ADHD or problem with alcohol?

I am a non-ADHDer married to an ADHD spouse. I'm having trouble telling if he has developed a problem with alcohol, if he is just displaying his ADHD in a somewhat new way, or if I am just overly sensitive. Let me note here that I do not have a problem with having a glass of wine (or even two) or beer at dinner in theory, though I myself don't enjoy alcohol, so I rarely drink it. I do have a problem with drunkenness (as in, I find it bothersome to be around people who drink a lot in one sitting).  So as you read this, keep in mind that I am pretty much a nondrinker who is not opposed to drinking but doesn't enjoy being around heavy drinkers -- this aspect of my personality may play into how I am reading my husband's behavior, and I need to know if the problem is me.

My husband has always had drinks, and occasionally, though not often, too many. I've thought him a bit obnoxious when he was drunk, but it wasn't a big problem for us until the past few years. He has gotten to know a crowd of people who are more party people, and while his behavior doesn't check out as "alcoholic" according to what I can find on the web (it doesn't interfere with work, and I don't notice him having six or more drinks a night, though maybe I'm not always with him when he drinks, and I don't think he tries to hide when he drinks, for instance), some of it is really disturbing me. He seems to drink more in social situations than he used to. We went on a date at a German festival on Saturday night, and he asked if I had any money because he forgot to stop at the ATM. I said all I had was $26, so exchanged $20 of that for tokens, which were to provide us with food and beverage money. He immediately got a $5 beer, drank that, then said he was going back for another. At that point, I asserted myself and mentioned the need for food, so I was able to get some food before he downed his second beer (without yet eating anything himself). He then got a mulled wine, then exchanged about $15 I didn't know he had for more tokens, so that he could get some food (and give me some more, since what I got was pretty unsatisfying), and then he got an after-dinner liquer. That was it, so only four drinks, but until he produced the extra money he had, it felt like he was drinking all of our food money. We go to sci fi cons, and long after I am in bed, he stays out late with friends or people he meets, drinking until he sometimes reeks and coming back to the room between 3 and 5 a.m. Our church has a pig roast, and he helps with that, and he's said he enjoys it, but it would be better if alcohol were involved. Sometimes at home, when he watched TV alone, he'll mix himself a little Southern Comfort and Coke to watch TV by (so, yes, he drinks alone, though that actually doesn't worry me too much -- but I thought I should mention it). I don't think he does it every night, but I'm not sure. I think it is just one drink, but again, I'm not sure. I know he does it, but I don't monitor how much or how often. But here's the thing that really worries me: he's really gotten into Scotch, and he has purchased flask. If we go to an event where his scotch-drinking friends will be (even a movie, though not often a movie -- more often an outdoor event) or where he thinks he MIGHT meet someone who would appreciate some scotch, he will sneak his flask in. I tend to be very rule-abiding, so it really bothers me that he is sneaking scotch in in a flask like this. Frankly, I don't understand the obsession -- when we go out to dinner, he doesn't always have alcohol (so, again, maybe the problem is me), but he will get into things like the German event where he has to try different beverages and go back and have some, and he really gets into drinking with friends, and he just has to bring his scotch different places. I think it might be an odd hyper-focus on alcohol, not actual alcoholism, and again, it might be me. Can anyone please tell me what they think of this behavior?

I'm also a nondrinker, so

I'm also a nondrinker, so definitely not an expert on alcohol-related behavior.  But one thing in your post that does strike a chord with me is your husband's behavior of sneaking the alcohol into various places.  One thing that I've noticed with my ADHD spouse is that he has a much "looser" relationship with rules than I do.  Taxes?  It's OK to cheat.  Bills?  It's OK to ignore them.  Speed limits?  Everyone violates them; or he was just going fast for a little while.  I wouldn't necessarily think this is ADHD behavior but some other people on this forum have commented that their spouses or partners do similar things so maybe it is related to ADHD.

I can only speak for myself...

... But that doesn't sound like alcoholism to me. I'm an alcoholic. Sober for almost 11 years.

Have you asked him to stop bringing the flask out to places where it's not permitted? If you've asked him not to and he keeps doing it, that might indicate a problem in the beginning stages- because a hallmark of alcoholism is continuing to drink despite negative consequences. But it sounds like he's not a binge drinker, nor does he drink every day. He keeps his job, has a life and hobbies, doesn't do terrible things... Coming home at 3-5 am a few times a year is not a big deal (to me).

anyway- I think it sounds like he's hyper focusing on scotch and his flask and stuff as a new hobby- but it doesn't sound like an addiction or a substance abuse issue- yet. That doesn't mean it can't progress that way- so keep an eye on it.

also- just want to say that I have adhd and am a major rule-follower. I don't think all adhd people ignore the rules- that's more of an individual thing... But I'm also not afraid to break the rules on principle. Stupid rules are meant to be broken- it's called peaceful protest!

good luck!


Thanks for the responses

I particularly enjoyed hearing from a recovering alcoholic with ADHD. I don't know if I've out and out said, "Look, honey, I really don't want you to sneak in the flask," but I have expressed concern, which he's shrugged off (and that's pretty typical of his behavior toward me, I hate to say -- I am, in his mind, too uptight about things). The day after I posted this, he went out for lunch with friends and turned that into a scotch-buying and tasting event afterwards, so he does seem to be obsessed with scotch right now. I will see this as ADHD behavior, but if his drinking really starts to rachet up so that it is affecting things like his work or our finances, I guess I'll have to look into the best way to handle that -- tell him of my concern, I'm sure, but if he shrugs it off, I may need to walk away. I'm very committed to this marriage, but I know there could be points where I need to walk, and a refusal to deal with an alcohol problem, if it really became that, would be one. Abuse, refusal to deal with an addiction, an affair he wouldn't break off -- those are the places where I have determined to draw the line.


I do know that my STBX with ADHD would go through cycles of being obsessed with things. A range of things, from mechanical things to stereos and speakers to certain pets, to cars, to alcohol like good scotch for a while. He would join groups online, talk about them with his friends, and learn everything he could about them. Then leave it in a pile (he stopped taking care of his dog after we were married for a while, and that fell to me because the poor guy was so despondent that he wasn't being walked a lot and played with any more). I assume this could be part of ADHD or a host of things. 

I am not sure about the alcohol and when it moves from enjoyment to a greater use than you would partake of yourself, to abuse to alcoholism. I know many people use it to self-medicate but there are also just folks who drink more than others. I hope that you can have a heart to heart talk with him and possibly do some research? 

Best of luck to you.