THE BLOG
10/18/2012 02:51 pm ET Updated Dec 18, 2012

The Bible vs. the Bottle

I recently received the letter below, which is followed by my answer. Please share this with anyone you know who is struggling with this same sort of issue.

I was raised in a Christian family, and have professed my faith since I was a young child. I was also homeschooled in the middle of nowhere, with my only socialization being in the church and youth group I grew up in. As you can imagine, I was a very sheltered child.

Because of this, I was extremely shy, withdrawn and anti-social. I waited until I was 21 to move out of my parents' home. (I did not go to college because of an accident my parents were in when I graduated: I stayed living at home, working to be able to pay them rent to help them out for a while). When I moved out I remained anti-social for quite a while. I had very few friends that I talked to, and pretty much stayed in my shell until I was 23. That is when I had my first boyfriend, started drinking with friends and going out to bars, etc.

During this time of trying to "find and define" myself, I experienced a very traumatic event that left me scarred; probably for life in some aspects. Because of that, I simply stopped following God for quite a while.

When I was 24 I met the man who is now my husband. He is not a Christian, is a borderline alcoholic, and a pretty much just plain apathetic. We did move in together 10 months before we got married, simply did a court house wedding, and really had nothing monumental to mark the day that we married. I knew what kind of man he was before marrying him, in regard to his alcohol use, and his apathy, but was hoping (and I KNEW at the time that the hope was a stupid thing to have) that he might grow out of it or change.

Fast forward to two years later, and I'm slightly at odds. Not only am I struggling with how much and how often he drinks (not to mention the stupid stuff that happens because he drinks), but I am also struggling with the lack of intimacy in my marriage. My husband is quite fine if we only have sex once a month (as a matter of fact he prefers that, because he says that he is not sexually driven in any way), but he does not supplement the dry times with any other kind of real intimacy. So, we are lacking a physical connection, but also an emotional connection because he does not choose to offer it. I have talked with him numerous times, told him how he has been making me feel because of his refusal to engage in any intimacy, even threatened to leave him because I am tired of feeling like his mom. Every time I have that discussion with him, he will relent (and I really mean relent) and have sex with me, and make everything seem better for a total of 10 hours. Then everything goes back to the way it was.

I guess I've been hoping that he would fight for me, and he really hasn't. The problem recently is how much he has been drinking. The past few weeks he has gotten so drunk that he can't remember his weekend, nor will he have any leftover energy to spend with me doing anything besides sitting at home and playing video games. He will have friends over during these drinking fests, and I have come home to find out that they have had the fire department called on them for having a bonfire in the back yard, window damage for them falling into the windows, and worst of all, random episodes where someone during these fests will "forget" where the bathroom is, or where the toilet is, and I am left with random urine messes.

My husband's never hit me, never gotten abusive in any way, shape, or form. But he's also never really tried to meet me in the middle on anything regarding intimacy or his drinking. And after the last couple of drinking nights of his, I have really felt like a mother having to care for a petulant child.

I also feel like a horrible wife because I don't want his friends at my house anymore. I'm really tired of it all. I know that I should not be looking for a way out of a marriage that I went into with my eyes wide open to all the issues, and as long as he is willing to live with me I should stay (1 Corinthians 7:12-13), but I know that if I were to leave, he would not fight to keep me. Even if I were to just go stay with a friend for a night or two away, he will resign himself to us divorcing because of it, even if I assure him that is not the case. I am too emotionally invested to try and view all this in a logical fashion, and I really don't know what to do. I don't want to leave him, I don't want him to feel as if I am being unreasonable, and I do not know how to deal with this. Is there any advice you can give at all?

First, I don't think your husband is a "borderline" alcoholic. I think he's a full-blown, 100 percent alcoholic.

And you're not "slightly at odds." You're in a horrendous marriage that at this point you're pretty sure isn't salvageable.

And it's not true that your husband has "never gotten abusive in any way, shape, or form." The man is OK with you cleaning up piss left by his friends in your house. How could he debase you (or himself) any further?

And listen: you'd be hard-pressed to say a crazier thing than, "As long as he is willing to live with me I should stay." What is that? That's not true. You quoted 1 Corinthians 7:12-13 but forgot the very next verse: "For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife." Does your husband strike you as sanctified? If he is, I'm Pope John Paul the I Don't Think So.

Trust me: Paul would not want you being treated as your husband treats you. And if you can't believe that, you can surely believe that Jesus loves you too much to be OK with you being as unhappy as you are.

If ever you find yourself using the Bible as a justification for keeping yourself down, know one thing: You're defying and insulting God. Stop doing that. Stop making God a party to your subjugation, which I guarantee you grieves him.

Do you know what part of your whole letter I find by far the most troubling? It's when you call yourself a "horrible" wife because you don't want your husband's fire-starting, window-breaking, randomly pissing white-trash "friends" to come over to your house anymore. That concerns me. Because that tells me that at your core you believe that you don't really deserve a life any or much better than the one you're living. Which means you're terribly unlikely to ever have one.

Sister, you do deserve a better life than the one you're leading. But only you can make that better life for yourself. Which sucks. We sooooo want to believe that daddy, or our spouse, or God, or Cosmic Justice, or something that isn't actually us will magically swoop in and bestow upon us the life we know we deserve.

And we wait and wait and wait and wait and wait for that to happen. And if waiting is all we do we die filled with that longing still in us, having never lived a life that we didn't know was embarrassingly beneath us.

Ugh. Get out. You. Right now. Go pack some sh*t. Prepare to exit. Gather your finances. Make a plan, stick to it, and exit stage you've-done-the-right-thing. (About all this sort of thing please read my book below. If you can't afford it or whatever, let me know.)

You know why so many people erroneously believe that the Bible says that God helps those who help themselves? Because we all know how true that is. It should be in the Bible. God definitely pitches in once we roll up our sleeves and actually do something to improve the life of ourselves or anyone else. But before then? Before then all he can do is acquiesce to our manifest desire to keep things exactly as they are.

Sweetheart, you got the man you married. And now you have exactly two choices: You either keep and continue to live in the marriage you have, or you change your life for the better. That's it. You either pick a lane, or life will pick one for you.

And there's only one way your life is ever going to change, and that's if your husband admits, today, that he is an alcoholic, and takes a clear and positive step to stop drinking. If he does that, you might actually have a freakin' man on your hands instead of barn animal you couldn't give away. If not, then you need to leave him to his bottles and go get a new life for yourself.

Alcoholics don't change unless they get extremely hardcore about changing. You can't whine, plead, beg or bitch an alcoholic into stopping drinking. Only the alcoholic can stop him or herself from choosing the bottle over anything and everyone else. Trying to get an alcoholic to do what you want them to do is like trying to stop a tidal wave from moving toward the shore. All you do is drown.

Talk to your husband. Wait until he's sober, and then sit him down and tell him that if he doesn't, right then and there, admit that he's an alcoholic who needs to stop drinking, and then do something real to show he means it, then you are going to leave him. And make sure he understands that if he says he's going to stop drinking, but then doesn't, you'll be gone before he's swallowed his first pull on his bottle.

Don't be angry about it. Don't be accusatory. Just let him know that you've decided that it's you or the bottle -- and that you'll understand if he chooses the bottle. Lots of people make that exact choice every day. It's his call. He can have you, or he can have booze. But he can't have both.

Good luck with this. I hope he chooses you. But if he doesn't, tell him where you keep the mop and kiss him good-bye. And then get busy creating a new life for yourself that doesn't include him. The excellent news for you is that you're very young. You've got your whole life ahead of you. And now you're so much wiser than you were before you married.

If wisdom came cheaply, everyone would have it. But you've paid for the wisdom soon to be yours. So now you're good to go.

It's a big, bright, happy world out there. Go get you some of it.

God is with you. Always.