I cannot tell you how many times I’ve Googled this question: Should I Divorce My Alcoholic or Addict Husband?
Late at night, early in the morning, on good days, and bad, this is the question that rattles around in my brain. I Google out of desperation, searching for guidance from strangers, when I should be praying and turning this over to God.
No one will tell me what to do, and I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired that I cannot see from one day to the next.
When do you give up? When do you call it quits, and realize someone is never going to change?
I’ve started going to a new Al-Anon group, and I like this one. They’re quiet and thoughtful. They aren’t pushy or overselling the program. And there’s a member who’s divorced, who has left her alcoholic husband. While I’m sure there are many others out there in the wide world of Al-Anon, I’ve only met women who are there to work through their husband’s recovery, or who can attest to the power of AA and their husbands’ sobriety. I’m happy for them, but I want some contact with women whose husbands haven’t made it. Women I can identify with.
Husband moved out 5.5 months ago. I said I would give him a six month trial separation, as he fell apart when I gave him the dissolution papers. It just didn’t feel right to not give him another chance. We are now legally separated, because of the drugs; I felt that I had to take over custody of our children.
But in my heart, I still feel married. I don’t feel that I can let him go with our marriage intact, and I need to to get on with my life. I pray for him, for me, and for serenity, but I’m having trouble detaching with love. What the hell does that mean, anyway?
For a while–the first five months of our separation, actually–detaching with love meant that our lives were pretty much the same, except Husband was sleeping in an apartment and we didn’t go on any dates. We saw each other daily. We were still intricately woven into one another’s lives. We even still made love, once in a while. We were talking about our days, and caring for one another. We would text about little things during the day. Most of our communication was about the boys, but not all. I was holding on and not letting go.
I still had hope he would get sober.
I still do, but I also need to face reality. He is drinking. Outpatient rehab turned him away and told him his only option was inpatient (residential) rehab, as he had high blood pressure, which they took as a sign that his body was detoxing. It wouldn’t be safe or ethical to allow him to detox outside of an inpatient program, they said. This made him angry. I said, “Well, are you drinking?” “No,” was his answer. But his credit cards tell another story, and so does his body. So now he is, again, not working on getting sober. I’m not surprised, this time.
I have to accept this. I’ve done everything I could do: been really nice, practiced so much compassion and kindness it was almost sickening, stopped being resentful, changed my own attitudes, forced him to go to rehab, monitored his AA attendance, tracked his whereabouts, scheduled AA meetings and social outings for him, stopped monitoring his AA attendance, begged his friends to intervene, given him numbers of men willing to sponsor him, prayed, pleaded, withheld love/affection, openly given love/affection, given really good pep talks, reached out to our church community… You name it. I’ve done it. My pastor even told me, “It sounds like you covered your bases. It’s time to let go.”
Wow. And you thought Christians would counsel against divorce, right?
But what does that mean, let go? Not call or talk? Doing that. It’s painful. I’ve told him I’ll talk to him when he’s sober. Not once has he picked up the phone to apologize, or say hello, or beg me to give him another chance. He’s too sick.
So is it ethical to divorce a sick man?
All of this Al-Anon talk about detaching with love has me confused. They talk about detaching with kindness and compassion, instead of cold indifference. I told him I loved him and want him to get better, that I’m here if he needs me. Is that enough?
I feel so guilty, like I’m abandoning him when he needs me most. He said as much.
But I need serenity, and I can’t have that with an active user in my life. I just can’t. I tried, and it was too painful. I can’t stand the chaos, the lies, and the emotional instability. Not to mention worrying about anger and violence resulting from drug use.
I also need a loving partner, someday. I miss hugs and holding hands, going to the movies together, or even just staying in. I haven’t had that in so long, and someday (not this year! this is my year) I want that again. I won’t have that if I don’t move on.
So, should I divorce my alcoholic and addict husband? The debate rages on.
Update: newer blog post on the same subject: How to Divorce Your Alcoholic or Addict Husband or Wife