Life After an Alcoholic Husband

Alcoholism segued subtly into our marriage, stealthlike, until it was everything in our lives. Now, years after my husband’s passing from alcoholic hepatitis, a glance in the rear view mirror.

  • I don’t anticipate with dread what I’ll find when I come home.
  • My basement no longer smells like Scotch. And urine.
  • I sleep through the night.
  • Broken promises and lies are no longer the norm.
  • I’m not constantly making excuses.
  • The tension in my neck and shoulders has disappeared.
  • I finally, finally realize that there was nothing more I could have done about his drinking.
  • Constant worry has been replaced with tranquility.
  • I live in the present, no longer haunted by ‘what if’ scenarios.
  • Chaos has been replaced with happiness.
  • There is nothing I miss about life with an alcoholic.

39 thoughts on “Life After an Alcoholic Husband

  1. I remember when he left me for the second time……he made it all the way to Virginia from New York State……Norfolk…..He called me from the road while I sat in the bank……he had run off the road and I was making sure my paycheck was going into my own savings account and not our joint account…..that he had ransacked ……for the second time……I said, “You’ve made these choices…I can’t help you.” He hung up on me …..then he started texting our two (out of three) daughters…..telling them they needed to come to VA, leave your mom, she’s controlling…..its warm…..I’m going to the beach blah blah blah…..and then he was calling me telling me I was a stupid bitch and I could never survive without his money…..and I had already turned the gas/electric into my name and had the car insurance flagged…… He kept telling me how stupid I was…..I kept hanging up on him….and then he would tell me his legs were swelling up and I told his nephew he was staying with that he needed to take his BP meds…….it gets worse…..but I survived.

  2. Thank you for this blog. I am a widow at 34. My husband drank himself to death at 33 after 10 years together. He was a raging alcoholic and at the same time, was a wonderful man whom I loved when he was sober. But I couldn’t live with the insanity, lies, chaos, rage, and fear any more. AA, psychotherapy, rehab, and two stints in the ICU where he didn’t know who I was or what was real. I protected/lied him so that no one knew, and when we separated three months before he died, he told no one. I was treated as a true 34 year old widow at his funeral. And though I grieved, truly, I felt like a fraud. I had left him. Then he died. I’m dealing with PTSD, anger, and grief, and I have no idea what “group” I belong to help deal with it (survivors of suicide? Al-Anon? Widows? Young widows?). I feel as isolated as I was married to a raving alcoholic. I feel old, tired, stupid – I’m grieving for a man who made my life a living hell for many years. I’m sorry there seem to be so many of you that had to go through the same hell. What do you tell people? I avoid telling people anything about my past, because saying I’m a widow is like dropping a bomb. People really don’t expect it from a 30-something. I feel like I was widowed on a technicality. I know my grief is legitimate, but I didn’t lose a functioning partner. If I say alcoholism killed him, it’s a double bomb, or judgement from someone who has no idea what living with an alcoholic is like. I’m sorry you all do.

    • Hi Kimi – I’m so sorry you’re having to endure this at such a young age. You ARE a legit widow. You stood by him all those years and went through all the craziness. You may want to try to get into a church that could help you. There are many good grief share groups. You can check out this site for more info: Griefshare helped me a lot and I know it also helped other people. The worst case scenario is that you have other grieving people to talk with on a weekly basis.

      Hope this helps,


  3. I found this site by accident and I am so very glad that I did. My husband died of a heart attack in his sleep almost a year ago. He was a functioning alcoholic, but a lovely man when sober. I was so heartened to read about other women who had been through the same experiences. I miss him so much, but, like an earlier comment, my life is easier now. I don’t have to watch what I say or do, in case I upset him. Nor do I have to be on edge at family gatherings, watching his alcohol intake, and praying that he doesn’t drink too much. I mourn the sober man that he was.

  4. 2 years after his death, I don’t miss alcoholism. But I do miss my husband.
    I suppose I did for a long time prior to his death, without even realizing it.
    I was invited out with some of his oldest friends last night, who were sharing funny memories of Pete. It brought so much up to the surface.
    Everything is still upside down for me.

  5. OK here goes. Deep breath. My husband Raymond passed December 2013. He was 62. I was 51. If you want to get REALLY technical about it, during superstorm Sandy he literally sat down and didn’t get up until he went to the hospital in May 2013; that’s when I really lost him. We were married four years.

    Almost four years since his death, I’m still trying to figure it all out. As I look back on it, it’s like the frog in the boiling pot. I never wanted to really admit that he had a drinking problem. I thought it was a manageable situation. He was charismatic and handsome. He had loads of friends (more on that later). He would leave me love notes in unexpected places. I worshiped the ground he walked on. And then came one episode after the other. I was able to clock them – pretty much one episode every 4-6 weeks. Falling out of the car after we drove home from a party (I was driving). He was a big man, and I couldn’t get him up, so I had to call friends to have them come help me. He’s laying on the garage floor telling me to just leave him there until the morning. Yeah. Right. Then came the DUI. He convinced me that it was the blood pressure medication he was taking that made him blow positive. Fun events and outings became a means to an end – having a cocktail or four. I had no idea this was a lifestyle that had been going on for forty years. So when I saw the brown urine, he blew it off with excuses. Then came the bloody diarrhea. Then came the fall in the middle of the night and the emergency room. Then superstorm Sandy. We lost power for a few days and from November 1, 2012 until May 6, 2013 he would get up in the morning, put a robe on and sit in his leather chair drinking and watching cooking shows all day long. I begged. I pleaded. Sometimes he would shower and put on clean clothes. I changed diapers, cleaned up poop, pee and blood everyday. I never knew what I would find when I came home from work. Yes, I bought the Dewars because I was afraid he would drive himself and I couldn’t bear it if he had hurt someone else driving to the liquor store. There is so much that happened, I could write a book.

    When he finally went to the emergency room, my husband who had just been having a normal conversation with me, couldn’t answer any of the admittance questions by the attending doctor. He didn’t know his birthday, what year it was, when my birthday was. The only thing he knew was who was President – that’s it. By December of 2013, he didn’t know me at all. Couldn’t acknowledge that I was in his room, or that I was feeding him, or crying or talking to him – nothing. Just a blank stare at the wall.

    The day he passed, no one came to the house. Only about half the people who were his ‘friends’ came to the funeral. Everyone cut me off. I had no one. Ultimately, because of the encephalopathy, our house was foreclosed, we lost his business, the office building he owned, his car. The life insurance lapsed because he forgot to pay it. I lost everything, so quite frankly, from my point of view Sheryl Sandberg has a lot to learn.

    I’m still working on figuring it out…

    • Thank you for sharing. ❤️ It’s amazing how when we are living the chaos we think we are the only ones… we, my friend, are survivors. We can look back and know we did everything within our powers to try to “save” our AH.

      May peace be with you today and all the days of your life. You deserve peace.

      Kelly B.

      • Thank you, Kelly. There is so much more to the story, but I’ve vented enough…:-)

        I agree with you and I am also at that point of wondering how I ever survived. There is a post traumatic stress feeling mingled with missing him and how I had envisioned our life to be before chaos set in. Like Jacqueline said, I’m enjoying the peace, but I miss him terribly.

        I’m glad to have found this site and realize I am not alone. And, yes – we are survivors! 🙂

    • Oh my. I can relate to so much of what you’ve written, it’s unbelievable.
      In my case..40 yrs. of marriage, highly functional and I had no idea much of that time. Cirrhosis ravages the body from the inside out. I could barely look at him. When my husband was in the final stages of cirrhosis/encephalopathy….I just try not to think about it.
      He even hid a severely infected leg(sepsis) that was enormously swollen and the color of an eggplant. I didn’t know his immune system was destroyed. He wouldn’t get his bloodwork because he’d “eaten too much fruit..” My 2 sons had had horrible first marriages and were both finally so happy…one expecting our first grandchild and the other about to be married. I screamed. I cried. I begged. I took hm to the specialists. But I never left. That’s the one thing that might have worked. Probably not. He was in the clutches of the demon called Alcoholism. He died 2 years on Monday. God bless you and all of us who watched someone we loved let this disease win.

    • “I had no idea this was a lifestyle that had been going on for forty years. So when I saw the brown urine, he blew it off with excuses. Then came the bloody diarrhea. Then came the fall in the middle of the night and the emergency room”
      I could have written those words.
      Also, blood tests were cancelled because he’d “eaten a lot of fruit!”
      I still feel like such an idiot!
      But reading your comment further,
      my husband somehow, thank G-d, managed to get “his” affairs (should read “our” but he kept me out of the loop,) in order.
      Encephalopathy turned him into a raving madman. I had no idea what I was dealing with. I still can’t quite believe this is how we ended..

      • Diane.

        “I still feel like an idiot”. Those are the first words that come to mind every morning when my eyes open.

        I feel your pain. I lived the same life. It’s bern two and half years and I’m still finding out things he did. He left a mess. If one more person says, “It’s been over two years, get over it” or “don’t you think it’s time you get back on track” I’m going to scream.

        We not only dealing with the Loss of our spouse…but, mourning our “marriages”.

        Take good care of yourself. (Hugs).


        • Diane, I’m so sorry that you had to go through all of that. It will be four years for me in December and I still try to grapple with feelings of loss, and identity. My life has changed so much since 2013 that I look back and think “who was that person?” and “am I still Mrs. M?”

          I can so relate to the raving madman part – he used to wake me up in the middle of the night and tell me that I was calling out another man’s name in my sleep – random people who’s name I didn’t even know. TRUST ME when I tell you that nothing could have been farther from the truth. I would have killed for him, even then.

          I think my biggest struggle now is the loss of intimacy. No one tells you how to deal with that. And for me, it’s a huge issue right now. I just want my husband back and the intimacy we shared. But that’s not going to happen.

          • I hear you. After 34 1/2 years of marriage and high school sweet hearts.…the only man/the only one I knew intimately my whole life (since I was 16 and he was 15)…blind sided me. Going into this third year of widowhood part of me would like companionship…his first (could I just have him back…when it was normal? When it was real? )…reality…someone else…but my trust level is still in the negative numbers…I tell people, “I’m alone, I get lonely for him, I’m exploring my independence? My youngest moved to Seattle and suddenly I became an empty-Nester……there is so much more than this.…I want love again but I’m more afraid of being used…blind sided. I do enjoy being alone doing my own thing. But, I do look to the Eastern sky…and I think of him…I die…I cry…I go on. Does he ever think what he did to us? The monster. Fucking monster.

        • Thank you, Kelly..My husband was the most honest, dependable, talented, hard-working and successful guy anyone knew. Except that he wasn’t. IJ always said he was “black and white”…yet, his hidden life was in a gray area of secret drinking and all that entails…lots of work and lots of lies.
          The 2 times he resigned himself to rehab, he was the model patient and everyone wanted to be like him!
          His best friend keeps reminding me I was dealing with “the demon,” not Pete.
          We aren’t stupid women, though it feels that way. We were duped big time. I feel robbed of a huge part of my life.
          Thank you for the kind words. I don’t want my deceased alcoholic husband’s disease to rule the rest of my life!!

  6. My husband passed away January 31, 2017 – we were together for 20 years. After he retired in 2012 his drinking became worse and this last holiday season together really was the last as his body gave up after the years of drinking and smoking. January 3rd was the first call to paramedics when he hemorrhaged out on the bathroom floor as I held him. He came home a few days later and on January 11, was the second call to paramedics as I held him as he cried out in pain. We were both surprised he had had a heart attack; and the internal bleeding could not be stopped. So much was done to try to save him and keep him alive and that final night in ICU I gave the ok to the doctors to let him go. I’m glad to have read and found this site today.

  7. I needed to read this…..finally! Someone agreeing with Me……..and my youngest daughter…..who saw/experienced more than she should have……there is Peace in my house…..My house…..all my fears….while I was On Call…….Our/My bed does not reak of wine/vodka sweat……nor do I share a baseball bat with my daughter…..just in case…….I don’t miss the chaos – the confusing comments from a GP – a social worker/family member – and an X-alcoholic counselor from a rehab……I no longer have to smell his breath with a kiss….and smell vanilla……he actually drank my vanilla for my cheesecakes…….No. 7 is much harder to wrap my head around……because I think he could’ve survived if only the VA had included me…..the sober one….the one who could’ve told them about the other medical crisis he had….and maybe a brain scan and maybe his dementia…..maybe maybe…..I’m enjoying the peace…..I’m not enjoying the emptiness of a good man lost.

    • “The emptiness of a good man lost.” Jacqueline, this is exactly how I feel. In spite of his sometimes terrible behavior, my alcoholic husband was a good man and young. At just 40, he had so much living to do… if only he could find a way to do it sober. I’m just glad he’s not in pain anymore. My heart goes out to you and your daughter as we move forward in peace.

      A side note: my husband told me that drinking vanilla extract was very popular among people he met in rehab. So many people don’t know it has alcohol in it!

      • I could not agree with you more about the emptiness. I still talk to him out loud, and I often find myself saying “well, you put me in this position, so now this is where I am…”

      • Hi aprizant, my AH was 40 too. I lost him a month ago. A good man, handsome and charismatic, great career, but an alcoholic. I am still not sure what’s going on in my head, I tried therapy too but they said they’d never dealt with such a young widow. Hope you are in a good place now. I had that feeling, the emptiness, but now the pain has set in and I miss the good things and can’t remember the bad, which is so confusing also.

  8. I continue to ask myself – How in the world did I survive? – and it’s been over 8 years since my husband passed away. I’m relieved to hear you’re experiencing peaceful days, you deserve them.

  9. That is exactly how I feel. After the grief was gone I felt relief. I read your article in the NYT and I’ve been following you ever since. It was a really big help for me to get through that last stage of grief and I was finally able to say goodbye to my old life. It feels good to know that there are other women who understand what it means being a widow of an alcoholic. That mixture of guilt, grief, relief,…
    I love your work, it’s so truthful and inspiring. Thank you, Paula!

  10. I am so happy to find this site and see that I am not alone in my feelings. No one knows what you really go through with an alcoholic husband. I go to grief groups, but none cover this topic. People have said that they are there for me to talk to, but no one understands this, unless they have gone through it themselves. I have read the blogs and am glad that I wasn’t the only experiencing these things while they were alive and then go through the deteriorating disease and watch them slowly die. I am working on forgetting these bad times and just trying to remember the good husband that he was.

    • You are not alone, Diane. Wishing you continued strength as you work through the aftermath of life with an alcoholic, and hope you find comfort in the good memories and peace in your days.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing, Paula. I relate so much to your first point. I was constantly terrified I’d find my husband dead or badly injured. He was a functional alcoholic for the first 4-5 years, then extremely sick the last 3 years… in and out of rehab, couldn’t work, often so sick I had to call 911. I’m lucky that, in spite of his addiction, my husband was usually loving, funny and thoughtful. I miss him every day but I do NOT miss the stress and drama and uncertainty. Even our cat is more relaxed now.

    The other day, my mom implied that my life is happier now. That is not accurate. My life is EASIER since my husband’s death, which makes me feel guilty and which very few people understand.

    I am part of a few different widows’ groups but I’d love to find one specifically dealing with widows of addicts–it’s a different, more complex type of grief.

    Hugs to you and thanks again.

    • Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry for all you’ve gone through. The guilt is huge. It’s also unfair and seemingly unavoidable. For widows of alcoholics I find guilt is grief’s inevitable successor. Good luck to you and may you continue to find strength and serenity as you continue to heal.

    • I just passed the 2 year anniversary of Ps death and I realize that angry was much easier than sad. It fueled me through those ungodly months after his death. Now I feel so alone and so sad. My son’s family have moved in with me after losing their home to Harvey. I’ve been overwhelmed with the feeling of not being enough. We need him here. The real him. Not that spectre of death he was toward the end.

  12. It’s been 2 years, 2 months since my husband passed away. I agree 💯 % with all of your feelings. Sometimes I sit here and think, How in the world did I survive? Don’t get me wrong the emotional roller coaster is still on the track, but peace has finally entered my life. I can’t remember a day when I had peace living amongst the chaos of alcoholism.

    • This is the only place I’ve found comfort. The widow of an alcoholic/addict walks a much different path. Thanks to each of you. 💔

          • It’s been 2
            years..and was beginning to sink in. 6 months post-Harvey, my son, his wife, my grandbaby and a large dog are living with me…still. Hard on us all.
            Any semblance of normalcy seems to be evading me at every turn.
            I’m worn out.
            When we were in the midst of
            alcohol-induced chaos, it was/seemed “normal.” When I
            now think back to
            some of the drunken
            behavior I simply
            horrified! How could it ever have been ok to wheel a drunk 200 through an airport in a luggage cart?? Or drive him home from another city passed out in the back seat? My GOD.

          • Oh, Diane.

            I can so relate to this. Im struggling with the very same thing. So disappointed in myself for allowing the disrespect to gone for soooo many years. I’m trying to forgive myself, but it is very difficult. What was I thinking. From being called a the horrible c word to a worthless piece of sh## and so so so much more.

            You are not alone. May you find peace. Be kind to yourself ALWAYS.


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