Dear Carolyn: I just told my husband I want a divorce. When he drinks, his personality changes — mostly he's just annoying, but a few times a year he's extraordinarily cruel. (Never violent.) The last time it happened, I told him there were no more second chances.

He's trying to be on his best behavior, but he's still drinking and I know it's only a matter of time before it happens again. It's been like this for 15 years.

Last night he kept pestering me playfully when I was trying to sleep and I just decided I was done.

I'm shattered. When he's not drinking, he's my best friend. None of our friends are going to understand. How do I get through this?

— What Have I Done?

What Have I Done?: I’m so sorry.

Don’t look further into the future than you’re ready to, especially if you’re struggling just to stay upright in this moment. Work on getting to the next moment, then the next, then the next, until you feel able to manage more than that.

Please get some help, too. Al-Anon has the lowest barrier to entry, since it’s free and available just about everywhere, including online ( — so you can try a meeting while you also look around for a good therapist with experience dealing with substance abuse issues. Maybe you’ll find that the group support is enough for you, too.

I realize your friends’ surprise will feel like a tacit obligation to explain yourself, but allow me to say out loud, you don’t need to explain. Not until you’re ready and not to anyone you don’t want to know.

Again, I’m sorry. I hope he gets the help he needs.

Readers’ thoughts:

●Good for you. Your “best friend” can be your friend and spouse again when he gets sober. You deserve better than even rare cruelty.

●For those friends who don’t understand, all you have to say is that you have your reasons. No one knows the inner chamber of a marriage other than the two people who are in it, so whatever they may see is just a fraction of the story.

●Please remember you don’t have to justify your choice to anyone — not your friends, or family, or anyone who might argue with you. Find your own way to say, “I reached my limit,” and stick with it. If you can find a way to say, “Thanks for your thoughts — the support I need right now is X,” then more power to you.

●If you really are shattered and don’t want to go through with this, seek excellent marriage counseling and substance abuse treatment. For me, the only way I can be at peace with divorce is knowing I tried everything. Your feelings might be different, but seeing whether there is something salvageable might be worth it.

●Coming up on 17 years of sobriety. I am having a really terrible week and have had an awful couple of years. But sharing that makes me feel better. I got something right today — didn’t drink.

Well done and well said, thank you. CH

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