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Saturday 12 July 2014

Dear Mary: Our holidays will be ruined by old friend's alcoholic husband

Published 29/07/2013|10:50

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Friend's husband has a big drinking habit and is probably an alcoholic
Friend's husband has a big drinking habit and is probably an alcoholic

When my husband was growing up he had a great friend who lived nearby. They were never boy and girlfriend, just mates, and they have continued this friendship into adulthood.

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In time, they both married, and over the years she and her husband have spent holidays with us, either staying with us or we all went away together. But the problem is that he has a big drinking habit, and I would even go so far as to say that he is an alcoholic.

He does not agree that he has a problem and will not seek help and she won't go for any sort of counselling either. Whenever they are spending time with us she leans on my husband for support and advice, and they go off for long walks together. I don't get included and when I suggest that I go along on the walk, she always says that she hopes I don't mind, but she would like to have my husband to herself for a while.

He comes back fairly fed up and exhausted after she has poured her heart out to him about all her problems with the drinker. They really don't seem to have a marriage at all and I don't know why she stays with him. Luckily they don't have any children. I think all this is affecting my husband's relationship with her husband as he hates to see his childhood friend suffer like this. They are coming to spend time with us again and I'm dreading it. There will be those long walks and then his heavy drinking before and during dinner and continuing into the evening when he gets more and more aggressive and there will be a row between the husband and wife.

Can you suggest anything I could do that would make a difference? It's our only break from work and it should be a relaxing time for us both, but I know it will be nothing of the sort.

Mary Replies:

This sounds like a horrible scenario, and I find it hard to believe that your husband has allowed it to continue for such a long time. He is being very loyal to his childhood friend, but he also owes loyalty to you, and you deserve to have a nice relaxing break instead of being anxious and not looking forward to your holiday.

It seems to me that there is a lot of collusion going on with the drinker. His wife is colluding with him as she is not insisting that he seeks help, and then your husband is colluding with her by continuing to be there for her, but not telling her to get counselling.

As a result, nothing changes and everybody in their own way is unhappy, including you. It is time that somebody calls a halt, and that person has to be your husband. He must know how upsetting you find these visits and so you should ask him to explain to his friend that he is not a therapist and that he feels at this stage that professional intervention is necessary. He will have to be quite firm about this because she will not want to go down this route. And when one of the walks is suggested he should say that he would very much like you to join them as he values your point of view.

Even if she will not go for counselling, he should suggest to her that she approach Al-Anon. There she will find other people who have an alcoholic in the family and who get support from each other through the organisation.

There is always the option of cancelling their visit on the pretext that something else has come up, and I'm sure you have often thought about this, but that is only prolonging the inevitable which is getting your husband to firmly guide his friend into seeking outside help.

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