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Includes Expert Content
Alcohol, Anti-depressants, & bi-polar
An_240444 posted:
I know there's a lot in this subject line but I'm dealing with all three simultaneously with my wife and I'm feeling helpless. My wife has been on anti-depressants for about 2 years. Prior to that, she was frequently moody and sometimes aggressively violent towards me. She also has very frequent anxiety for which she takes Klonopin to calm her down. Once she started the anti-depressants I noticed her drinking increasing to the point she drinks at least 6 beers every day. I have repeatedly asked her to stop drinking or at least moderate her drinking to the weekends. She finds every excuse she can think of to ignore my requests. She says "Well I'm not drunk" and "I'm not hurting anyone" but the fact is she has a need to have this amount of alcohol every single night. A few weeks ago she ran out of her Klonopin and had withdrawal symptoms to the point she was shaking and crying. She has admitted she feels that she has an alcohol problem and may possibly be bi-polar. In my unprofessional opinion, I too believe she is bi-polar because she is frequently moody - more so than in anyone else I've ever been with. She's frequently (more often than not) sad, anxious, and refuses to be told what to do or how to act. She dismisses my concern as me being controlling of her. When she's happy, she's very happy - but when she's sad it goes on for much longer than the happiness. It feels like she's happy for about a week at a time and then not very happy for about 2-3 weeks. I feel like she's never content in her life despite having everything she wants and needs and having a pretty good life with me. I'm left feeling helpless - like no matter what I do I'm never going to make her happy on a continual basis. I try very hard but her drinking and constant need for medication leaves me feeling bitter and I usually shut down and then don't feel like talking - she's fine with that and she will usually ignore me completely for the rest of the night. It's heartbreaking because i see how great things are when she's happy and in a positive mood - but I can't seem to keep her there. Does anyone have any advice? Does this seem like bi-polar disorder? How can I get her to believe she has this problem and take steps to get the help she needs. For her drinking, I offered to take her to an AA meeting and she refused. I'm trying to be supportive - I ask her to not have "just one more" but then she acts like I'm telling her what to do. She doesn't see it as I'm trying to help her with a problem that I'm observing. I just don't know what to do - I love her so leaving is not an option.
Kayap responded:

A couple of things that stand out to me here is the two weeks happy and then sadness. Some women really suffer from hormone changes each month. But usually antidepressants can help this. Now that being said drinking interferes with any good the antidepressants could be making. Also alcohol is a depressant.
Has she seen a doctor to talk about her mood swings. Has she considered them to be hormonal at all? She is the one unfortunately who needs to want to change all of this. She should seek out help from two professionals to start out with. Her ob/gyn doc and an addiction specialist to help with the addiction to Klonopin/alcohol.
Then there is the marital issues. She perceives you as controlling so maybe she is resisting the help you suggest. Have you considered counseling?
Just some thoughts on this I hope she finds the relief she needs to live a better quality life. If she won't go to counseling it may help you if you go alone. You can get some coping skills and maybe find ways to help her.
An_240444 replied to Kayap's response:
Thanks Kay -
She had a hysterectomy last year so there are no monthly mood changes per se. We go to counseling together every week to discuss our issues - an outsider's perspective usually helps. We never get into the discussions about her alcohol abuse. I just need to her to want to take that 1st step and seek help. I made a big deal about the drinking this week and she has made an effort to cut back on the amount she drinks but she is unable to stop completely. I guess some progress is better than none at all. I am also on Lexapro for anxiety (I don't suffer from any depression) and I noticed that it causes an increase in my alcohol consumption. I've read in many places that this is the case for a lot of people. However, I'm able to just not drink if I don't want to. I try to only have a drink on the weekends or at dinner, etc.She doesn't have this self-control. I've explained to her that I'm not trying to control her - and that I'm only interested in her health and well being. She seems to be listening to me a little more as of late. We'll see how it goes. Thanks for your input!
Betty Ford Center
Sean Barlow, MD responded:
I feel for your situation and want you to know you are not alone.

Many people have gone through having a significant other become lost to addiction and/or psychiatric illness, and they have come out on the other side in a better place.

First, I would recommend you get involved with local Al-Anon groups. Also, many local chemical dependency programs will have family programs available to help.

Second, it is difficult to say if your wife has a psychiatric disorder outside of her drinking/Klonopin usage, for these will cause depression and cycling of one's moods. If not doing so already, seeing an addiction psychiatrist who has the knowledge about her usage of substances would be an option as would getting her into an alcohol/drug treatment center that can evaluate these mood swings, detox her if needed and promote sobriety. However, it sounds like she will not go willingly. In that case, an interventionist can help, if that is the appropriate course to take.

I think you can't control her but do care about her. Take care of yourself, then maybe she will come around.

Best wishes.
Kayap replied to An_240444's response:
It is great that she goes to counseling with you. That is a big plus because it shows that she is also concerned and wants the relationship to work. She has an addiction to alcohol it is a tough issue. I'm sure she wishes it wasn't there. I am also married to a wonderful man with this disease. It doesn't matter how much I talk to him or ask him to stop it doesn't work. I would suspect that this sensitive issue may have to be addressed in counseling at some point. The meetings would be of interest to you. They don't sit around discussing your loved one but they do focus on you and give great support on how to make your life less effected by the decisions your loved one makes.
Another experience I should share is that of my son. He unfortunately shares the same genetic disposition of addiction that my husband has. But the word "functional" wasn't in his vocabulary. When he drank it was all or none. Needless to say this all but destroyed his young life. I took him to numerous rehabs, sober living homes, court ordered and private. He wasn't fond of the twelve step approach. And I should have let it play out until he found himself on the streets but I just didn't have that in me. During these years we always had the same addiction psychologist who worked with me in such a caring matter. After a four day stay in one of the worst jails in the country under suicide watch my son decided on his own he was ready to change. I had read that topamax was a drug that sometimes help a few addicts with the cravings of alcohol. He put him on this drug. It changed his life. He became a happier person. Stopped drugging/drinking and is back in school. He was on this for about a year. He doesn't take it now because it does cause a few memory problems for him but he is still sober.
This is one of the reasons I always suggest an addiction psychologist because there are resources for people suffering from addiction. I don't believe there is a magic solution but it is a field of medicine that is wide open for new research. There is also a monthly shot which helps reduce alcohol cravings. Can't remember the name. Meetings, counseling along with medical support can change a persons outlook and life. It can make it more tolerable for them and for the people who love them.
Everyone has a different story and a different path to recovery. I hope you find yours.

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