: Drugs, alcohol and mental health

Discuss the twin challenges of mental health and substance use

14 replies

Wife secret drinking

I don’t know where to turn, no one to talk to, would appreciate some views, don’t know what to do.

Together 20 years, early 40’s, 2 beautiful kids, very well paid job, wife at home, foreign holidays, no debt, not even a mortgage. Things ought to be pretty good.

A couple of years ago, pretty much to the day, I discovered my wife was secretly drinking. She’d always liked a drink, but this was startlingly heavy, I calculated about 150 units p/w. I raised this with her, said she had to get some help and supported her through some brief counselling.

Since then she has continued to drink pretty much every night, just a glass of wine or a beer, saying she has it under control, likes a drink to unwind. However, I have found on more than one occasion that she has been drinking during the day too, and she certainly always goes for it on social occasions. I have confronted her 3 or 4 times more over the last couple of years, and each time she says it isn’t a problem, or I’m to blame, or she denies it.

Last summer I raised it and she said I was controlling, that she wanted to get a job, to have her own money etc and that I was the reason she needed to drink. I tried to adapt, I even started giving her £500 every month in cash to spend on herself, whatever she wanted, no questions asked. That stopped in February when I found she was secretly drinking again (clearly the cash wasn’t helping).

Last night I came home from work to find her acting suspiciously, usual hallmarks of her drinking, she was cooking the dinner but could barely string a sentence together, wouldn’t look me in the eye. Then I found an empty water bottle in a kitchen cupboard which still had a few drops of wine in the bottom. She’d been out shopping that day (driving) and my guess is that she’d taken it with her. I’ve caught her doing this twice before (with vodka previously).

I discovered last night’s bottle after dinner when she was about to drive one of my children to an event. I took over, and when I got back I handed her the empty bottle and asked for an explanation. She tried to act surprised but had nothing to say.

We nearly split a couple of months ago when, again, I discovered she was secretly drinking although she denied it. Indeed we agreed to separate, but we had a big holiday all booked and didn’t want to let the kids down. We arrived back this weekend and we had a great time. Everything seemed ok but looking back she did drink every day. Usually a couple of large pinots during the meal, plus maybe a beer or 2 beforehand and maybe a glass or 2 of wine afterwards. But she was on holiday, so it’s not unusual to have a few drinks is it and I didn’t want to spoil things or be criticised for trying to control her.

Despite all this, she seems to function ok, rarely has a hangover, you can’t easily tell she’s even had a drink a lot of the time. It’s not as if she is aggressive or ‘drunk’ as such, which does make me question whether I am overplaying this. And I’m pretty confident that she has completely stopped for a few weeks at a time, so maybe she does have control over it.

She certainly won’t admit there is a problem, won’t talk to me about it, won’t seek help.

Probably the worst it’s got for me is a year or so ago when I found she was hiding vodka in one of my kids bedroom (after I’d found her other hiding places) or when I stopped her driving one of my kids to a party with vodka in her handbag (she swore she was taking it with her to get rid of it).

I’m seriously thinking about leaving, but I don’t want to leave my children. She’s a great mum, they love her dearly, and they’re very settled at home, so I wouldn’t want to disturb that situation. But it means I would be the one moving out, living on my own. I’d also not want other people to know the reasons so as to protect her and the kids, which probably means people would not understand and ostracise me. Either way, the future looks pretty bleak. Occasionally I think about ending my life but not seriously, I love my kids too much.

I think I’ve been pretty calm and patient with her. I’ve generally spoken in soft terms, tried to reflect an understanding of what she might be going through, but I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to feel angry. I was so annoyed last night. After I showed her the bottle and she didn’t have an explanation I didn’t say anything more, just avoided her and slept downstairs. It is now nearly 8pm the next day, I’m still in the office and I don’t want to go home any more.

Am I missing something here? Is there something I should be doing? I know there are always 2 sides to a story. I must be at fault somehow, at least partly, but I don’t know what to do for the best.

replying to Dellboy

Reading this nearly brought me to tears, you sound like you’re in a very difficult situation and I have been in a similar situation (partly alcohol but mainly drugs) for about 3 years so I can completely sympathise.

It has taken a lot of strength and pain to stay in this situation for me but I have done it because I knew if we split up that the children would see him regularly and that worried me as I’ve done the same as you and made sure he’s not been under the influence when driving them around etc..

Can I ask what aspect of the situation makes you want to leave? It’s a genuine question, is it the loss of connection with your wife? Or the arguments?

replying to Dellboy

Can I also add that after feeling very bleak at times, I have posted today about my partner agreeing to going to a rehab facility soon so there is hope for you and your family. That is a massive step up from where he was this time last year.

He has been attending a local drugs and alcohol service since last year and it has helped (obviously he had to agree to this)

If you’ve got spare money, as you imply, maybe your wife could get better treatment and eventually a good rehab?

Also, I don’t think it sounds like you’re exaggerating as hiding alcohol in a child’s room or in a water bottle is not the behaviour of a ‘normal drinker’

replying to Dellboy

Hi there. Firstly you’re not on your own. I think addiction is the same for us no matter what the substance. My boy friends is cocaine. But I get where you are coming from in regards to the denial, the circles you are going round and round in.

I think it comes down to she isn’t ready to face her problems, until she does I think you’re fighting a losing battle. If I was you I’d be worried about leaving the home and the children in her care. You’ve already said she’s drank and drove with them in the car. She could end up killing one of them. However, you shouldn’t have to stay in a relationship you’re not happy in.

I think you need to sit down with her and gently in a non judgemental way suggest your findings about her hiding bottles etc, tell her that you love her (if you still do) and that you want her to go to the dr and maybe seek some help. Tell her that you want her to be the best she can be and you feel that without the drink she’s a better person. For whatever reason she’s decided the drink is working for her. Maybe she was depressed and used drink to help her block out her feelings. Depending on how she reacts I’d start telling family and maybe close friends. Addiction thrives on secrecy. Plus if you do end up leaving you’re all going to need to get all the support you need.

Get some help for yourself too. Al anon groups are really good. You shouldn’t be feeling suicidal, but dealing with active addiction does indeed make you feel that way.

Good luck

replying to Dellboy

Thanks to you both for taking the time to respond, it means a lot to know there are others out there, thank you.

Trainer28, it’s great that your partner has agreed to go into rehab, I wish you both well.

The reason for wanting to leave is that the trust has gone with all the lies and deceit. I’ve asked her lots of times to open up to me, tell me how she’s feeling so I can help. And if she wants a drink, then fine, it’s her body, get on with it but don’t hide it, put the drink in the fridge, be open about it. She says she will but then she doesn’t.

Physical affection from her is non existent, it is always initiated by me. I’m not just talking amount close intimacy, I mean simple cuddles or kisses, expressions of love. I’ve said this to her a number of times but I see no changes. I do often think the reason for this is that she might have been drinking and therefore doesn’t want to get close or I’ll smell it on her.

As I say, most of the time she doesn’t really act drunk, but the drinking makes her distant, conversations tend to brief and disjointed. It’s very unfulfilling. And if we’re together with friends then, to be honest, she can be pretty embarrassing, slurring words, staggering about etc, she just doesn’t seem to have an off switch with the drink. When others have had enough she just carries on. I’ve given up trying to bring her along to work social events, they’re only once or twice a year but it’s not worth the hassle.

But we don’t argue really, I typically avoid confrontation and brew on things, but I am trying to be as up front with her as I can on this however hard it is for me.

I guess wanting to leave is because I feel there must be something more than this, I see years ahead, kids moving out, her reliance on drink getting worse, us having fewer and fewer friends, but I am acutely aware of my immediate responsibilities to my beautiful kids, and indeed my marriage vows.

Kloe88, best wishes to you and your boyfriend.

When this first arose I asked her to see a doctor for help and in fairness she did. A few weeks later he prescribed her some relatively low dose anti-depressants. She took them for about a week but then stopped, albeit she didn’t tell me for another 3 or 4 months that she’d stopped. Again, this emphasises the lack of open communication and therefore trust I have in her. I try and help, I try to be supportive, I try to be non-judgemental, but it seems to be getting me no where.

Again, I guess that is partly why I am considering moving out, maybe it’ll jolt her into action.

But my number 1 priority is my kids. I want them to have a healthy Mum, I want them to be happy, but I also want them to be safe and I don’t like the way she is normalising to them her level of drinking (and smoking, and zero exercise and no obvious hobbies or interests). They look up to her, she is a role model, but if I raise this type of stuff with her then she dismisses it and says I am controlling.

I’m thinking a compromise might be to live in the same house together, so I can be there for the kids, but my wife and I effectively live separate lives. Perhaps the chance of that working out is naive, but perhaps worth a try.

replying to Dellboy

Thank you.

It sounds like your in a catch 22, as am I. I wasn’t prepared to leave without trying so decided subconsciously to live my own separate life and only realised recently I have been doing this for a while, I work, have hobbies and visit family and friends away from him. All this keeps me sane whilst we maintain a ‘family unit’ however, I do know this could only be kept up whilst there was the hope that he might get help at some point.

For me, him going to rehab is a turning point as I will know that my children have a healthy Dad who is willing to try to help himself. I will not know if the trust has gone or if I can let go of the anger until we are through the other side. Even then, I know he will need ongoing support and strength to get through life clean and sober.

I am sorry to hear you’ve got to the point where the trust has gone but it is understandable if you have asked her to be honest but she refuses to be, I am starting to think that is part of the ‘disease’ though.

As for the intimacy and cuddles and the lack of engaging conversation, that is a lonely place to be so I suppose you might come to the conclusion that you are already both living separate lives but in the same house?

I would encourage you to contact an alcohol service in your area and maybe ask for advice before speaking to your wife about it. If you can, go back to the GP with her and try again.

It sounds like you are being very gentle and trying to communicate but from her point of view, to play devils advocate, maybe she has got herself into a situation that she feels ashamed of so she is closing off from you because she already knows the truth and doesn’t want to face it. Maybe she wants help but doesn’t know how or when to ask for it. A GP visit with some honesty once you get in there might be a wake up call?

I understand how confusing and bleak it can feel but it can all start moving into a more positive light with just that first small step

replying to Dellboy

Dear Dellboy,

I am really glad that you are receiving thoughtful and supportive advice from Trainer28 and Khloe88. If ever you feel like ending your life you should call the Samaritans on 116 123. They are there to listen.

replying to Dellboy

Trainer28, thank you for sharing that with me.

She did attend some sort of alcohol help sessions at the very start of this a couple of years ago but she didn’t feel she gained much from them and didn’t think she was anything like many of the other people on the course and in the building generally. I do kind of get it. She felt she had control and I’d blown it out of proportion and almost forced her to attend. Indeed, I do believe she gave up for a good month or 2 to show she wasn’t dependent.

In reality, I’m sure she suffers from a low sense of self worth and anxiety in certain social situations. This has probably been worsened since she gave up her job to be a full time Mum, albeit I have encouraged her to go back to work if that’s what she wants to do.

Whenever her drinking has caused problems in the past I’ve softened pretty quickly. I end up sweeping it under the carpet, moving on. But in time things slip back into their old ways again.

And in many respects I have overcompensated for her lack of control by being extra self disciplined myself. I exercise every day, run marathons, barely drink, don’t smoke, go to bed early, get up early, read lots of self improvement books, do lots of jobs around the house, etc. However, rather than this giving her encouragement and inspiration to improve herself, it’s probably only making matters worse by growing the gap between us.

I didn’t return home last night until gone 11pm, just stayed at work. Will do the same tonight. Don’t want to go home. Don’t want to face the lies, don’t want to sweep it under the carpet, don’t want to face her, don’t want to be the one who is always seen to be overplaying the problem.

I don’t really see any way out of this. I’ve thought about all options. Each one is painful. I guess that’s life.

Clara1 - thank you and yes, I am blessed to have received the helpful and kind responses from Trainer28 and Kloe88. I have thought about killing myself, even this morning, as I look at things pretty logically, all options. On one side of the coin I can see it would solve the problem and the life insurance is huge (if they would pay out). However, I do also recognise it would have a tremendously negative emotional impact on my children, and my wife, and would be a very selfish thing to do. I will bear in mind the Samaritans if things develop further along that line, but I am pretty confident it won’t get to that point. Thank you for caring.

replying to Dellboy

Dellboy, You sound like an absolutely lovely person and I’m so sorry this is happening to you. It sounds like you are at the end of your tether, not wanting to go home from work so maybe you have already made your decision about staying or leaving? Your children might have more quality time with you if you actually have somewhere you want to return to at the end of the day.

I am really pleased that you’ve been able to get this off your chest on here because it sounds like you are carrying a massive burden and a lot of confusion, that would make anyone feel overwhelmed. When I get thoughts of ending it all, I try to remember that I don’t want to die, I just don’t want to live in this pain anymore.

As a child of divorced parents, I can tell you it is not always a terrible thing, it has brought me many blessings, as well as a bit of pain, I have half siblings who I love greatly. My Mum passed away in her late 40’s unfortunately and that pain is unbearable and will never leave me. Please use the Samaritans number should you need it.

If you need a counsellor to speak to, look up ‘Icarus’ online, they respond quickly and you can converse by telephone.

I can feel and understand your desperation. Sending best wishes for whatever you decide to do.

replying to Dellboy

My sister has always had a problem with alcohol.

She can drink eighteen cans a day and any extras along the way including drinking whisky out of a cup.

She drives under the influence too, has been for years and has had a few scrapes and bumps along the way. No one would know she was drunk.

She has lost friends and family have distanced themselves because of the violence and insults.

She has seen an alcohol adviser in the past after being referred to by the doctor. This adviser actually told her she hadn't got a problem and was wasting her time. This was not helpful as this enabled her to carry on drinking.

She did give up the drink for four weeks earlier this year. Not a drink passed her lips. Then for some unknown reason she decided she wanted a drink. Went to the local shop, bought a bottle of Malibu and downed the lot before her husband returned from work. She forgot to get rid of the evidence. He looked in her bag and found the empty bottle he was devastated and felt let down.

So after years of physical and mental abuse her husband told her to leave. She had to leave behind her son, her dogs and her remaining friends, in fact her life.

This was the turning point. If her husband had left nothing would have changed, she would have still had the comforts of being at home.

She was alone and devastated by what she had done and was doing to everyone. She wanted her husband to support her but he couldn't any more. She missed her son. Missed her dogs. Missed her life.

I told her the only way she could get her life back was to concentrate on herself. She had to get help for the drink and realise she has a problem.

I sent her to an AA meeting. After the meeting she was devastated, she couldn't stop the tears falling. All she could say to me was 'my names ........ I'm an alcoholic' This was another turning point actually realising it wasn't just a problem she was an alcoholic and not one drink could now pass her lips. Two days later I went with her to another AA open meeting. She likes this group and has continued to go every week and is doing well. She is now back home and has her life back.

If her husband had not made her leave and I had not made her go to the AA meeting we would not be where we are today.

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