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He’s Getting Black-Out Drunk In Front of Our Daughter. What Can I Do?

man in hoodie sitting on edge of road with bottle

Christyliz17’s husband has a serious condition with alcohol, and it’s traumatizing for her and her daughter. Allies CEO Dominique Simon-Levine reminds us that physical safety comes first—and how, once’s that’s assured, CRAFT offers so much hope for positive change.

My husband is an active alcoholic and denies this. He gets black-out drunk in front of my 7-year-old daughter and I. I called the police yesterday because I thought he was going to die. How do I get him to leave the house? I’m trying to make it uncomfortable for him by not doing anything for him—no laundry, cooking, etc. He sleeps in a separate bed. He won’t leave though. I want him to leave if he won’t get help but he won’t. Short of divorce, what can I do?

I am sorry to hear you are going through this. Your home should be a place of safety, a nest to come home to. Your family sounds rocked by your husband’s behaviors. You must be exhausted.

There is a lot you can do short of divorce. I’m going to ask you to commit to trying CRAFT, let’s say for 8-12 weeks. CRAFT is the most well-studied, effective approach for getting your husband into treatment. If doing this CRAFT work doesn’t change your outlook and your situation over the next couple months, then you’ll know you have given it the best chance, and you will be clearer about whether to seek a divorce.

Your daughter needs someone to talk to

First off (and this isn’t CRAFT), you and your daughter should talk to someone skilled in working with children and families affected by addiction. At seven, finding her a way to talk about her father’s illness and how it affects you both should be at the top of the list. We have worked with young family members before. Here is one instance where Mom would sit down to the family dinner having already had a couple. In this situation, the daughter, at five years old, is made part of the “consequences” of her mother’s use.

Children are already part of everything at seven years of age. A truthful explanation of what is going on, framed for a seven-year-old, will give you a shared language going forward, a way to ease tensions, and a way for your daughter to air her fears to you.

A family meeting can help your daughter understand that Daddy has an illness and that you need to leave him alone when he is ill. In this way, you prepare your daughter for when you need to back away from your husband, which you will want to do when your husband is using (and that includes just before using, during use, and hung over times).

A refuge in the short term may be part of the answer

As you start working CRAFT, you’re going to need a place to retreat to, a place you can even stay overnight (with a family member, or a friend) when your husband is drinking? I know you want him to leave, and he will with CRAFT, ideally to a detoxification unit. But you’ll likely need 4-8 weeks of applying CRAFT in your home. Removing yourself and your daughter when he is drinking could be a powerful change in your dynamic, and one that you can better control. So it’s not fair and not easy, but can you see yourself being the one to leave for now?

In a family I talked with recently, when the wife would leave with their baby son, the husband came to feel sad and offended. After she repeatedly left when he started to drink or came home drunk, he offered and they decided he would be the one to go away when he needed to drink. This is the kind of new-found respect CRAFT can bring to your relationship.

Can you see doing something like this? Where would you go if you have to leave the house? If your husband spends his entire weekend chugging beer, is there some place you and your daughter can go for the weekend?

But perhaps you can’t just leave the house every time. If not, you will then need to find the words to physically, quietly back yourself away from your husband when he is using—perhaps going to read a book with your daughter in her room, or running errands with her. Will your husband respect a closed door, if you ask? Is there a room with a door that can be just yours alone, or just with your daughter?

Nothing comes before your safety

You haven’t mentioned any risk of danger from your husband towards you or your daughter. Yet you called the police “because I thought he was going to die.” I’m guessing you mean that he looked dangerously passed out?

Just to be clear: if you are at all worried that your husband could become physically violent towards you or your daughter, you first need domestic violence help. You should not do the work of CRAFT until you are clearly out of physical danger—meaning all physical danger. CRAFT is designed to be gentle, positive, and engaging with your Loved One, yet there is no assurance that this will help your relationship every single time, and if you feel there’s a risk of a dangerous conflict, you should deal with that risk first. Verbal conflict is par for the course with being a family member, so it’s okay to be experiencing that with your Loved One and still do CRAFT (it’s part of what defines us as a community, having had insults hurled at us).

So start by seeking the aid of someone who can help talk about Daddy’s behavior and illness, perhaps a clergy member or someone through your daughter’s school. Then look at Module 2. It’s a whole module on safety just because you are working through this program on your own, online. Module 2 will help you be aware of the signs that point to escalating conflict and know how to back yourself out of them.

If you want to go further, I’d suggest Module 4 on communication, even just the piece about negative communication habits. An important part of CRAFT work is helping you navigate your relationship more effectively through communication. Start, as the module suggests, by paying attention to any negative communication coming from you. We provide a list of these behaviors right at the start of the module. It’s a manageable early strategy for improving your interactions, which will also make you feel immediately better. And last, please consider checking out one of our support groups (see the drop down menu).

We are glad you reached out to us, and wish you safety and progress with your tough situation. Keep us posted, and let us know how you are getting on with CRAFT.

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