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BEL MOONEY: How do I deal with shame of my addict husband?



Dear Bel,

I don’t know where to turn and feel helpless, alone and isolated. My husband of nearly 25 years is a drug addict. He doesn’t use every day but binges three or four times a year, although there has been a long time of abusing painkillers long after the need for them had passed.

Lockdown 2020 was awful. He spent most of it taking benzodiazepines — leaving me to deal with everything: home-schooling, shopping, bills and the isolation from my parents and family.

I know addiction is an illness and this is going to sound selfish, but I cannot do this any more. I am living a lie and cannot talk to anyone because of the shame I feel of being married to a drug addict.

He joined Narcotics Anonymous two weeks ago after his last binge and went to two meetings, but there doesn’t seem to be any momentum to attend a third. I have hidden this from my children, often at the expense of them blaming me for when they see us not speaking.

I desperately want to protect them. He has also started to drink most nights and came home so drunk last night he fell over. Then he fell out of bed and to my shame I left him on the floor and slept downstairs.


I loved him so much and always thought I could fix him, but know I can’t. He’s in his 50s and I fear I’ll come home one day to find him dead from whatever he has taken this time, or worse, that my children will find him. It’s harder to hide now they are in their late teens.

I think I want him to leave and feel so angry because however I look at my future it’s lonely. I have a job I love, but that’s it. His behaviour has cut me off from all friends. I put on an act that everything is OK and that he is a good man (which fundamentally he is: kind, funny and caring) but I’m tired of the double life. I’m even starting to doubt if I actually love him any more.

I’ve accepted I can’t help him, but still desperately want to. I don’t want to abandon him, but am I enabling and making him worse? He says I need to talk to someone outside about this, but I can’t. I really can’t.

I don’t want anyone to think badly of him and I am also ashamed. I often wonder how I would help if someone came to me with this problem. My overriding feeling would be ‘Why are you still with him?’

So I feel I should be strong and give him his marching orders. The whole thing is a whirlpool of emotions and I am exhausted and defeated. I don’t know if staying in this vicious cycle is the right thing any more.


You say you have never written to a newspaper before but feel at the end of your tether, and I honestly feel your husband is quite right when he says you need to talk to somebody outside the family.


Since you have two children still in their teens, it’s vital that you don’t let this awful situation continue until you have a breakdown.

Thought of the day 

And all the opposites in the universe are present within each and every one of us. 

Therefore the believer needs to meet the unbeliever residing within. 

And the nonbeliever should get to know the silent faithful in him.

From The Forty Rules Of Love by Elif Shafak (b. 1971, Turkish-British novelist)


The strain on you is doubled because of your own secrecy and shame, so first I think we need to examine those feelings and persuade you to shift your mindset. (On the subject of which, I would always recommend trying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy; local therapists can be found through the websites of or the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy).

But first, you mention your husband’s addiction to prescription drugs used for the short-term treatment of anxiety and panic. Presumably these were obtained through your GP, so I’m wondering how he was able to amass enough to ‘binge’. You seem to imply there were other substances, too, as well as alcohol.

My first question must be whether you ever spoke to your GP on your own behalf, confiding your despair over the situation and alerting the doctor to your husband’s abuse of whatever he had been prescribed. I fear you did not act because of the ‘shame’ which seems to have paralysed you.

Surely you must see you have nothing to be ashamed about? All the way through this email you blame yourself (that word ‘selfish’ jumps out), but why?

You say (a part of your long email I had to cut) that you have tried to help him, and that you feel so sorry about the abusive childhood which he does not blame, but you don’t really explain why you feel ‘the shame… of being married to a drug addict’.

This would, I’m sure, be good to explore with a therapist.

Keeping the secret, and telling lies to everybody, including your own children, must be an unbelievable strain. And what-ever happens to your marriage, you must not continue with the charade.


Your late-teen children are surely now old enough to understand that their father is a sick man and that their mother is unable to continue holding him up.

If this situation becomes worse, they will not thank you for deceiving them.

You have been protecting them and also protecting your husband (‘I don’t want anybody to think badly of him’) from the truth, but those lies mean he cannot be helped or encouraged (with some determination, by demanding that he attend NA, for example) to help himself. Yes, I do agree you should be stronger, whatever the eventual outcome.

Look at html and at Families Anonymous ( for advice and support on many levels.

You are clearly still deeply emotionally involved with the man you married and I hope that by finding help for yourself you might be able to find him again.

I’d like to find love but don’t want sex 

Dear Bel,


I am 63 years old. My husband died three years ago, aged 58. A year ago, I felt confident about starting a new relationship, but there is a huge stumbling block.

Due to a cancerous condition several years ago, physical sex is uncomfortable and pretty much a non-starter for me.

My husband and I were married for 27 years and the last three years were intercourse-free because of this.

Fortunately, the love we built up over those years and his incredible understanding meant we had a different kind of intimacy and it did not spoil our relationship.

But, I realise that sex is an important part of a relationship for many men so it is the ‘elephant in the room’ when you are starting out again. There are dating sites that cater for people who cannot have sex, but all of them seem to be American.

The two potential relationships I could have had came to an end because of this problem. I don’t blame the men.

I get it. I would want the physical aspect if it were possible.


There must be many women (and men) who, for medical or some other reason, cannot have physical sex. Do they have the same problem? How do I meet someone who will understand this?

It is a conversation stopper, for sure, as you cannot move forward in a relationship without bringing this up. Any advice would be gratefully received.


This honest email deals with an issue that affects many more people than one might think, given that we live in a society which is pretty obsessed with sex — and an ever-increasingly wide range of sexualities.

I’m not referring specifically to a medical condition like yours making physical sex uncomfortable, as to a lack of interest in physical sex which can develop as people become older.

But the loss of libido is not always associated with age; I have met people much younger who just shrug and explain how they’ve become so comfortable in their long partnership that sex just doesn’t feel as important any more.


More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

As I’ve often pointed out in replies on this page, it only becomes a real problem when there is an imbalance in desire: if one half of a couple still feels that sex is necessary and the other does not, then it can cause deep hurt, a feeling of rejection, anger and infidelity.

You might, of course, meet a man who feels just as you do and thinks that having good conversation and fun with a warm, huggy lady would be an ideal. Why not? Such men do exist but you might be more likely to meet a true ‘friend’ by trying volunteering, walking groups, U3A, evening classes, and so on.

This is old advice, but does give people a chance to be friendly and get to know somebody without the emotional pressure of a dating site.

I acknowledge that luck plays a huge part, yet often wish people could be more relaxed about relationships, instead of needy. When you’re not actually looking you can be surprised by joy.


Like you I looked online and found the American sites.

Then, I discovered this interesting piece on the BBC’s website ( After all, does a new asexual partner have to be male? Perhaps readers have some ideas, in which case do let me know.

In the meantime, I really would fling your friendship-and-activity net as wide as possible. Do we really have to be locked into a man+woman=sex equation?

To be (in Dickens’s phrase) ‘a comfortable couple’ and not be worried about sexual performance but instead love the idea of tip-toeing companionably towards old age with a soul-mate . . . well, for many people that would be wonderful.

And finally… Who knows how we really feel?

Three weeks ago I printed a letter from Lee, with the headline, The world’s gone stark raving mad! That reader vented some of her frustrations and could have added many more.

Like me, she is of an older generation driven to distraction by people taking offence at everything, creating fuss where there is no need, pretending it’s fair for large male-bodied individuals to call themselves women and win prizes in female sports, and so on.


Contact Bel 

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email [email protected].

Names are changed to protect identities. 

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

(Mind you, I think it important to remind ourselves that plenty of young people feel the same way. )


It will come as no surprise that so many of you agreed with Lee. I’ll just pick two to quote.

Alan K was typical in writing: ‘I always read your column as it’s so full of common sense. The letter from Lee is a case in point. I could have written it myself, and indeed have come close to doing so a few times. Thank you for publishing it and for your response.

‘I hope you’re right and that this madness passes before it does lasting and irrevocable harm. The stupidity of it all is that the people who claim to be kind and inclusive are so determined to exclude anyone who disagrees with them.’

Then, among other things, John and Jan deplore the power of the civil service and add: ‘Ordinary millions of folk out here hate the way the woke world is going and the offence taken by many for nothing at all! Where is their backbone, where is their loyalty to their country, where is their “heart”? . . . The current activities by so many protesters, eco warriors, disrupters of everything does not engender any good feelings towards their causes and only fosters further anger and ultimately hatred.’

Reading all the comments made me wonder whether our political, media, sport and charity elites have any clue about how real people think and feel.

Do they realise that a large part of the country feels sadly alienated from what goes on?

Source: Daily Mail


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