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Missing Him In Metamora

  • Posted on July 30, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Dear Christine,

I never thought I’d be in this situation and can’t believe I’m writing to you for advice on this matter.
My husband and I were high school sweethearts, graduated in 92 and have been together ever since. We’ve been raising 2 children that we first fostered, then adopted. Life has been pretty good for two gay men. In the last 5 years, my sweetheart started drinking more than usual and acting totally out of character. Last month he lost his job due to his drinking and because he is a mean and verbally abusive drunk, I have asked him to move out. He is living in his parents basement now and they are at their wits end too and don’t know what to do or how to help him. They want him to leave but fear what will happen to him if he has no one. He refuses help or to admit he even needs help. I still love him.Is there something I or his parents could do to get him the help he needs? I want my old love back.

Missing him in Metamora

P.S. Second question. How could something like this come on when he was never like this before? I never saw it coming.

Dear Missing Him,

I am sorry to hear of the difficulties you and your sweetheart are going through right now.  It sounds like your partner has developed alcoholism later in life than many.  Two thirds of alcoholics begin drinking at an early age, say starting at age 14 compared to 21.  However, that leaves one third who are older adults when they become alcoholic.  These are called “late onset drinkers.”  Having alcoholism in the family can be a predictor of a higher prevalence of lifetime alcohol dependence, but it can happen to anyone.  There are all sorts of triggers and no single answer, but major life-changes often precede social drinking becoming alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.  The high stress events of divorce, being fired from a job, death of a parent, death of a spouse, retirement, a major change in health status or other perceived losses (income, mobility, social, social network losses) all can contribute to Late Onset Alcoholism.  People who had substance abuse problems early in life are at higher risk of developing drinking problems even after decades of abstinence. (
The hardest fact for you as the partner of a late onset alcoholic is that there is very little you can do.  You are doing the right things:  Set clear boundaries.  Make sure there are consequences for his drinking, abuse and unwillingness to get help for this problem.  Something happened five years ago when he began to drink more heavily and whatever it is has developed into a huge loss for the entire family and his job.  I understand that his parents are fed up with his behavior too.  It is excruciating to watch someone you love destroy his life and refuse to do anything to slow or reverse that process.
Try as you might, you, nor his parents, cannot make him do anything!  You can continue to be clear about the consequences of choices and behaviors, meanwhile suggesting, encouraging and urging him to get treatment for this disease.  It is very hard for parents to throw their middle age son out of the house for continuing to drink and not get treatment, but that may be necessary. He may need to “hit bottom” before he is willing to change. There are treatment programs, from individual counseling to inpatient treatment to make sure that he does not die from a sudden withdrawal of alcohol by the delirium tremens (DTs).  Someone I know recently turned her life around by entering the Salvation Army program, and by avoiding the people who trigger her drinking and working while living in a half-way house, is managing to be employed and sober.  This person seemed ready to live under a bridge rather than get help, and the family is grateful it didn’t come to that.
I wish I could encourage you to believe your old sweetheart will come back, but there are no guarantees.  There is a saying by Heraclitus “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  The relationship you had, the family you and your partner and kids were is irretrievably changed.  Hopefully, there can be growth, healing and reconciliation, but each of you will be marked by what has occurred in this time, and all of you will be different.
I wish you and him and your family the best.  May he see the light and enter treatment with an open and willing heart.  Christine Cantrell, PhD, Psychologist