New here, alcoholic partner


I’m new here. I live with my mum who is 87 and, so far, doesn’t need a lot of care other than supervision as she is occasionally unsteady on her feet. She has high blood pressure and is at risk of having a stroke but, so far, so good.

The other significant person in my life is a man I’ve been dating for over 3 years. Sadly, he suffers from the disease of alcoholism. Has tried to recover many times, and attends AA meetings regularly. But unfortunately has relapsed many times. During a relapse he becomes quite verbally abusive towards me. Recently he relapsed despite things going well in his life. I have reached the point where I know that his illness is not curable, it is progressive, and I have to make one of two difficult choices; either (1) exit from his life, or (2) become his carer. He has many health problems - COPD, peripheral neuropathy and, worst of all, oesophageal varices (swollen veins in the stomach area) which are at risk of bursting and leading to fatal internal bleeding.

He’s currently in hospital after having some internal bleeding which, this time, was not serious. This is the fourth hospital admission in 3 years. I believe it is only a matter of time before something very serious happens which will kill him. He is playing Russian roulette with his own life. But addiction is an illness, and he has no choice once the first drink is taken. He has drunk alcohol every day for 35 years. In recent years it progressed to a bottle of vodka a day. He has had only 5 or 6 sober years between ages 15 - 56.

I therefore now have to very seriously consider becoming the carer of a man with, effectively, a terminal illness.

I’ve come across a lot of stigma, negative judgement and lack of understanding among people re. the illness of alcoholism. I find it impossible to stay friends with people who view alcoholism as merely a character defect & moral failing.

And yet, I know I’m at risk of losing my own mental wellbeing if I give too much of my time /self to this illness.

is there anyone here who has been in a similar situation? I would be interested to hear how you coped.

I can relate to your post. My husband is 83 and I slept walked into becoming his carer. At his worst he drank up to a litre of vodka a day. Yes he has cut down (or he would be dead by now) but I think a lot of his co morbidities relate to the years of heavy drinking, especially the Acid Reflux. I also think the falls he had back in 2013 resulting in an acute on chronic brain heamatoma were due to the heavy drinking, and I do feel he has a lot of memory issues which may or not be related to dementia potentially partially caused by the heavy drinking. He drank from the age of 21 up until his late seventies. Blamed the continuing drinking on his mother, first wife second wife, and me, third wife!

Have you considered Al Anon? It would be well worth you joining and getting support for YOU. The verbal abuse sadly is ‘normal’ and soul destroying - alcoholics blame everyone but themselves for their problems. Also maybe consider a good counsellor? My personal advice would be to refuse to become his carer and try to distance yourself - yes, help him get support, but do not allow yourself to get dragged in.

Hi Kathy, and welcome.

I don’t have any personal experience of caring for someone with addictions, but I’ve worked with some carers in that position and the attitude of others came up regularly. It doesn’t help that the government’s attitude towards substance abuse is that it is a lifestyle choice. I wonder how many MPs who voted for that approach smoked at the time? And let’s not talk about those addicted to sugar…I include myself among them, as a type 2 diabetic.

You’re right about your choices. And no one can help with that except to say consider which is going to have the largest impact on you. And then whether you’re willing and able to take that. I suspect that if you’re having trouble deciding, it’s probably because you know what you want, but maybe feel guilty about the choice? I’ll just say that if you do know what’s best for you, and guilt is all that’s holding you back, don’t let it. Guilt is a natural process, and often illogical and unreasonable, but if the alternative is being in a toxic situation, it’s not really an alternative, is it?

Dear Kathy

I am sorry if my reply sounded harsh and I guess you have been down the Al Anon route. I do accept alcoholism is an addiction but struggle to see it as an ‘illness’ in the way, cancer is for example, as your partner has a choice with regard to picking up that glass!

But if he has damaged his body beyond repair, then his care needs will increase. I am convinced that the incontinence my husband suffers is down to his years of drinking and non medical compliance. I worry that if you get drawn in, you could end up trying to ‘juggle’ caring for your mother if her needs increase and your partner. Believe me alcoholics tend to blame everyone but themselves for the reasons they drink and it worries me greatly that he replapsed when things were going well, Being the (verbal) punching board for an unhappy alcoholic is frankly a total nightmare and it nearly destroyed me.

I think the best advice I could give you is talk it through with a good counselor. I do not think you need feel guilty if you do decide to distance yourself as your mental wellbeing is paramount.