Many moms may contemplate in their minds the idea of going alcohol-free. They know deep down that alcohol is not working for them and is only taking away from their health and being a positive role model for their kids. Some may even be motivated and a bit excited to make this shift, but then worry about how they will be able to manage it when their spouse/partner drinks.
I was in this situation. I knew even years before I gave up alcohol that there was going to come a day when I would have to give it up. The cognitive dissonance was killing me and I knew it was not a sustainable way for me to live as a person and as a mother to my 3 young boys. One of my fears was that I was worried I would not be able to do it since my husband had no plans of quitting. How could I do it alone with him drinking in front of me?
I realized that this fear was holding me back from making the positive shift in my life that I so much needed and craved at the time. I allowed it to hover over me and I kept making excuses and reasoning with myself that it just wasn’t the right time. All of these conversations were only in my mind since I never discussed how I was feeling with my husband, I just suffered in silence with this battle in my head for many years because I didn’t want to appear weak, incapable, or that I would be raining on his parade if I chose to no longer drink with him.
When I finally came around to enough is enough and I was done with sabotaging myself and ready to figure it all out, to start taking care of myself and moving ahead to the positives that were waiting for me, I decided to have a conversation with my husband about it.
If you are feeling stuck like I was, have an open and honest conversation with your spouse about where you are at and how you feel your relationship with alcohol is truly affecting you.
Talk to them about what you’re discovering for yourself about your drinking and how you must address the issue for yourself. Remember, it’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility. It can be helpful to take some time before you have the conversation to visualize yourself having the conversation peacefully expressing yourself and what you want to say.
Journaling before the conversation can help you get clear on what you want to share and express. Also, talking it through with a close friend you trust before the conversation can help you feel more comfortable with the situation and also allow you to gain some valuable insight to help support the conversation.
Since this will most likely be a sensitive conversation, it is great to go into it being prepared. Don’t be afraid to ask for the support you feel you will need. If that means creating some boundaries ahead of time with your spouse such as requesting he doesn’t drink at home or only on certain occasions in front of you, then this is the time to speak up and be clear with where you are at. Be prepared to talk about the specifics and although he may not fully understand or agree with your requests at the moment, you’ll feel better having expressed what you’re feeling.
Understand that they are an individual with their own beliefs, concerns, opinions, and habits and that’s ok. Going alcohol-free is your decision and has nothing to do with them. In a perfect world, it would be amazing if they joined us in the journey, but in the end, we have to be respectful of others’ choices without resentment and support what’s right for them. Leading as a positive example may eventually guide them to adjust their drinking habits.
My husband did not stop drinking, but he dramatically scaled back his drinking with no pressure from me, in support of my healthy lifestyle shift. It’s OK if your spouse continues to drink – it’s their journey, not yours. It may be tough to stay in your lane in the early stages of going alcohol-free, but I can tell you from personal experience that it does get easier and I fully appreciate the path I chose.
Keep in mind that any discomfort or upset they may experience inside of your decision, is theirs. It doesn’t mean anything about you or your choice. You’re holding up a mirror and they might not like what they see about their drinking. They may feel guilty about the amount of alcohol they have been consuming and remember, this was never an issue until you decided to bring this up and make the change. Thoughts may start to bubble up for them and since you have taken the responsibility to make a change, they may feel like you are judging them for drinking or making poor choices.
The most you can do to help remedy this is for you to be clear with them that this is not what it is about, that you realize your relationship with alcohol has become unsustainable and you are making the choice to see what life would be like from a different view. It’s about you, not them.
My husband and I binge drank every weekend (me more than him) and this was part of our weekly routine. We never thought of it being any other way. He was more of a “take it or leave it” type, able to just have a few, whereas I had no “off switch”. This was obvious to both of us, so having the conversation was much more productive from the start and he was extremely understanding. I never got the sense that he had any discomfort and he was completely supportive of my decision. That was my experience, everyone’s situation is unique.
Your decision to be alcohol-free may cause changes in the relationship, and that’s ok. Many couples drink together because of rituals. How can you create a new ritual? Can you still sit on the front porch after work and connect with an alcohol-free beverage? Why does it matter if there is ethanol in your glass? Have you ever thought about the idea of your conversations being much more meaningful when they are not fueled by alcohol? You can choose to see this in a positive light. Allow yourself to get curious as to how your relationship can have the potential to change beneficially.
There are much more productive things we can be doing in our relationships with our spouses other than sitting around drinking. Think about all the possibilities. Can you take up a new hobby together? Start watching a thrilling series on Netflix? Take the family out on a fun adventure on the weekend when you didn’t have the energy to do that before due to always having a hangover? What can you do that will help bring some joy to your life and your relationship with your spouse?
Take the high road and stay in your lane. You don’t need to be righteous and judgmental about your choice to go alcohol-free or make them wrong for theirs not to. Be present in compassion, understanding, and a commitment to be the best version of yourself and to allow them to be who they are. You may be surprised at how they may eventually change or scale down their drinking habits over time, just by having you around. People go at their own pace and are ready when they are ready to make any big lifestyle shift. Your spouse may never be ready and that is OK. Just being you and keeping an open mind about where things fall into place with your new lifestyle will give you confidence in your decision.
Yes, my husband still drinks, but has scaled back tremendously and I appreciate it so much. On the occasions he does drink, even knowing what I now know about alcohol, I keep my mouth shut because that is all his choice and I respect that. On the Saturday nights he decides to have a beer or 2, I observe him falling asleep on the couch early while watching TV and it is a reminder of one thing alcohol does to your brain and I know I never want to mess with that ever again!
In the end, your spouse may or may not follow your lead with changing their relationship with alcohol, but regardless, YOU get to be in control of your drinking and your life. You have the amazing experience and gift of finally finding freedom and living a life that is true to you! Personally living through the long process of many years of suffering and not understanding what alcohol was ultimately doing to me, has made me grow so much as a person now that I am on the other side! It wasn’t until I committed to taking that break from alcohol, that I realized how much I really was missing out on in life!