A Reason to Smile

A Reason to Smile

Q&A: “I am married to an addict and don’t know how to leave”

posted by B. Dave Walters

When will enough be enough?

(Unedited) questions submitted via Formspring:

“Female married for 17 years, 47, 16 year old son. Husband drinks heavily and also addicted to prescription meds. I am not happy. Scared of what he might do if I try to leave.”


“I have been in a relationship with a guy for 14yrs and he is a functional alcoholic. Our relationship is not normal and i am unhappy, to top it off we share a mortgage, which is in both our names, what’s the best way to get out the relationship.”

We talked recently about a woman trapped in a loveless marriage that she didn’t know how to leave, and these two questions were submitted by other Readers right afterwards.  These two questions are different, but related; so let us look at them both here.

The first question:

  1. You have been married for 17 years, and had a child within your first year of marriage… (Did you get married because you were pregnant?)
  2. Your husband drinks and is addicted to prescription meds.
  3. You are not happy.
  4. And you are scared of what he might do if you try to leave.  Why is that?  Does he have a history of aggression or abuse?

The second question:

  1. You have been in a relationship for 14 years and not married…why?
  2. He is a functional alcoholic.
  3. Your relation ship is ‘not normal’ (not normal how?)
  4. You are not happy.
  5. You share a mortgage in both of your names, and
  6. You want to get out of the relationship.

One thing I didn’t notice in either question was whether or not you’ve sought counseling or any other sort of help to repair the relationship up until now.  Relationships don’t stay happy and fulfilling on their own, and like anything they take quite a bit of work and maintenance to keep them running smoothly.

We have talked before about how to know whether or not you should stay and fight or move on from a bad relationship; and there are a couple questions you need to ask yourself:

Do you even want this person back? Is this relationship really worth your time?
Here is a test that I’ve used hundreds of times to determine if a relationship is worth staying in. If you’re honest with yourself, it is 100% accurate:
Do you spend more time being happy with this person, enjoying one another, and thinking wonderful loving thoughts;
Do you spend more time fighting, arguing, being unhappy, or wondering if you’re happy. Because if you have to ask if you’re happy: you aren’t.

Whichever one of these you decide is your answer: if you spend more time happy, stay and fight to make it work; if you spend more time unhappy, it’s time to go.

But there is one VERY important thing that both of you need to deal with, and that is both men’s substance abuse problems; you won’t be able to get anywhere until those issues are faced and dealt with.

Breaking an addiction takes two things: professional help, and more importantly, a willingness to change.  People often mistake addiction, mental illnesses, and other ‘internal’ issues as something they can change on their own, and addicts are notorious for believing they are in control when in reality they are destroying themselves.

But be clear on something:  just like if a person had cancer or heart disease, you wouldn’t expect them to be able to cure themselves, addicts can’t either.  Addiction does not happen in a vacuum, and it will take professional help to help unravel all the baggage, trauma, and history that has lead them both down this path.

The only way that you can possibly stay is if they get help, and there are many resources online to help you figure out how to get a loved one to go into rehab.    And whether or not he is willing to go into some sort of you treatment, you and your son will need to talk to someone as well to help you deal with what has happened over the last 16 years.   Also remember that often times addiction is hereditary, and you don’t want your son to be trapped following in his father’s footsteps.

However, to answer your specific questions: if you want to leave, leave.

If he threatens you, call the police, leave while he’s at work, or both.

As far as the house goes, sell it, or let him buy you out; a house is just a thing, especially when it’s not a home.  The worst case scenario is you cut your losses; you lose the house and maybe damage your credit, but you gain freedom and happiness…what’s more valuable?

So to review:

  1. Decide if you are really done or not.
  2. Get him to go to therapy/rehab if you decide to work on it, and leave if he refuses; things won’t change until he does.
  3. If you are already done, leave now anyway.
  4. If he becomes violent or aggressive, call the authorities.
  5. Move on and be happy with your life.

What do you think ? Feel free to comment down below!

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B. Dave Walters

Writer, Life Coach, and Talk Radio Host

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