DEAR EXENE: My apologies in advance if this letter sounds like a bad country song. I have been married for 20 years. For most of that time, my husband and I didn't drink much, hardly ever kept alcohol in the house unless there was going to be a party. Five years ago, he was promoted to a regional corporate job that required a lot of traveling. Apparently, a big part of corporate culture is guys going out to bars after meetings or conferences, and my husband started going out drinking with his bosses all the time. This developed into a serious problem, and he turned into a full-blown alcoholic by anyone's definition. He ended up losing his job and being forced into rehab by his professional licensing board. He has since been in rehab six times. We have gone through endless cycles of him trying to quit drinking, hating himself, falling into a horrible depression/insomnia, managing to stop for a couple of weeks to maybe a month, and then going back to drinking a liter of vodka every evening after dinner. I have tried going to Al-Anon, but to be honest, I don't feel I've gotten a lot of practical help from it. Our kids are getting to the age at which they are going to start noticing that Dad "gets tired" and disappears at 7 p.m. My in-laws have blown off my concerns about him and show no support.
DEAR CONSUELA: Actually, it is sad like a country song—and very much an extreme case. But no matter the depth and breadth of one's addictions, it is still the same pain for the addict and the surrounding friends/family/co-workers. Your husband lost his job, and it sounds like more than that—a very good, corporate career. Six times in rehab, and he has also tried to stop on his own, all with what sounds like an incredible amount of support and patience from you, yet he still relapses into a liter of vodka a day. You don't mention an addiction-specialist psychologist or any medication; those are two things that could very possibly help. Your husband is suffering very much emotionally, and it must be so deep and devastating that he keeps returning to alcohol. If he refuses help, you have to start thinking of you and your children. Al-Anon is very good; I've been there myself. Try different meetings until you find the right one.
Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. If you want to ask the legendary vocalist for advice, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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You need a lot of support. You might need a little counseling—someone to talk to and just let it out to, someone who won't judge, someone who just listens and makes suggestions. Keep being supportive and loving toward your husband; he is sick and very treatment-resistant. The rest is up to him.
This column appeared in print as "'Full-Blown Alcoholic.'"