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When David and Ellen* married, Ellen never suspected David might be an alcoholic.

“We had a large time with friends and family,” Ellen says. “I knew he drank a lot, but it didn’t cause issues for us. I never felt unsafe. My life looked very normal to everyone around us. David was a good provider and the good far outweighed the bad in our marriage.”

In 2004, David and Ellen moved to Atlanta with their 6-month-old daughter. While Ellen noticed behaviors in David that raised red flags, she didn’t think it was a big deal.

“I noticed David was drinking more at night,” Ellen says. “In addition to David being super-stressed at work, I was terribly lonely and did not want to be away from my family. We had some knock-down drag-out fights which I attributed to both of us having too much to drink. Several times I left and stayed with my parents for a while. When I came home, we both apologized and life went back to normal. The fights were few and far between. We did not realize they were warning signs of things to come.”

In 2008, the couple moved to Chattanooga feeling like this was a great opportunity to advance their lives.

“I convinced myself that a new house, more money and getting out of Atlanta would help our situation. As time unfolded, things remained the same. We had great times and really bad times. Sometimes I wondered if I was crazy because life could go along for so long and be wonderful, then wham.”

In 2012, Ellen began to notice a significant difference in David’s behavior.

“I honestly believed he was having an affair,” Ellen says. “He was unhappy with everything including me and drinking seemed to be the only thing to help him cope and relax. Finally, David acknowledged he had a problem and tried outpatient treatment. Shortly after that he quit his job of 20 years, convinced that was the problem and took a new job in Louisiana. At that point, I was ready to do anything to get my husband back, even leave Chattanooga and friends I loved to support him.”

In Louisiana, David was only home on weekends, and he hid his drinking well. Unfortunately, things went south pretty quickly. After months of living in denial, Ellen finally acknowledged her husband was an alcoholic. Now with two children, she decided she could no longer live with David. She left with the stipulation that if he went to treatment she would commit to trying to salvage their marriage.

“While I was gone, David got a DUI and was fired from his job,” Ellen says. “Once again he entered treatment. When he came home, we made a plan to move back to Chattanooga. David found a job pretty quickly. I knew he was having relapses, but I overlooked them thinking that if I could just be a better wife, I could make him better. I now know that was not true.”

In 2013, David’s life spiraled completely out of control. While David was away on a business trip, his co-worker notified Ellen that David had called to resign from his position—and it sounded like he planned to take his life.

“At this point in our marriage, we are barely speaking to each other,” Ellen says. “I had no idea where he was and I had no interest in going to find him. I was actually determined not to go—I was tired and had rescued him one too many times. My heart was done with him. Something in my core kept saying, ‘Show him grace one more time.’ I resolved that I did not have to be nice to him, but I had to go get him one more time and then I could be done with him.”

Read part two of Addiction and Marriage for the rest of the story, and find resources for those who struggle with addiction in their marriage.

*Names changed to protect privacy.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Spring Break Safety Tips

Talk about staying safe and put a plan in place.

If you have teens or college-age young adults, you’ve probably had (or soon will have) ongoing conversations about how they’ll spend their break.

As kids try to get permission (and money!) for the trip, you’ll hear phrases like: 

“I’m almost an adult. This is a rite of passage.” Or, “It’s what college students do. We go to the beach and hang out.”

The pressure is on for sure. But before you give in…

Here’s what research shows about spring break safety issues:

  • The average male reported drinking 18 drinks per day, compared to 10 drinks for the average female.
  • Of 783 young people surveyed, more than 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women said they drank until they became sick or passed out at least once.
  • The U.S. State Department’s “Spring Break in Cancun” says that alcohol is involved in most arrests, accidents, violent crimes and deaths suffered by American tourists there.

This is a major issue on some Florida beaches, so places like Gulf Shores and Orange Beach police departments have taken precautionary measures to avoid problems. These cities have already posted open letters on Facebook to spring breakers.

“We have said it before, but just so we are clear… if your top priorities when visiting the beach are being drunk and disorderly; breaking what you consider to be small rules like underage drinking, littering and leaving glass on the beach, urinating in public, using drugs, or engaging in violent or indecent behavior, Gulf Shores is definitely not the place for you.”

Risk-taking peaks during adolescence.

Instead of weighing risks based on logic and wisdom, teens are usually more concerned about how their choices will impact their peer relationships. They see being unaccepted relationally as a threat.

While a teen might usually make good choices, science shows that adding friends to the mix changes things. It makes them more likely to take risks for the reward of acceptance instead of considering the cost. The presence of other spring breakers can make it seem like the rewards of risk outweigh any consequences.

If your goal is for your spring breaker to be safe, consider these things:

  • Even if they don’t like the idea, you may decide to go along if you feel they aren’t ready to fly solo. You don’t have to constantly hover, but checking in regularly with an adult can decrease the potential for poor decision-making.
  • Help unsupervised teens and young adults prepare well. Discuss their plans and where they are staying. Establish clear expectations about everything from social media and location check-in to communicating with you by phone at designated times.
  • Address the dangers of underage drinking, meeting up with strangers and the potential consequences (legal and otherwise) for poor choices. They also need to know how to protect themselves from sexual assault, date rape, drugs and the like.

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Ultimately, the goal is to keep people safe over spring break. We all know that one irresponsible decision or crazy social post can change someone’s life. (Check out How to Talk to Your Teen About Drinking.)

Most of us would probably agree: It’s better to leave no stone unturned than to wish we had said something. Don’t be afraid to be “that parent.” You know, the one who encourages new experiences, knowing that a strong foundation can help them make the most of their opportunities.