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My Wife’s Alcohol Addiction Causes Problems in Our Marriage

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Dec 19, 2017

Question

Asalamualaikum. I am writing in regarding to issues in my life, my marital relationship, and my wife's problem with alcohol. I have been married to my wife for a few years. We have 2 wonderful sons together. The first few years went quite well, initially living with my parents and then moving into our flat after the birth of our first son. However, I found out my wife got drunk on a night with some friends. My wife confessed that in the university she was experimental with alcohol and other drugs. When my wife became pregnant, drinking stopped until 2 years ago after the birth of our 2nd son. At this time, my wife became pregnant again and had an abortion which I was against. Subsequently, she started drinking again whilst alone at home with our children when I was at work. This seems to have been brought by post-natal depression, other issues and the abortion guilt possibly. Initially, nobody from my or her family knew of the issue, but it came out when one day she falsely claimed a suicide attempt to her family. This opened a can of worms with the drinking being revealed and finding out that she had been telling her family I was having an affair which was false. Long story short, I was not comfortable for my being alone with the children. This led to receiving major help from my parents and in-laws. I went to stay with my parents while my wife and kids were staying at my in-law’s house in the UK. In between, we stayed alone sometimes. My wife appeared ok but the inevitable relapse would happen and each time was worse and worse. It came to the point of social services being involved as she tried to pick up the boys whilst drunk, having an accident whilst driving, ( I regret this because i let her get the keys from me). My wife has also falsely accused me of hitting her to the police. I got arrested. She was drunk at the time. I had left work to come and check up on her if she was ok. This all led to eventually me moving into my in laws house to keep her happy as she claimed that area was best for her. For a couple of months this worked, but then a relapse again where she got slightly aggressive. The good thing is that she is now finally taking recovery seriously and has been in rehab (6 week stay) and going to AA meetings and is interactive with a sponsor. Currently, I and the boys are staying at my parents’ house. Whilst I am working, my parents are doing everything for the children in terms of cooking, bathing, feeding them and taking them to school. This is putting a strain on their lives. My wife feels that on the days they have school the boys must still go to visit her. She does not like coming to my parents’ house to see the kids. She feels she can dip in and dip out on responsibilities for the children as suits her. I genuinely want her to stay on path of recovery, but I need her to show her responsibility with this before we live as the 4 of us on our own and she can then take the responsibility of looking after the children. At the moment, she still feels the children and I must always come to her. I must ignore my parents who are looking after the kids and go see her after work. If I ever say anything that opposes her view or demand, then I am being manipulative or I am emotionally bullying her. My wife expects to be able to insult me or my family but if I say anything then I am a bully. I love her and I feel she loves me but this is going on too long and is really unhealthy for all involved especially our children. The time apart does not help the situation or the marriage, but I refuse to move into her parents’ house again and she won’t move in with my parents. And it would not be good for my parents either due to the bad blood there. I am giving her time to see if she can be responsible and be better before we live on our own and I can trust her with the children at home and all this responsibility whilst I am at work. We will be trying to seek a marriage counsellor out to see and help us. I really need some advice on how to be patient and keep the peace. How to help my wife, my parents, my children and myself. How to deal with the accusations of being manipulative and a bully when speaking up for my point of view and disagreeing with my wife. Jazakallah.

Counselor

Answer


My Wife’s Alcoholism Causes Problems in Our Marriage

In this counseling answer:

“I can advise you to continue to be supportive of her efforts, yet set up boundaries within this support. Try reconnecting her to the Islamic community and encourage her to develop a closer relationship with Allah. Connect your children with other Muslim children and take care of yourself as well. However, if your wife cannot do things that will lead up to having a normal family life, you may need to re-evaluate your options for you and your children.”


As-Salamu ‘Alaykum brother,

Thank you for writing to us with your concerns. I am sorry to hear about all that you have been through with your wife. Addiction/alcoholism is never easy to deal with. I am sure it came as quite a shock to you to find out your wife had a history of drinking and then to see her life taking a turn for the worse concerning alcohol.

It is my feeling, and I may be wrong, but it may be that your wife had a drinking problem before you met her and quite possibly kept its severity hidden until it was triggered by the possible guilt she experienced after the abortion/post-partum depression. She lost all control and did not care anymore. As she did reveal to you after your wedding that she had experimented with alcohol (and other drugs), perhaps she did not reveal to what extent she did so.

As you know, alcoholism causes much pain for the families. From the loss of trust, manipulative behaviors, lying, false accusations, harming of self or others while intoxicated and so on, the devastation upon a spouse, children and other family members is intense. You have experienced some of these results such as her lying to the police about you hitting her, attempting to pick the children up from school while intoxicated, getting into a car accident while intoxicated and so on.

Alhamdulillah, brother, your wife is now in treatment. However, she is still in the very early stages of recovery/treatment. During the early phases, one realizes there is a problem and they need help. They realize they need to change. They then usually move on and desire to enter rehab and begin to learn skills and coping mechanisms which will help them to remain substance-free for the long term.

I am not clear on how you got your wife to go into rehab, whether it was an ultimatum or if she finally realized she needed help and went of her own free will. This factor is important because if she went into rehab just for the sake of “keeping peace” or to be able to see her children, she may not truly be committed to recovery.

Part of recovery is learning how to manage emotions without alcohol as well as how to make amends with family members and others who have been hurt because of the addiction and its ensuing behaviors.

This relates to the 2nd stage of recovery which entails consideration. “The consideration stage is important because this is when the addict begins to look beyond himself/herself and to understand that friends, family members, and colleagues have been negatively affected by his/her choices and behaviors”.

You stated that she expects your children to visit her on school days. She also refuses to come to your parents’ home. You stated that she accuses you of bullying or manipulating her when you speak of your need to help your parents care for your children or discuss something that opposes her viewpoint.  This is not indicative of consideration but in fact, suggests she is still utilizing manipulative behaviors.

At this point, dear brother, your wife appears to be angry, holding on to toxic emotions and not taking responsibility for her past behaviors as well as her current emotions. I would kindly suggest, dear brother, that if a counselor or psychologist is not involved in her recovery, you may want to talk to her care team about getting her one.

You mentioned that she does have a sponsor, yet sponsors are not trained, therapists. Addiction Resources state that “it’s important to keep in mind that sponsors are not trained, psychotherapists. They cannot or should not assume this responsibility. It is essential to see a psychotherapist if you have continuing care or aftercare as part of your overall treatment program. If not, call your treatment facility and ask for a referral”.

By having your wife seek to counsel, she will in sha’ Allah learn how to deal with her emotions, develop a sense of responsibility to not only herself but to those around her as well such as you, your children and family.  If she is getting counseling, you may wish to discuss with her therapist your concerns about her anger, emotions, and manipulative behaviors and statements. 

Brother, you ask how to be patient and keep the peace. You ask how to deal with the accusations of being manipulative and a bully when expressing your viewpoints and standing up to your wife. These are not easy situations. There are no clear-cut answers.

Brother, by looking at all you and your family have done to help her as well as your dedication to her recovery and your willingness to continue to be there for her, she is very blessed to have you as a husband and your parents as in-laws. May Allah reward you and your family for your efforts.

I am not going to say to just continue to be patient and everything will be fine. It may not be. This will be up to your wife and the amount of sincerity and efforts she puts into her recovery. I can advise you to continue to be supportive of her efforts, yet set up boundaries within this support.

If you need to be home to help your parents with the children, then that is where you should be. Instead of catering to her demands to see the children on school days, perhaps you may want to pick one day on the weekends wherein you and the children to visit her and spend quality time as a family.  I am sure your parents would greatly appreciate this.

During the week, your wife should be busy with her own activities, especially concerning her recovery. This would include (but not limited to) meetings, counseling, educational classes, skill-building support groups and so on. I am aware that she misses her children and desires to see them. However, at this point, her main focus should be on her recovery. The fact that she is bad mouthing you and your family who is taking care of her children is indicative that she still has a lot of work to do.

Assure her you are there for her and you love her, but that you are also taking care of the finances and helping your parents with the children. While she may not react in a peaceful way, you can negate her responses by not responding to her negative remarks. If she becomes disrespectful, you can tell her that you love her but you will not tolerate her negativity. You can tell her you will talk to her at some other time when she is kind and reasonable and hang up or leave. By doing this consistently, over time she will learn that her old negative ways of thinking and interacting with you no longer work. As a result, in sha’ Allah, she will begin to apply what she is learning in recovery regarding communication, making amends and expressing gratefulness.

I would kindly suggest that in addition to setting boundaries, you also attend Al-Anon meetings as your time allows if you are not already. These meetings can teach you more about the recovery process, what to expect, how not to enable your wife as well as how to handle her manipulative and undesirable behaviors and accusations.

Much of what you are going through is still a result of her addiction and her learned behaviors. I would also suggest that when you are able, you, your wife and children go to the mosque for prayer, social events as well as Islamic studies. By reconnecting her to the Islamic community as well as encouraging her to develop a closer relationship with Allah, the greater the chances are for her in recovery as Allah is our life, our foundation, and our ultimate healer.

Connecting your children with other Muslim children for fun activities and education will also be of great benefit to them during this difficult time. If your children appear depressed or otherwise affected by all of this, please do get them into counseling as well.

Brother, you are a wonderful husband. You have invested much hard work and sacrifice to save not only your wife but your marriage. Please do take care of you. Go out for fun social activities with brothers when you can, take up a hobby or join a gym to relieve stress.  Attend the mosque for spiritual support and make du’aa’ for Allah to grant ease and to comfort you in this trying situation.

Marriage counseling will eventually help you determine if this is a situation that you and your wife can resolve to each of your expectations, or if you need to let it go and move on for the best outcome for you and your children.

While I understand you love your wife very much and do not desire a divorce, she also must love herself, you and the children enough to make the needed changes in her life to ensure it will be a healthy, happy, Islamic home. It is still very early in her recovery. However, if she cannot do things that will lead up to this, brother, you may need to re-evaluate your options for you and your children.

We wish you the best.

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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