Nobody knows at what point a person changes from a social drinker to an alcoholic. Most alcoholics can’t determine this for themselves, let alone a spouse trying to determine it for their partner. It is the time when the alcoholic no longer has control of the ability to stop drinking. When the alcoholic personally starts to question it, he may actually scale back or drink a lighter alcohol for a while which then convinces him that he is still in control.
A spouse without knowledge of alcoholism is certainly going to think the same. They can “rationalize things” by: he only drinks beer, he never misses work, he never gets violent, he didn’t drink when he had the flu, he needs it to calm his nerves, etc., etc., etc.
Since I’ve been down this road, I can look back at all the excuses that I made, without even realizing that I was making them. My lack of knowledge on the subject contributed to my unknowing contribution to the illness.
Had I known then what I know now, there would have been a few times early on that I would have made a firmer stance. For example, at only a year or two into our marriage, I remember realizing that my husband was drinking beers on his way home from work. It was a 35 minute drive so he could have 1 or 2 without me realizing it. When I did find out, he said he only did it occasionally. I thought that was true and didn’t make a fuss. In reality, he likely just did a better job discarding the evidence.
Another regret I have was tied to his use of alcohol on vacations. I remember asking him if he could just go one day without drinking while we were on a vacation. He responded “no, it’s my vacation and I’m going to do what I enjoy on vacation.” I clearly should not have accepted that, but I did, again unintentionally contributing to the disease progression and my own unhappiness.
I certainly wish I would have been more aware of alcoholism and how it shows itself. Maybe I would have intervened. Regardless, I know that it wouldn’t have been me that stopped the progression of the illness. Only the alcoholic himself can stop it, and he has to want to stop it. In most cases, he has to reach a really, really low point to want to stop. Could I have stopped the progress? No. No, I can’t, nor can you.
If I had intervened sooner, it simply would have allowed me to find peace sooner.