Alcoholic wants support to regain sobriety

Dear Amy: I’m an alcoholic. Three years ago, my husband gave me an ultimatum: Either get sober, or I will divorce you.

I got sober and it lasted almost six months.

Since then, I’ve been drinking but I’ve hid it very well. He has no idea I’ve continued to drink.

Now I’ve come to a point where I truly want to get sober again, but I don’t think I can do it without his help.

How do I tell him I’ve betrayed him for so long and then ask him to forgive me for it and stand by me in quitting drinking again?

– Still Drinking

Dear Drinking: Your husband has already supported your sobriety by delivering a clear boundary and consequence as a way to compel you toward recovery – and that seems to have worked for a time.

But being shocked into sobriety to save your marriage might not be a sufficiently compelling reason for you to stay sober. Your sobriety should be about you making a choice every single day to commit to your own health and well-being. You are not getting sober for him, but for you, in order to bravely experience the fullness of your own life.

Relapse is extremely common, and it doesn’t mean that you have failed – but that your sobriety will be a lifelong commitment.

Drinking puts you into the shadows. Honesty and transparency should be part of your recovery.

You should participate in support meetings (, or another support group), and seek the advice of an addiction specialist.

I don’t believe you should frame this as, "I’ve betrayed you," but more as, "I’ve relapsed, and I want to get sober again. I’m attending meetings and seeking outside help and support, but I hope you will choose to hold my hand and walk with me."

You might not be hiding your drinking as well as you think. Your husband might be wisely waiting for you to arrive at this choice.

Dear Amy: Four years ago, for our 25th wedding anniversary, I received a beautiful ring with a large diamond.

A dear friend of 30 years noticed right away and was very excited and happy for me.

About a year later, she noticed again and was again very excited, but acted as if she had never seen it before. I chalked it up to it not being something memorable for her (which seemed appropriate to me).

Over the next couple of years, though, her excitement was repeated three more times, and each time she acted as if she had never seen the new ring before.

Her excitement seems genuine – and fresh – each time.

Her father died of Alzheimer’s Disease. My friend is 57 years old and I am concerned that this lapse in memory is an early warning sign.

I haven’t noticed anything else that seems odd about her behavior, but we only see each other every couple of months.

I could speak to her husband, but I’m just not sure if that’s appropriate.

Should I mention my concerns or just keep my mouth shut?

– Concerned Friend

Dear Concerned: Given that you see your friend so infrequently, and that you don’t notice anything else about her behavior that concerns you, I don’t think it’s necessary to alert her or her husband to these perceived lapses.

She knows her father died of Alzheimer’s Disease. Her husband knows this, too. All the same, faraway friends can often perceive changes that elude closer people because changes can happen gradually, so if you see any other altered behavior or obvious memory lapses, you should revisit the option of reporting it to a family member.

Dear Amy: "Conflicted" recently wrote seeking guidance on how to pick college courses, was interested in both engineering and marine biology, and was curious about sticking to courses that were interesting or others that were out of the comfort zone.

I’ve been involved in college and higher education for over 30 years as a professor and researcher.

I agree with the "start broad" advice you gave, but I also emphasize the need to follow your heart and passion — regardless of where it takes you.

In all fields, you will face challenges and have opportunities that will stretch you intellectually and emotionally, and having a deep caring for the subject will be what sustains and energizes you not only through college — but beyond.

– Rick Murray, deputy director and VP for Science and Engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Dear Rick: Thank you for offering your wise insight.