Husband turned into an alcoholic about 9 months after young son’s T1D diagnosis- any advice?

Our 6 year old son was hospitalized and diagnosed with T1D in May 2019. Managing our son’s diabetes started to get a little easier and not as overwhelming around February. As I was coming out of the “all consuming cloud of learning to take care of our son” around January/February 2020 I noticed my husband would fall asleep in our son’s bed when doing a glucose test after our “low” Dexcom alarms would go off in the middle of the night or other new irresponsible parenting behavior. (incredibly frustrating since he had always been an active and helpful parent with both our kids since they were newborns)

We’ve been married for 12 years, and I would have said we’ve had a strong, happy, and fulfilling marriage with communication, but he was a completely different person. I attributed it to months of sleep deprivation and adjusting to our “new normal”, and was completely blindsided when I found out his “occasional 1-2 beers a night” had changed into hiding multiple shots of vodka and many more beers every single night.

Is there anyone else who has been through a similar experience? I feel like I just survived the trauma of year 1 with diabetes, just to be thrown into another crisis with my husband turning into an alcoholic. We are going through “marriage counseling” (So far the focus has been on how alcohol has affected our home life, which is mortifying to me to accept I cannot shelter my children from) at a substance rehab facility, and I’m seeing a therapist there too for help with coping with an alcoholic spouse, but right now it just feels so overwhelming to be hit with 2 severely life changing illnesses to our “previously healthy” family.

If anyone has any advice or suggestions (Al-Anon is a group I need to look into as well) I would sincerely appreciate the support.

Hi @breannamcgarvin. Welcome to the forum and thanks for writing in.
I’m not a parent - not because of diabetes but I just never felt the call, as it were. But I was diagnosed at age 3 and thought I would share a little from my perspective growing up with it. Done kids will adapt relatively easily, while others will fight tooth and nail. But hopefully coming into it so early will make it easier for your son to adjust as he has not had decades of knowing something else, and he will absorb the learnings faster. He’s old enough to communicate to you that something is going on even if he can’t quite describe it. Sometimes even we adults can’t quite put into words the sensation we’re feeling, but now we have CGMS and BG meters that probably tell us it means we are low.
Since I’m not a mom I can’t feel what you’re going through, but from my mom I learned your worries will never stop, but having technology in place and seeing your child live a healthy lifestyle and take care of him/herself gives some reassurance.
There are people on the forum who were diagnosed as kids and are now in their teens through their senior years ago have shared success stories as well as things they wish they had done differently. I don’t think there’s any specific topic they fall under, but if you read posts take note - hopefully that will help ease your fears at least a bit.
Wishing the best for you and your family.

hi @breannamcgarvin BreAnna, first please let me say that you are the glue holding the world together right now. The first year with diabetes is a very tough year and I am really glad you were there 100% to take care of your son.

next some really obvious stuff, please do not forget your other child, the burden of taking care of diabetes can take up a major part of your life, and even though you are likely very grateful that you are getting hold of diabetes and all that it entails - that your other child could suffer lack of attention at a very rough time in their childhood as well. It may be a huge ask, but you have to keep life as normal as it possibly can be for both your children. I have had diabetes for more than 40 years, and it does eventually become more routine, in fact, many people with diabetes resent special treatment and refuse to let diabetes define who they are. All I am saying here is to not lose sight of all the things that were important before his diagnosis, because they still are very important.

So the way I understand alcoholism is like this - it wasn’t the diagnosis that made your husband drink too much. It isn’t the job stress, the family stress, the loss of a family member or friend, it’s not the weather or that his favorite team lost the series, and above all else, it’s not because of you. The behavior typically comes from a long family history and deeply embedded beliefs and possibly a number of traumas. The addiction behavior is part part inherited and part environment. It can cause a person to lose everything because it is as insidious as mental illness - the person with it strongly believes that nothing is wrong with them… that it;s all you or all someone or something else.

The most important thing I learned in Al-anon is that you have to identify what is going on and above everything, to take care of yourself. . I am a dad and even the thought of something happening to my son is enough to strike terror into my heart. When my father died I spent probably a little too much time in grief and then quite a bit of time trying to quiet my head and my feelings with alcohol. The problem with alcohol is that your problems do not go away, they just go deeper. So you solve nothing by drinking. If your go-to solution is try to not feel anything, by getting drunk all the time, then you have a problem.

The issue with drinking is that you check out from life. You cant participate when you are loaded so drinking is just a means to escape. Its not even a good short term solution.

I urge you to get help, for yourself. Your husband has some big choices to make, and while you can tell him how you feel you cannot control the outcome in any way. While I can tell it’s more comfortable for you to take control and charge and be the glue that holds the world together… this one, this problem right here requires you to not be the glue. I hope you have access to a therapist and I do recommend you consider going to al-anon meetings, just to see, if you try it for a month and hate it you’ve lost nothing. Please check back in I hope you find even more strength to deal with all of this.

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BreAnna, I’ve been Type One for 55+ years. Early in my career, I worked for two alcoholic supervisors, and the stress was terrible. A recovering alcoholic friend took me to an open AA meeting, and from there I got involved with AlAnon. It’s one of the best things I’ve done, and I encourage you to contact AlAnon. If you go to www.al-anon.org, you will see a tab on the home page, “Find a Meeting.” Click on that, and you’ll be directed to local groups. You can call, and someone will help you make a personal connection. It helped me as I listened to people in tougher situations and how they coped and found strength and serenity.

Congrats on making it through year one! I am coming up on making it through year one with my son as well. Thankfully, I have been an AlAnon member for years now. I say thankfully because AlAnon not only helped me cope with various people in my life with alcoholism and addiction, it also helped me cope with my son’s diabetes diagnosis and all that came with it! The program has been one of the biggest blessings for me. Happy to talk to you about it more in a private chat if you want or to be a support in any way I can. lnovario@gmail.com

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Tell your husband I’ve had T1 48 years and no complications- I do the same exercise every day so no surprises. 30 min treadmill in a.m.
And at night walk 1&1/2 miles with our dogs and my husband. I’ve never missed a day of this in 48 years. I measure my food and know exactly the carbs I eat to punch into my phone. The Riley link about $150 is the closest thing to artificial pancreas . It adjust you automatically to prevent highs and lows. I also use Dexcom and Omnipod which are compatible with Riley link.
High fiber 3-5 gram for all carbs I eat combined with 20 grams healthy fat per meal STOPS spikes if you are on the right basal. My basals don’t seem to change. I also practice and when covid Lockdown is not happening teach Yoga. Glad you are going to counseling and with your husband. T1 is not easy for parents As others have mentioned on this site. God bless you all