Dear Annie: Troublesome drinking and driving
Dear Annie: I have been married for 25 years. My husband grew up in a foreign country and has been drinking alcohol his whole life. He drinks beer the way I drink water. He is in the restaurant business and must be able to recommend wine to his customers, so giving up alcohol is not an option. The problem is that once in a while when he gets home, I will seriously question whether he should have driven home. We have been arguing over this forever. I used to argue he needed to stop drinking. Now I just say he should not drive home if he has had too much. My begging has not made a difference. I have explained that if he were to hurt himself or someone else, I would feel guilty that I did not do more to stop him.
I have now told him that if he drives home drunk again, he can move out, because I cannot live with this. He thinks I’m just being overreactive and I should not blow up our marriage and family over this. He does admit it is not OK. I am at a loss as to the next step. Friends tell me I can’t control him and should not feel guilty if he makes bad choices. I don’t want to destroy my family with telling him to leave, but I feel backed into a corner. I have tried counseling several times, but he refuses to go. Any suggestions? — Trying to Do the Right Thing
Dear Trying: Kudos to your friends for their good advice. They’re right that you can’t control your husband and should not feel guilty for the things he does. Realize, too, that threatening to leave him is not a way to control his drinking. If you truly mean to leave him because you yourself cannot be around his toxic behavior anymore, that’s one thing. But if your saying you’ll leave him is really an attempt to get him to quit drinking, that’s not a good reason. You will end up more exasperated than ever when things don’t change.
Your husband’s excuse that he owns a restaurant and must be able to recommend wines is just that — an excuse. Someone else could always taste the wines for him. Your husband drinks because, from the sound of it, he has alcoholism. It is as simple and as frustrating and heartbreaking as that. I urge you to find some support through a group such as Al-Anon (al-anon.org) or SMART Recovery Family & Friends (smartrecovery.org/family). I think you’ll be amazed by what a weight it takes off just being in a room with people who understand what you’re going through. And with some of that weight off, you’ll be able to think more clearly about what’s best for you.
Dear Annie: This is in response to “Mulling Over Memoir.” You advised her to start interviewing her father about his memories. I took a recorder to my dad’s and listened while he told me some of the things that he did; then I typed up the transcripts. I’m so glad I did. It was nice for the grandkids to be able to read about how he lived.
I also did this with my husband, who was older and had served in World War II. He didn’t think that what he had to tell was very interesting, but once I persuaded him to talk, I found out things that I never had during the 28 years we’d been married.
“Mulling Over Memoir,” good luck with interviewing your dad. And then remember that even your life will be of interest to the next generation sometime. Write about your own life, too. — Phyllis
Dear Phyllis: Fantastic advice. Thanks for sharing your experience.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.