It’s hard when someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse. It’s stressful on a marriage, on the children, sometimes stressful on finances. If your husband has already been convicted of a DUI, it’s already taking a toll on the home.
You can’t control everything and you can’t wave a magic wand to make things perfect, but if your spouse is at risk of driving under the influence, there are some things that you can do.
Understand that it is not your fault. Your husband, and your husband alone, is solely responsible for his drinking and his decision to then get behind the wheel of a car.
Block him from driving with children. In some states, he could be criminally prosecuted for child endangerment if he is caught driving under the influence with children in the vehicle. In fact, it could legally affect both of you, and could potentially cause Child Protective Services to remove the children from your home. Here is a state-by-state list of relevant child endangerment laws.
If you’re out together and you expect he’ll be drinking, ask for the keys to the car. Do this before he’s been drinking. Hopefully he’ll be a little more cooperative and have more insight before he’s been drinking than after.
Install the SaferRide app on his mobile phone. SafeRide is a free cell phone app that helps people who have been drinking identify their location and dial either a friend/loved one or a cab with just two clicks. It’s designed to be user-friendly, even for people who are seriously intoxicated. The app is available on Google Play for Android devices, and Apple’s iTunes store for iOS devices.
Identify a Safe Ride Home program in your area – and put the phone number in his wallet or on his phone. Here’s a list of such programs across the country.
Identify alternatives. These could be taxicabs, ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft, a friend’s couch - anything that provides an easy alternative to getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. For best results, have these alternatives planned out ahead of time.
Don’t enable the drinking. You cannot control your husband’s actions. But you may be able to stop protecting him from facing the consequences of drinking. If you have been drinking with him, perhaps that needs to stop. If you’ve been bailing him out of jail or helping him conceal the problem from the workplace or other family members and friends, perhaps that, too, needs to stop.
Of course, if he loses his job because of his drinking or legal problems that arise from it, that will severely affect the family as well, so be prepared to make decisions based on your specific circumstances. He’ll also lose his job if he’s dead, disabled, or in jail, and that will affect you, too. Yes, the issue is that serious. Drunk driving can easily lead to any of these outcomes.
Get some support for yourself. Al-Anon is a nationwide support group for family members and loved ones of alcoholics. They can help you find resources and develop coping skills to help you deal with your husband’s drinking issues, and perhaps help you with more specific ideas on how you may be able to help prevent your husband from drinking and driving in the future.
Your husband does not have to be in Alcoholics Anonymous or in treatment for you to seek help from Al-Anon.
Encourage your husband to seek help. There are Alcoholics Anonymous chapters and meetings in nearly every town in America, and often multiple meetings per day. There are even midnight meetings. It’s very easy to start the process.
You may also be able to get help via an employer-sponsored employee assistance program. These help refer people to treatment and counseling programs. Even if your husband is not cooperative, you may be able to get some assistance for yourself.
Lastly, remember to put up boundaries with your husband. This is not a matter of controlling someone's behavior; it’s a matter of setting limits on what you will tolerate. You do not have to put yourself and your children at risk of a drunk driver. When children are involved, you have a special responsibility to protect them. If your spouse cannot or will not control the problem behavior, and puts your children at risk, then you must find a way to protect them.