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alcoholic father

When Daddy’s Been Drinking, Part Two

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

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!

From,
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.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Lindsey
Guest

First, what a crappy realization you have come to regarding your husband. Second, I’d be wondering if this was the first time he created a situation like this or just the first time he was caught. I’d say you would have to charitably and firmly point him in the direction of help and find another childcare arrangement. It probably sucks more because his being available to parent created an opportunity for you to go back to school, but them’s the breaks.

Brittany
Guest
Brittany

I think Amy gives good advice.  But, the thing is, people make mistakes.  Yes, this is a BIG one, and not something to be taken lightly, but just because someone gets drunk in a completely inappropriate situation one time, does not necessarily make them an alcoholic.  I’d say if Husband realizes he made a huge mistake and promises not to drink when he’s alone with the baby AT ALL, EVER, give him another shot.  I’ve never drank around my kids, but both before I had children and as a parent, I have made dumb decisions and had to deal with… Read more »

Christina
Guest
Christina

I couldn’t disagree more with Brittany’s opinion. It’s not a mistake, he’s an alcoholic. No additional chances required. No promises not to drink around the baby — sounds like this is WAY past the point where he can make a promise and keep it. Alcoholism is a disease. Not a choice.

Anne
Guest
Anne

I think there’s a huge difference between making a mistake drinking at, say, a wedding or an outing with friends where it’s easy to get carried away and getting so drunk while home alone with your child that you pass out.  Sure, we’ve nearly all made mistakes and drank too much at some point in our lives, but how many of us can say we did so while acting as the sole caretaker of our tiny, helpless babies? Hopefully few to none. Getting drunk alone is problem drinking, full stop. As you say the husband will have to deal with… Read more »

A
Guest
A

I was engaged to someone with a drinking problem and I didn’t find out until a few months from the wedding. He was from Ireland and we were in our last year of college, he didn’t drink much around me but when he did . . . oh boy. He would go until he passed out. Every. Time. I brushed it off because it didn’t happen that much! He’s Irish, for goodness sakes! We’re in college, that’s when people do this stuff! 90% of the time he was sober! But when he went back home to visit he called me… Read more »

kathy
Guest
kathy

First, I am so so sorry this happened to you, OP. Sending lots of hugs your way. I agree with Amy’s advice for the most part, but I think this is a huge deal, regardless of what happened the next day. I have a really hard time imagining any scenario in which this was a one time mistake. This was hour(s) of neglect. As someone who grew up with an alcoholic parent (one who tried to recover many many times before really being ready/able to), I’m pretty sure this would be a deal breaker for me. And it would be… Read more »

kathy
Guest
kathy

I also want to add that this is most likely NOT something you guys can do alone. I see people suggesting that he should not be able to drink around the baby, and yes that would be a good start, but I really think you both need some outside help on this (AA, therapy, etc). You can call your Dr. or his for referrals, in addition to AA. I can’t tell you the number of times I found hidden stashes of beer at home when my dad was supposedly in a sober period. Or the times when I wouldn’t realize… Read more »

C
Guest
C

My husband and I do not drink, so this is coming from someone with out any alcohol in the home.. But I really like Amy’s advice about the importance of him taking ownership of the situation. You were not overreacting, and it IS a big deal to YOU, and that’s what matters. (It would be a HUGE deal to me if that happened). Hopefully he takes the initiative to apologize and realizes the potential consequences of his actions on your child and your own relationship. But if he tries to lessen the seriousness of the situation or tell you how… Read more »

L.
Guest
L.

Dear Middle Class Momma, It breaks my heart to read your story. I grew up with an alcoholic father. From my own experience, I know that this situation should not be taken lightly. A “normal” person without a drinking problem does not say to themselves, “it’s ok to have several drinks while I am the sole caretaker of my child.” No matter what the child’s age. Your husband’s behavior speaks volumes in regards to his self control. All three of you are very lucky that no physical harm was done. Hoping and praying that you will find the strengh to… Read more »

Debra
Guest
Debra

I’m speaking as someone who enjoys drinking on occasion; I have gotten tipsy very rarely and NEVER NEVER NEVER when I was the sole caretaker or potentially could be the sole caretaker for my kids. Anyone who drinks knows how much they can handle.  For me, it’s one beer or glass of wine with a meal.  That’s just about all I ever drink.  If I have more than that? I KNOW I’m impaired.  I know before I even drink that second beer what’s going to happen.   OP, your husband KNEW he wouldn’t be capable of taking care of his… Read more »

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

First, I am so sorry you are going through this…speaking as the child of not one but TWO alcoholic parents, and almost married one myself… It’s not my first time at this rodeo.  

I think most of the other comments have covered everything I would want to say…but I would like to add this:
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”

Good luck and please update us, I will be thinking about you also.

Hi, I'm Natalie
Guest

My mom kicked my dad out of the house the day she came home to him passed out with two kids in the house. I was 5 and my brother was 1. It was the best decision she ever made.

So sorry you’re having to deal with this situation.

Jenny
Guest
Jenny

I am so sorry you are going through this. I went through something similar with my husband several years ago, and I’m glad to share parts of our story if it will help you make sense of yours. 6 years ago my husband successfully battled a very serious illness, but fell into a deep depression afterward. This is very common amongst survivors of fatal disease, a form of PTSD that no one really talks about or warns you of. He started seeing a therapist but also started drinking heavily in public and in private. To make a long story short,… Read more »

Dayna
Guest

Can I just add, I’m 100% sure this isn’t the first time this happened, and probably not the first time as your husband. It’s just that now you’re taking care of another human being so you’re seeing things from different lenses now. If he got drunk on those dinner beers and laid on the couch watching TV or something, you wouldn’t realize how out of it he was. When he has to actually be functional after drinking, *that’s* when you see the problem clearly. This can’t be anything but a patten. Glad you are getting help. You have an internet… Read more »

Erin
Guest
Erin

Oh, no. I am so sorry. I am an adult child of an alcoholic. I have been in Al Anon for three years now, and it’s an amazing program. With that said, it will not help you figure out how to get HIM to stop drinking, but it will help you help YOURSELF. We don’t give advice in Al Anon, but we do tell people that they have the absolute RIGHT to be safe. So, please have a plan to keep you and your child safe — whatever that might be. After that, see what you can learn about alcoholism… Read more »

A.
Guest

My partner struggles with alcohol abuse, and there are a couple of things I’ve learned from helping him that haven’t come up yet: 1) Have you given any thought to what may have triggered this drinking episode? Not that it provides any excuse, but is he feeling a lot of stress or anxiety about your return to school? Has he been depressed lately? Freaked out about new parenthood? For someone who is borderline about alcohol, a downward turn rarely happens in a vacuum. Understanding what got your husband to the point where he got wasted while he was supposed to… Read more »

A.
Guest

My partner struggles with alcohol abuse, and there are a couple of things I’ve learned from helping him that haven’t come up yet: 1) Have you given any thought to what may have triggered this drinking episode? Not that it provides any excuse, but is he feeling a lot of stress or anxiety about your return to school? Has he been depressed lately? Freaked out about new parenthood? For someone who is borderline about alcohol, a downward turn rarely happens in a vacuum. Understanding what got your husband to the point where he got wasted while he was supposed to… Read more »

Christina
Guest
Christina

Please update us…you have the power to change your son’s life — and yours — for the better, immediately. DO NOT let him sweep this under the rug, or convince you it isn’t a big deal, hasn’t happened before, won’t happen again (all classic lies told by desperate people in the throes of the disease). As someone with 9 yrs sobriety under my belt, this reeks of classic, garden-variety alcoholism. This can be the beginning of his bottom — but it might not be — and sadly, you can’t really impact that. Your role is to take care of yourself,… Read more »

OP
Guest
OP

Thank you Amy for posting and answering my question and thanks to everyone who took the time to give their input. I’ll give you an update since so many have been asking for one (and everyone who is very adamant that I must leave leave him/never let him watch the baby again please don’t kill me!). The next day my husband woke up and was completely horrified about what he had done. He admitted that this wasn’t the first time he had drank while looking after our son but this was the first time he had lost control and it was a… Read more »

Kim
Guest
Kim

I know I’m really late to this conversation, but I just wanted to add that, unfortunately, you probably do NOT want to contact any authorities and I would even hesitate to share too much information with any therapist/support group you seek out. Let me explain: 4 months ago my husband got black-out drunk and hit me so I called the police. Our 14 month old daughter was present but not injured, however the case was still reported to child services and he is being charged with child abuse while I am being charged with failure to protect a child! This… Read more »

debbie
Guest
debbie

i am reading this and my heart is in my throat my husband is an alcoholic in a family of alcoholics  and have encountered this but sadly i have been so depressed with ppmd, adhd symptoms and such that they have all pinned me as the problem. my family and friends have distanced themselves from me probably because i have been so paralized with the situation i have no idea what to do, i even quit a job because i had to work saterdays and came home to a drunken daddy. money is and has always ben a barrier so… Read more »

debbie
Guest
debbie

does al anon offer childcare because if i attend a meeting i doubt they want a tired two year old and a five year old attending.