Annie Lane: Feeling powerless to wife’s addiction

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Dear Annie: My wife has a lover. When we married, I was promised that she was done with her lover. But she isn’t.

She sees this lover every day, and there is nothing I can do about it. After she’s been with her lover, she is not interested in being around me. She can’t, or won’t, carry on a conversation and, when I try, she simply asks the same questions I’ve already answered or repeats herself over and over again.

My wife has even brought her lover home with her. When her lover is with her, they spend hours in each other’s company until she simply falls asleep on the couch with her lover. I have confronted my wife about her lover. She’ll deny it. But the remnants of their affair are found in her car and around our house. They are in her eyes and her speech and her disconnect with me. When the evidence is overwhelming, she finally admits it. But despite my offers of help, of professing I will do anything to replace her lover, she keeps going back. I am powerless.

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My wife’s lover is alcohol. She drinks more than a liter of wine at the house every day. She drinks wine from cardboard and aluminum disposable containers on her way home from work. She tries to hide the empties, but I find them. She leaves the house to “run errands” and takes two or three hours for a simple trip to the grocery store. Then she comes back with watery and bloodshot eyes, slurring speech and an inability to hold a conversation. I try to do any activity I can think of to engage my wife — anything she wants — to no avail. She’s only interested in watching TV or being on her computer.

When she’s sober, she is the amazing woman I fell in love with. As she is now, drinking most of the time, she is angry and moody and unpleasant — if she isn’t passed out in front of the TV or asleep in front of her computer. She no longer takes care of herself. She’s put on a lot of alcohol weight and has no motivation to do anything about it.

Her own daughter has questioned why I stay. But I love her. I would walk through anything WITH her. But if she continues down this path, refusing help or refusing to change, I’m not sure how much longer I can continue. Doing everything around the house and living with your wife’s lover is exhausting.

I’ve been to Al-Anon. I know I can’t change her. I am hoping and praying that someone else may see themselves in this letter. Or someone who has an alcoholic spouse will have been given a voice and know they are not alone and crazy. Or perhaps someone will see themselves as my wife, and hearing these words coming from a stranger will affect them in a way their own spouse’s words do not, causing change and saving themselves and their marriage.

— Outside the Bottle Looking In

Dear Outside the Bottle Looking In: Your letter is beautiful. Beautiful not only because it is clever but because it comes from love. You love this woman and it is breaking your heart that she is killing herself slowly. Thus is the nature of this terrible disease. The most challenging part is that she needs to come to the conclusion on her own that she needs help. Keep up with Al-Anon. If you don’t find it helping, find another group or seek the help of a professional therapist who focuses on substance abuse issues in families.

I have no doubt that you have helped others with your words. Sending you and your family best wishes.

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