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Jean, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 433
Experience:  Masters degree in counseling, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
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My husband was just told he is a very "high-functioning" alcoholic

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My husband was just told he is a very "high-functioning" alcoholic and drug addict. My children are completely unaware of any problems and for the most part me as well (I thought he was just partying heavily every once in while…and/or was binge drinking). He is going to a treatment facility and I am not sure what to tell my 12 year old. My child has no idea about any of this because there was never any verbal abuse etc. that you hear that goes on with addiction. My husband is extremely respected in our very small community.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

It's a difficult time, but it's also an exciting time in your husband and family's life. You husband shows great courage in admitting to a problem. Alcoholism is progressive, and it's a good first step he is recognizing it, before it shows up as more of a problem for himself and his family.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

I'm inclined to believe your children sensed tension, or that something was amiss, but did not have words nor an explanation for what it was.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

You and your husband will have decide together the best course of action in what to tell your 12 year old. It's common for some treatment centers to have a family counseling component to the treatment. It's typically best to be open and honest. Explain the addiction as similar to a physical illness such as Diabetes, broken arm, etc. and with those illnesses it's important to get treatment in order to heal, to be healthy. Asking your son what his understanding of addiction/alcoholism is may be a good start. Many schools teach this as part of a health curriculum in school.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

Letting your son know that he can ask any questions, and that you will answer them the best you can, or that you will gather information to help him to understand. Seeing his father be brave, honest, and authentic, is an excellent role model for him. This is a teachable moment of time in his life. The for sure thing in life is strife and struggle. His father is a good example of taking the road, that may be difficult, but will offer many rewards afterwards.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

You are right that the stereotypical alcoholic is someone who is more down and out in life, have trouble maintaining a job, and or are abusive to the family. This is a good example, that this is not the case. It is amazing that so many people abuse alcohol and drugs for numerous years, and appear to "function". However, over time it can affect a person physically, and mentally- it is progressive.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

As part of the treatment for alcoholism one needs to look at their thinking patterns- "stinkin thinkin" it is referred to in the alcohol and drug (AODA) treatment field. An excellent resource for you and your family is Alanon, a support group for those who love an alcoholic.

Jean N/20pluscounts : This is the website for Alanon

Jean N/20pluscounts :

There is a tab for "teens" on the site, and "how can I help my children" can offer you assistance in explaining the disease to your son.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

I'm sorry I missed you on line. Continue to ask questions or make comments until you get the information that is most helpful to you.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

Thank you for your post on Just Answer.

Jean and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your response. My husband teaches at a school, how will I respond when the students/teachers/professionals ask where he is?

That is a more delicate matter, yes. I think it is appropriate that he provide few details to those he works with. Telling his colleges and students that he is going on a leave may be enough information. This is a personal and private matter for your family. Others do not need to know. That a professor/teacher is taking a leave of absence is not an unusual thing. Often others have questions because they are concerned. Telling them it is a personal matter, and that it is not life threatening may ease the minds of some. Your husband may decide to provide a few more details to his closest co workers/supervisor. Here is a link that offers additional information about going into recovery and one's work. An important point that is made in the article is that an employee is much more likely to keep their job, and do a better job, if they get treatment for their addiction, verses continuing to struggle. Also mentions that most people are much less judgmental than we think.

It is a personal decision whether to tell others or not. It's also okay to tell co workers/students little, but decide as treatment progresses the tell them more. The treatment center may have additional support and resources regarding this issue.

I do wish you, your husband, and family the best on the road to recovery. This tends to be a family illness, and it's as important for the family to have support as it is the person who is recovering. Many people find such hope and healing as they go through the process of treatment. The recovery is life long, with recommendations to attend after care and support programs after the treatment.

Let me know if you have additional comments or questions. Want to be sure you find the information and support you are looking for.

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