The Affects of Alcoholism on a Marriage by Seletha Nelson

When one partner in a marriage is an alcoholic it changes the dynamics of how the marriage works. When we first started dating, I didn’t see the warning signs of him turning into an alcoholic. Call it love, call it the honeymoon stage, or even call it being young. The first five years of marriage changed from being happy to angry all the time. The toll it took on us financially doesn’t compare to the emotional and physical changes that happened individually and between us. When my husband finally chose to attend AA to change his life, there was still a lot to overcome. 

The daily financial burden that alcoholism imposes on a family can escalate to the point of not only debt, but financial ruin. The average amount that was spent on alcohol was about fifteen dollars a day. Multiply that by thirty days and it becomes 450 dollars a month, then multiply that by twelve months, and that’s 4500 dollars wasted. Money that could have been spent to pay bills, take the kids to do fun things, home upgrades, anything other than what it was spent on. When already living paycheck to paycheck and having to put necessary items on credit cards it was even harder to see the money wasted on the alcohol. Fights would break out almost daily, and the emotional and physical toll was too much for a marriage to bear. 

Even though the fighting didn’t start until after the first year, the emotional and physical burdens changed us both. The trust that I had for my husband quickly deteriorated. I no longer had trust in his ability to watch the children and asking him to do simple tasks like going to the store or picking up the kids was out of the question. Functions with family or friends turned into me asking him not to drink, while also trying to control how much he was drinking. I went from being a wife to having more of a parental role, no longer wanting to be around my husband. My emotional and physical rejection of him, gave him more of a reason to drink. Soon it got to the point where he was drinking at all times of the day while hiding how much he was drinking. He lived in a constant state of being a functioning drunk. Soon, the amount of alcohol that he was drinking daily started to take a physical toll on his body and he no longer could function without it. His body started changing rapidly; he would drink rather than eat. His health started declining and after years of trying to change him and being ready to walk away, something in my husband changed. With him no longer wanting to be the person that he was, he took the steps to change himself and save our marriage. He attended his first AA meeting November, 2014, and even though he has now committed to being sober for five years, overcoming the damage that was done between us took years to fix.

Mending the damage that was caused is something that we both had to work on in order to stabilize our marriage. Being someone that doesn’t have an addictive personality, I will never be able to understand the daily struggle that my husband goes through in order to stay sober. However, I have learned that he can’t do this alone and needs my support because no matter what I say or do, this is his choice. With me being willing to walk away from the life we created together, it set in motion the changes needed before my husband lost everything. We have spent the last five years rebuilding and forming a new marriage where the past isn’t forgotten but is now an important part of what our future holds. It hasn’t always been easy, and at times each of us were ready to walk away. However, our love for each other and the life in which we want to raise our kids in has kept us together. Overcoming the strain that was placed on my marriage from my husband being an alcoholic was easier once I understood that he will always be an alcoholic. It just depends on whether he is sober or not but with each passing year, my trust and faith in him continues to grow. 

I know that we are very lucky to still be together and for my husband to be sober. Having a friend of ours who is in a similar situation where their husband is an alcoholic has led to a divorce with an order of protection against him. His wasteful spending on alcohol caused the loss of their home, their cars, and they are thousands of dollars in debt. The yearly income between the both of them was over a hundred thousand a year, but because of this disease and the amount of money spent daily on alcohol, he financially put them in a hole that will take years to climb out of. I’m grateful that my husband was able to choose me and our kids over this disease because I have seen firsthand the damage that it does mentally to the loved ones that are placed below alcohol. 

Even though the effects of alcoholism in my marriage has at times taken a heavy toll, it has also made my marriage one of better understanding. The financial burden, even though it took a while to fix the problems, gave us a better understanding of financial spending and made us more stable. The emotional and physical tolls are still a work in progress and get better every day. By overcoming the strains and burdens of the past, they have served as valuable lessons that have helped create a stronger bond between us.