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How Do You Help Your Husband Stop Drinking?

These 10 ways to help a husband who drinks too much are partly based on my work in a residential recovery program with men who are alcoholics and drug addicts. I was also inspired to write this article by a reader, who is searching for ways to cope with her alcoholic husband.

“I’m so confused, I love my husband but I’m so depressed and sad,” says Kim on When to Leave Your Alcoholic Husband. “We fight a lot…he drinks for hours, several days a week. When he is sober he is a wonderful, sweet, funny, loving guy. Our fights happen when he has been drinking and I am sober…I hurt my back and was prescribed painkillers, and he’s taken at least half of my prescription. Tonight I wanted the half tablet I had left on my nightstand. I asked him about taking my medication, he said yes he took it. I tried to explain that I actually need it because my back is hurting, but he didn’t want to discuss it. I don’t tell my friends any of these stories, I don’t tell anyone, I don’t want their opinion of him to change…I think I need help…do you have any comments or suggestions for helping a husband stop drinking? Thank you.”

If you haven’t told anyone that your husband drinks too much, you are normal. You don’t want people to think differently of him, or of you. Plus, opening up about our marriage problems is hard. We care what people think. It’s painful to be honest when you’re living with a man is (or might be) an alcoholic.


It’s important to remember that you can get through this – you will survive! – but you have to be honest with people you trust. It takes courage to search the internet for help when you’re living with an alcoholic man. It takes even more strength, faith and hope to find ways to help your husband strop drinking. You are not alone.

These suggestions on how to help your husband stop drinking are inspired by my experience working with men recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction in a residential recovery program. Since our program was based on information from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), I include their tips here, too. 

10 Ways to Help Your Husband Stop Drinking

Contact Al-Anon. This organization is for the family and friends of alcoholics; they share their experience, strength and hope. You’ll meet other women with alcoholic husbands; you’ll also meet parents of children who drink, teens with parents and even siblings who are alcoholics, and even friends who are concerned about their friend’s drinking habits. Al-Anon has one purpose: to help the families and friends of alcoholics.

How to Help Alcoholic Husband
How to Help Your Alcoholic Husband Stop Drinking

Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease. The proponents of Al-Anon believe it is a family disease that affects everyone. They also believe a wife can help her alcoholic husband stop drinking.

Can wives help their husbands stop drinking? Yes! But it depends on a variety of factors. For instance, long has your husband been drinking? Does he think he has a drinking problem, or does he refuse to admit he’s an alcoholic? Does your husband want to quit drinking? What has to change in his life? Should he go to a recovery program for alcoholics? Does your husband need counseling; should you and he go to marriage therapy that focuses on helping him stop drinking?

Take it one step at a time. Start with visiting Al-Anon, and reading through my tips for helping a man get sober.

1. Remember that your husband is not choosing to drink

If he’s an alcoholic, your husband no longer has the power to choose not to drink. He needs spiritual power to quit drinking. He can’t overcome the disease of alcoholism by himself or through willpower. The only thing he can do is turn to God or a Higher Power, admit how powerless he is, and surrender his life.

Alcoholism is a disease that your husband will never be able to conquer on his own. He is powerless over the urge to drink. He may deeply love you – and it may even break his heart to choose the booze over you and your family – but he has no choice. That is why Alcoholics Anonymous advises people not to get angry when a family member has a drinking problem. It’s like getting mad at your husband’s cancer. Anger doesn’t help, it’s a waste of energy, and it just distracts you from healing and moving forward.

2. Consider an intervention for alcoholic husbands

Here’s some important information from Alcoholic.org’s article How to Help an Alcoholic Husband: If you think your husband drinks too much, take time to consider various ways to help him stop drinking. Remember that an alcoholic must have a desire to change before he accepts treatment. He should also believe that stopping his dependency on alcohol will benefit his life. Treatment centers and interventions can help an alcoholic recover – but there was to be a true desire to want to stop drinking.


A family intervention might help your husband see that his drinking problem is serious. During an intervention, a special interventionist can help you work with your husband and talk out the problem. You will be able to express how his alcoholism affects you and your family. With the interventionist’s help you may be able to get your husband to admit that he has an addiction problem. This is one way to help your husband stop drinking.

3. Protect your healthy relationships with other people

How to Help Husband Stop Drinking Alcohol
How to Help Alcoholic Husband Stop Drinking

If your husband’s alcoholism is affecting or even destroying your relationships with loved ones, you must protect your connection with them. You vowed to love and honor your husband, yes…but you also have to make sure you’re healthy and supported.

Perhaps part of helping your husband stop drinking involves taking good care of your relationships with your children, family and friends. Take good care of yourself, too! Be gentle and compassionate, kind and tender to yourself. You’re coping with a husband who drinks too much, and it’s stressful. You’re searching for ways to help the man you married; you may feel angry, guilty, resentful, or even duped. Maintain and cherish your healthy, loving relationships with others. Staying emotionally and spiritually strong will help you help your husband stop drinking.

4. Don’t tell your husband what to do

In the “For Wives” chapter The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous advises women never to tell their husbands to stop drinking, or even say what husbands should do about the alcohol they consume. If your husband sees you as a pain or a nag, you won’t be able to help him stop drinking. He’ll misunderstood and criticized, and will withdraw or even lash out at you.

Allow your husband to make his own choices – even the foolish ones that revolve around his drinking problem. If your husband is abusive, find ways to leave or keep yourself safe. Stop letting your husband mistreat you and others. You do not deserve to be abused or even put on a lower priority than a bottle! Don’t let your husband’s alcoholism destroy more of your life.

If your husband’s drinking leads to verbal or physical abuse, read 5 Stages of Leaving an Abusive Relationship. Talk to someone you trust.

5. Let your husband explain his behavior to people

Let your husband make his own excuses to his employer, coworkers, family members, neighbors, church, etc. You aren’t protecting or honoring him by covering up or lying about his behavior. You’re creating a co-dependent marriage, which doesn’t help your husband stop drinking. If you really want to help your husband into recovery, don’t lie to people on his behalf. If you’ve been covering for your husband, wait until he’s sober and in good spirits before you tell him you can’t lie for him anymore.

When you cover for him, you’re enabling his behavior. This means you’re allowing and even passively encouraging him to keep drinking. Enabling an alcoholic husband includes covering up, providing alibis, minimizing the addiction, attempting to take control by getting rid of the alcohol, and removing consequences (such as bailing him out of jail or spending the grocery money on alcohol).

How will letting him make his own excuses help your husband stop drinking? By forcing him to be honest about what’s happening. If he can’t tell the truth about his behavior and choices, he can’t expect you to. It’s painful and embarrassing to be honest about what’s really happening in your home and marriage, but the truth can set the stage for healing and recovery.

6. Don’t allow your anger or pain to control you

How to Help Your Alcoholic Husband Stop Drinking

“Never be angry” is one of AA’s principles for coping with a husband who drinks too much. According to The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, the first principle of helping your husband stop drinking is to not get mad at him. Even though he may become unbearable and you have to leave him temporarily, learn how to go in peace, patience, and a good temper.

“Leaving your marriage is an option to take, particularly if you are married to an alcoholic who is being abusive towards you,” writes Deborah Morrow on a website called Wives of Alcoholics. “This is a brave step to take and many who have been involved in an alcohol fueled relationship for some time find it hard to do. Why? Because their self esteem is at a low and such a brave decision is beyond them. It is generally advised to seek counseling or some other kind of help before making such a choice. However, if you are involved in an abusive relationship GET OUT AS FAST AS YOU CAN.”

If you can’t afford to leave your marriage, read How to Leave Your Husband When You Have No Money.

7. Find people to walk with

Who is walking with you? Sometimes the best way to help a husband stop drinking is to join forces with other wives. Consider gathering regularly to share tips, insights, resources and love.

Even better, find an Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon group. Trying to deal with your husband’s drinking problem by yourself is futile. You can’t fight this battle alone – and neither can he. Get together with other women who need help and support coping with addicted family members.

8. Nurture your emotional and spiritual health

The foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous is spirituality; the belief is that the alcoholic is powerless to stop drinking because alcoholism is a disease. Your husband can’t summon the willpower to stop drinking. If he’s an alcoholic, he has no choice but to drink. If your husband wants to stop drinking he has to surrender his life, spirit, and body to God or a Higher Power.

To help your husband stop drinking, you need to do the same thing. Accept that you’re too weak and powerless to help your husband stop drinking. You can’t do this alone; you need to fall on God’s love, grace, compassion, strength, and faith. He loves you more than you know, and He will walk you through this…if you surrender to Him.

9. Remember that different husbands stop drinking in different ways

Some wives help their husbands stop drinking by reaching out to a pastor, counselor, parent, or even a supervisor at work. Will this help your marriage? It depends on you and your husband. Here’s what one husband said:

“Keep things as private as possible when seeking support,” writes Tony on How can I help my husband quit drinking? on the Daily Recovery Blog. “Another key point in our marriage. After my breakdown, my wife went to the pastor and her family for help. In doing so, I effectively became an outcast. What could have been a short term private separation became the talk of our small town. I don’t fault my wife for seeking help, but things became very public without my consent. Even in recovery I’m not sure how to even return to that town.”

3 thoughts on Tony’s advice to keep a husband’s drinking problem secret:

  1. Would Tony have stopped drinking if his wife hadn’t talked to their pastor? She needed help from an external support system; her husband may never have admitted that his drinking problem was so bad if their pastor wasn’t involved. External help is embarrassing and uncomfortable for both the recovering alcoholic and the family…but it may be the very thing a husband needs to stop drinking.
  2. People – especially spiritual advisors, counselors, family and close friends – knowing about his drinking problem is a natural consequence of recovering from alcoholism. If your husband was recovering from a different disease, people would know about it.
  3. Tony’s recovery isn’t something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. In fact, recovering from alcoholism is something to celebrate and be proud of! If your husband doesn’t want anyone to know he stopped drinking, he doesn’t realize what a powerful impact he could have on others…especially those who are hiding secret addictions of their own.

10. Learn how to help your husband stop drinking

how to cope with alcoholic husband

In Reclaim Your Life: You and the Alcoholic/Addict Carole Bennett offers specific communication tools to help and empower you. You’ll learn how to help your husband stop drinking, set realistic expectations, and implement healthy boundaries in your marriage.

Carole is also the author of Is There a Dry Drunk in Your Life? Answers to Unsettling Questions. Loving an alcoholic or drug-addicted husband is often confusing, unsettling and disheartening. It’s painful to watch your husband drink too much and destroy his life, health, relationships, and marriage.

You might be questioning if you contributed to his alcoholism or if it’s your fault – which may be partly why you’re searching for tips on how to help your husband stop drinking. Ultimately, you will realize that you are helpless. You can’t fix your husband’s problem…and this is heartbreaking.

Get the help you need by reading books like these, visiting Al-Anon, and leaning on your friends and family for support.

Your thoughts – big and little – are welcome below. How are you coping with your husband’s drinking problem?

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27 thoughts on “How Do You Help Your Husband Stop Drinking?”

  1. Good day, my husband drinks a lot and our wedding will be a year next month. I think is drinking is spiritual more than physical. I don’t know what to do again, I played fasted and do a lot of things but it’s not helping. Drinking to the office, say negative things about me and my family. I need help please

  2. I need to say this to someone. When I met my husband, he was so fun, funny, into music & we had great conversations about everything! I knew he was a recovering alcoholic, was told 3 years sober. After the wedding everything changed. His behavior changed for the worse and it became a nightmare of epic proportions: the fights, the mental, physical, and verbal abuse I’ve endured, took a deep, painful toll on my health. I’m just now to the point where I can imagine myself going back to work after being nearly bedridden for 6 months, living on welfare, nearly homeless, because he likes to drink up all his extra money & hasn’t been able to help me very often. I found out by and by that he really actually wasn’t sober for 3 years – that he had lied to me about that – he actually had been drinking several months before he and I started dating. I didn’t have a clue as to what I was dealing with! Then, after he had gone so far downhill, even with the threat of going to jail looming over his head, and a pending divorce, he decided he wanted to get sober! It has been so wonderful to have the man I married again back and in his right mind! He has shown patience, kindness, caring and we haven’t had any fights! 31 days he stayed sober… and today, the 31st day, he is again back to drinking. I’m disappointed. I’m deeply ashamed, of him and of myself. I don’t have the strength to keep this relationship going. I don’t have the mental strength to do this another year of marriage, never knowing if he’ll be ok, never knowing if I’ll be ok. I feel a darkening depression coming to attack me and I’ve been praying and singing praise songs to try to ward it off. I feel extremely embarrassed to have married this man because his problems are more than I can bear. I feel sorry for him, and I know that once he puts alcohol to his lips his whole personality changes. It’s his awful, terrible disease. If he had cancer, or some other kind of illness where I might be able to help him somehow, it wouldn’t feel as bad. But alcoholism is isolating, he won’t let me help, and there’s not anything that I can do. I’m helpless. I cannot allow myself to become his victim again. He pulled me down so deep, and I just can’t let him or his disease do that to me again. I am no good to myself or anybody else when I am so down and depressed and helpless to overcome it. I feel like the best thing for me, for him, is just to stay away from him. It’s his problem, right? It’s his disease as I’m so often told. Why, then, does it seem that it’s my problem too?

  3. I too am married to an alcoholic. This is both our second marriage and I wasn’t blind to the fact her drank A LOT of beer, but now he goes to whisky and martini’s and it makes him insane. He blasts music so loud that the cops have come, and he starts talking in languages and says the most mean and cruel things, that of course he says the next day he didn’t mean them to me, as they are for his ex, but NOW I am his punching bag. I have left so many times as I need to sleep and between his music and his mental and verbal and emotional abuse, I have to go. It is so sad, as he too when sober or even a few beers is kind, and energetic and caring, and communicative, and we have great times. But he is fine, and then the third or fifth night of having some beers, he can’t stop. He has no turn off switch and it turns into a nightmare. He, and I believe that he does have a chemical imbalance. He has destroyed hotel rooms, and trashed our home all to not remembering much the next day. I am scared of going places with him, because I never know how the night will end. Right now he is working out of town, which he does a lot an maybe why I haven’t left (plus I don’ t make enough money and am saving up for plan B) but he got so drunk last night. lost his car, called me and took it out on me as he thought that it was towed, drove back to his place where he lives, so drunk, and lost his keys and ripped off four doors of the house he rents…. he goes insane and I think that I have had enough. This just happened last night and he is back drinking again. I feel lonely, and sad, and there is no feeling of security or being safe and taken care of. I can’t depend on him, and he doesn’t even ask about me. I am just trying to save to get out. I don’t want it to be good, but I have threatened and then can’t do it, so he doesn’t take me seriously and doesn’t respect me at all. I am hoping that when I can leave, maybe he will realize he is a mess and needs help. He has admitted he has an issue and then goes into denial. This is not what I signed up for and I don’t even see friends as I don’t want to tell them the truth. Some have an a bit of a clue but I have just stopped doing much and spend a lot of time on my own. Thank goodness I like my own company but I want my best friend back….. I am trying to get a second job so that I can be more independent…. WHAT A MESS. I AM 63, look about 50 but at this stage of my life I want peace, tranquility, love and fun and laughter, and all I have gotten lately is sadness, and anxiety and feeling alone…

  4. God allows what you allow. I totally believe this I have been married to a functional alcoholic which has turned worse the last several years. I have threatened to leave him which would cost me alot. I bought our house, stupidly with my inheritance, now it’s his as much as mine. I regret staying with him. I’m 61 now. Will cost me thousands to get out of. Then starting all over from a paid for home to rent. My regret is staying as long as I did.

    1. To quit drinking, your husband first has to ask the question – “Why I Need To Stop Drinking?” Learning why he’s an alcoholic is the first step. Actually the first step is admitting his has a problem drinking. If your husband doesn’t think he is an alcoholic, then he won’t bother asking why he needs to stop drinking.

      The solution to your husband’s drinking problem has to begin with him.

  5. About 10 years together with my husband, my husband drinking sometimes like one day a week but this pain me much because that one day its like he is drinking everyday because he is telling me what he want, liers and will not pick up my calls or reply to my text even if there is a problem at home. My husband cheated me at this point he didn’t know how did he slept with that woman. A baby girl born without my knowledge. I accepted and forgive. He keep on promising me that he is nomore drinking but either the same day or the following day he start. Please help me.

  6. I do believe that God is the only one who can take control of my husband’s drinking, despite what some may think…My husband drinks very couple of weeks, to blackout. He has been drinking since a teenager. He is now 53. We have been married for 20 years this coming year. 2018. He has gone thru quite a few rehab.

  7. my husband drinks everyday and comes home late in the night like at 2am.we are now 15yrs in marriage please advise!!

  8. My husband has been drinking every night since 2006. We started our marriage drinking wine nightly, after dinner. Then as things went on it was whiskey. For about 8 years it’s been straight vodka or vodka rocks. We can’t go to bars anymore, and he passes out nightly, but able to work everyday. I hate sleeping with him because his snoring has gotten horrible loud and he thrashes on his sleep. My husband isn’t abusive, but he is in denial that anything is wrong or that he is an alcoholic. Help!! I’m afraid AA would cause a divorce on the end. Embarrassed to go.

  9. I am an alcoholic and to say that a person doesn’t have the willpower and must give their life up to God is as phony as a marvel comic movie.Everyone has the willpower to overcome anything as long as the desire is there to change, and I’m living prove of this. I’m not discounting a believe in a higher power might help some people but to say that’s the only way is false and misleading to anyone who reads this

  10. Thank you for this article. I’ve been struggling with an alcohol husband for 7 years. We have 5 children who I know he loves so much and they adore him. I have been an enabler for my husband since I also drink. But I never notice how bad his drinking is until I’m pregnant or can’t drink. Just recently I had to have surgery that required a lot of help from my husband and children. I asked him to please not drink during this time because most nights he’s out cold and can’t take care of the kids if they get up at night. Not only could he not do this for me, he lied to me about how much he was drinking. He hides his bottles and binge drinks. And when he goes a couple of days without drinking I end up feeling guilty because I know he’s under a lot of stress and does sooo much for our family. He is a very high functioning alcoholic. He’s got a terrific job, he pays the bills, and loves us very much. But alcohol controls him. The scariest part is that his dad and brother bother both died from the disease but that is not enough to scare him to stop. He says he can control how much he drinks but I know he can’t. I know it’s a disease and he needs help but I don’t think he’s ready for help. I’m just afraid of what might happen if he doesn’t stop. He is so high functioning that his drinking has never kept him from getting up for work or other priorities. But from 7-9 it’s downhill and sometimes passed out before kids are in bed. And he can’t find the bathroom half the time. I just told him I can’t control his drinking but I can control mine and I won’t be drinking at all anymore because it allows him to drink more. I feel hopeless and embarrassed.

    1. I’m in the same situation as far as a functioning alcoholic. I’m pregnant with our third and he comes home from work at 5, starts drinking at 6 and is passed out by 8:30. He wakes up and goes to work in the morning but regrets drinking and not spending time with our daughters. I don’t know what to do. He wants to stop but just can’t.

  11. Dear Karina,

    Thank you for being here, and sharing how difficult it is to cope with an alcoholic husband – even one who lives in a different state! It sounds like you’re really torn between your love for your husband and your desire to have everyone together. A happy family is all we really want, isn’t it?

    Your husband can’t admit he has a drinking problem, and it’s not possible for you to convince him of that. He won’t change unless he acknowledges that he’s an alcoholic, and admits he’s powerless over his drinking.

    That’s all his responsibility. Your responsibility is to your children and to your self.

    What is the best decision for you? Your children?
    How can you help your children grow to be healthy, strong, capable adults?
    How can you help yourself grow into an emotionally and spiritually healthy woman?
    I encourage you to talk through these questions with a counselor. Join an Al-Anon group, and get support and insight from them. Spend time with people who help you feel whole, positive, and healthy.

    Also – learn about healthy boundaries with alcoholic family members! You can’t change your husband or heal his drinking problem, but you can learn what is and is not within your control.

    I’ll keep you in my prayers, for healing, freedom, and healthy decision making as you move forward…may you feel God’s peace, love, and joy regardless of what’s happening in your life and marriage.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  12. I met my husband almost 13 years ago, he was drunk but it really didn’t bother me because I thought he was just partying. He was nice at the beginning of our relationship, with me, with my family, then one day everything change he just kept drinking some times a whole week with a little sleep. Some times he would disappear for 3 some times 5 days without me knowing where he was. He accuse me of stealing money from him. One night he chocked me in front of our kids he just had finish drinking a whole bottle of rom and vodka. I had left him twice the second time was the longest but I always came back to him because I had hope. Currently he stop drinking liquor but still drinks beer. He’s living in another state because of his work and we haven’t seen him for almost a year, we keep in touch we call each other but he’s still the same, he still drinks and we fight so much over the phone. My oldest daughter doesn’t want him back because she say that she feels stress when he is here they can’t play in peace because he get mad if they get to loud. I really love him but I have no hope anymore. He’s thinking to come home for the holidays but to be honest I don’t want him to come i’m afraid he would still the peace that I have created in our home with our kids. I have told that it’s better that he doesn’t come that we really don’t want to see him because of his drinking problem but he gets offended and says that he doesn’t have any problems. Can you please advice me on what I can do about this situation or if I should end this relationship? thank you.

  13. Dear Teresa,

    It sounds like you love your husband so much, and your kids love and need their daddy! But his alcoholism is ruining your marriage and family life, and is causing you pain and suffering. He is addicting to drinking, and his problem won’t be healed overnight. It also sounds like you have firsthand experience with drug and alcohol addictions in your childhood…and you don’t want your own children to have the same experience as they grow up.

    Since you can’t help an alcoholic husband stop drinking, all you can do is focus on getting yourself emotionally and spiritually healthy.

    Go to Al Anon. Talk to other women who are living with – or have left – alcoholic husbands. Get counseling, to help you work through your own issues and obstacles so you can make the best decision for you and your children.

    Here’s another article that may help:

    How to Love and Live With an Alcoholic Boyfriend
    http://theadventurouswriter.com/blog/how-to-love-living-with-an-alcoholic-boyfriend/

    But the biggest thing you need to do is seek advice in person! There are no easy tips or ways to help an alcoholic husband, and I can’t give you the support you need. You have to reach out in person and start taking steps towards healing.

    Stay in touch by signing up for my SheBlossoms newsletter! I send weekly articles and encouragement to women, to help them Blossom into who God created them to be.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  14. I am praying that I can find help for myself. I know I can’t make my husband stop but it is causing me so much anxiety that I am nauseous every day now. My stress levels sky rocket when I know he is coming home. It makes me sad because I am excited to see him and then I realize that he will come home with beer in hand. We have an 11 year Iold daughter who is daddy’s girl and a 7 year old boy. They would be devastated if I left their daddy but it is killing me! I have no joy because every time I have it, he steals it away within an hour or so. Please help meknow what to do? He is wwonderful in very other way but since I grew up in an abusive alcohol and drug house, the moment his eyes turn strange becaus he is drinking…I start to panic.

  15. Sometimes the best and only way to cope with an alcoholic husband is to leave. He has to want to change; you can’t change him or force him to quit drinking.

    Take care of yourself. Love yourself, respect yourself, and know that the hardest choices are the ones that will be best for you in the long run.

    Hold on to your faith. Believe that your life will be better and brighter than before!

  16. It is really hard to cope with an alcoholic husband, and i am leaving. this road will never get easier so for my sanity i have made this difficult decision

  17. Thanks for the ideas on how to help an alcoholic husband. i love them. i think one needs to exercise patience in dealing with a spouse who has drinking issues. the love,support, and devotion help them to get out of the addiction.

  18. When i met my husband he was in bad shape and i accepted it because i love him he was a heroine addict and i told him i didn’t want that in my life because im a recovering addict my self so he cleaned up and still clean but he started drinking now. Its becoming a real problem im afraid he will go back to using

  19. Actually when I talk to anybody about my husband’s drinking he became annoyed with me. He said that I made his insult in front of others so I have to lie to his colleagues and friends about his drinking.

  20. Thanks, Nini, I’m glad these ideas were helpful. Alcoholism is so difficult to kick! My heart goes out to wives whose husbands are addicted to the bottle.

  21. I really like your ideas about how to help an alcoholic husband. My friend had a hard time with her husband’s drinking problem, and the 12 step program helped him quit alcohol. Addiction is hard but it can be overcome!