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“I Am Really Struggling Today…”

couple talking, woman's hands down

AiR member fifi posted the following comment:

"I am really struggling today. I know that I need to be firmer with my husband about his drinking and I have been good with it in the past. I just don't feel like I have the strength anymore to fight it. Due to some insurance issues we needed to stop seeing our therapist for a few weeks. We had only been a few times but I felt hopeful when we were. We go back today but I just don't feel like rehashing the last 4 weeks again. I feel like we are starting from scratch again and I don't know if I want to start over anymore. Any advice or does any of this make sense?"


The exhaustion and pessimism you describe towards your husband and your relationship make total sense.  My goodness how this goes on …. a relationship with someone whose life has been taken over by drugs and alcohol is terrifically hard.  It goes on day in and day out. The spikes of hard moments accumulate. No wonder you feel your strength evaporating.

Add in the vagaries of the payer system. You succeed in getting your Loved One to agree to treatment and then the system fails you.

I’m glad you wrote in. Reaching out for support is one thing you can do  — one thing you must do — for your own wellbeing.

There is so much to say, let me start with these two things. 

Self-Care: the source of your resiliency

It may seem far-fetched right now but I can tell you that by putting yourself first and caring for yourself you will build resiliency — a real resiliency, one that allows you to step back a little, depersonalize what your husband is doing that is so destructive, a resiliency that gives you hope and energy.

You can live your own life in the eye of the storm, all the while interacting with your husband in ways that signal to him the problem is his drinking, and that you love him and are ready to help with treatment.

A tall order? Absolutely.  The modules on this site provide you with the game plan.  Apply your energy to what we set out in these modules.  Simply put, put your energy here and you’ll stop spinning your wheels on things that may not be working.  Take that newly freed energy and live your life.

The CRAFT approach is what science has found to be the best stance a family member can take when faced with the addiction of a Loved One.  It’s the ideal. Give it 8 weeks, try putting as much of it into practice as you can. Share with us your journey and get support. If at the end of this period, you determine that nothing has changed, rest in the knowledge that you have given it your best shot.

Having given it your best shot, you now can assess whether to stay or to go.

Behavioral Couples Therapy: in support of abstinence & recovery

A second thing.  There is a well-tested approach designed by the psychologist Tim O’Farrell, called Behavioral Couples Therapy.  We’ve put a link that describes it here.

From the literature:

The purpose of Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT) is to build support for abstinence and to improve relationship functioning among married or cohabiting individuals seeking help for alcoholism or drug abuse. BCT sees the substance abusing patient with the spouse or live-in partner to arrange a daily “Recovery Contract” in which the patient states his or her intent not to drink or use drugs and the spouse expresses support for the patient’s efforts to stay abstinent. For patients taking a recovery-related medication (e.g., disulfiram, naltrexone), daily medication ingestion witnessed and verbally reinforced by the spouse also is part of the contract. Self-help meetings and drug urine screens are part of the contract for most patients. BCT also increases positive activities and teaches communication skills.

If you’re in Massachusetts, the last time I went on a hunt for a practitioner of this approach, I found one in Worcester.  Dr. O’Farrell is completely approachable and answers his phone. Here is his contact information. This may be the quickest way to learn if there is someone in your area using this approach.

Dr. Timothy O’Farrell

Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry,

Brockton, MA 02301

phone: 774-826-3493


Having suggested this, if you’re able to get back in with the couples person you’ve been seeing, and it helps, then good. Perhaps you suggest BCT to him or her and use some of the strategies laid out in the approach.

Al-Anon can also be helpful at bringing the focus back to yourself. These mutual support groups will have like-minded individuals in them, who are totally ready to join with you.

This is probably enough for one post.  Know that you are not alone. Know that there is every reason to think your husband can recover. Know that you have come to a place focused on solutions. All our best.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. I don’t know when to give up. My husband finally went to an addiction center connected with a university in February. Since then, he has been to 6-8 therapy session, one 4-week support group for the therapists’ patients, and a handful of Smart Recovery online support groups. He stopped going to therapist when she went on maternity leave, and since then, he has made and missed at least a couple of appointments with the MD and a new therapist. He was prescribed Naltrexone over a month ago, and I thought he was taking it daily, but I noticed that he still has many pills left in the bottle. I already asked him to move out temporarily in June, because I couldn’t handle the disruptions that his addiction was causing. We do still go to couples counseling about twice a month. I thought that he would get serious about his recovery this summer, especially because I know he wants to move back in, but it seems he is not really able to yet, and I am worried that he is lying to me. He seems to sometimes have gone 1-2 plus weeks’ sober. Also, the two times we had a date this summer, he got drunk the next day with his siblings, so I am not sure what rewards work for him. It has been 4 years since I asked him to reduce or stop his drinking, and 9 months since he agreed to give it up. How do I know when to just separate for good? We have been together for 22 years and have 2 teenaged children together. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for letting us know about your situation and for asking these important questions: Should we separate for good? When should I give up?

      You and your husband have been together for 22 years. Four years ago you asked him to work on the drinking. He started addressing it in a serious way nine months ago. His attendance and motivation have been spotty over the last few months. You feel he is lying to you and you’re unsure of how to reward him.

      Read my full response to BrownU96 here: