Caught husband drinking after 25 years of supposed sobriety
September 16, 2014 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Need help figuring out what I do now.

B/G-Married 14 yrs, together 20 in all. No kids. Husband was in recovery for over five yrs when we got together, until now I thought he had over 25 yrs sober. He also used drugs/crack before he quit drinking & has said if it wasn't for the drugs he'd still be drinking, that the drugs caused the worst problems in his life. I never knew him then but from what I've been told about his drinking days that's not true. He was known to be a very unhappy, mean drunk. He's always been a pretty even-tempered guy with me, and mostly happy. Life hasn't gone the way he wants in some ways but that's not unusual imo & he's seemed to be satisfied. We don't have money problems, don't argue a lot, things seemed to be going okay to me.

He has had some tough times in recent yrs, both his parents died w/in a yr of each other, after shitty prolonged illnesses & a yr ago his sister died of cancer. She was an alcoholic also. Her death was ugly, the whole situation was fubar. He took her death hardest of all. Also long before I met him his oldest brother died of alcohol-related illness.

I found evidence of his drinking over the weekend & when I asked him point-blank he readily admitted it. He said he's been drinking approx. 3 beers/day for about a yr, 'after my sister died so I can sleep'. He said he didn't want me to know cause he 'didn't want to hear my shit'. I am crushed. My family had a lot of alcoholism, no way am I staying with an active alcoholic.

More troubling to me is the yr of lying to me & hiding. As I reflected on things all the puzzle pieces fell into place, weird behaviors, defensiveness that didn't make sense, etc. I feel like I've been gaslighted. I'm not a nosy person & he took advantage of my trusting nature.
I haven't spoken to him since. I moved into the spare bedroom, not to punish him but bc I cannot sleep next to him after his deceit, it makes me ill.

Went to my 1st al-anon mtg last night & cried like a baby, but I will go back, I need the tools they can help me with.

I am planning to leave, it'll take me 3-6 months financially but I don't see myself forgiving this, and more importantly, I won't live with someone I don't trust, will not spend my life wondering, snooping, etc. My heart has gone cold towards him. I am sick worrying about our pets, we have two cats & two dogs, I know I'll take the cats but I don't want to leave the dogs w/him esp if he keeps drinking, I know he'll get worse after I leave. but finding housing for all of us is going to be tough.

So my questions are-
I need tips on living with him separately until I can move?
Ideas on keeping my animals with me?
How to make arrangements/plans w/o him knowing? He can be harsh on people he feels have wronged him, vindictive. I don't want an ugly divorce in fact I'd love to let him save face as much as I can let him, but don't want to degrade myself either. I have to keep my dignity here too.

Okay, I'll admit, I'm fishing for sympathy here. But beyond that, I'd like suggestions, ideas, and if anyone has lived through anything like this I'd love to know how you did it.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo to Human Relations (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am so sorry you are in this position. I feel awful for you.

Consult a divorce attorney now and make sure you understand how it works in your jurisdiction, in terms of finances. That will help you understand what your actual financial position is and thus timeline and options will look like. It will also help you to focus and get all your stuff in order for D-day, the day you move out.

If he is vindictive, I agree you should not tell him you are planning to leave. I also can't imagine telling him would make the 3 - 6 months any easier.

After you talk to the lawyer to understand how assets work where you are, and how pet custody works, start looking at housing options in your budget. We were able to find a rental house that allowed us to bring our dog by littering rental agencies in our area with a letter saying we were willing to pay an additional deposit, had references from our vet, had a dog walker, etc. It took 8 weeks and we only had one option, but it did eventually work.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2014 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I'm sorry you have to go through this. It really sucks. Especially the deception.

I'm also going to tell you something that you surely don't want to hear right now. But it's the truth. Drinking and lying about it is what alcoholics do best. It's the hallmark of the disease. Alcoholism (and alcohol) is cunning, baffling, powerful, and patient. I know about this b/c I am a recovering alcoholic and have done this to my loved ones and have had alcoholics I know drink and lie to me about it too.

With that said, attending Al-Anon is the first step towards freedom for you from your husband's addiction. Keep going back to the meetings. The folks there will be able to help you with the answers to the questions like "How do I live with a practicing alcoholic and maintain my sanity?" and "How do I make plans to get out of this situation in the healthiest way?" The people in Al-Anon have been in your shoes and can offer support in a way that no one else can. Let them help you. You will make it through this. Hugs. :)
posted by strelitzia at 8:42 AM on September 16, 2014 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry you're going through this, and I think you're doing a great job so far in the face of what has to be a massive and hugely disappointing shock. Most people would be overwhelmed with indecision and self-pity right now but it sounds like you are very clear on what your boundaries are and you know what you want your life to look like, with or without him. Those are amazing things.

That said, since you just found out about this a couple of days ago, my recommendation right now would be to not try to do too much right this second. You don't need to make huge irrevocable decisions today. You know what you want to do in a general sense and seem to be taking care of yourself, and those are both really important. Keep going to Al-Anon, keep working toward securing your financial situation, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you are already seeing what you want with such clarity at this point, only a couple of days from the realization of what is going on, I truly believe you're going to get through this with flying colors. I know very well that impulse to get everything set and resolved immediately so you can move forward, but forcing the situation is not really the best idea, especially when part of you has still got to be in emotional shock. Take it one day at a time. You're going to be okay.
posted by something something at 8:44 AM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The very first thing I would do is separate your finances to the best of your ability. If you don't have your own bank account, get one. Make sure the pin isn't something he would know, and also make sure the answers to your security questions aren't something he would know. It took me a long time to realize that the security answers don't have to be factual. Duh. I can say the street I grew up on is Effyou St if I want, as long as I can remember it.

Other than that, I would be out of the house as often as possible. It's hard to stay detached from someone you live with. It's hard not to want to strike out and cause pain, when you are also in pain. Reach out to anyone else to help you through this – Al-Anon, online groups, friends, family. Do whatever you need to do in order to remain as sane and calm as you can.

Finally, in my case I learned that usually whatever my husband admitted to doing and what he actually did were not the same. I didn't press for too many details but IMHO if he said he's been drinking three beers a night for a year, I would put that at the low end of what's actually been happening. Trust your instincts. Alcoholics and addicts lie, right to your face, very convincingly.

Good luck.
posted by lyssabee at 8:45 AM on September 16, 2014 [18 favorites]

I am so sorry. This is a massive breach of trust and so, so heartbreaking. I think the people above have nailed the first practical steps. You need to know what the process of legally untangling from one another are going to be, and that is where a divorce attorney will be worth every penny. S/he will walk you through the steps to take to safeguard yourself financially. Al-Anon will help with the support and the experience of having lived through these crises. I would also add individual therapy. Someone who can help guide you through the very individual pieces of mourning this relationship. They can help you figure out how to live in a house through a separation, they can help guide you through the different emotions you are going to face, they can help you make decisions about what comes next.

Again, I am so sorry you are facing this. So many people here are sending you strength and light as you face this.
posted by goggie at 8:49 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Good for you for drawing a line in the sand and respecting yourself. You should be proud of yourself.

Divorce attorney first, so she or he can advise you on your rights wrt property division, finances, etc. Finances next - separate them as much as you can, based on your attorney's advice. If you're in a community property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin), ignore all legal advice you find online that refers to non-community property states.

I need tips on living with him separately until I can move?

Will you literally be homeless if you move out? If not, then I would move out, even if it is only to sleep on a friend's couch. I can't even imagine trying to live with someone you can't trust and who resents you. If he is harsh and mean, could this get dangerous? Is he the type to fly into a rage? The fact that you don't want to leave the dogs tells me that you are concerned for their safety and maybe also yours.

Ideas on keeping my animals with me?

If you have to temporarily move to a place that doesn't allow dogs, can a friend or relative keep them temporarily? Can they be boarded? Do you think he will fight you for custody? You say "my" animals and not "our" - does he feel this way?

How to make arrangements/plans w/o him knowing?

Hide your tracks online, make phone calls at work or while "running errands," outsource some of the practical stuff to friends (e.g. calling apartments). Get a Google voice line or a burner phone so he can't see calls you make with your regular cell phone. Domestic violence centers have a wealth of information about ways to avoid being caught/tracked.

He is going to know that something's up even if he doesn't know what it is, and it could make things much worse, which is why I lean towards getting out ASAP.

He can be harsh on people he feels have wronged him, vindictive.

Lawyer lawyer lawyer lawyer. It's not guaranteed to get ugly, but you want to be prepared in case it does. Remember - he's just proven that you cannot trust him!

Now is the time to build up a solid emotional support network - reach out to those friends you haven't talked to in awhile, the aunt you only see on Facebook. Get into therapy. I am not going to sugarcoat it, this is going to completely suck for awhile, even if you're the one who wants to leave, but it is much better if you have people who will listen to you.
posted by desjardins at 9:15 AM on September 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

If you know you're leaving lawyer up ASAP. Then separate out all the finances. Keep going to Al-Anon.

I'd recommend putting aside your hurt and disappointment to really assess the situation. If he hadn't been drinking, would his behavior have been a deal-breaker? If so, leave.

Does he want to return to sobriety and is he ready to do so? If so, perhaps there's something to salvage.

You can't really trust an addict when they're using, they may even be lying to themselves. So any hurtful thing he may have said, might just be his disease talking.

If your husband had been cancer-free for 20 years, and had a recurrance, you wouldn't be heading for the exits if he were willing to engage and fight, would you?

Ultimately it's up to you. But anger and silence aren't making a bad situation better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:16 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

oh - and if your username is your real name, I'd have the mods anonymize this so your husband and his lawyer don't find it.
posted by desjardins at 9:29 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

I lost a family member to this sort of drinking in the wake of trauma, and I'm so sorry it's happening to you. People who relapse can recover again, but that certainly doesn't mean you're obligated to stick around and just hope for it to happen. If his response to this was not to say that he WANTS to recover again, you can't make that happen for him and I think this is entirely appropriate. If he seriously said he didn't tell you just because he didn't want you to nag him about it, then he is not interested in recovery and you need to take care of you.

3-6 months in the context of this seems like a really, really long time. Do you have family members you could confide in about this? Because if you're concerned about his potential for harmful behavior under the influence, that's leaving a lot of time open for that, and I know that if someone I was close to was in your position, I would absolutely be willing to pitch in to help them get out. Don't stay longer than you have to.

Finding housing with pets isn't easy, but it's also not impossible. Look for places that are being rented out by their owners directly, not by management companies. But I say this as a lifelong animal lover: do not stay in a situation that is abusive or harmfully unstable just because of pets. Do what you can for them, but caring for yourself comes first.
posted by Sequence at 9:40 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was reading your post with interest for what your second thought after the initial anger and disappointment over the deception was but while you do seem to have made up your mind about separating your anger does not yet seem to have settled. anger clouds judgement. we all tend to imagine the worst whilst our blood is boiling. but there are things in your post that I was woefully missing.

have you asked yourself why he started drinking? yes, you outlined the reasons and excuses but why this reaction? do you really think he chose alcohol to hurt or disappoint you? I doubt that. there are easier ways to be mean. and yet here we are, faced with a reaction that would be appropriate if he meant to hurt you.

I don't want to be insensitive to your serious predicament and plight. you might at the end of the day be dead right to separate and walk away. but let's not kid ourselves here — he sounds like he gave into temptation in a moment of weakness. to read you write that he took to alcohol to be able to sleep sounds like he wanted to numb himself. that sounds like a person who doesn't know how to ask for help.

I have done a lot of stupid things out of weakness in my life. I wished I had been able to handle some things different. perhaps this is one of these situations for him. I can't say that for sure, mainly because I don't know him or your situation beyond this brief description from you. but I do want to reiterate my one point: don't convince yourself about the right thing to do while in anger.
posted by krautland at 10:06 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

As a daughter of an alcoholic who watched her mom go through YEARS of trying to help my father, PLEASE do not feel that you're being selfish for taking care of yourself, and please do not feel that it is your responsibility - or even within your power! - to get him to stop drinking. I'm sure you've heard that old Al-Anon favorite - you didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you cannot cure it. I wish it were otherwise - my dad would probably still be alive if other people wanting and trying to get him sober actually worked - but it's not. All it does is draw you deeper and deeper into the codependence. You HAVE to put on your own oxygen mask first when you're dealing with an alcoholic.

For what it's worth, I cannot see how you could possibly trust him again if he's been lying to your face for a year. Doesn't matter why he's drinking. Again, this is not something you can influence in any long-term way - and the fact that his reason for not wanting to tell you about it earlier is that he didn't want to "deal with your shit" is so disrespectful, and makes me so angry and sad on your behalf. You have my sympathy, in spades, and my MeMail box is open if you ever need it.

No matter what else you do, I hope you stay in Al-Anon and continue getting support there.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:11 AM on September 16, 2014 [29 favorites]

Best answer: I divorced an alcoholic eleven years ago.

Why are you the one who has to move out? Make him move, then change the locks. You've got one of the big-A grounds for divorce here (abuse, abandonment, addiction, adultery) even if you live in a no-fault state. That way you can keep the animals with you. You are right to feel that you must protect them.

Talk to an attorney about this right away, first thing, today, do not delay. Make sure he or she knows your husband is a practicing alcoholic and not a rational person. My own lawyer was completely baffled and caught off-guard by my spouse's malicious behavior.

I don't want to scare you, just be prepared. Don't be too willing to compromise, thinking that if you give him a break, he will be easier on you. He could take every concession you give and demand more. For example, I declined spousal support, even though he far out-earned me, because I have always supported myself, and I was thinking he would be mollified and let me go more easily if I didn't ask for it. My mistake - I ended up paying him thousands. (It was worth it, but still.)

You must protect yourself. You are saving your own life here - I am not exaggerating. Ignore the people who tell you to give him another chance - they obviously don't know what it's like to be married to an alcoholic who lies to you, shows no remorse, and is not interested in recovery. You do.

One of the hardest things for me to accept, but the one that helped me detach, was that the man I fell in love with and married was gone. I was dealing not with him but with the addiction, the disease, and it had no human feelings, and it wanted to take me down too. Also, this statistic helped me focus: out of ten women married to alcoholic men, nine will stay. Out of ten men married to alcoholic women, nine will leave.

I left at almost exactly this time of year, with the holidays looming. I think this was exactly the right time to leave, and I will tell you why: I got through the holidays with the help of my old friends and new friends in Al-Anon - orphan Thanksgiving, orphan Xmas, and a visit to old friends for New Year's. I didn't have to be with him and his family, and by spring I was through the worst of my grief and ready to start coming back to life.

You sound like you are thinking about this rationally, you have your priorities straight and you have a good deal of resolve. You will need it. I can tell you from experience that this is going to be hard, but you can do it, it will be worth it, and life can be good again. In my case it happened sooner than I expected.

You have all my sympathy and my complete support. Memail me if you want to. And remember, it is not your fault, and you can't help him or fix him. He is the only one who can do that, and only if he wants to. Keep going to Al Anon. Detach, detach, detach.
posted by caryatid at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2014 [27 favorites]

On the pets front, if your concern is in finding a place that lets you keep dogs, I know that the shelter we adopted our dog from in SC would occasionally help to find a temporary foster home for a dog whose mom/dad was going through a rough transition - perhaps you could see if any of your local shelters could help with that? Honestly I suspect this is a pretty rare occurrence, but if nobody else in your social circle can put them up while you seek out housing where they can stay, it's worth at least checking. Good luck to you.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:18 AM on September 16, 2014

Mod note: Folks, the question is relatively constrained in scope. Please avoid the "but you should stay!" answers. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:58 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

@Desjardins - the username is a character on Corner Gas, a well known (up here) Canadian sitcom.
posted by miles1972 at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just want to add to the otherwise excellent advice: if your job has an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) hotline, use it. Call it. That's what it is there for. They can help you find a lawyer, too.
posted by jillithd at 11:41 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

good advice above.

1. keep going to al anon, get a counselor too if you can
2. find a divorce lawyer ASAP, get your financial stuff in order.
3. it's not your fault & you cannot fix it, to echo the above posters.
4. the future is more hopeful than you can imagine right now.
posted by zdravo at 1:03 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: wow, thank you everyone for some kind & helpful responses. I see I have a lot more to consider than I originally thought. In response to some questions & concerns-(trying to go in order)

-we keep our finances separate, as we lived together for 5 yrs before marriage, seemed easier to continue that way. But there is the house to deal with, and that'll be a chore as we're under water. I will change the PIN on my accounts though, didn't think of that.

-Yes the 3 beer/night statement felt like a lie. He was drinking, asleep on the couch when I suddenly woke him to ask if he was drinking beer. I expect it's been more than that. Given that his work schedule has been varying a LOT in the last yr, who knows when or how much he's been drinking.

-the pets. He brought home the two cat, I adopted the two dogs. I am thinking it'll be easier to find housing w/cats than dogs. He's kind & loving to the animals. But if we break up, and if he keeps drinking I know the drinking will increase & that makes me afraid he'd be neglectful to them or not feed/groom them as I would. I'll strive to keep them all if I can & he agrees.

-keeping plans quiet. I'm lucky & can access the web at work. I already did a preliminary application for housing today just so I have an idea of where I stand.

-the question of his behavior. Until I realized the drinking was happening, I attributed his behavior to getting older/57, and the stress of the last 5 yrs. If he had a recurring cancer no I wouldn't leave him. If he'd come to me & told me he was drinking I could deal with it. But lying for a year? With the associated hiding, switching beverages, etc. Kinda funny he chose to drink the brand of beer that my friend always brings a six-pack when she visits from out of town a few times/yr. There's almost always a few in the back of the fridge. I thought I'd tossed a few earlier this summer to make room in the fridge, now I know they were his. I remember thinking, gee thought I pitched those.

-my second thought after I figured it out? Who knows? I guess it was shock, anger then fear of the future alone. I'm a solitary person so I know loneliness will be an issue, and financially I'll be worse off for sure.

-I know he's not drinking to hurt me, I know he's in a bad place. But he went about this entirely wrong by lying. That is the deeper hurt to me. He's a proud man who loves to be the strong one (which is why I say I'd like to let him save as much face as he can w/o selling myself out). For example, I haven't told anyone in his family, he can start that shitstorm himself when I do leave.

I hope he gets help & can live a happy sober life. I wasn't against drinking when I met him & I'm still not. But alcoholics can't drink & he's an avowed alcoholic w/3 stints in rehab under his belt.

-Breaks. I won't give many financially. He makes more than double what I do, I'll be working poor when I go. I will be getting my share. I won't go out of my way to take him to the cleaners but I'm not running away with the clothes on my back either.

-username is my fave character on corner gas. How a Detroiter ended up a massive Corner Gas fan w/the entire shows on DVD I don't know! (I am planning to head over to Windsor when the movie come out this winter).

-my job doesn't offer legal assistance but there is a law firm we use & a partner sits on our board, I'm told he's given invaluable advice to others in need.

In my fantasy, I'll come home tonight, he'll tell me he's going to rehab. He will recover & we'll live happily ever after, this being a blip on the radar. But I don't expect that to happen. I know I'm not perfect either.

Again, thanks for the thoughtful responses. I will have to talk to him eventually but I wanted to get my mind in order first so I can be ready whichever direction the conversation turns to, and that's why I'm glad I joined a couple wks ago & posted today.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 1:22 PM on September 16, 2014 [13 favorites]

Great advice above.

He can be harsh on people he feels have wronged him, vindictive.

Keep a record of everything, conversations, emails, texts, etc. Behaviour that you may have come to accept as 'normal' over the years may seem noteworthy and egregious (in terms of lying, deception, manipulation, emotional abuse, etc.) to third parties such as your lawyer.
posted by carter at 2:08 PM on September 16, 2014

Best answer: A few more bits of advice, now that there's more information: get your name off of any bills related to the house: phone, utilities, water, cable, etc. I didn't do this and dealing with his unpaid bills and convincing his creditors that I was not responsible was just one more problem I did not need after I moved to my own place. Also take his name off of your car insurance policy - usually spouses are automatically included; you need to exclude him specifically, and get any of your car keys away from him.

Being underwater on the house is tough. Your options are detailed here. Since my ex insisted on staying in the house, we refinanced and took my name off the note but not off the deed, so I had some cashed-out equity with which to buy my own house, and he alone was responsible for the mortgage. He knew we'd eventually have to sell and he'd have to move, but meanwhile he trashed the house, neglected the yard, lowered the property value, and ran up the cost of repairs to get it ready to sell, so it wasn't the best solution but at least he couldn't ruin my credit. A short sale might be best in the long run. Whatever arrangements you make, be sure they are in writing AND the divorce agreement.

It will be lonely, yes, but the fact that you are already a solitary person (so am I) will make that less of a problem. You already know how to be content with your own company. You are doing the kindest thing you can for him; letting him face the natural consequences of his behavior.

You will get through this.
posted by caryatid at 2:50 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

1. Lawyer. Lawyer lawyer lawyer lawyer.
2. I have alcoholics in the family. Do what you need to do. Don't listen to those who urge you to stay. If this was a boundary for you, it's a boundary. Don't bend it just because he's in a bad place.
3. You mention living in the D (or at least being a Detroiter). There are groups around who do foster dogs - if they're a specific breed, you might have more luck, but feel free to memail me if you need some info.
4. As for the house being underwater - follow what your lawyer advises, but I've been seeing the billboards for this group, you might find it helpful:

Overall, I mostly just wanted to say UGH I AM SO SORRY because man, that just sucks. It just sucks and I'm so sorry you're dealing with it.

Also: Lawyer.
posted by RogueTech at 8:00 AM on September 17, 2014

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