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Published August 04, 2012, 11:30 PM

InDepth: Minnesota woman shares struggle with alcoholic spouse

FARGO – Sue’s husband has been sober for 10 years of their 30-year marriage.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

FARGO – Sue’s husband has been sober for 10 years of their 30-year marriage.

“We’ve had this cycle of 10 years drinking, 10 years not, now 10 years drinking again,” says the 50-year-old who asked to remain anonymous to protect the identity of the couple’s three adult daughters who chose not to participate in this article.

“It’s hard on them, too, to see what’s happened to us,” Sue says. “We at one point were very, very happy together.”

In the past year, she’s started thinking about filing for divorce.

“I stay with him, in one sense, because I still really love him, but (in) the other sense, it’s like, ‘Well, do I want to do this to myself again and again and again?’ ” she says.

There were times during their daughters’ childhood when her husband didn’t show up when he was supposed to, and the girls had to call their mom to pick them up.

“I’ve raised these three girls; sometimes I felt like I was doing it all by myself because he was never there,” she says.

Living in a small Minnesota town, Sue has found herself making excuses for her husband to friends and family.

“But people know why,” she says.

At one point, her husband’s employer stopped by their house to ask her if he had a problem because he could smell alcohol on his breath.

She told him, “I know how much he drinks when he comes home at night, but I wasn’t aware that he was doing it during the day.”

Four years ago, she wrote him a six-page letter about the problems his drinking caused. Three weeks went by without him saying a word about it.

When she asked him if he read the letter, he replied, “Everything that’s in there is true,” and that was it.

Sue says they tried marriage counseling but quit because he wasn’t being honest with the counselor and they weren’t getting anywhere.

Instead, she did a family program alone.

“I learned in treatment that I couldn’t make him admit that there was a problem, that he had to make that decision on his own,” she says.

When that day arrived, Sue’s husband came home from work at lunchtime, got out the phone book and said, “I’m going in for treatment.”

She says people who’ve never dealt with alcoholism don’t understand why the drinker can’t just put it down and say no.

“It doesn’t work like that,” she says.

Sue chose to share her struggle with an alcoholic spouse in order to reach others in the same position.

“I’d like people to know that it’s not a hopeless situation,” she says. “I’ve seen the good and the bad, and you have to keep hope alive.”