First, I know LOTS of people who don't drink. One of my good friends is on a medication that won't allow him to and he regularly comes to events, dinners and parties with us and has a great time. I've had other friends who just don't like alcohol and it was never a problem, even back in the days when we were partying and drinking all the time. We considered our non drinking buddies to be assets because they would help us back to our car and drive us home.
If someone is truly your friend then they want and accept you as you are because they enjoy your company, not because of what you do.
I'm married to an alcoholic and his drinking ruined our life together. He almost destroyed our livelihood and it wasn't until we separated and I took the kids to live separately did things improve. Now we are friendly enough but I can't see living with him again anytime soon.
He drank and stopped working, drank and went into rehab and still drank until he was puking up his own blood and had to be put in the hospital. Then he was told it would kill him if he kept doing it so finally he's stopped. Drinking is now a death sentence and he wants to live so now he's sober. My husband is just now he's becoming a human being again but all he comes up with are excuses as to why it was alright for him to do and act what he did.
It took a gun pointed at his head to convince him to stop. The loss of his family, his kids, friends did nothing to deter it. It's a terrible disease and you are correct that if you give in to your wife you'll be in a far worse place. Hold firm on not giving in to her demands and backsliding.
I will admit that before my husband starting drinking heavily I really enjoyed going out and to bars and drinking with him and for awhile he was a LOT of fun when he was drinking. It also enhanced our sex life a lot because he's a LOT more passionate and fun in bed with a few drinks in him.
However that quickly ended when he crossed that line and became abusive and just stayed home all day and night drinking rum and cokes like water. Now all I remember is a horrible person that I wouldn't want back in my life. I've told him that if he starts again, aside from the fact that it could kill him, it will end whatever relationship we have for good.
But even with all this, I will admit that I do miss the time when we were good drinking buddies...I wish I could say that is the problem with your wife..that she is missing her "drinking buddy" but you've been sober for years without a problem and NOW she is bringing it up? So I think there is more to this and it has NOTHING to do with you:
I think she's unhappy inside and projecting that unhappiness on me. She was the center of our group of friends and now she won't hang out with them. She prefers single mothers for company now. For the first 7 or 8 years of our marriage there was a spirit of cooperation and hope in our marriage. We were looking towards the future. Now she complains about not being able to travel for the holidays, not getting material things, (money is tight). How nice would it be if she acknowledged our present situation and made the best of it. Instead she complains about me and how inadequate a life I have made for her.
This is just the latest of her ideas including change your job, and let's move to another state.
I think you've nailed it right here. Your problem isn't you at all at all. In fact, I congratulate you on your self discipline and realistic attitude.
Your problem isn't your drinking it's your wife. I read your description of her and I see a depressed woman. How old is she? She sounds a lot like myself in my 30s. I began to talk as if life was over, that I needed to move and I looked for things to make my life exciting, neglected my family, my marriage, my kids, ran up debt and was just selfish and idiotic.
Sounds like your wife is on the same path. I used to do the same things. I complained endlessly about my life being "over", about the kids being a ball and chain (and I only had two!), about not being able to take vacations and I kept pressuring my husband to move somewhere else, thinking it would be better there. I kept looking for that greener grass someplace else. I even talked about packing up my car and striking out on my own. Only that small voice that was still sane and reasonable and knew how stupid that would be stopped me from doing it
Instead I took separate vacations, had single friends I drank and partied with. Fortunately I never cheated on my husband but that's a common occurrence with someone who is looking for "a better life".
My husband basically raised our kids and put up with it hoping I would "come around". All it did was give him a reason and excuse to act the way he did years later and say "See, you did it and I can do it too!". But it doesn't work like that because two wrongs DO NOT make a right and the downward spiral of our marriage kept going as a result and in the end our lives crashed and burned.
However, I figured it out and got help. I got therapy and medication and figured it was ME who was the problem and turned things around. Good thing because in the end I was the one who had to pick up the pieces and keep things together when he fell apart.
It sounds like you and I are in the same situation. You had a problem and fixed it and now it's your wife who is falling apart. I wouldn't abandon hope at this point. What she needs is to seek help. I don't think her problem is the drinking but depression. Some call it "Mid Life Crisis".
What happens is you look at your life at some point (usually 30s-40s) and say "This is it?" and try and "spice things up". Often times the affected person will hit the bar scene and find single friends to hang with because they are all in the same boat. You've seen them, you've heard of them. It's a self destructive path. Your wife is looking for salvation at the bottom of a bottle..or at a bar, or partying with single friends, etc, etc.
You are a reminder of what she SHOULD be. A responsible adult who has their priorities straight and proof that you can live and enjoy life without being self destructive. But in her eyes you are a boat anchor, a boring person who is dragging her down so she wants to PULL you down to her level. For one, it'll help lessen her guilt. You'll be a kindred spirit, not a thorn in her side.
Don't fall for it. Right now you are her emotional punching bag and instead of looking at herself and making the necessary changes to make life better she's blaming you for her problems and expecting you to adapt to her ways. It doesn't work that way and you need to be strong and stick to your guns with regards to not drinking.
I don't think your wife is going to stop this unless she gets help. The problem is getting her to that point. Not until she looks in the mirror and sees that SHE is the problem will she seek help. You can nag, threaten, plead and it won't work until she wants it to and takes steps to change it herself.
You have 4 kids who need to be your priority at this point plus you need to stay mentally and physically healthy (that means NO drinking) so you can deal with this. Enabling your wife and letting her continue on isn't doing anything for you, your marriage or your family so you need to step up and set boundaries for your wife.
Many think of separation as precursor to divorce but I think it can save a marriage. IMO it's like turning a burner down on a boiling pot of water. If the pot boils over then all you have is a mess and someone can be badly burned. If you take the pot off the burner or turn the temperature down you can salvage things. Separation is like this. I would consider doing this.
You can't leave her with those kids because at best she'll neglect them and at worse, you'll lose them because it's only a matter of time she'll screw up and Social Services will get involved. Trust me on this.
I don't know how old they are but her being in custody of them is a recipe for disaster so that means you are going to have to figure out a way to take care of both yourself and those kids so your wife can eventually take care of her problems, but it doesn't sound like she wants to or is ready to start doing that YET. Separation might be the shove in the right direction that she needs.
That said, you need to seriously start to consider your options, whether it means enlisting family or getting help in with regards to your kids unless they are old enough to help you. I was lucky in that my kids are old enough to take care of themselves in many ways so it wasn't the burden it would've been 10 years earlier.
Your wife needs to get help but she won't do it until she feels she has something to do it FOR. Right now she's just hoping you will join her on her path to misery.
You need to take your own path, for yourself and your kids. You need to be the person you were 12 years ago. It won't be easy but it's the only way to make things right again.
BTW, I know LOTS of people who don't drink. One of my good friends is on a medication that won't allow him to and he regularly comes to events, dinners and parties with us and has a great time. I've had other friends who just don't like alcohol and it's never a problem.
I will admit that before my husband starting drinking heavily I really enjoyed going out and to bars and drinking with him and for awhile he was a LOT of fun when he was drinking but when he crossed that line and became abusive and mean that all faded. Now all I remember is a horrible person that I wouldn't want back.