Alcohol flowed freely when I was growing up. Social drinking was assumed. I didn’t mind the drinking, though I didn’t enjoy how it affected people sometimes. I have watched the impact of excessive drinking on many people. It is so destructive, even destroying lives. It begins so innocently—no one starts out planning to become an alcoholic. But one in seven will.
A friend of mine found that out—and her occasional drink evolved into serious alcoholism. She will be telling her story in my next post. In this post her husband shares the letter he wrote to her for a family intervention.
This is not something that I want to do and at the outset, I want to tell you that I will stand by you and support you in your battle with alcoholism. I am also ready to deal seriously with areas of conflict in our life after you have returned from treatment. I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you as your friend, husband and lover. I will be here when you return. You can count on me.
I became your “partner” in alcoholism and lost both you and myself in the process. I want you and myself back. I want to live and live with you, but I can no longer be your silent partner. I can no longer keep our secret because it has taken the life out of me and I have decided that it would be better for you and for me if I no longer enabled your alcoholism and let it control me.
I began noticing empty bottles while still living overseas, and this continued when we returned to the U. S. By the time you went to the Meadows, I was aware that you had a drinking problem, but was uncertain just how serious it was because we didn’t talk about it.
You showed much courage and strength and acknowledged your dependence on alcohol. You told the children and me of your struggle and you asked us to forgive you and to encourage you in your struggle. We did forgive you. But that was the first and last time we spoke as a family of your dependence on alcohol.
Beginning to Lose You
As your struggle became overwhelming, you continued to drink and you were no longer supportive or encouraging. I noticed emotional outbursts full of pain and depression bordering on nervous breakdowns. You gained weight and quit taking care of yourself. You were no longer interested in me or our work on campus. You isolated yourself from your family by increasingly spending large amounts of time in the bedroom reading or asleep and by not eating with us.
There have been steady and growing warnings that you are in the process of killing yourself. You hid or forgot to pick up bottles all over the house. I have observed you bringing alcohol into the house and hiding it. I have seen you catching a drink when I have come into the room and then seen you quickly put the bottle on the floor of the closet and close the door.
The smell of alcohol has replaced perfume, sloppiness has replaced a diligent and conscientious homemaker, and I have observed increasing slurring of words and alcohol-related speech and moods.
Your “Affair” with Wine
You have lied to me and the children about the seriousness of your alcoholism and have denied how it is affecting us. You have spent huge amounts of money in your “affair” with wine and do not recognize that this has greatly affected our life as a family.
You have destructive thoughts about yourself. You told me you often look at yourself in the mirror and call yourself shameful names, wishing that you were “just not there,” that you “could die,” or that you just don’t want to live.
You have not been honest with your doctor, your “group,” your family, and yourself about the seriousness of your alcoholism. And you have told me that I am the “only one who knew” how serious the problem was. I was your secret keeper.
I went along and kept our secret because I was terrified about the possible consequences. I’ve made excuses to the kids, neighbors, friends, co-workers and others to protect myself and you from the shame, anger and consequences of your alcoholism and my complicity.
“I want my life and my wife back.”
I have lied for you and to myself about just what this is doing to our family and to you. I have been afraid that someone would find out and I was ashamed of you and myself. In effect, I let your alcoholism take my life too. And I want my life and my wife back.
I have been very angry because you haven’t acknowledged the seriousness of your alcoholism and you don’t seem to care. You replaced me and your family with a bottle of wine and I did nothing. I ‘m not going to do that any more.
I am afraid that you will hurt yourself and others driving. I am afraid that you will kill yourself, though you have told me that you will not do anything to yourself. However, you are killing yourself slowly. I will not take part in this slow “suicide” by alcoholism any longer.
The secrecy and sneaking around anger and pain me greatly. I have tried to avoid the problem by avoiding you and the family. I have stayed at the office until all hours, I have gone to bed late.
I gave up. I have not taken care of myself and my family and I am not going to continue doing those things. I have lied, presenting an image to others which just isn’t true so I can continue to provide for our family.
I have joined in this grand illusion and chosen to protect you and us from the shame and judgment of others. I became a participant in the slow destruction of our family and a silent observer while you proceeded to destroy yourself. I am not going to do this any longer.
“Keeping Our Family Secret”
Even as I joined in keeping our family secret, I now feel like I have to draw the line because you will not draw it for yourself. Our family is poorer in every way because of your alcoholism, and I have participated in poverty’s journey. I am alone and without intimate companionship because I have kept this secret.
I have decided not to keep your secret any more. I have told some close friends. In doing that, I learned that honesty is not nearly as terrifying as the fear of discovery.
I want you to seek help, to go to a treatment center and begin the journey back; back to yourself, to your family, to me and to God. I will no longer support and encourage you in your alcoholism but I will stand by you in your recovery. I want you to get on a plane at 11:30 this morning and fly to Minneapolis and check into Hazelden. All of the arrangements have been made and they are ready to assist you and us in our journey back to wholeness and hope.
Though it would grieve me deeply and fill me with unimaginable pain and sorrow, if you do not seek help and check into a treatment center, I will move out. If you choose not to go to Hazelden, I have arranged a garage room with friends for me.
If you refuse treatment, I will take the keys to the cars because I am afraid that you are a danger to yourself, our family and others behind the wheel.
If you refuse treatment, I will not allow you to destroy our family financially. Half of all we have is yours. You may do with this as you please, but I will take steps to protect the rest of our assets.
Though it will fill me with shame and despair for you, myself, and our family, I will also communicate the depth of our struggle to close friends and family. I love you very much and I love the family we had. I want it back.
I want you to recognize that you are slowly killing yourself and recognize that you must do something about it. If you do not, I will not let your alcoholism consume our family’s future.
I also want you to know that if you choose to check yourself into Hazelden, I will stand by you and fight alongside you. I love you very much and want you back. I want to live and I want you to live. I want to live with you as long as I live.
Please, for you, for us and for our family, check yourself into Hazelden today. This is our only hope.
I love you very much.