My Husband Is an Alcoholic. Do I Stay or Do I Leave?

My Husband Is an Alcoholic. Do I Stay or Do I Leave?
Katherine Smith

Dear Kathy,

My husband of 19 years is an alcoholic. Every night after work, he crashes on the sofa in front of the t.v. and drinks beer and wine until he passes out. He doesn’t even bother coming to bed anymore. I don’t remember the last time we had sex.

My sister thinks I should stay in the relationship because he’s a basically good guy with an excellent work ethic. He has a well-paying job at which he is very successful and it enables me to stay home with my kids and afford the extras. If I leave, I will have to put my son in his school’s aftercare program and my daughter in daycare so that I can work full-time for a substantially lower income.

My best friend tells me I should leave because I’m codependent and it’s an unhealthy situation for me and my children. I go back and forth about this issue all the time and my stomach is in knots. My husband used to go through periods in which he drank like he is currently drinking and equally long periods in which he had one or two drinks socially like normal people.

For the better part of two years he has been drinking non-stop. I know that his job has been increasingly stressful, but what about our family life? It’s like he’s not even there with us when he is home. What do you think I should do?


Dear Virginia,

It sounds as though your husband is a functional alcoholic. It is certainly understandable that you are experiencing a great deal of inner conflict. As a mother, you want the very best for your children. Is it better for them to have you home to meet their needs in an environment in which their father drinks to excess or would it be better for them to be spared this unhealthy home situation at the expense of losing you for part of their day?

Ultimately, you and your children will live with the consequences of your decision. Your sister, your best friend, and I will not shoulder the repercussions of your choice. Therefore, I strongly advise you to begin attending Al-Anon meetings regularly in order to seek support from others in similar situations.

Additionally, I encourage you to seek couples therapy with an addictions specialist. Seek someone with a CASAC certification who can truly understand your predicament. If your husband refuses to participate in therapy, go by yourself. That being said, make appropriate childcare arrangements as you ought not to leave your children alone with someone who has a proclivity towards excessive alcohol consumption.

Although you no doubt feel isolated and alone, there are many other women walking in your same shoes. You will meet those kindred spirits in Al-Anon. Attend a few different meetings until you discover one that is the right fit for you. If you follow my advice and reach out, the next right action will become clear to you. Please write back and update me on your situation.

My very best,


is a licensed marriage and family therapist as well as a gifted divorce mediator in NYC. She is a former high school English teacher and college counselor with a passion for enhancing the lives of others. Additionally, Katherine has extensive training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples, family systems, and group therapy. Readers can contact her at [email protected].
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