Living With An Addict When You Have A Mental Illness

My husband is an alcoholic. He admits this passive-aggressively in conversation. I classify him as a functioning alcoholic. He doesn’t get belligerent, he gets happy and talkative most times. He doesn’t miss work or drive drunk. But he doesn’t know his limits, and that scares me.

I have bipolar disorder along with PTSD and anxiety issues. In a selfish way, I get angry and tell myself, “I have my own problems I bring into this marriage, I can’t handle adding alcoholism into the mix.”

When you have a mental illness, you have a lot of guilt. You feel guilty for many things; other people having to put up with your illness, the financial burden you bring because of your illness, some cases because you don’t work (not because you don’t want to, but because you can’t.) When you add an addict into the mix, you then take that on and feel like it is your fault that your partner is an addict. What can you do different that would make them not want to (fill in the vice here)… Because certainly if you were a better human being, they wouldn’t feel the need to hide from the world.

The problem is, it is not our fault. And you need to find a way to get over that. Just like you may have a mental illness, they also have an illness… It’s called addiction. Much like many mental illnesses, there is some arguments that addiction is hereditary or that it is a chemical issue, while others think it is a choice.

I have reached out for help. You see my father in law is a recovering alcoholic. After speaking with a friend of mine whom is also an addict, I decided to talk to my father in law about my husbands problem. See, talking to my husband about it is moot, because he says he can stop drinking. Which he can, for a little bit, and all during that time he is a complete and utter asshole.

My father in law was not much help. I mean I suppose he gave me all the advice he could. You can’t help and addict until they hit rock bottom and realize they have a problem. If anything it was a good way to let my husbands dad know that he has a problem.

Last night we had an issue. We had dinner; Chinese, orange chicken and wontons. And as per the usual, my husband had some drinks. A couple cider and guiness drinks, followed by some whiskey. All of a sudden he tells me he thinks I need to take him to the hospital. His heart is beating really fast, and so loud he could hear it through his headphones. He had no other symptoms other than the fast heartbeat. He says…. in true alcoholic form, “I guess I shouldn’t have had the orange chicken for dinner, it had too much sugar in it. I think I am having a sugar spike.” Of course I am thinking about all the alcohol he just consumed and if he is thinking he is having a sugar spike, I think it was caused by all the alcohol and NOT the dinner he had an hour ago. But what do I know. I don’t hold a Ph.D.

The remainder of the night, I took care of my husband. Elevating his legs. Giving him water to drink. He still hadn’t made up his mind on whether or not he wanted me to take him to the ER. Have you ever taken a drunk person to the ER? I haven’t, and I didn’t want to have my first time be last night. He asked if we had some aspirin. I told him no, but I could go buy some. And then I threw this at him… “Do you think you should be taking aspirin with as much as you have been drinking? Yeah it is going to thin your blood out, but the alcohol has already done that….” He saw my point. I sent him to bed for the night and checked in on him every half hour until I went to bed.

The most important thing to remember if you have a relationship with an addict is that it is NOT your fault. It is THEIR problem. Nothing will change until they realize and accept they have a problem and then make the effort to change for the better. I have a hard time accepting this. I know in my mind it is not my fault. But it IS my problem. And it is difficult to deal with a problem like addiction, on top of your mental issues.

The road is long until they get to that point. I am hoping rock bottom was last night. But I know in my mind that it wasn’t.

Talking about it with someone is very cathartic. Going to ALANON meetings I hear is also a great way to learn some things. I don’t have access to any meetings in my area. And any meetings I have found online are PUBLIC and not private, which would make it difficult for me to hide it from my husband.

I don’t have much advice. But I do have empathy for anyone going through this.



4 thoughts on “Living With An Addict When You Have A Mental Illness”

  1. My wife – in addition to her bipolar disorder – is also a recovering alcoholic.

    Any type of addiction can be a trigger, so I had to draw a line in the sand and make her choose between drinking and our marriage. She chose our marriage and hasn’t has a drink in a few years now.

    I am not saying you should get to that point but you do need to self advocate.

    Perhaps it is a time to have a serious discussion? I think you both deserve to do what is best for each other.

    1. A serious discussion is long over due. When ever I have brought it up in the past, he gets passive aggressive about it. So I just kind of gave up. I didn’t give up, but the bipolar me gave up. The *better* me is re-emerging and I have the strength to have “the talk”. I just need to choose my words carefully.
      Thanks for your input Vic. Much appreciated. 🙂

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