be made, but you'll probably do a lot better with more distance between you and the next beer-can.

She may actually not be an alcoholic, just one of those mysterious drinkers who doesn't 'do' the stuff that we do.

You need to be completely ready to DTMFA, its probably the smart move. But you don't need to feel forced or trapped into making some huge proclamation today. Just don't drink.
It sounds like she is a heavy drinker but handles the alcohol better than him, and doesn't get hung over the way he does. He drinks to keep up with her, gets wasted, feels horrible the next day and perhaps drinks more to feel better? Then develops a dependency...It seems common for people to come home from work and "drink until bed" as the LW and his wife do; we're creatures of pleasure and habit. But depending on what time one gets home from work, that can be a LOT of drinking. it's definitely not healthy behavior, and clearly it's ruining his life and his wife...doesn't seem to care? That is the part that makes me feel like she does have a drinking problem as well -- that she'd rather continue drinking then quit or cut back out of concern for her husband. Does she express any worry about the LW's health and happiness?

LW, I wish you all the luck and strength in the world. If you have other family or close friends you can turn to for help, do it immediately. You've gotta get away from your wife. Drying out, eating and sleeping well and taking care of your health will make you feel so much better and enable you to think clearly.
WTF do all you people do after work? "Drinking until bed" sounds exactly what I and all of my acquaintances do all the time. Dude should get the fuck out if he's not happy, but I gotta feel for his wife with all his bitching about a few drinks.
Coke. Do some coke.
My life is hard sometimes. I have my issues. But man... life is hard for this person. Yes... get out and good luck with the new life. It will be worse for a while, but it will be better.
Oh wow

Just wow
@16: "WTF do all you people do after work? "Drinking until bed" sounds exactly what I and all of my acquaintances do all the time"

You and all of Y our acquaintances start drinking as soon as you get home all night long, every day including morning and day-drinking?

The difference is certainly in the degree and frequency that they drink.