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Should I stay with a dying alcoholic husband?

answered 11:58 PM EST, Tue November 29, 2011
Before my husband agreed to marry me 4 years ago I had to promise that I would never question his drinking or drug use. That makes it sound like he is a big jerk but actually he is not he is very sweet but his previous marriage had ended because his ex wife couldn’t accept his drinking and he didn’t want to go through that (or put anyone else through that) again. He says that he knows his drinking is not good for him but it is a choice he has made as an adult and that he asks that those around him respect that so long as he does no harm to anyone else.

He is financially secure and ok looking and we have a lot of fun together.

Maybe I was blind, and foolish but I agreed. He drinks a lot but he never gets angry or violent or causes trouble, and he very rarely even looks drunk, though considering how much I know he has been drinking by about dinner time, he really must be.

Now he has very high blood pressure and the doctor says he’ll have a heart attack or a stroke soon unless he stops drinking completely.

He is still drinking and I don’t know what to do. I never thought this day would come so soon where I might become a widow (I am only 36). I asked him why he was still drinking and he got furious and reminded me of my promise. Should I break my word and try to get him to stop, even though it will probably ruin my marriage and leave him alone to die or should I just stay with him like I said I would, through good times and bad? It’s so hard to imagine not doing anything, but so many people have tried and failed over the last 20 years to get him to stop drinking maybe it’s foolish for me to think I will be able to do any better.

Ari Hahn Says...

You've gotten yourself into quite a pickle, young lady!

I would venture to say that you will not be able to get him to stop drinking. He has (in our society) the right to drink himself to death, as unpleasant as that is. He is doing nothing illegal.

But where does that leave you? You are an adult and can make your own choices. I would first encourage you to tell him (and convince yourself) that his drinking is his choice and (if only because you cannot control it) you will never tell him to stop. If he would decide to stop it would make you happy, but it is his choice. If you think he is killing himself, you have a choice. Either you can stay with him and watch (perhaps in horror) or tell him that it is too painful to watch and you just have to leave. Since he is good to you, staying is not necessarily a bad choice. But you must be clear with yourself about what you are getting into, and the limits of what you can control.

(BTW, my father was in a similar situation. I good man in every way, and never seemed drunk, but drunk himself to death. However, he was 73 years old. His wife stayed with him, knowing that she could not stop him.)

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Page last updated Nov 30, 2011

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