Suicidal husband

Hi. I’ve just registered and hoping for some advice. I’m 58, married. My husband is also 58. We’ve been together for 15 years. I work full-time in our own business (taxis), he doesn’t work at all. Our business is failing and we’re going bust with large debts (mostly due to his wild overspending in the last 15 years). He is an alcoholic with severe mental health problems. He was hospitalised three years ago with hepatic encephalopathy caused by drinking. He’s under the care of the local mental health team. He was sectioned under the mental health act for five weeks two years ago due to psychosis caused by use of cannabis. He hated every minute of those five weeks and says he’d never go back. He no longer uses cannabis but is still a heavy drinker. The drinking, and its effects, caused me to issue him an ultimatum in August - stop drinking or I’m leaving. He stopped drinking but for the next nine weeks we argued every few days about him wanting to have “an occasional few pints”. Eventually I got to a point when I wondered why was I even bothering. I realised that my love for him had died and told him so and that I was leaving. He immediately starting drinking again. He is very depressed and begs me to stay but knows I won’t. He’s currently waiting to be housed in a warden attended local authority flat (we rent our current flat but neither of us can afford to stay there on our own). He starts drinking at 8 in the morning and drinks all day, at home and at the pub. The drink, coupled with his various antidepressants and antipsychotics, makes him do things like taking the dogs out for a walk at 6pm the other evening wearing just his dressing gown and slippers. I just stopped him going out in the car at 11pm the other night. He has started wetting the bed. My crisis now is that this morning he told me that yesterday he was just about to order 200 nitrepam tablets online and when they arrived he was going to take them with 2 litres of vodka as he wants to die. He didn’t order them he says, because he doesn’t want me to feel guilty about causing his suicide for the rest of my life. Where do I go from here? Thank you for reading all this Viv

Start by contacting Social Services for a Carers Assessment. Ask your GP for counselling.
Are the debts in his name only, or joint names?

Most of the debt is just in my name (he had credit problems from before we met).
I’ve considered telling the mental health team about his suicide threat but if they end up sectioning him again he’ll hate it.

May I say something that is very difficult, but probably ‘needs’ to be said. It is this.

WHATEVER you do, whatever HE does, he is unlikely to 'live out his normal lifespan.

Whether he does take drastic action and end his own life, or if he lets the consequences of his addiction take its course, he is going to be ‘life-limited’.

I think you need to see that, and hopefully, if you do, it will lift some of the burden off you.

The second thing is this - he has brought this on HIMSELF and BY himself. YOU did not do this to him. He did it to himself. Yes, maybe he was drinking and taking drugs to ‘self-medicate’ against the underlying ‘core problem’ of his mental illness, but there is no doubt that the substance abuse is what is killing him now.

It’s ‘interesting’ (!!!) that he tells you he didn’t kill himself as he doesn’t want you feeling guilty at his suicide…


That one statement of his is HIGHLY revealing - it shows his REAL problem which is that he clearly absolutely refuses to take on board ANY responsibility for his own behaviour, his own illness, his own addition etc.

He is clearly looking for someone to blame - and it is YOU.

Well, how just convenient for him! How very, very convenient!

PLease believe me when I say there is NO reason whatsoever for you to feel the SLIGHTEST twinge of guilt if he kills himself. Not the slightest!

And the very fact that he is trying to dump that on you is pretty damn despicable of him! Inexcusable! What shameful thing to do!

As for sectioning - well, tough if he hates it! To be honest, I doubt it will work - he is the author of his own self-destruction, and really, sad sad sad as that it, it is HIS choice, and HE takes the consquences.

It’s quite appalling enough that he has landed YOU with crippling debts - unforgiveable.

Thank you Jenny. All you say is true, and I know that. I’ve told him that his choices are just that -HIS choices and his responsibility. He knows however that, even though I no longer love him, I do care (how do you turn caring off, when you’ve cared and coped and cleaned up after someone for so many years?) He understands that his drinking has caused the end of our marriage but he knows I would forever feel that I shouldn’t have left him if he died. I know he will die young, he knows that, our GP has told him he won’t make 60 (to which he says good, only another 18 months to get through). He rarely accepts responsibility for his actions, always there’s an excuse, a reason, a cause for his temper, or his drinking, or his depression. His drinking now, he says, is the only way he can cope with me leaving him and if I’d stay, he’ll stop drinking.

"He rarely accepts responsibility for his actions, always there’s an excuse, a reason, a cause for his temper, or his drinking, or his depression. His drinking now, he says, is the only way he can cope with me leaving him and if I’d stay, he’ll stop drinking. "

And there you have it in a nutshell - the reason his life is a total mess and failure.

Please don’t let him drag you down with him even more than he has.

It sounds like he would ideally like you to stay with him ‘holding his hand’ till he dies prematurely. If he only had six months left, one might say ‘OK, why not’. But he could live for years, even life-limited as he is.

So, I think, yes, the answer remains that you must ‘cut free’ and save yourself while you can. Or he will drown you with him.

Think of the following analogy. In olden days, when ships were sailing ships, if there was a storm, sometimes the main mast of the ship would break, and plunge into the sea, with all the sails attached, and still attacked by the ropes to the bulk of the ship. The captain would have to make the decision to ‘cut free’…the point is, the mast and sails in the water acted like a ‘sea anchor’ and dragged at the ship, making it impossible to steer, and impossible to sail, and would eventually drag the whole ship unde the water and drown everyone on board.

The captain had no choice but to cut all the remaining ropes, and let the ‘sea anchor’ sink in the waves, while his ship then could bob back up, and ‘run before the storm’ until the storm blew itself out.

So, think of your husband now as the ‘sea anchor’, still attached to you by ropes (eg, the ‘caring about’ you eloquently describe), and who will ‘drag you down and drown you’ UNLESS you cut those ropes, and let him ‘sink under his own weight of self-pity and drunkenness’…

Think of it this way. HE is doomed anyway. Nothing can save him now as he refuses to accept it is up to HIM to save himself (by taking responsibility for his own life).

So, there are only two possible outcomes after that truth:

  • you stay with him and he dooms you too (so TWO people ‘go under’)

  • you ‘cut loose’ and YOU escape (so only ONE person ‘goes under’ - ie, him) (who is going to go under ‘anyway’)

What’s the point of YOU ‘going under’ as well as him??

None whatsoever.

PS - he WON’T stop drinking ‘if you stay with him’. He’s saying anything and everything to try and get you to stay and ‘look after him’.

He will stop ‘for a bit’ or ‘cut back’ but it will start up again.

He’s only doing it to control your behaviour. Once you’ve ‘given in’ and stayed, then he’ll feel ‘safe’ again, and ‘free to start drinking’.

He WANTS to drink. He WILL drink. He will drink himself to death. His problem, because it’s his responsibility.


Your ‘kindness’ to him will make NO difference, whatever he says it will.

(Do you get counselling from the support groups for the families of ;alcoholics? Please please do so - I’m sure they will say the same as I am saying. They will help you find the strength to leave and ‘cut the sea anchor’ from drowning YOU as well…)

Hi Viv

I am so sorry to hear about your husband. Samaritans have a free helpline which you can call on 116 123. You can also call 111 who are available out of hours and can help you find the support and help you need. After speaking to them, you might want to consider contacting your mental health crisis team if you have one or book an emergency appointment with your GP.

Best Wishes


Hi Viv
I do feel for you. I have lost 2 close people to suicide. One was sudden and unforeseen. The other long drawn out over years and alcohol fuelled. Once the initial shock passed, I have been left with feelings of sadness and anger. Any love or sympathy evaporated because of what they did, and in the alcohol case because of the help they refused time and time again. It did get very very wearying and I hear that in your post. All you can do is make sure he has access to help, and encourage him to use it. You are not responsible for him. It is such a shame that alcoholism in particular seems to cause them to hurt and blame those closest to them.

With the benefit of hindsight, and a few years distance, I now wish I had walked away from the alcoholic friend, and I am a loving, caring person at heart. It was very painful, and that was just a friend. Your heart must be breaking.
Do try al-anon who give support to relatives of alcoholics