How do you deal with unacceptable behavior?

Published by at 11:19 am under Common Concerns

Welcome to “First Steps to Al-Anon Recovery” from Al-Anon Family Groups. This is a series of podcasts to discuss some common concerns for people who have been affected by someone else’s drinking.

Pam, Anna, and Betty are with us today. All are active Al-Anon members who are willing to talk about how they deal with unacceptable behavior.

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219 comments

219 comments on “How do you deal with unacceptable behavior?”

  1. Natalie says:

    My husband and I have been together for 22 years. We have 3 children and our first grandchild is on his way. Should be happy times — except alcohol is a big problem. He drinks as soon as work is over every day. Weekends, he starts drinking as soon as he wakes up.

    He suffers and has been recently vomiting and choking in his sleep. I’m scared that something will happen to him. He is a great man, but he says I cause his drinking by being concerned about his drinking. My kids lost all respect for him.

    I feel since I’m his problem, I should leave. I work two jobs just to help, because he spends so much money on alcohol. I cry every night and pray that he wakes up the next morning. I feel so lost. I have no family. He and my kids are my only family.

  2. Clair says:

    I am very grateful for this podcast. I’ve been in Al-Anon for about 3 years and have a number of qualifiers in my life. I was particularly struck by the speaker’s comments on setting boundaries and how she has to keep stating her boundaries over and over again so that she can limit the chaos in her life.

    I am having trouble with my sister-in-law, who has been in recovery for many years and is now in food addicts anonymous. I had thought I had stated my limits/boundaries to her and my brother-in-law (who is also in recovery), but of course I thought that because I said it once that would be enough. I mean, I don’t want to be a broken record.

    They both fall very easily into a pattern where I feel like I’m their secretary/mom and I have to fill in the gap in their relationships. They constantly need things. My sister-in-law is particularly consumed by anxiety. It came to a head last week over a childcare issue when I asked her to clarify whether or not she needed me to take care of her kids. We had talked about it the week previous, but then she chose someone else without telling me.

    This happens a lot. When I asked her about it and about her long term needs, she brought up how she does not feel comfortable asking me because I’m constantly hot and cold with her. She even went so far as to say I don’t like taking care of her kids, but that is not true. My issue is with her, not her kids.

    It took me a couple of days (and a meeting) to really process this and think about what she said. She is absolutely correct, I have been hot and cold with her. Why? Because this is how I protect myself from being treated like a doormat. The anger that people see is really frustration (I have struggled with this all my life). A massive wall goes up between me and the person I believe is going to take advantage of me, if they see I’m angry. My sister-in-law is the most recent person in a long line of people who have chaotic lives and try to draw me into it. They have one need after another and it never seems to get better.

    The podcast speaker’s comments about not wanting chaos in her life is exactly what I want. I want minimal chaos and I have to find another way to express that, rather than creating a wall of anger. I only lose when I express anger. Not that there’s anything to win, but when you express anger, that’s all people see and hear and whatever you are really upset/frustrated about never gets recognized.

    I believe now she has blocked my phone number. I have tried to reach out to her to talk with her in person. I’ve left two messages. I will leave one more and that’s it. It’s up to her at that point. It’s difficult because we live in the same building and our kids go to the same school. At minimum I want to have a cordial relationship for the sake of our kids. I have to be okay with restating my boundaries over and over again. I plan to apologize for my part, but the chaos has to end.

  3. Tee says:

    My boyfriend is the most amazing man I have ever met. I love him so much and he loves me too. We want to get married and when he is sober, I feel like he is my soulmate and we have the perfect relationship.

    It’s when he starts drinking where all the problems occur. He just doesn’t know when to stop. He will drink all night and even into the next night and doesn’t have a problem driving drunk either. He loses all sense of judgement when he is drunk and behaves so selfishly. We had a fight one night and he tried to strangle me as I was leaving. He didn’t want me to leave.

    When he is sober, he tells me that he knows he is ruining our relationship and that he thinks he has a serious problem with alcohol. He even wants to go see someone. But, a day later, he will be back to drinking and will do the most stupid and selfish things.

    I love this man so much. At the moment, I think I want to break up with him though, because I feel like I need to make a drastic move in order for him to change. I keep telling him that he needs to change for himself and not for me. And maybe I also need to take a break from this relationship and work on myself. Maybe one day we will find each other again and be together. But for now, I think he has some serious issues he needs to work through and I need to let him do that.

    Letting him go is going to be so difficult. I dread the thought because I just want to be with him. However, I know that things will not change if I continue to pretend as if nothing happened and that his alcoholic behaviour is not a problem.

  4. Chad says:

    My wife is an alcoholic. I’m ready to leave. I do not know how. I don’t know what to do.

  5. EMERLCA says:

    My partner and I are together for five years now. In the past he suffered from a drug addiction and eventually quit, just before we started dating. We got married two years ago and at first I just let him have a beer or two cos he always asked so politely, but before I realized it, it started becoming an everyday thing, and now he drinks a minimum of three beers every day.

    I have tried talking to him about it, but he totally ignores my feelings. He believes he is not harming me or anyone else, so why should I have a problem with it. I have even left home to get him to realize that I hate his alcohol dependency, but he just lied about trying to stop, got me to come home, and here I am three months later, unhappy, scared and confused. Last night he was rude to me and told me he is tired of my nagging. I only am trying to help him. I love him.

  6. Lala says:

    I can’t believe that I am reading this blog and it appears that my life is unfolding before my very eyes. I have been married to an alcoholic 12 years, but I didn’t know that he drank until 5 years into the marriage.

    He has been drinking really heavy for the past 6 years. He has developed pancreatitis and gets very sick often. He wakes up in the morning and cries to me saying, “I’m afraid that I’m going to die.”

    I have tried rationing his liquor, and he was willing to fight me if I didn’t give in. It’s pretty bad. My worst fears have come upon me. I’m looked at by my family negatively because of what he has done. I am going to Al-Anon.

  7. shannon says:

    Is my husband an alcoholic? This is a question I ask myself all the time. We have two wonderful kids and he is a very involved father. The issue is he drinks. Not all the time, but some of the time, and when he drinks, he drinks.

    He slurs his words, makes poor decisions, and acts horrible. We typically fight and I take the bait and fight back. Then the low blows come. He yells, swears, calls me horrible names I dare not tell you. I go to bed alone and crying and then he goes out to smoke pot because it helps him not have a hangover.

    I have tried therapy and setting boundaries, all of which have failed. I have a hard time admitting he has a problem, because it is not the same list of issues you read about. (My father has been sober for 30 years, so I have been through this.) Drinks every day, not involved, etc.

    It is almost like he is allergic to alcohol. I am going to my first Al-Anon meeting tonight, hoping the end of this roller coaster is coming, because I just want to get off the ride.

  8. BMH says:

    I am trying to understand the behaviors of a functioning alcoholic and the blame and criticism it seems to entail.

    Prior to my boyfriend of nearly 6 years, I had no experience with alcohol–as neither I nor my family drink. My boyfriend is a high-functioning alcoholic. There has really not been a time that I’ve not known him to drink. His mother was an alcoholic, I think, and his father, his sister, his soon-to-be ex-wife, his daughter (who was a heroin and meth addict and is in jail for giving her 18-month-old a methadone overdose), and his son. He has complained to me about how he went to his wife’s family about her drinking and how they would do nothing.

    Yet, he forces me to be an enabler. He does not start drinking till 5 or 4 or 3, as sometimes happens. I have watched him put away 3-5 beers an hour, 8 to 12 beers in a 3 hour period (which is better than it used to be as he has drunk 24 in an evening). He usually stops drinking when he eats, but it’s hard to get him to eat and he will have had at least 8 beers by then and claims he isn’t hungry.

    For a while I wasn’t really seeing him in the evening and everything was great. Lately, I’ve spent some time with him on vacation and gone with him to the bars. Everything is fine as long as I don’t address his drinking. He will drink 8-12 beers at the bar, then stop to buy a six-pack. I now have half a remaining six-pack in my fridge, which I resent and I have decided to give to the neighbor. He doesn’t see his drinking as a problem, just my behavior.

    I think he totally over-reacts to little stuff. Most recently, I was trying to figure out what time in the morning I needed to set the alarm so we could do the things that he wanted to get done. He had already drunk 8 beers that I could count. My trying to say, “So back it up for me,” somehow led to me being the abuser, rapist, and he was never going to speak to me again.

    He calls me crazy, angry and argumentative, even though I don’t feel the least bit of anger. (And this is a huge improvement over when he would call me something terrible, say Hitler was right, and many unrepeatable things–all because I somehow cooked his food wrong.) I feel he often gets this way when he’s had too much to drink, though I do wonder if he might still be hypercritical without the alcohol. While I know this is not the best relationship for me, and I would never marry him, I am unwilling to let the relationship go at this time, so I can’t really understand myself in this.

    I also know that I cannot accept this behavior again, and as soon as he’s back from his trip and I can get him when he’s not drunk, I’m going to tell him that I will not accept him drinking more than a beer an hour, though I’d rather there would be none. I am also going to tell him that he is an alcoholic and that I do not have a tolerance for it.

    I know I cannot control his behavior, just what I am willing to accept or not accept. I will no longer be his driver for his binges, his happy partner at the bar, or have any part in handling his beer. It is not acceptable to bring beer into my house. How I am going to handle our trip to Las Vegas June 8th, I’m not sure. I guess I will just leave him where he is at when he reaches for that 5th beer and sleep on the other side of the bed until his stench wears off.

    What I am trying to understand is if his criticisms and put downs are related to the alcohol or if these problems will exist even without the alcohol. I wonder if this is typical behavior of a functioning alcoholic in regards to personal relationships and the criticism of their partner–and if it is typical that the drinking partner calls the non-drinking partner abusive and a rapist. I also wonder what it is about us that I am unwilling to let go.

  9. gisele says:

    My boyfriend of almost a year fell off the wagon about 2 months ago, after being sober for 8 years. But I now know that the behavior that he was showing was the precursor of him actually taking a drink.

    In my horror, I discovered he is a mean drunk. I tried going to an Al-Anon meeting, but I didn’t click with that particular group. And quite honestly I was too angry and emotionally drained to try again. Now here I am 2.5 months after he fell off and even though he is not actively drinking he is still doing addict behavior.

    I had to tell him yesterday that he needs to make his recovery his number one priority. I love this man so much, but I love myself more and I just can’t watch him destroy himself. Hopefully he can start to work his program and get back into his recovery. This is really hard to do–stepping back, that is.

  10. Stephanie says:

    My fiance’ and I have been together since mid 2011. We got pregnant not long after and now have an almost three-year-old. My fiance’ is a wine broker, but drinking the wine isn’t required necessarily. He thinks he can drink like he used to when he was in high school, but he just can’t.

    We’ve recently moved from the west coast to the east, far from family and friends, and are working hard. I’ve noticed his drinking has increased so much more. He’ll drink a beer as early as 10:00 a.m. and all throughout the day I’ll see cans or bottles laying around. The wine though–that’s usually when he’s at his worst is when he drinks too many glassse of wine. I’ll notice and say, “Why don’t you slow down with the wine?” or, “I think you might be drinking too much.” But he doesn’t and just keeps drinking. He doesn’t know his limit and acts like a fool, embarrassing himself and me.

    I’ve tried talking to him about his drinking and his response is, “I don’t have a drinking problem.” This is not what I want our son to grow up around, or seeing, or taking after. In fact, he’s passed out right now at this very moment outside on our back patio.

    I guess you could say I’m disappointed that he would drink so much and not think about our son who went to bed without saying goodnight to his daddy. And I’m nervous because I’m afraid that he won’t realize he’s got a problem and needs to either majorly slow it down or stop all together. Otherwise, I’m through with the catering to a 28-year-old “man” who acts like a drunk high school teenager who doesn’t know his limit.

  11. Elaine says:

    My husband is an alcoholic and nothing changes. I have been with him 15 years and it’s always the same thing. I married him and knew he had problems. I need to leave him. He has 3 DUI in under two years and actually things by the grace of God worked out, but I am ten years older then he is and I think at my age now, I still have a chance to have a decent relationship.

    I wish him well, but it’s interesting how all the alcoholics have such good, decent people loving them, and they give so little–the alcoholic, that is. The best thing I read, was to live with an alcoholic is not to live with them, LOL.

    I love my husband very much, but he is a selfish man. Nothing I say or do means a thing to him. I gotta leave, cause I mean something. We do nothing together and it’s a no sex and no connection marriage for the last six years.

    I am done, but he does not know it. I will file for divorce but not yet, I need an exit strategy. I can do it. My cats are better company then he is. He likes to be with his men friends all the time. I really believe he is gay, which is fine. He needs men around him all the time. I could go on, but why bother. Ya know alcoholics are really boring and selfish and everyone, including me, thinks ohhhhhhhh, what to do.

  12. Amy says:

    I have lived with my boyfriend’s brother, who has been a verbally abusive and angry alcoholic for 3.5 years. After two instances of the cops getting involved in the last 6 months, I gave him an ultimatum that I would no longer tolerate his drinking and that he needed to move out.

    As of 3 weeks ago, my boyfriend’s brother has moved out and in with his parents, who are our neighbors. Now they are in the process of moving all of his belongings out of our house and while doing so their mother has been saying the nastiest and most cruel things to me and my boyfriend (her other son), who is nearly a year clean from substance abuse himself. She is also an alcoholic and now their family is blaming me for tearing her two sons apart from each other when all me and her son want is to live our lives.

    Everything is so toxic right now and my heart is broken because I have done nothing but take up for myself this past month and stand my ground on not taking any more verbal and mental abuse from their son and now they, too, are also being verbally abusive to me as well. My boyfriend luckily has a thick skin and is able to brush their behaviors off, but I have a thin skin and it is wearing me down and I feel like the stress is killing me.

    I also just started a new job this week and am very sick and having to receive phone calls and messages from my boyfriend’s parents of how mean and cruel of a person I am after all they have done for us. They have actually never done for us, though, monetarily speaking, so I am confused as to what they have actually done for us, other than give me and their son a guilt trip for not wanting to live with their other son that has an addiction to alcohol.

    I’m so worried for my boyfriend’s parents as they are both in their mid-late sixties and if I feel the stress of this situation is killing me at age 30, I can’t imagine how they must be feeling. I fear something is going to happen to his mom or dad and although I know I shouldn’t blame myself if something does happen, I can’t help but being human and feeling responsible when they are telling me it’s all my fault. Thank you for letting me share my current situation.

  13. Hope says:

    My husband is an alcoholic. We’ve been married for 3 years, but have been together for 7 years. When we started dating, he didn’t drink. Then one day he started and hasn’t stopped since. He drinks 5 quarts of beer on the weeknights, and drinks stronger stuff on the weekends. He’s always irritable, angry, and mean.

    He tells me it’s my fault. He even acknowledges that he has a problem, but doesn’t want help. I’m at the end of my rope. He’s physically and mentally abusive and I can’t go on like this. We have an 18-month-old and I’m currently pregnant with twins.

    He has to be forced into spending time with our son, and he’s so short tempered that he always ends up yelling or screaming at him over doing normal toddler things. If he doesn’t consent to help soon, I’m going to leave him. I refuse to have my babies grow up in the same hell that I grew up in. I just need to know I’m not alone.

    It’s so hard waking up next to him every morning and having to pretend I’m not upset about the night before. I dread seeing him come home from work because I don’t know who I’m greeting at the door. It’s time for him to try, or I’m going to stop trying.

  14. L says:

    Growing up in an alcoholic home, I was held back, scapegoated and beaten down. No child could survive so many put-downs, so much criticism. Listening to my father now as he abuses, scolds, insults everyone around him, I imagine myself as a fragile, delicate child standing in front of him sobbing, begging him to be nice to me. I wanted so much to be loved. It was like begging a vicious dog to snuggle. It was never going to happen, and it wasn’t my fault that it didn’t work out. It wasn’t my fault it left me barely able to function–damaged and broken.

    He is who he is, and his mean harsh comments had nothing to do with me. A dog that bites, that’s all he is. I limped along, being bitten, crippled by his abuse my entire youth. Looking back, I used to think I was a failure, unable to function. Now I see I was a survivor, and I did the best that I could in an insane situation. I had limitations piled on me like a pack of hyenas on a zebra colt. It’s amazing I managed to survive and get out.

    I thrived for awhile, but recently I’ve placed myself in a relationship with a child of alcoholics. He’s a narcissist who feels justified being mean to others when he doesn’t get his way. He scolds to hurt feelings, thinking that’s how you get people to do what you want. It’s the same pattern of put-downs that held me back in the past. I’ve asked him to start treating me better, to give me encouragement instead of crushing, discouraging put-downs. He can’t stop. It’s like an obsession, a need. It’s like a stinging scorpion, it’s in his nature.

    I’m not a child, but it is holding me back. So far it’s been impossible to overcome. Anytime I start a project he puts me down until I stop working. He interrupts yard work to tell me I’m doing it wrong and won’t stop criticising until I stop trying to get stuff done. I can’t even understand the drive. Why does he feel a need to keep me from doing -a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g-? Oh, who cares why– right? Who cares why my dad seemed obsessed with destroying my spirit, crushing my hopes and dreams. His need to put me down has nothing to do with me, and my current boyfriend’s need to hold me back, to put down everything I do is his need, not mine.

    It’s like watching a dry drunk flail and struggle, not knowing how to act. He cluelessly thinks, “Is this how to get people to do what I want?” and “Can I get away with this?”.

    I answer “No. Sorry, it isn’t. It won’t work on me, and I’ll tell you so.” The difference is that I know that this behavior is unacceptable, it’s his fault not mine, and I know it’s not my fault.

    I know I can turn to Al-Anon for help and strength. I will survive this. I’m not a child anymore. I’m a strong, grown, capable woman. I’m amazing. I’ve survived being held down and stood up before. I’m going to shake this off and get back on my feet. Being held down is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just the understandable result of a crushing series of put-downs that I didn’t create. And I know better how to deal with this problem now.

    Feeling stronger.

    Thanks for listening.

  15. aimee says:

    I have been with my fiance’ for 3 years and have been his best friend for about 10. For as long as I have known him he always drank.

    About a year into our relationship he got very sick and he had to have surgery and lost a lot of weight. He has something that has to do with his stomach and esophagus–after all this has happened he quit drinking for about a year. Everything was amazing. He was the perfect man.

    Well, for the past two years he has been drinking, trying to hide it from me. He’ll come home and say he only had one when I smell it often so strong and know he has been lying about everything. He turned into a demon, said very horrible things to me, put me down, disrespected me, accused me of cheating, while I just sat there and listened and waited to fall asleep. Meanwhile my children heard him talking to me this way.

    Just two nights ago it was the worst. The verbal abuse was so bad and went on for 6 hours straight. My son, who is 18, lost it. He was going to fight and even had a knife in his hands. I had no other choice but to call the police. My fiance’ was arrested and I made sure I got a restraining order, but why do I feel so bad? He is sleeping on the street in his car and he needs to go every morning into the public bathroom to wash up. Knowing all of this stuff breaks my heart and I feel so lost.

  16. Kelly says:

    I’ve been with my husband for 7 years but have only been married since August. We met in college and I thought it was normal/okay to binge-drink and get a little out of control at times. My now husband started having anxiety attacks, which were fairly difficult to deal with because he was racking up a lot of emergency room bills. At that time I was working hard to help support both of us because his sales job wasn’t going very well (in return it gave him more anxiety). Then about two years ago he started coping with anxiety by drinking.

    We started planning a wedding and he just kept making poor decisions–spending lots of money, drinking to the point of puking on himself, driving drunk and getting into an accident (somehow he didn’t get arrested), etc. A few months before our wedding he took a job that includes traveling via flight. Flying has always given him anxiety but he wanted to overcome that fear. He started coping by flying with alcohol. I’m not sure how his company hasn’t caught on because he spends a lot of money drinking on these business trips on a company card.

    We just bought a house together and I’m terrified that he will lose or quit his job soon. His dad, mom and I have had two interventions with him now, but he’s a great talker and can easily manipulate. He went to a few AA meetings but never followed through with getting a sponsor, because he “doesn’t have the time with his traveling”. He’s never physically hurt me, but I’m mentally drained. I’m in healthcare and I understand this is a disease but it’s hard to understand and be supportive when I’m the one that suffers from his choices.

    I have to leave for work in 5 hours, but I’m up writing this because I needed somewhere to turn. I think my friends are over hearing all of my problems and they think I’m crazy to believe he will change and get help. Friday night he looked me in the eyes and promised me he didn’t drink anything. I told him I didn’t care if he did, I just didn’t want to be lied to.

    I’m so terribly sick of all the lies! I looked at one of his work receipts that night and sure enough alcohol was purchased–although I already knew he drank, because I know how he acts when he drinks. He’s sloppy and doesn’t make sense when he talks. He’s gained a lot of weight recently as well, when we both used to be very health conscious. It’s so gross when he eats drunk and gets stains all over his shirt as his belly hangs out. I don’t even care that he gained weight. I still love him, but just hate that alcohol is making him so unhealthy.

    Anyways, Saturday morning he was so sorry and couldn’t bear seeing me cry and promised me he would never lie again. Now tonight he called me after landing in North Carolina and first told me he didn’t drink and as he slurred his words and finally ended up telling me he drank “three”. Two trips prior he ended up in a drunk tank in a rehab facility because supposedly the cops can take you there or to jail. He has had so many close calls to rock bottom but somehow is lucky enough.

    I just feel like a completely diode rent person and feel as though my life is constantly in disarray. The stress is killing me and I don’t know what to do. I feel like I should leave him for a while, so he feels like he hit rock bottom. I know he loves and treats me wonderfully when he’s sober, but I think I hate him when he’s drunk. I’m 29 and would like to have kids someday, but would never want another life have to go through this. Sorry for the rambling.

  17. Kaz says:

    Married almost 26 years. My husband is an alcoholic and says, “Oh, well.” I am screaming inside and have virtually given up on life. I am so depressed and am just tired–needed a place to share this.

  18. queen says:

    I have an alcoholic husband who doesn’t care about anyone but himself. He gets drunk on a daily basis and I hate it. We have been married one year.

    Before we were married, he never showed me any of this behavior. I’m thinking of divorcing him because I’m tired. I have 3 kids, none are his. He has 2, one that’s 10 and she hates to come stay with him because of his drinking.

    I’m starting to not like him at all. I work and when I get off he’s drunk. He is out all night. I am so mad at myself for allowing this, for even marrying him. I don’t know what else to do.

    I have talked to him several times and he begs me to stay and I forgive him, but life is too short to be unhappy–especially my kids being unhappy. I just need to start heading in the right direction.

  19. Marly says:

    Thanks for all the comments here. I feel empowered by them. I have been married 20 years and have 5 children with my alcoholic husband. My husband has been binge-drinking since we got married, but no overnighters or blackouts until 10 years in.

    He has had two arrests for DUI and now lives in another state, where he is starting out at the entry level of his career yet again. He is pleasant, intelligent, educated and funny when he is sober. He is also a liar and selfish and depressed, whether drunk or sober. When drunk he is reckless, depressed, inappropriate, dangerous to himself and others, and embarrassing to our friends and families.

    I was afraid to leave for 3 years, but finally kicked him out. I support our children and care for them by myself. He visits occasionally and calls once a week. He is very pleasant on the phone, but after reading the comments here, I know I can never take him back.

    I have to have enough self-respect and concern for our well-being to know that I have to keep our lives separate. I will support him and love him always, but my happiness and that of our children cannot depend on whether he is drunk or sober. I’m sorry for all that is gone and will never return, his income as a doctor, our home due to foreclosure, a father for my children, a partner for my life.

    On the other hand, I am grateful that when I come home, I feel peace. I can open the door glad to be home and see my kids, not afraid of what will happen or what has happened while I was gone.

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