My spouse is an alcoholic, and the whole family is slowly going to pieces

April 30, 2021

QUESTION

My spouse has “given up drinking” several times only to end up back on the bottle within a short period of time. She’s lost her job, our household is showing the signs of neglect, and the whole family is slowly going to pieces. What can I do to reverse this negative trend?

ANSWER

The pattern you’ve described is extremely common and all too familiar to the millions of men and women who know what it’s like to live with an alcoholic spouse. Many alcoholics drink on an intermittent basis, leading their families on a rollercoaster ride of false hopes and recurring disappointments. So don’t be fooled. Your wife’s addiction isn’t going to go away by itself. If you really want to resolve this issue, you need to seek immediate intervention.
The Lighthouse Network is a clearing house for substance abuse referrals. They can help you locate a facility in your area that will help your wife take some positive steps in the direction of recovery. They can also provide information regarding the insurance companies who are prepared to work with these facilities. You can contact HOUSE LINK at 1-877-562-2565.
Another option for long-term treatment of alcoholism is the Salvation Army. This service is offered free of charge. Visit their Web site at www.salvationarmyusa.org for information regarding local treatment centers.
You should also think about enlisting the help of a qualified Christian counselor. Weekly one-on-one counseling is not sufficient to deal with an addiction of the intensity and severity you’ve described, but a substance abuse counselor could be tremendously helpful in setting up an effective intervention. This involves arranging a specific treatment option prior to the actual intervention. The objective would be to persuade your wife to agree to a program of in-patient treatment. Once this treatment is complete the counselor could also participate in the follow-up plan. You can get a list of Christian counselors in your area by contacting Focus on the Family’s Counseling Department at 800/A-FAMILY (232-6459). Our staff is available to take your calls Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4357).
As you explore these options, bear in mind that there are no easy answers to the problem you’re facing. A great deal depends on your wife’s willingness to cooperate. She is clearly dealing with some serious underlying wounds. Because she is afraid to face her pain, she medicates it with alcohol.
In addition to exploring the steps we’ve suggested above, the most important thing you can do in this situation is pray. Lean heavily on the Lord, remembering that “His arm is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1), and that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). A resource that may empower you in this area of your life is Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word. This book is available from Focus on the Family and can be ordered through our online family store.
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