Ian and Esther talk about the impact of addiction on their relationship

When Ian knew Ian, he hardly drank alcohol. But during their marriage, he started drinking more and more and became addicted. His addiction takes a huge toll on Ian and Esther’s relationship. They talk about it openly: “It really is a miracle that our relationship survived.”

“We met at a packing process in Ghent,” says Esther. “We fell in love, but you weren’t allowed to have a relationship there, so we kept it a secret. We were even caught by our team leader. We weren’t kicked out, but we weren’t allowed to live in the same house anymore. Then we could publicly admit our relationship.”


A few years after Ian and Esther got married in the Netherlands, they are 21 and 24 years old, respectively. In England, where Ian is from, they celebrate a wedding in his town. The couple are well together. The only thing that bothers Esther is that Ian keeps getting drunk during the English weddings. “I found this very strange,” she says, “because he usually doesn’t drink much or anything. I thought that was annoying at the time, but such a wedding was only once every two years. So I associated this with England and not with everyday life.”

However, alcohol plays an increasingly important role in Ian’s life. Ian recalls: “It started with more drinking at parties, but gradually moved from partying to drinking alone. It really started after my mother died. She died suddenly in 2004 at the age of 61. That was a really big blow, I had a very good relationship with my mother.”

I didn’t drink to anesthetize, but just to feel something

Ian says he has trouble with his emotions. “I’m immersed in my feelings, I have to make a lot of effort to get to my feelings, only anger is easy. I was so glad that I felt something when I drank. So I didn’t drink to be numb, but just to feel something. I couldn’t cry until I had a drink.”

“I was so loving at first when I found him crying,” Esther says. “Even at one point, I related to the fact that he was always drinking. Once I was disgusted when I saw him like that.”

Ian’s alcohol consumption increases and Esther tries to save Ian. I just wanted him to stop drinking alcohol. And it was my duty to make sure of that. For example, I would put lines on the bottle to keep an eye on her.”

Consequences of addiction on the relationship

Ian’s alcoholism takes a heavy toll on their relationship. Esther: “My trust was so betrayed. My basic sense of security was gone, and I didn’t respect him anymore. One minute he was the fun boyfriend, the perfect son-in-law, the fun dad on the football field, the talented guitarist. The next minute he was drunk in the room. He didn’t come back.” There is no intimacy anymore, because I don’t respect him anymore.” Ian: “I was supposed to be Esther’s partner, but it was more like Esther was single with three kids instead of two.”

Esther talks about the nadir of Ian’s addiction: “Ian was lying on the upstairs landing and our five-year-old daughter stepped over him and said, ‘Daddy is precious again,’ as if it was completely normal. That was really the low point for me. I felt In great despair, because I could not protect the children from this. It is the last straw for Esther and she gives Ian an ultimatum.

I thought I could just stop

Ian: “I had no idea how big of a problem it was. As people around me saw it, even people who were a little further away from me. I thought I could stop like this. I could only drink on weekends, so I could buy a non-alcoholic beer in Home. I have already come up with many intermediate solutions, but none of them work.

Ian is a guitarist and worship leader at the church. “As an alcoholic, I used to lead worship in our church. Perspective: no one perfect. My cry to God sounded like a cry to a closed sky, a roof. I would say we prayed and I felt God’s warmth and then I was healed. Unfortunately, this is not the case.”


After Esther’s ultimatum, Ian chooses to go to rehab. The clinic was a very safe environment. I stayed there for seven weeks. I was so excited to leave the clinic again. There is no alcohol in the clinic, so there is no temptation. In normal life everywhere. When I got home, I clung to my AA meetings, I went to a meeting five times a week at first.”

Then, Esther has to learn to trust Ian again: “I knew that eighty percent of addicts relapse in the first year, so I watched Ian closely. He was constantly looking at him for signs of a relapse.”

Ian: “I’ve been clean for eleven years now, but I’m an alcoholic. I’m very careful about calling myself an ex or an alcoholic. I just don’t drink anymore.”

so i trust

When asked how they got their confidence back, Ian replied: “We’re still working on it.” Esther adds: “Ian is now drinking non-alcoholic beer again after eleven years. When he suddenly asked for it on my birthday recently, I was shocked. I thought: here we go again, can’t you discuss that? I know in my heart that he will not relapse, but I am an addiction expert so I know the numbers. It scares me sometimes.”

It is truly a miracle that our relationship has survived

Eighty percent of couples never get back together after this violent addiction, so our survival is truly a miracle. But we still have couples therapy. We are soul mates, we love each other very much. Even though we still struggle sometimes, we know we really belong together.”

You can hear the full story of Ian and Esther and how their relationship survived on the Hart vs. Hart podcast. Listen to the episode below.

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