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Alcoholism and Marriage

"Alcoholism and Marriage, Alcoholism and marriage generally abad combination "
copyright 2011, all rights reserved

by Toby Rice Drews
author of the "Getting Them Sober" books

The non-addicted spouse of an alcoholic often tries to heal her marriage by going through religious avenues that offer help for marriages in trouble. Why is this usually not only not-helpful, but can add to the crazymaking in the alcoholic home? First, let's look at the reasons why the spouse goes that route ----
a. She/he is often religious and therefore this is a natural thing to do
b. We hope that a clergyperson will have answers that surely must be right
c. We feel that if we take this path, we have done all we can

What can be made of all this? Will it work?

a. As Al-Anon has always said, one must take all the old ideas about "how to help someone with a disease" and turn it on its head. Helping an alcoholic in the way that we help a spouse with other deadly diseases, can be just the opposite of what helps the alcoholic.

b. There are of course some clergy who do understand alcoholism and how to REALLY help. But most do not, still. The numbers of clergy and other helping professionals who understand the crazy dynamics in the alcoholic household are growing, but they are still in the small minority.

What does this professional lack of knowledge about alcoholism and the family lead to, in counseling?

It usually leads to secular therapists who advise the spouse to "get out"..... and it usually leads to clergy who advise the spouse to "love the alcoholic more".... and both of them believe that if you just "get out" or just "love them more", all will be well.

First of all, we cannot usually do either!

When the alcoholic does the next "zinger", we feel so understandably enraged at them ---- and then we feel guilty that we are not "loving them" as the pastoral counselor told us to do.

And when we hear from the therapist that we need to leave them -- we can't. We feel so afraid to leave ----- and we can't even express why ---- and we feel so ashamed about how very much we feel so stuck to them. So, then we feel guilty and ashamed that we aren't "getting out"------ and this on top of not being able to get out!

We wind up in an emotionally no-win place, and we feel like failures. And when we go to marriage counseling with a drinking-alcoholic spouse, it usually winds up at a place where (on top of all this other junk) the spouse gets blamed.

In talking with a woman who went to someone who was considered to be the best marriage counselor in her State, she said that their counselor wound up telling the couple that he probably wouldn't drink so much if she smiled more! She needed an Al-Anon meeting to recover from her family-therapy session.

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