For your entire married life and throughout your 20s, you and your husband have been trying to help your in-laws manage your father-in-law’s illness. I wonder if your husband feels like life is passing him by while he does the right thing. Taking care of someone day in and day out can make a person feel emotionally drained. I’m guessing that your husband’s alcohol problems started because he found that a drink could relax him at the end of a challenging day. It has since progressed to being a way to check out from the reality of his life. Make no mistake, what you are describing at this point is alcohol abuse.
To manage the stress of caregiving successfully, a caregiver needs to be sure to take care of themselves and move forward in their own lives. Your husband isn’t doing either. He also seems to be trying to recapture his more carefree youth by contacting the ex-girlfiriend. He’s in serious trouble.
You can try talking to him. Instead of being upset and accusatory, try being compassionate about the position he finds himself in. His life is going nowhere. Talk about how the two of you can get additional help with your father-in-law so your husband isn’t the only support person. Look around for a caregivers support group. Many hospitals and hospice organizations sponsor such groups. It’s important to have a place where it’s okay to share feelings and where information about helpful services is exchanged. Then work together to figure out how your husband can reclaim his own life’s direction. Does he need to go back to school? To find a job that is more gratifying?
Finally, you need to tell your husband in as loving a way as possible that although you understand the urge to drink, it’s gotten way out of control. Ask him what he is going to do about it. If he continues to deny that there is a problem, tell him the truth: You can’t make him stop drinking but you don’t have to stay around for it. Then get yourself to an Al-Anon meeting to learn how to detach from his problem. Here’s the website.
Yes, self-care takes time and attention; time that is hard to come by when caring for someone else. But if your husband isn’t taking care of himself, he is doing something else. He needs to refocus his time and energy so that your marriage will survive and so that he is working toward his own future.
I wish you both well,