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

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 thier 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.


  • 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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