Wife Won’t Stop Drinking – What Can I Do?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on September 18th, 2009 - Last updated: October 2nd, 2023
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My wife won’t stop drinking alcohol — is there anything else we can do?

Dear Stanton,

My wife was self-medicating with alcohol, developed liver problems, went to specialists for treatment. She was also depressed, which was not “picked up” by either our HMO doctor or myself.

Well, my wife was improving and had totally abstained from alcohol until I started traveling again and she was alone. I came home one Friday and she was not feeling well. On Saturday she threw up a blood clot. We called the MD and he said don’t worry about it. By Tuesday AM she was in a coma at our residence. I called 911 and had her taken to the ER where they told me she was going to die. Her hemoglobin was 2.3. They stabilized her, repaired the bleeding, and she was on her way. It was not known at that time if or how her brain was damaged.

Well, 15 days after being in CCU they were going to extubate her on Sunday morning. I received a call from our pulmonary MD that she had stopped breathing, her heart stopped, they called a code — did 4 minutes of CPR — pronounced her dead and the MD left the room. My pulmonary MD arrived and as the were taking the wires off of her “corpse” he noticed a pulse in her neck. He re-intubated her and she was back 15 minutes later.

After being told she would not survive, she was brain dead, would never walk etc. she got out of the hospital in another 45 days. Her main challenge now is that her short term memory is extremely bad which leads to my question. Her nuero-psychologist has told me he could find only 16 cases in the US whereby someone that was without oxygen for that period of time actually lived.

This incident happened in September of 1996 so she has had two years of rehab and is doing OK from that standpoint. But she has been depressed as she states that “she is not like she used to be” and realizes that there are deficiencies. She knows that if she drinks alcohol that it will lead to liver failure, although her liver test are all normal now (I used milk thistle and phosphytidyl choline which I feel was the big help in getting her liver rebuilt). She is taking Zoloft for the depression (100mg/day) and Depakpote (250mg — 3 x’s per day) for tremors and to help with her mood. She is now self medicating with vodka — primarily in the afternoons when she feels “down.” The MD has given her anabuse which kept her clean for about two to three weeks. She now drinks and throws up — probably 3 times per week — again in the afternoons. She states that she feels depressed and that just the one drink of vodka gives her a calming effect. She wants to live. I have taken her to therapy and the therapist has said that her memory is not there to give her therapy.

Again back to the question. What do you feel the approach can be with her suffering from the memory loss? Would any programs or types of treatment work with this short term memory problem? When she drinks, she will not remember it an hour later.

Thank you in advance for your input on this. I love her and want to help!


Dear Doug:

This is an overwhelming case. If ever drinking was counterindicated, your wife is such a case. Yet she drinks on top of antabuse!

I and everyone else would tell her to stop drinking. Yet, the question is (is this part of what you are asking?) if she is going to drink, there has to be a way to safeguard it as much as is humanly possible. Are you saying that she may be capable of drinking only one vodka, if only she could remember she has already had one? If that’s the question, then a simple marking system, like an abacus, where she indicates that she has had her afternoon drink, could serve.

This case is to me a not unusual human situation in which people will never do what they are told or is best for them, but some accommodation must nonetheless be made.

My best wishes,

Have you been affected by the issues described in this letter?

The Life Process Program is a program which I have personally developed to help people deal with their addictions. Previously used in a residential treatment center, the program has now been adapted for internet use.

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.


  • Anthony Walker says:

    A man asks a doctor for help with his hopelessly addicted wife and the doctor tells him to get an abacus.

    Quite frankly, that is an unhelpful response, but it is just about the measure of the advice I received when I sought help for my wife who had become alcohol dependant after the death of her parents.

    But think about how the medic responded – his hands are tied, he knows from the outset that he doesn’t have all the answers on how to overcome addiction?

    In truth, we are born alone and we die alone, the life we live in between these two natural events is the only time we have people around us, that can help or hinder our passage through our lived experience.

    So, we must at all times surround ourselves with those who truly have our best interests at heart – not just their own agenda of control!

    Would you tell a parent whose child is overeating, to get an abacus and count how many sweets they were gorging on?

    Obviously not, but the doctors have to start somewhere with seemingly hopeless cases and just hope that something they say or do will have a positive effect?

    Naturally, you would expect the doctors to help you to begin a programme of support for both parent and child, including physical and mental activities as part of a holistic healing prescription.

    The bottom line is, that alcohol is a toxic poison, peddled legally by government to raise taxes, they tax sweets, they tax alcohol, they tax sugar, in fact we are all taxed from the cradle to the grave, it’s just that some taxes are not attached to toxic poisons ,

    If it wasn’t alcohol, it would be some other mind-altering addictive drug.

    After all, you have to raise taxes to run a government.

    Governments’ down through the ages have recognised that people initially get comfort and enjoyment from alcohol, it is a substance freely available at most celebrations from birth to death.

    So, all governments allow their citizens to have access to the alcoholic substance of their choice and a tax is placed on it to raise funds that allows the government to run the country.

    Many people then go on to drink alcohol on other occasions than celebrations as they believe that it helps them to confront the difficult problems they have to face in their lives.

    Supermarkets, corner stores, social media all peddle the wonder drug alcohol, to a point where it is clear that the subliminal message has to be, that the government via the alcohol producers, are simply seeking to control the will of the people.

    Little thought is put into how to prevent innocent people becoming addicted to the toxicity of alcohol, because that wouldn’t generate taxes and the alcohol lobby is even stronger than the alcohol itself!

    No government would dare to stand up against such a vociferous and far-reaching lobby, as if it did, it would not be in power for very long and would never get re-elected.

    What individual human beings and groups must do is to stand up against the misuse of toxic substances so that those who do not have a strong enough resolve to avoid becoming addicted can see other alternative strategies for handling and managing their intake of the toxic poison – alcohol.

    People resort to drinking alcohol to oil the process of human social interaction at functions where they want to be joyful and relaxed.

    When personal grief and problem solving in the real world, in real time, with all the real issues of life, get in their way each day, they remember how alcohol made them feel.

    Many people turn to alcohol, despite the fact that they are fully aware of its toxicity, just for temporary relief, as they seek some crumb of comfort and solace.

    In the belief that it will help them to solve, soothe or at least forget for a little while, the cares of this world – which are all natural and must be met head on with natural solutions.

    For five decades I tried to help my wife get over mental and physical addictions and in the end I was unable to prevent her from dying.

    I sought medical, spiritual and practical assistance and nothing helped to heal her permanently.

    I have learned that the desire to change, must come from inside the person, or else there is little chance of them ever healing themselves, there is no one who can do it for them.

    That was the hardest lesson for me to learn.

    I now realise, I have been lonely for half a century!

    I never gave up on my wife and I love her to this day.

    But my role as her lifetime-carer has come to a natural end.

    I must move forward.

    Even though I cannot move on from loving a wonderful but helpless girl.

    • Zach Rhoads says:

      Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience. I wish you the very best in your life — what a difficult but reasoned (and overall healthful) decision that you’ve had to make. And such truth that motivation, one way or another, must be intrinsic.

  • Awakened says:

    DO NOT INVOLVE YOURSELF IN SOMEONE ELSE’S SUICIDE!!! Let the drunks destroy themselves all by themselves. Because they will, with, or without you. There is NOTHING you, or anyone else can do. Go live YOUR life, or die slowly in the hell you’re in. Those are your choices. Plain and simple. If someone can not or will not get themselves out of their own addiction to drugs or alcohol, then they’re gonna die!!! You can die with them in hell, or go give YOURSELF a chance at a happy and clean life free from someone else’s evil filth. Killing YOURSELF over someone else’s filthy disgusting habits is STUPID!! Wake the hell up!!!

  • Awakened says:

    Run. Run like hell. Get out while you can or you will die. If you are so weak as to let a drunken woman kill you, then so be it. I lived for 22 YEARS with a bipolar drunk woman. I had 2 heart attacks, and almost died over her drunken escapades. I WAS A FOOL!!!! I lost every friend I had. Don’t let it happen to you!!!

  • gary says:

    my wife is drinking 6-8 litres of cider a day and night, for the last 4 weeks with out a break, Hardly any food, Before that we had vodka bingeing. She has had trouble with police because of drink. I am 56 and have had her drinking like this on and off for 35 years, Always lived in hope she would realise one day what it will do to her.
    Went to see a solicitor last week, I cant do anymore to help her, she has lost her sons and there family ,going to loss her job and husband and place to live ,all because of drink.

  • Justin says:

    My wife drinks every night. It’s not from stress, like she used to claim, but is now a dependence, I guess. Praying for relief..

  • john cookson says:

    how do you stop your wife telling lies when you know she has been drinking and hides bottles of alcohol around the house and when I challenge her and ask her where she got it she says I cant remember and then sometimes she starts to verbally abuse me how do I get through to her but when the abuse starts I lose my temper and tell her what she has been doing then the abuse gets worse what can I do

  • Richard Bonan says:

    My wife used to drink everyday till late in the night by herself. I drank with her. I finally realized my problem and quit. I quit smoking as well. This was three years ago. I have had the same argument every weekend with her and finally she stopped for a few weeks after my daughter caught her with beer in her mountain dew bottle. Well she finally got down to just Sunday drinking. She over does it Everytime and says she can stop after a few. Never happens. No she’s at the point where she asks if she can have a couple during the week and it makes me mad. I dread Sundays because I know what’s in store. I don’t like being around her when this happens but I feel sorry for her and want to make sure she’s ok. Her father is a alcoholic and she used to hate it now it’s not like her. I’m at wits end but live her with all my heart. Hate to see other people in same boat. All I know to do is pray and lead by example and try to get thru to them. I wish there was a way to make people realize but I was same way and and just got tired if it. Best wishes and good luck even if this is an old post

  • Phillip T Pietersen says:

    i having a wife who drinks every Friday Saturday and Sunday please help me

  • Sbane says:

    My wife has been in and out of detox numerous times, she gets better and stays clean for 3-5 months and then becomes complacent and starts to think that it should be ok to have just one drink.
    Next thing I know she’s become vicious tells and screams at me to where the only thing I can do is leave. Within two weeks I will have to call theparamedics and they so have to take her to the hospital and then release her the next day because she keeps on coming back.
    The last time her binge nearly caused her liver failure and was jaundice for the next 8 months and has been seeing a liver doctor.
    Now she is at it again I cant do this what can I do?

  • Scott says:

    My wife thinks I’m always cheating and I’m not I never have never will how do I tell her the truth when she’s always drunk she don’t believe me I think it’s from her past I love her more than anything is there anybody that can help me

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