When Daddy’s Been Drinking, Part Two
Firstly, I should warn you I’ve decided to write this in the heat of the moment in a blind panic…just when all the best decisions are made. But I read all your columns and you were the first person I could think of to give me some honest, blunt advice. As a bit of a back story, I’m not much of a drinker and come from a family that doesn’t really drink. My husband is from a family (and country) where drinking is a part of their lifestyle, holidays, dinners, everything. So over the years I have oscillated between thinking he may have a drinking problem to thinking his attitude towards alcohol is probably more the norm than mine. He is a great father and partner…responsible, engaged, hard working, who I am to judge if he wants a couple of beers with dinner?
We have a 7 month old son and I have just gone back to school part time. This evening, I got home from classes to find my precious baby on the bed in a dark room crying his little eyes out and my husband was D-R-U-N-K on the bed next to him not responding to his needs! He first told me that he hadn’t been drinking, then it was a bottle of white, then a bottle of red, then back to nothing. I sent him from the room to grab a nappy and pjs while I nursed the baby and he came back first with a towel and water bottle and when I repeated what I wanted he wandered around the kitchen aimlessly and then crashed on the couch.
All this to say, he was in no state to be caring for our child and I feel ill when I think of what could have happened.
Nothing like this has ever happened before and I’m at a loss for what to do. I have university in 3 days and have arranged alternate care for the baby but what about beyond that? Can I trust my husband to watch him ever again? I’ve left him with his father many times without a worry or second thought. Is he an alcoholic? (I know you can’t possibly know the answer to this but is this the sort of thing anyone other than an alcoholic would do?) Where do we go from here? I’m in desperate need of some advice!
Middle Class Suburban Momma from a “Picture Perfect” Home
You know this column all began when I got the bright idea to write a “fake” advice column? I would solicit purposely ridiculous questions from my friends and then answer them with deliberately bad, boneheaded advice. It went on like that for awhile, and then I slowly started getting “real” questions, but always about lighthearted, non-serious stuff. Shampoo. Eye shadow. Shoes.
To this day I’m not sure how I ended up with an advice column that regularly gets questions like this. I’m not complaining, dear OP, but am just taking a few minutes to type some pointless sentences while my brain warms up enough to figure out what to say.
Okay, so I drink. My husband drinks, our friends drink, we like wine with dinner and cocktails at parties and beers at barbecues and all that. However, I have personally seen — with friends and family members — when the line between social drinking and a drinking problem blurs, and when it completely gets crossed. And it looks a lot like what you witnessed with your husband. I’m sorry.
Luckily, nothing bad happened. I mean, a baby left to sob alone in a dark room is pretty bad, but you know what I mean. He wasn’t injured or left outside or God forbid, in the backseat of the car when your husband decided to drive to a bar, or something. It is obviously of the utmost importance that nothing like that ever, ever happens. Your baby’s safety (and yours) is of the utmost importance.
What I’m wondering about is what happened the next day, after you wrote this letter, when he finally came to. Did he come clean about how much he drank? Was he horrified? Apologetic? Admit he needed help or agree to attend AA meetings or something? Give you any indication that the night before served as a wake-up call?
Or was he defensive or belligerent? Did he refuse to talk about it? Did he accuse you of exaggerating? Tell you to relax, nothing happened, what’s the big deal?
Did he once again drink multiple beers with dinner that night?
If any of the latter things happened, I’m sorry, he’s in denial and you have some very tough choices ahead of you. And a lot of alternate childcare to arrange, because no, you cannot and should not trust him. (Does your university offer any childcare for part-time students? Any friends or family you can confide in and lean on for practical help right now?)
But even if the former happened, he’s NOT off the hook or anything. Plenty of alcoholics can hit false bottoms and swear to change, but without help and support, they can backslide fairly quickly. Or simply become better at hiding their drinking from their loved ones. I would absolutely feel justified making some ultimatums here.
Please contact Al-Anon ASAP and soak up every bit of advice and guidance they can offer about what you should do next. How to help your husband help himself, while ALSO keeping your child out of the line of booze-related fire. Talk to other people who have been in similar situations with alcoholic family members, and PLEASE don’t let anyone try to shake you down with stuff like “oh, it happened ONE TIME, what’s the big deal, I’m sure it won’t happen again, nothing ‘bad’ happened, etc.” Whatever. One time, two times: the stakes are way, way too high to gamble with here. (If you haven’t already, please read this post and the accompanying comments from many other mothers and children who dealt with alcoholic spouses/parents. It’s…well, sobering.)
I hope everything works out for you, OP. I hope hope hope. Please keep in touch, because I will be thinking about you and yes, hoping for the best possible outcome.