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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Dear Mary: I moved out because of my wife's drinking

Illustration: Tom Halliday
Illustration: Tom Halliday

Mary O’Conor

I moved out of my wife's home recently because I couldn't tolerate watching her destroying herself with drink.

We have a child in pre-school whom I adore, and my wife also has a teenager.

We are only married a few years. I'm not against drinking; I like the odd one. I asked my wife to maybe have a drink just at the weekend, but to no avail. When we went out, if she went to order a couple of pints at the bar, she would sneakily throw back a vodka or some other shot.

Her family live in various houses quite close to hers, and they continuously interfered in our business.

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Her teenage son had assessments at school because I felt he needed support. My wife was told he has high-functioning autism and Asperger's.

The support was there for him but he was told by my wife that there's nothing wrong with him. He stays on the computer all day and until 3 or 4am.

He wouldn't wash himself and I'd have to ask him to do so and to brush his teeth.

Her uncle, who is in his late 70s and lives nearby, told him that it was okay not to wash for a few days as that's how he did it growing up.

The uncle also told him that if he didn't like school to drop out and get a job, and so he completely failed his Leaving Certificate. I think he may be starting a PLC course and I genuinely hope he focuses on it. In the last year I have taken a back seat with him as he is now 18 and should know better. He is bright but manipulative.

My wife continues to ignore these issues, and the son has recently turned aggressive.

My main concern is that my little child doesn't get caught in the crossfire. I spoke to the GP about my concerns and she gave me a Dublin number to ring to help me deal with handling my wife's drinking.

My wife has promised me numerous times she would seek help but to no avail. Unfortunately when it comes to alcohol issues, she lies constantly.

I love my wife dearly, would do anything for her, but anything I have done has been thrown back in my face. I feel lost without her and would love to have the lady I married back.

Mary replies: It seems that you won't have the lady you married back until she stops drinking - and she is unwilling to take steps to address this. Her drinking must have been pretty serious as it caused you to leave.

You tried to help get her son help but it seems she refuses to see that there is a problem. This is very upsetting but there is nothing much that you can do as he is no longer considered a minor in this country and so can make decisions for himself.

However, it is your own son that I am particularly concerned about. I keep trying to imagine what his day is like, who looks after him - and wondering if your wife is drinking during the day as well as in the evening.

The information you have given me is fairly sparse; for example, you don't mention how often you get to see him. But he is obviously living with his mother, who drinks an awful lot, and her other son, who has become aggressive. This is beyond dangerous and you will have to do something about it immediately.

You probably have no wish to get any authorities involved, but you owe it to your son to ensure his safety at all times.

Because you are married to his mother, you have equal rights in determining what happens to him.

To begin with you should contact Tusla, which is the child and family agency set up by the government -

Its comprehensive website has a general enquiries section. Under that you can click on 'Contact a Social Worker' for the area where your wife and son live. For instance Dublin is divided into five Tusla areas.

Go to your own area and you will find contact details if you need to report a concern about a child. You can speak in absolute confidence and will not even have to give your name.

I feel that even speaking to somebody on the telephone will help to get things clearer in your head.

You do not want your son to become a statistic when it is too late.

For your own benefit, it would be a very good idea for you to contact Al-Anon, which is an organisation that offers understanding and support for families and friends of problem drinkers in an anonymous environment.

At one of their meetings you would meet other people who are in similar situations, and that would be helpful for you because at the moment you sound like you are very much alone.


You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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