As a psychiatrist that specializes in treating addiction, I witness people married to an alcoholic elicit promises from their partner to stop drinking alcohol. People will nag, plead, and beg their alcoholic husband or alcoholic wife to quit drinking alcohol. Sometimes, their partner will “cave in” under the pressure and stop drinking alcohol for one or two days only to have an alcohol relapse. Then the vicious cycle repeats itself.

Here is an example of a case from my practice:

S.L. is 55 years old and has been married for 22 years. Her husband started drinking early on in their marriage. 10 years ago, after thousands of broken promises, S.L. threatened to leave her alcoholic husband. He was so shaken by this, that he got help and remained clean and sober for 7 years. However, he started drinking again and his alcohol consumption increased over time. S.L. and her husband fought about his drinking on a daily basis. He would get angry and defensive with her, but usually would agree to “cut back”. He broke promise after promise. She left him for a short time, but the problem continued. This case is a typical example. She actually returned to her marriage. NOTHING has changed for the better and her husband continues to drink.

Why would your alcoholic spouse break a promise to you that is more important to you than anything else in your life? Here are 5 reasons why your alcoholic spouse breaks his/her promise to you to stop drinking alcohol:

  • Your alcoholic spouse experiences alcohol withdrawal symptoms because his/her brain has become alcohol dependent.
  • Your alcoholic spouse has strong alcohol cravings.These alcohol cravings produce a strong primal drive to drink more alcohol.
  • He/she may have started drinking in the first place to avoid facing problems such as sexual trauma as a child, an inability to face adult responsibilities, job pressures etc.
  • Your alcoholic spouse may be self-medicating anxiety or depression.
  • Your alcoholic spouse is not making the life style changes that are necessary to maintain sobriety such as being surrounded by sober friends at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, getting a sponsor for the 12-step meetings, seeing a psychiatrist and/or therapist, and learning coping skills to manage stress.

Alcoholism is a chronic progressive disease. Your spouses’ brain is dependent on a substance which makes him/her feel hostage to alcohol. You, on the other hand, feel like a victim of the disease as well because you are suffering the consequences of his/her substance dependence. You are part of an alcoholic family meaning that every one who cares about the alcoholic is affected at a deep level. For this reason, alcoholism is known as a family disease.