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My Husband has a Drinking Problem–Ask A Sober Mom

Ask A Sober Mom-husband drinking

“I am approaching a year of sobriety and I feel great, but before I hit six months I found out my husband and I are expecting a baby. This was a total surprise, but after the initial shock wore off, we are thrilled.

Even though I’m about to hit one year, only about 6 months of that time were when I wasn’t pregnant. Even when I was an active drinker, I was very good about not drinking during my first two pregnancies so the temptation to drink while I’ve been pregnant with this one has been basically zero. My concern is after I have the baby.

My husband is a great guy, but he also has a drinking problem.  He accepts that he may be a problem drinker but not an alcoholic because he hasn’t hit the same kind of rock bottoms that I did and he is able to “control” his drinking much more than I was able to. It’s like because he wasn’t as bad as I was, he won’t admit he has a problem. I am working hard to not judge and let him find his own way when it comes to seeking help. 

I am also working hard on focusing on me. My real issue is that he drinks in front of me – all the time. I have had so many conversations with him about how it bothers me and his excuse is that since I’m pregnant its not like I’m going to drink. How do I get him to understand that even though I’m not going to drink it doesn’t mean I feel comfortable seeing beer in front of me all the time?

I’m worried about my sobriety after I have the baby. I know that I am the only one that can control my drinking, nothing he does can make me drink, but it’s so frustrating he doesn’t understand how difficult it is to make the choice not to drink when there are full beer cans right in my house. I have two kids and with one on the way I don’t want to get divorced, but if he refuses to stop is that the only solution to this?” Signed, “Wondering Wife

Dear Wondering Wife,”

What I hear are two questions:

  1. How do I stay sober after baby in the midst of temptation?
  2. Should I divorce my husband because he won’t stop drinking in front of me?

The first I can help with and the second can only be answered by you.

You have almost a year of sobriety, which is amazing. I hear you say “only 6 months of that time I wasn’t pregnant.” Do not sell yourself short! The fact remains that you have almost a year and every single one of those days, pregnant or not, you’ve used certain tools to support your recovery. Your desire to drink and your willingness to pursue recovery don’t magically alter once you are pregnant. It is true your motivation may be different, but you are still putting in the hard work of recovery. Don’t discount that time or your strength or commitment during it. You are a recovery warrior with a year of sobriety–no “but” necessary.

The same tools you’ve used to pursue recovery are the ones you will use to continue it after your pregnancy. If that’s meetings, presumably, you will continue going. If that’s working steps or counseling or online accountability, you’ll keep doing those. We continue doing the things that work for us. So I’d ask, what has worked for you? What could change that would somehow make your husband’s drinking affect you more after the baby arrives? I suspect it is that you are more concerned about the hormones, isolation and long nights that a having a newborn can bring.

Babies are wonderful and amazing…and a ton of work. Could it be that you are worried about his support and help once baby comes? I don’t want to make assumptions about your husband, but my partner doesn’t have substance use issues and I worried about that. Hell, I still worry about that sometimes and our youngest son is two. Parenting is a tough gig and that’s on a good day. I don’t know about you, but I need to feel supported and heard to feel secure about it. Only you can decide what you need, but I suspect your fear here may be more about that than it is the threat to your sobriety.

We can not change the behavior of other people–believe me, sister, I’ve tried. The only person that you can change here is you. You have talked to your husband about his drinking and how it makes you feel. That’s the biggest step. Keep doing that. Keep talking to him about your recovery. Tell him you’d love his support with it. Be really clear about what that support looks like for you. If he isn’t willing to quit, maybe he can change where he keeps his beer or when he chooses to drink.

Making it clear that you do not feel supported while he has it around you is the first step. This isn’t a judgment on his alcohol use, it’s about you setting clear boundaries on what makes you feel safe. Only you decide what you are ok with, what you can tolerate and what is unacceptable for you. Once you have that discussion, you can both decide from there what to do.

I do want to address your last question specifically. There are many options that will work for a couple, so there is no way for me to know if divorce is right for you. At the least, I think it deserves a hard look at your motivation and other choices.

Before you decide anything, I would strongly urge you to look at the host of other options–marriage counseling, private counseling just for you, support meetings and a host of other resources available to families of those affected by substance abuse. Many of these resources can help as you process your frustration with him and learn to set clear boundaries to protect your recovery.

I know this is hard. You are worth every bit energy it takes to prioritize your recovery and take care of yourself.  Having tough discussions and setting safe boundaries is worth it–for you and for him. Please lean in on our groups for support or reach out if there is any way we can help support you.

Congratulations on your pregnancy and I wish you the best! Nicole









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