I need time off work because of my husband’s alcoholism, boss doesn’t pay freelancers on time, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I need time off work because of my husband’s alcoholism

My husband is a severe alcoholic, something he has been “dealing with” for 4+ years. He used to be the best spouse and then something happened when he lost a job he had been in for over a decade that changed him. He is highly employable and found a job in the same capacity fairly quickly, but his addiction and behavior have worsened. I’ve tried getting him help and he doesn’t accept it. I’m at my wits end.

Since the pandemic, I’ve been working from home and because he has a different work schedule, I have experienced his before-work behavior, which involves him getting “a little” intoxicated. Yesterday he hit an all-time low, where he called off from work to drink and basically ruin my work day. Right before a presentation to my team, I found out he had consumed all of the bottles of alcohol and then resorted to drinking rubbing alcohol, which infuriated me and ruined the delivery of my presentation. I wanted to cry the entire time.

I am trying to get him help, which will require me to take a couple days off work, so my question to you is if I should let my boss know what is going on at home. I tend to keep my personal life separate, but my personal life is interfering with my career right now and I am afraid of the possible consequences of this.

I’m so sorry. You don’t need to give your boss the details; it’s enough just to say you have a personal emergency you need to deal with, or your husband is having a health emergency. If you’re asked what’s going on (some people will ask not to pry but out of concern about whether you’re okay), you still don’t need to give details — you can say, “I’m okay. I just need a few days to deal with it, and I’m hopeful that’ll get things on the right track.”

Good luck to both of you.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My boss doesn’t pay freelancers on time

I manage a team of freelance writers for an industry website. We’re a start-up and have a few full-time employees and a couple dozen freelancers. In the best of times, our finances are tight; with COVID, I know our ability to run payroll depends on sponsors paying on time (which doesn’t always happen).

My boss (the CEO/founder) has always tended to run payroll for freelancers later than what I would consider acceptable (90 days), and with COVID, we haven’t yet paid out for pieces that were invoiced for the beginning of the year. I’m incredibly uncomfortable with this, but I can’t run payroll myself and I don’t have eyes on every aspect of our finances. I’ve talked to my boss about this several times and for various reasons, freelancer payroll has been delayed as our own financial circumstances have changed. I’ve already started assigning fewer pieces than I would normally. I direct all questions from writers about payroll straight to my boss, since he has more insight into timing than I do (and he’s said it’s fine for me to connect him directly with writers), so they have a direct line of communication with my boss. What other agency do I have here, aside from continuing to talk to my boss and asking for updates? I feel so uncomfortable with this.

90 days in the best of times? That’s … not good. And now the company still hasn’t paid for pieces from the beginning of the year, so up to seven months?

Would you be willing to tell your boss you’re not comfortable continuing to assign new pieces when pieces from seven months ago haven’t been paid yet? Ideally you’d sit down with him and say something like, “We can’t keep assigning out new work when we haven’t paid for work from months ago. Can we put a hold on new assignments until we’re caught up and can meet our promises to writers about when they’ll receive payment?” And, if necessary, “I’m not comfortable assigning work knowing we probably won’t be able to pay for it in the timeframe people expect. If we can’t stop assigning new work until we’re caught up, I want to be up-front with freelancers about the payment timeline before they accept a new assignment.” (You can also just do that last part on your own if you want to.)

You could also point out to your boss that when word about this kind of thing gets around, your best writers will stop working for you, and it can take years to rebuild a good reputation with freelancers after that.

3. My toxic company wants my help four years after I left

I escaped from a very toxic work environment four years ago. Among my other duties, I was in charge of company social media profiles, as well as a few groups for industry professionals. Before I left, the company chose to delete some of the profiles, but two of the groups were left under my name. I tried to get them to transfer ownership of the groups several times, but no one ever did.

I left the groups alone for more than three years and just ignored the infrequent notifications I would receive when people asked to join. Throughout this time, the groups were completely inactive (no new posts by members), and no one ever reached out to me to take ownership back. It seems that all the digital assets I had built for them while I was there (several websites, training repositories, etc.) were left to rot, so I figured these groups were also abandoned.

A few months ago, I got fed up with the notifications and deleted the groups. Of course, today I received a message from a former coworker asking me to transfer the groups to him.

It’s been FOUR YEARS since I’ve been employed at that company, and I tried really hard to get them to take these things out from under my name. Because they are so toxic, I’m scared to respond to them — I cannot understate how abusive and awful my last months at that company were. I had PTSD symptoms for six months after leaving. I don’t know what to say, or if I should even respond to them at all. What should I do?

Ignore it. Delete their email and move on. It’s been four years! You tried many times to contact them about this and they ignored you. You are under no obligation to respond to them four years later. For all they know, that email address might not even be active for you anymore, or you check it once a year, or you’ve gone off the grid and make your home in the forest now.

This wouldn’t be my advice if it had only been, say, five months. You do need to give former employers a grace period to get it together after you leave and to realize what they might still need from you. You shouldn’t do something permanent like deleting groups within a few months of leaving, even if they appear to be defunct.

But four years?! Four years! Ignore the email, consider blocking emails from their domain, and don’t give it another thought.

4. Should I reply to candidates’s post-interview thank-you emails?

When a candidate I’ve interviewed sends a thank-you email, is that something that I need to (or should) respond to? I wouldn’t normally reply to a “thanks” email, like a reply from one of my employees for sending them something, because everyone already gets enough email. On the other hand, any time someone says “thank you” to me in person, I would respond with “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure.” I promise to follow your guidance on this issue whichever way you recommend.

It’s optional. You don’t need to, and many employers don’t.  The etiquette is still similar to the etiquette for other thank-you’s; if someone sends a thank-you note for a gift, you’re not expected to then send them a thank-you for their thanks. While post-interview thank-you notes aren’t really thank-you notes (or at least they shouldn’t be when done well), the protocol is still similar.

However, if you have the time to reply, it’s a kind and gracious gesture. And if it’s a candidate you’re wooing, I’d put more of a priority on responding since you want them to continue to feel connected and excited about the job. And if someone took the time to write a thoughtful, substantive note that truly built on the conversation you had in the interview, I’d acknowledge that too. It doesn’t need to be much — just something like, “It was great meeting you as well, and we’ll be in touch soon.”

5. Applying for a job when I have mutual connections with the hiring manager

I’m looking for some advice on how to navigate networking for a posted job when I have some connection to the hiring manager. In my current situation, I’ve spotted a position that I think I’m a good match for and it looks like a second degree connection from LinkedIn is on the hiring committee. We have 14 mutual connections and many of them have worked with both of us — the hiring manager used to work at my company so we know a lot of the same people. I’m wondering about the etiquette for leveraging this connection. After I apply, is it worth either reaching out to her to let her know I applied, or asking a mutual connection to put in a word, or is that too pushy and I should wait for an interview first?

Since you have mutual connections, the stronger move is to have one of them email the hiring manager and say something like, “I wanted to let you know my colleague Tangerina Stewpot has applied for your X position, and I think she could be great for the role because of XYZ.” (But just have one person do this! If comes from a bunch of people, it looks like an orchestrated campaign and can be annoying.)

{ 359 comments… read them below }

    1. valentine*

      call your EAP
      Good call.

      And consider living separately for the duration, both so your home can be your sanctuary and to reduce his impact on your job, especially if it’s now the main financial support for both of you.

      1. Alice*

        But first, call your divorce lawyer. Maybe he gets help, but protect yourself in meantime.
        I’m a divorce lawyer, and I have been to this particular rodeo quite frequently.

        1. Alice*

          Sorry – I immediately shifted to objective business mode.
          On a personal note: I’m sorry. This is increasingly tragic for everyone involved.
          Take care of yourself.

        2. Batgirl*

          I think this is such good advice. People always underestimate how reassuring taking care of the practicalities can be during a period of uncertainty. The words ‘divorce lawyer’ are scary, but once you’ve got over that hump, you’ve got a wealth of advice and experience.

          1. Beatrice*

            Yep, even if you don’t do anything with the info. I spent $250 on a consultation with a divorce lawyer a few years ago during a rough patch. It helped me know what to do to protect myself. I used some of the info to set some healthier financial boundaries.

            (Also, this was important to me – I chose a lawyer known for being pretty cutthroat when it came to child custody. I had several friends either use him or face him from the opposite side in court, he was pretty notorious. I didn’t consult with him because I necessarily wanted to retain his services further, but because I didn’t want him representing my husband, if it came down to that. One small thing that gave me a little more peace of mind.)

        3. Granger Chase*

          If you have had a spouse with worsening alcoholism for 4+ years, I think it would be in your best interests to look into your legal options in order to protect yourself, especially financially.

          1. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

            This. OP #1, please protect your financial assets. I know that’s not your focus right now, and who knows, it might be totally unnecessary. But far, far better to be safe than sorry.

        4. Harper the Other One*

          Yes, as hard as it is to do this, make sure this is one of the steps you take. You need to know how to protect your financial security.

        5. CupcakeCounter*

          It also might be eye opening for the husband. My husband’s family has history of alcoholism and I see lots of signs in a couple of his family members. The only thing that helped one person was their daughter moving and and telling them she didn’t feel safe – really shocked them into realizing that they weren’t “handling it”.

          1. Crivens!*

            Yup. I’m an alcoholic. My husband and I were a couple when I was still actively drinking and he broke up with me over it (which is totally fair, I was objectively impossible to be with), though we remained friends. The relationship ending is a huge part of what got me to stop.

            Now I’ve got almost five years and we’ve been married for a little over one!

            LW, it may feel like it’s wrong to get started looking at your legal options or to even consider leaving him since he’s sick. It’s not.

            1. Caroline Bowman*

              This is amazing, well done to you for managing to really get on top of things and to him for being brave enough to call time and really mean it and enforce a necessary boundary, even though he clearly loved and was terrified for you.

              May your marriage and relationship always be happy and smooth after this and your recovery take you through many more decades of fun and good things.

            2. Data Nerd*

              Congratulations on your sobriety, Crivens! One day at a time, I know, but that’s still a huge accomplishment.
              OP1, yes, definitely call your EAP. It may also be useful for you to explore your legal options as well, and to consider living separately at this time if that’s an option for you. I wish I had better advice for you–one of my direct reports is going through a similar situation with her spouse, and other than that she has my support, I didn’t know what to tell her either. Please take care of yourself.

            3. Altair*

              Double congratulations! Thank you for telling the LW and all of us about your struggle and continuing success, and I wish you many more years of succeeding one day at a time.

          2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            And from the opposite side: I’m currently in a relationship with an alcoholic who has no interest in sobriety, and I have no interest in trying to compel them to get sober. This is *only* possible because we’re not married, not financially entangled. It’s possible to accept their freedom to tank their own life because they don’t have the power to tank mine.

            So if recovery isn’t in the cards for your husband, right now or ever, you need to take other steps.

        6. EPLawyer*

          Fellow Divorce Lawyer — same thought.

          OP your husband has refused help before. Unless he has asked you to get him help, anything you do he will continue to refuse. Taking time off YOUR job to get him help in the hopes THIS time he will do it is just banging your head on the wall.

          The only person who can help your husband is your husband. You can’t change him. You can only change your reaction to his behavior. He’s not doing his part in protecting the family. So you have to do it — by getting away from the harm.

          Moving out might not be an option for …. reasons. But you need to do something, even if it is just closing the door while you are working so you don’t see the behavior. Call Al-Anon, they have resources for those dealing with a loved one who is an alcoholic. THEN call the divorce lawyer to find out your options in your state.

        7. Scarlet*

          Ok but OP is not asking for relationship advice here and quite frankly there is a big difference between “try to protect yourself from the stress” or “call your EAP” and


          This is inappropriate and overreaching. I’m sure OP knows her relationship much better than we all do. She came here for work advice, not weigh-ins on her relationship with her own husband

          1. A Simple Narwhal*

            I don’t think it was inappropriate advice. They’re not telling the LW to immediately leave their husband, or to actually divorce them. They’re just suggesting they explore their legal options and to look into ways to protect themselves – this is good advice, and totally appropriate to suggest.

          2. Leah K*

            “Call a divorce lawyer” is the best work advice she is going to get. His alcoholism is impacting her ability to do her job. She cannot maintain her composure at work because of him already. Things will only get worse. He hasn’t hit rock bottom yet.

            1. Scarlet*

              “He hasn’t hit rock bottom yet.”

              How were you able to acertain that from the small peek into OP’s life they provided? I mean really these comments are ridiculous, ya’ll think you know OP’s situation better than she does.

              1. Observer*

                Maybe he has and maybe he hasn’t, but it doesn’t really matter. What he has NOT yet done is to do anything that can improve his situation. We ALSO know that this is already affecting her job.

                So, she needs to look at all aspects of protecting herself and keeping the impact as low as possible. That unfortunately includes a chat with a good divorce lawyer.

                1. Scarlet*

                  “What he has NOT yet done is to do anything that can improve his situation.”

                  Um, you have no idea. I think you’re making some serious assumptions you need to check.

                2. Anonapots*

                  @Scarlet I think you’re overlooking what the OP said in their letter. All the advice here is to take care of the OP in her job because right now her personal life is adversely affecting it. And to ignore the way these things overlap would be a disservice to them.

                  I don’t know if you’ve dealt with addiction either personally or with someone you love, but all of this advice is good and none of it is overreaching.

                3. Observer*

                  @Scarlet We actually do know that. We don’t know what he has tried, but we know that nothing has helped the situation in a significant way. Otherwise he would not have been calling off work and drinking rubbing alcohol.

                4. BTDTGTTS!*

                  Dear LW1,

                  Look after yourself too – it’s been 4 years with no progress – get help for yourself. Whether it’s through AA or a similar service, you hopefully should be able to find a team that support the spouse / family of an alcoholic. They can give you good non-judgemental advice and some coping strategies.

                  Also, start building a rainy day fund and possibly also quietly disentangling yourself financially from your husband (as much as possible).

                  Good luck and sending a virtual supportive hug

              2. somanyquestions*

                He’s not changing, that’s how they know. I have been in the LW’s situation and you are not being helpful, you are just judging other’s help.

                1. Scarlet*

                  I’ve been in the situation too, and the last thing OP needs is your judgement on what direction she should take in this situation. You have no idea anything about her situation; stop projecting.

              3. Pennalynn Lott*

                I can’t think of a single adverse situation I’ve been in where a consultation with a lawyer who specializes in that situation would be a bad idea.

                I’ve talked to maybe a dozen lawyers over my lifetime (I’m 53) and none of those consultations ended in me suing someone or divorcing them. But I gained a ton of helpful information.

                And since the OP’s husband has resorted to drinking rubbing alcohol (!!) the prospect of him accidentally killing himself is not out of the realm of possibilities. A divorce attorney can also advise the OP on how to set up finances now to lessen the financial impact in case he dies.

                I’m still flabbergasted as to how seeking advice from professionals is a horrible idea.

                1. Wintermute*

                  This, right here: our legal system is really complicated, and getting advice doesn’t obligate you to any specific course of action. There are a LOT of potentially hidden landmines out there that would not be obvious if someone was just following their own know-best without talking to an expert.

                  Talking to someone that deals with these situations regularly can help you be aware of all your options and any potential pitfalls that could accidentally end up with you incurring legal liability or even breaking the law without realizing it as you try to deal with all the various things going on that are part of this situation.

              4. Alcoholic's Ex-wife*

                You know what?! She can IGNORE THE (EXCELLENT, IMPORTANT, VALUABLE) ADVICE given here. Almost everyone saying she should consult an attorney isn’t an IMPERATIVE. I can tell you not to walk out in front of that eighteen-wheeler — but you can still DO whatever you want….

          3. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

            Not inappropriate or overreaching. Personal and work are overlapping here.

          4. Natalie*

            Someone has suggested moving out of their shared home/workspace for both work and personal reasons. Believe it or not, moving out of a marital home can cause problems for the LW if they divorce later, hence the replies suggesting they speak with a divorce lawyer *first*. That’s more legal advice than relationship advice and it’s not at all the same thing as advising someone to get divorced out of nowhere.

            1. EPLawyer*

              Many many times on this blog someone has posted a work problem like My Spouse Called My Boss and Said I Can’t Work Overtime How Do I Fix this with My Boss? The comments were not work related even though that is what the person wrote in about. We all say this is not a work problem, its a relationship problem.

              Same here, the OP wants to know how to ask for time off from the boss to deal with this specific thing that happened. But the real underlying problem, which taking time off will not necessarily resolve, could leave to further work problems down the road. So we are addressing the underlying problem — her husband’s alcoholism.

              Alison does not require us to only address what the actual problem is in the letter. As long as it doesn’t derail too much she lets us address the bigger picture problem.

              1. Scarlet*

                BIG difference between “set boundaries with your spouse so this doesn’t affect your work” and “get a divorce”. It’s so insulting I wondering if ya’ll even think about how much OP probably gets that from family/friend/literally everyone in her personal life.

                She came here for WORK advice. Let’s stick to it. “get a divorce” does not qualify. It just doesn’t.

                1. Natalie*

                  Recommending someone speak to a divorce lawyer before taking certain actions like moving out is not the same thing as recommending they get divorced.

                2. Amtelope*

                  As people have repeatedly explained, “talk to a divorce lawyer” is not “get a divorce.” It’s “consider how actions you may need to take to preserve your job, like moving out of your shared home, might impact you in a future divorce.” It’s not “insulting” to point out that divorce law is complicated and that talking to a divorce lawyer early on, at the point where you’re not sure you want a divorce BUT there’s a big obvious problem (like, your spouse is an actively drinking alcoholic who drinks rubbing alcohol while you’re on work calls) that might reasonably lead to divorce, can help protect you if divorce does happen.

                3. Darsynia*

                  Neither one of the divorce lawyers that posted here said “get a divorce.” With respect, I feel like you are seeing the word ‘divorce’ and seeing it as an escalation, but I urge you to read that as the title of the kind of lawyer that will help OP with advice. It reminds me a little bit of medical terms which read as psychologically damaging but are actually just the name of a physical process (spontaneous abortion). The word ‘divorce’ brings up a lot of emotions, but from what I understand those two lawyers posts to mean, it’s simply “please consult someone in our profession to help you navigate protecting yourself in this difficult time.” ‘Protecting yourself’ does not mean “go out and get a divorce right now,” it means that there are certain actions that will help her and others that can hurt, later on, and knowing the difference will give her confidence to help her husband without that weight dragging her down.

                4. Works in IT*

                  Yes, “talk to a divorce lawyer” is just one of the things the OP should do. For all we (or OP) know, if OP arranges help for the husband, the husband’s condition will continue to deteriorate, and now the OP is the enemy who is forcing him to get help he doesn’t want. I dearly hope that is not the case, and that the OP taking time off work to stage an intervention in their husband’s life will have the desired result. But that’s not certain, and taking steps to ensure hey, if I do this and it doesn’t work, will I have a backup plan, is only sensible. The best backup plans are the ones that are never needed.

                5. Not A Manager*

                  “Talk to a divorce lawyer” ≠ “get a divorce” just like “call a contractor” ≠ “tear down the whole house”

                6. EPLawyer*

                  As a divorce lawyer, I do not tell people get a divorce now. I tell them their options and let them know they get to choose which option they take. Even if it is stick it out and see what happens. But knowing their options to PROTECT THEMSELVES is very important. Hubby is not interested in protecting her right now. She needs to know what realistically her option are — including knowing that she can’t fix her husband.

                7. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I recommend that people speak to a lawyer that specializes in the area of law affecting them all the time. It does not mean that I am recommending that they write a will, set up a trust, get a divorce, ask for an IRS audit, etc. – it just means that the situation has factors about which it would be helpful to know their legals rights and options and that they should have as much information as they can to figure out what to do – and factors that are beyond what the average lay person can effectively handle.

                  A substantial portion of attorney time is spent in consultation that never results in the filing of a case or any legal action, and suggesting that someone in as tough a situation as OP#1 speak to one isn’t the same as yelling DTMFA.

                8. Middle School Teacher*

                  I notice you have no issue with people recommending al-anon, which is also not work advice?

                9. Batgirl*

                  You can consult a divorce lawyer without getting a divorce! It’s simply a good way for a working person to protect housing and finances. No one is telling OP (or you) to divorce.

              2. Uranus Wars*

                Yes! And earlier this week the woman who wrote in about her sexist boss was met with advice to seek legal council. Not to sue the company immediately, but to make sure she had what she needed to make sure she was protected. Same with the advice here to speak with a lawyer – not to take action, but to get her situation straight now so that if things don’t work out she will be ok later.

                1. Scarlet*

                  I mean… obviously giving someone advice on how to address an issue with their boss by seeking legal council is like, extremely different than recommending divorce lawyers because their spouse is an alcoholic???

                2. Pennalynn Lott*

                  Scarlet — Did you miss the part where he drank rubbing alcohol? He’s at the stage where he could accidentally kill himself. My mom was an active alcoholic for 25 years and yet she never once got that desperate, even though she, too, called out of work either to get drunk or because she’d had too much the night before. She has been sober since 1981 and is very active in the AA and Al-Anon community. I guarantee you that she’d advise any of her sponsees to talk to a divorce lawyer if their spouse’s drinking was so out of control that they were getting drunk in the morning, calling out of work because they’d rather drink, and then *drinking rubbing alcohol* when the booze ran out. And at no point would she tell them to get a divorce or suggest that the only solution is divorce. She would simply want to arm them with info and options.

                  As one of the divorce lawyers upthread noted, they’ve been to the active-alcoholic-spouse rodeo quite frequently. They have a lot more knowledge, info, and sources than the OP does, including non-divorce options.

                  It’s no different than a spot showing up on a chest x-ray so you go see an oncologist. Maybe it’s cancer, maybe it’s not, but it’s best to talk to a specialist about it, to gain as much knowledge as possible about your situation and to look at different options to choose from (and to understand the consequences of each one of those choices).

                  OP is in a scary and difficult situation. She should cast a wide net for support and info.

            2. Jojo*

              She still needs to talk to a lawyer. About legal liability. If hubs drives a car with her name on it drunk and injures or kills someone, she can be ruined finacally and lose her home plus her job if they do credit reviews like mine does every 10byears.

            3. Wintermute*

              Excellent point. The reason you talk to a lawyer is because following your own gut instinct about a legal matter can end up with you opening yourself up to legal liability or even breaking the law.

          5. Artemesia*

            Whether she goes ahead with a divorce or not, she needs legal advice to protect herself. One of the most common outcomes of marriage to an alcoholic who has no intention of helping himself is financial ruin. She needs legal advice and to know what her situation would be if she proceeded to divorce.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              This. I had a roommate literally drink himself to death. He spent 90% of his savings (from a big severance payout) on booze, and there was only enough money let to cremate him.

          6. IANAL*

            I think people are misunderstanding what “divorce lawyers” do. They really should be called martial lawyers or something like that as they can set up a lot of different protections like pre-nups, co-hab agreements etc.

            They are also well vested in martial assets and can give OP excellent advice about how she can protect herself legally and financially. This doesn’t mean divorce, but she does need to take steps to protect her financial well-being if he’s at the point of drinking rubbing alcohol.

            Yes, this is a bit out of scope for AAM, but she is asking for help right now, and she may think that divorce lawyers are only useful in cases of actual divorce, which is not true.

            1. Malarkey01*

              I think of consult a divorce lawyer in this context in the same way as I consult with HR before proceeding with a difficult employee over performance plans. It doesn’t mean I’m going to fire the employee, I’m consulting in case it eventually moves that direction. So none of my actions today cause unintentional roadblocks later.

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                Yes, exactly. Or like you would ask your doctor about a funny-looking mole. Likely, it’s not cancer. But it’s good to get an expert opinion and find out what your options are.

            2. EPLawyer*

              I actually usually call myself a family law attorney. But in this instance, divorce seemed the easiest to understand the concept. because yes there are people who hear family law and think I am a personal attorney for a family. Yeah no, I don’t want to be tht involved with any family but my own.

              I also say that another term for attorney is counselor. In family law that is so true. You do a lot of hand holding and advising, more than typical attorney stuff.

          7. JoAnna*

            If it makes you feel better, change “divorce lawyer“ to “family law” lawyer in your head. Same thing. But everyone’s right, talking to a lawyer is a good idea; the OP needs to know how to best protect herself legally as she is navigating this situation.

            1. jenkins*

              Not least because some other possible advice – like leaving the family home so she can focus on work – could have knock-on effects in the event of a divorce, and it would be best for LW to have that information.

          8. kt*

            I think it is important and useful for people to realize that consulting with a lawyer during these types of difficult times can yield many benefits even if you never use their services further.

            If you are a landlord and have a difficult tenant, knowing your rights and theirs can help you deal gracefully and effectively with the situation, without litigating.

            If you have an employee or a boss who is creating what you feel might be a hostile work environment, consulting with a lawyer can help you understand to what extent this is correct, what actions you can take to protect yourself, what actions you can take to deal with them, and what documents or evidence you need to have on hand, even without bringing legal action.

            And similarly, if you are in a serious and difficult situation with a spouse, knowing the rules of your community regarding property and custody can help you have the documents you need if you need to leave, can help you have confidence in drawing boundaries with your spouse, and can allow you to protect your family’s financial situation. Even if you do not divorce, understanding what you can legally do to protect joint assets so that your child is not left destitute, for instance, can be very useful.

            The idea that “I don’t want a divorce so I can’t take any actions to protect my home, my bank account, my credit score, and my livelihood” is silly. It is more loving to protect yourself in these ways than to allow an alcoholic spouse to irreparably damage your livelihood and through that, your relationship.

            Since I have a toddler, I’ll make my stupid analogy: it’s not wrong for me to put the $115 glass ornament my aunt gave me out of reach of the toddler. It is loving, because then I don’t have to worry about the gift, I can just focus on helping my toddler and helping her understand how we live in relationship in this family. Obviously adults are not toddlers, but if you can face a conversation with your alcoholic spouse without fearing that the confrontation will leave you homeless or penniless, you can set clearer, more effective, and more honest boundaries.

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              Yes, a lot of marriages with addicts collapse due to financial ruin. Money problems can put a strain on even the healthiest marriage. So by talking to a lawyer about her rights, she can hopefully stave off that worry, which might let her concentrate on the main issue here.

          9. AKchic*

            It’s not inappropriate advice, though.

            This is already affecting her job. It will continue to affect her job. He’s not “handling it” as well as he thinks he is, and as long as he has her doing the same things she always has, he is being enabled. He has no reason to change his behaviors. Knowing that she is discussing her options with a divorce attorney, knowing that this has affected her job, and knowing that either he needs to leave the marital home or she will, may be the impetus to get him to either seek, or go to rehab. Because I think he actually does need rehab. Anyone who is drinking rubbing alcohol once they have consumed all of the regular alcohol in the home in one day is beyond casual drinking, beyond binge drinking. This calls for some medically-assisted detox. He may think he can wean himself down to a more “manageable” level, but he can’t. Any level of drinking is a risk. He needs to not drink. He is at the level of “I need to have alcohol in my system in order to function” alcoholism. He may be a “functional alcoholic” to the world, but at home, he is not as functional as he seems, and frankly, I question how functional he is if he is starting every day with a buzz. I also wonder how employable he will stay if he has to be buzzed in order to start each day.

            This will spill over to the LW’s career. All it takes is for him to drunkenly walk in to one of her teleconference presentations and cause a scene.

            1. I Need That Pen*

              ^ This. I was just thinking there may come a day when something like this happens, or her need to pay attention to this heartbreaking problem noticeably eclipses her ability to perform her duties at her best, and she’s called into a meeting (or videocall) scheduled for 4:00 one random afternoon.

              As for the request for time off, ”Family emergency,” is all you need. When I’ve had people ask is everything ok, I’ve often just flatly said, “I hope so.” That ends the conversation politely enough not to pry, and if your coworkers are like mine also with a, “Let me know if I can help.”

              Good luck OP

          10. Analogous*

            I met with a divorce lawyer once during a rough patch. They didn’t push any agenda; it was purely informational and very useful, and they never followed up like “ready to divorce him now?!” But it was very helpful to understand family law better, how custody and child support is calculated, likely outcomes if there’s any dispute, things I could do to avoid gray areas, etc.

            Information is always a good thing. Given the facts presented in the letter, OP1 definitely needs to take steps to protect herself and her finances even if she’s committed to staying with her husband. Things like moving into a separate space, making sure her finances aren’t tied up with his, changing who to call in a medical emergency, who is her legal/medical proxy, and so on, can potentially have a domino effect if a divorce takes place later on.

          11. surprisedcanuk*

            Scarlet I understand what your saying. It seem like divorce is something that she has obviously thought about. It still seems like it might be a good time to go to a lawyer.

        8. Lobbyist*

          LW 1, this is so hard. I am sorry you are going through with this. I recommend Al Anon, it is for people who love alcoholics. I don’t know what they are doing now in the pandemic but please look into resources. I found it very helpful and went for YEARS before I finally realized nothing was going to change and I had to get out.

          I divorced my alcoholic husband three years ago and could not be happier. The hardest part was making the decision but I am so glad I did, and honestly kind of embarrassed/ashamed of what I put up with. But I finally woke up and left (at great expense to me, I had to pay him half my retirement and I am still paying spousal support. I have the kids full time so don’t have to pay child support. But you know what they say: Why is divorce so expensive? Because its worth it!

      2. Granger Chase*

        Yes. Living separately can help a lot. I am a child of someone who has struggled with alcoholism for a long time, so I really feel for you OP. I cannot say how freeing it is to have a completely safe space away from the behaviors of someone who is consistently intoxicated, often to an extreme level. I really hope your husband is able to get help, and please take care of yourself. You do not deserve to be in this situation.

        1. Hello Everyone*

          My dad is a recovering alcoholic. He hasn’t had alcohol in way over a decade, but growing up it was rough. It messed me up and caused me to have issues with trusting men. My mom stayed but my dad eventually got help and started going to AA meetings. Now, he is pretty awesome but I am also all grown up. I needed a dad more when I was a kid.

      3. Elle*

        Additionally OP, you may want to consider Al-Anon for some help navigating this situation. Best of luck to you, and I’m sorry you are going through this!!

        1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          A word of caution that Al-Anon is heavily premised on 12-step ideology, though. They’re worth consulting but if their advice doesn’t sit right with you that doesn’t mean you’re wrong, it just means that they’re not a perfect fit for everyone.

      4. Bex*

        Fellow spouse of an addict here, I’m so sorry you’re going through this too. Allison’s advice for communicating with your boss is great, but a) please know you are allowed to give the details to anyone you want to talk to (you do not have to keep secrets or cover for your husband) and b) consider using the time off to work on a plan for yourself rather than “getting him help.” The help is so unlikely to help if he doesn’t choose it. And the thing that finally promoted my husband to seek help was when I took the dogs to daycare and my work laptop to my parents’ house for the day because I just couldn’t be in the house with him or responsible for anyone but myself for a little while. Talking to a divorce lawyer, separating, etc might be the right choices but it doesn’t sound like you’re ready to make them yet – me neither! And that’s ok. But consider what getting even a little bit of space from him and a break from being in charge of everything might do for you.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Just a reminder that talking to a divorce lawyer doesn’t mean one wants a divorce. It’s a good idea for anyone married to an addict to talk to one, so they understand the legal ramifications of any actions they take to protect themselves, as well as keeping their finances intact where the addict cannot access them.
          For example, if a spouse leaves the house to stay elsewhere, in some states, that’s abandoning the marital home, which can make it harder to claim rights to shared property should a divorce eventually happen. OP needs this information to protect herself and her assets, even if she never divorces him, so he doesn’t drink away every penny she earns.

    2. A Poster Has No Name*

      Agreed on the EAP. Also Al-Anon.

      I agree with Alison on being a little less specific. People can be ghoulish about this kind of thing, and I’d keep it on the dl until you figure out what you’re going to do.

    3. SoAnonForThis*

      LW1, I could have written a frighteningly similar letter just a few weeks ago. Our breaking event was me needing to drop a meeting (that I was running) to rush him to the hospital.

      I didn’t think calling the EAP would help much. I was so wrong — I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through the first few days without it. They were so helpful in setting my expectations, finding me resources, and keeping me sane. I hope you’re in a position to take advantage of the same.

      1. Anonapots*

        Thank you for sharing. I hope your partner is getting the help he needs and that you’re able to take care of yourself.

  1. HannahS*

    OP1, I’m so sorry, that sounds incredibly hard. I think Alison is right, there’s no need to share the details with your boss. It is absolutely true that you’re dealing with the health emergency of a family member. I hope you’re able to get the help and support you need!

    1. Wendy*

      I think it’s polite to add “it’s not COVID-19” because your coworkers would be worried about their own exposure to you if it were (especially if you’ve been at work at all, even by yourself at weird hours). Beyond that, “a family medical emergency” should be sufficient. If you want to sound less like you’re brushing them off, you could clarify that your husband is having a non-contagious medical issue that you’re having to handle mostly at home due to current circumstances and you really feel you need to be there for him right now. With that level of detail but still being cagey on the disease, people often assume it’s something urogenital and don’t ask questions :-P

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Agreeing with the “not COVID” clarification. People will worry if you don’t acknowledge the potential virus in the room and then the conversation will get overlong when they’re sympathetic and try to ask without asking.

        I don’t think LW should be concerned about “brushing off” their boss/coworkers by being a little vague, work doesn’t deserve any level of detail about a medical situation and saying “not COVID” is going to answer the question most people will want to ask.

    2. CircleBack*

      Yes, just say it’s a medical issue. My partner is in recovery and had a relapse recently, and I told my manager that he was dealing with a “flare-up of a medical issue,” and I told her what the impact was/would be on my work. I hope this wording is helpful to you too – calling it an “ongoing medical issue” clarifies that it’s not covid, and gives context for recent and future distractions. My manager took it in stride, and it was helpful when later I needed to take a day off to get some sleep and reorient myself.

    3. Anon4This*

      I second all of this – I have had lightning strike with two staff members out for extended periods due to medical emergencies in recent weeks, neither COVID-related. We are large enough to be subject to FMLA and have benefits beyond FMLA, including an EAP, to support folks who need to spend some time dealing with a health situation affecting them or a family members.

      All I need to know is that someone will be out, what we need to cover for them, and confirmation that they’ve been contacted by the benefits coordination team to make sure they know the resources they have access to and to get an FMLA package to review. I do not need details beyond “family emergency” or “medical issue that will require a week/month to deal with”.

      I’m not going to lie, the past few weeks with both of them out have been hell for me and put strain on the team, but what each of those employees are dealing with is far worse than what we’re doing, and both of those folks would and have stepped in to provide the same support for other team members when they had things come up.

    4. Alice's Rabbit*

      “I need a few days off to help my husband’s treatment. He’s having a flare up of a chronic medical condition.” Honest but vague, gets the salient points across, and doesn’t trigger the fear of covid.
      If manager presses for further details, she can just say that, out of respect for her husband’s privacy, she’s not giving details, but thanks so much for caring and supporting them during this rough time.

  2. Long-time reader*

    #1- I’m so sorry you are dealing with this. I wish you and your husband the best. The only thing I would add, only because it’s a pandemic, is that it’s something medical but that there is a treatment for it. I know it’s nobody’s business, but letting people know it’s not Covid will lessen people’s worry.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Good thought! Or may be just say a family emergency. That can be everything from a pipe burst and you have to clean up the aftermath, to something like what she’s going through.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        The benefit to ‘medical emergency’, IMO, is that future follow-up and treatment is not unusual, where ‘family emergency’ might make people think of a one-time event. But, in any case, both are absolutely accurate and true while also vague enough to protect LW’s privacy.

    2. Cj*

      I might say it’s not Covid, so need to worry I’m contagious, but I wouldn’t say anything about there being treatment.

      If she said there is treatment for what he has, I’d assume she meant something easily cured in a short time since she is just asking for a couple of days off at this point.

      While there is treatment for alcoholism, it is going to take a long time, and like many substance abusers, may need to be in inpatient treatment more than once. Same thing if he had cancer or whatever that may need extended treatment.

      She may need to use FMLA in the future, so I wouldn’t say anything to make them think that she intentionally mislead them now. (That wouldn’t be the case, but I’m looking at what they might think, not the reality of the situation). If fact, she should probably apply for intermittent FMLA now. Since he is (hopefully) going into a treatment facility, she will need to go to family counseling through the facility, attend family sessions with the group, etc., deal with it if he wants to leave before treatment is finished, that she will need time off for.

  3. I'm just here for the cats!*

    Op#1 I hope you can get your husband the help he needs. This isn’t something you can do yourself and your going to need to get help, especially if he has resorted to drinking rubbing alcohol.
    If you haven’t already please reach out to al-anon. They are for loved ones of those who suffers from alcoholism and can help.
    Good luck

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      I’m glad someone mentioned al-anon! I was hesitant to recommend it, because I haven’t had direct personal experience with it; but I’ve known people who did and spoke highly of it, so I’m comfortable seconding this suggestion.

      I wish you all the luck in the world, OP, with this challenging situation.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I also haven’t needed the use of it but I’ve know people who have and they say it’s beneficial. Obviously it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I thought I would offer it up.

    2. Granger Chase*

      Yes, I also haven’t used it directly but have only heard good things about Al-Anon. If your husband’s addiction is bad enough that he’s resorting to drinking rubbing alcohol, please please please prioritize your own mental health & creating a strong support network outside of your marriage that is just for you. I know with Covid they are probably not having in-person meetings. I’d suggest finding a husband-free place to attend the virtual meetings though. A truly safe space. Maybe a family member or friend who has been quarantining and is low-risk will let you borrow a room in their home once a week for this?

      1. KateM*

        Why just once a week? Wouldn’t it be better to have a safe space to move in more premanently?

        1. Granger Chase*

          I commented further up in the comment thread about living separately that I think OP should consider that option.
          This thread was about recommending Al-Anon, not about changing the OP’s living situation.

        2. Alice's Rabbit*

          Depends on a variety of factors. In some places, leaving the marital home is legally forfeiting rights to the property.
          This is why OP needs to speak with a good divorce attorney right away. Not to start the divorce process (because I sincerely hope that this will be resolved in a happier manner) but to get proper advice regarding how to protect herself, her property, her finances, and her job.

    3. East Coast Girl*

      I’m so sorry, OP. As someone in recovery, I can tell you from the other side that you can give him help and be supportive of positive actions he takes toward recovery. But you can’t change or fix it for him and you must take care of yourself in the process.

      I second the Al-Anon suggestion, but want to add that if 12-step options aren’t your cup of tea, there are other options. SMART Recovery and LifeRing Secular Recovery both come to mind and have resources to help not only the person with the addiction but those who care about them.

      Best of luck and remember to take care of yourself, which it sounds like you’re trying to do.

    4. Kay*

      Yes, came here to write basically this comment. I was in nearly an identical place last spring, which hit crisis point over the summer. Al-Anon (not attending meetings, but reflecting on its core tenets) helped my mindset around “fixing” or “helping” my partner (ie, that it would not be possible).

      I used wording very similar to Alison’s language when my partner went into the hospital for several weeks (psych unit + medical detox) and then rehab for the rest of the summer. I gave my boss some tiny additional details over the months, in large part because I trusted him and knew he had experienced something similar with his own close family member. I wrestled at the time with whether to be more transparent but ultimately a year later am glad I chose simple, discrete communications when they were necessary.

      My partner is still sober 14 months later, and I am grateful for it nearly every day. He’s become the person I married again. Not without hard work and a lot more pain, but right now, we’re in a good place.

    5. Funfetti*

      I second al-anon and AA, the later which saved my marriage. I was in a similar place last October 2019. I had been dealing with my husband’s increasing alcoholism for almost 2 years (been married for 2 and then suddenly his drinking just went off the rails). We had frequent discussions of how things needed to change and I said I would separate from him if he didn’t do x, but it wasn’t until during my herniated disc surgery where he drunkenly screamed at me for “forcing” his mother to pick me up from the hospital did I say “if you don’t go to AA, I’m out – you’re not worth this.” And that did it. It became the bottom because I chose it to be the last thing he would ever do to me like that and I basically picked myself over us and held him to it.

      To my husband’s credit, he thew himself into AA and loves it. He has made great friends and really is part of the community. It helps that he has an amazing sponsor and has been 10 months sober now. During the pandemic he switched to remote meetings and enjoyed hopping around to different regions such as going to NY meetings or even Australia based groups. Why I think AA especially worked for him is he drank out of anxiety, loneliness, and his own judgmental/jealousy issues of other people and AA gave him this place to combat those elements.

      Now to the work question – I should add, my own FMLA for my back surgery wound up being a saving grace for us to work through his stuff together because I could be home without worry of it impacting me. But I would also add you need to protect yourself emotionally and make sure you don’t get consumed with helping him and that’s where al-anon comes in. For that I was actually finishing my MBA so I had my own activity during the day while was home and focus of my life outside of his actions. The point is his alcoholism is out of your control. You can only control yourself. If you need to do physical distance for your protection – physically and/or emotionally – do it. And just own the parameters of what needs to change for you to move forward and stay in the marriage, if you so choose.

      Finally, I had my husband leave his job since it caused a lot of the anxiety (or really exacerbated the anxiety that was already there) that drove his drinking. While it was tough, at the same time I equated the costs of what sending him to rehab would be with the lost salary. Having him commit himself full to AA, experiment going to meetings every day, and finding his path through to sobriety worked for us. Now we’re working on setting up his own business to work from home and go back to his former career of writing. He has transformed so much through AA and being the man I married again and just so self aware of his own emotional health.

      Good luck to you and take care!

    6. Matilda Jefferies*

      I’m also going to add one quiet dissenting voice against Al-Anon. It’s a terrific program that has helped lots of people, but it absolutely didn’t work for me. The reason I mention this is because it’s pretty much the only program of its kind, which means it gets all sorts of positive recommendations – it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who will say they didn’t like it. Which made me feel like maybe *I* was the problem – if this program has worked for millions of people, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get the value out of it that apparently everyone else in the world does?

      I’m not here to start a debate about Al-Anon, or to explain my reasons for leaving. I just want to say to the OP and anyone else who might be in this situation – it’s absolutely okay if Al-Anon doesn’t work for you. There’s nothing wrong with you, and there’s not even anything wrong with the program. It’s just that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to any problem. People are different, they want different things, and if Al-Anon doesn’t turn out to be your thing – you’re not the only one.

      1. Robin Sparkles*

        Same here. I will join you because it didn;t work for me. I think it has to do with what you need for support and I didn’t need that. I also only went to one meeting and it is likely that another chapter meeting would have been better suited? On the other hand, a colleague underwent something similar and she likes Al-Anon.

      2. Quickbeam*

        Al-Anon was not helpful to me but I did find a support program through a local Unitarian church. I tried Al-Anon for 18 months and all it did was throw other people’s baggage on my back. Plus they wanted me to wrangle meetings etc and I was already working 60 hours a week and dealing with a drunk spouse. I found Al-Anon meetings so depressing it hurt more than helped. Just another POV.

        Talking with an attorney to get my finances squared away was the best money I ever spent.

        1. Hmm....*

          I went through six years of Alateen off and on with my father’s drinking. Unfortunately, it made me feel worse – the prevailing idea was it was not my fault, I was worthy, to detach and take care of myself – all worthy goals, but I was beaten down and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t clicking. I kept trying to make it work.

          Not rubbing alcohol in my case but alcohol he somehow distilled from mouthwash – I was about 15. Calling the ambulance and having the EMTs show up – both fathers of my classmates. Fun times, NOT.

          I am so sorry LW1 is going through this and I am sincerely hoping that a “couple of days” will solve the crisis. I sincerely hope that LW1’s husband has reached the bottom and I feel for her, I really do.

    7. DataQueen*

      I also recommend al-anon – ACOA if you have older children, alateen if they’re teens as well. The family needs to work through these issues as well.

      During the pandemic, there are tons of Zoom meetings. If you download the app Pink Cloud, it has all the meetings you could ever need for AA, NA, CMA, and Al-Anon, and the zoom links for them. You can filter to find a beginners meeting for AA for your husband – he might feel more comfortable at a beginners, men’s meeting – and you could even find one halfway across the country (running into someone you know is sometimes a fear people have going to their first meeting).

      I’ve been in recovery for just over 3 years, and a big part of my alcoholism is selfishness. Which meant when i was drinking, i didn’t think about how it effected people in my life. Your husband may be in a similar place where the disease has taken over – you say he was a good husband, and i hope he can get there again. You’re doing the right thing and i wish you both all the best.

    8. Al-Anon Alum*

      I’m thinking of you OP1… My husband will be two years sober next month. We did a full year of marriage counseling and he still speaks with an addiction counselor every month, but he lost his 1-2 AA meetings a week when COVID started.

      I went to Al-Anon in the early days and the biggest thing I got out of it was feeling less alone in my experience in those dark early days. I went in person but I’m sure there are many online options right now. Wishing you the very very best.

  4. Renee*

    OP 1–I’m so terribly sorry. I have been through similar and it is extremely difficult. I probably have half a book of advice but I’ll keep it short. Always remember to take care of yourself. It may be a long journey but you will be ok.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It can be a horrible cycle of alcoholic self-destruction and enabling. Been there a long, long time ago.
      Definitely seek treatment, preferably a full rehab center for 30 days if possible. Anyone who resorts to drinking rubbing alcohol has progressed extremely far in their addiction and needs help ASAP. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

      I am quite shocked by the rubbing alcohol statement to be honest. That is… pretty extreme. I hope OP’s partner get help soon.

  5. Mid*

    1–family health crisis is perfectly accurate. Alcoholism is a health issue. No one needs to know more than that unless you want them to.

    2–those poor freelancers! 7 months? How is that not illegal? How have you not been served with a scary legal letter? I hope you can get through to your boss and help him see that this is definitely not okay.

    3–weirdly enough this happened to me today. It hasn’t been 4 years, but it’s been well over 2. I told them I was going to delete them by [date] if they didn’t want the groups. They didn’t, I deleted, and just today I got a message from a member of the group asking for access to the FB group.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      With freelancing, the only laws that would cover this are contract laws. Because these are contractors, labor laws that cover employees aren’t in play here. If the freelancer has a contract that specifies when the payment must be received by and it’s overdue, they could go to small claims court to get it. But most freelancers won’t do that until the situation is really bad, because it means they’re not going to get work from that publication in the future.

      And a surprising number of freelancer writers don’t have good contracts that spell out payment due dates– either they don’t have a contract, period, or it’s written by the publication they’re writing for and thus drafted to be very much in the publication’s favor. (I routinely negotiate for changes in my writing contracts, but a lot of writers don’t.)

      It’s bizarrely common for freelance writers to be paid months late and to have to chase down payment for a while before it comes — even with some prestigious, well-known publications. It’s pretty crappy.

      1. Lady Heather*

        There might not be a US Federal law, but it is worth a quick Google for the OP. Maybe there is a state law, or maybe OP isn’t US-based. We have a law here (not US).

      2. Wendy*

        I’m a romance author (very different type of writing!) but in the publishing world, a good agent makes all the difference. Even if they contributed zero legal or industry knowledge, just having someone to negotiate on your behalf opens up pathways to say “this author is worth more money because she’s amazingly awesome” without coming across as a narcissistic blowhard. I’ve seen a lot of freelancers say they’ve seen the same effect by inventing a virtual assistant – “I’m not free until Thursday” gets argued with, but “Looking at Person’s schedule, I can fit you in on Thursday at 2:30” is suddenly okay.

        1. Wendy*

          (Added because I didn’t actually say the thing I was replying about: an agent gets way better results when chasing down late payments/royalties even when there’s no contract in place. The existence of someone other than yourself in your corner makes people take you more seriously!)

        2. writer here*

          Also a writer with an agent here but my agent manages my book sales and doesn’t get involved with my freelance articles. I didn’t think most agents get involved in those projects. Are other writers doing that? If so, how does it work? Are they getting an agent cut (usually 15 percent) of your freelancing fees?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Same with my agent. She’s essential to the process for book stuff and I’m sure she’d be willing to be do the occasional small side thing if I asked, but our agreement covers book stuff and not freelance articles. I think it would be overstepping to ask her to do much of that. If I were going to involve someone in non-book freelance writing negotiations, it would likely be a media lawyer (which is what I’ve done for some bigger contracts, but not for more routine stuff).

            1. Wendy*

              Sorry, I wasn’t clear – I’m not familiar with freelance article writing specifically, I was just speaking to how having someone else negotiate for you (whether that person is an agent, an imaginary virtual assistant, or whatever) can make a huge difference.

              I also noticed that today Alison linked to the Twitter thread that reminded me of this here: https://twitter.com/AskAManager/status/1289232827897098241

        3. Esme*

          Having an agent is really not a thing in journalism, except possibly for really big-name

          1. WellRed*

            Truth. Most journalism doesn’t pay enough for an agent to take a cut, nor would the deadlines and process of assigning the article work with a third person involved. OP, I have no idea what you do for content without using freelancers but you gotta stop this. You’ve probably already got a reputation.

            1. Cj*

              Is LW2’s boss chasing down the sponsors that are not paying them on time for payment? In a well run company, he would be, but this doesn’t sound like a well run company.

              I know it can be a snowball effect, where your boss doesn’t pay your people because the sponsors aren’t paying him, and they aren’t paying him because their customers aren’t paying them, etc. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease, as the saying goes, so he should at least be trying to get prompt payment from the sponsors.

              Also, if your freelancers were paid in 90 days during the best of times, that’s unacceptable. I’m surprised you could get them to do any work for you at all after the first couple of times this happened.

              1. pancakes*

                Yes. They’re really limiting themselves in terms of who they’re going to be able to publish: amateurs, and people who are independently wealthy but undiscerning.

        4. Malarkey01*

          Um I’m inventing a virtual assistant today, what a brilliant idea for freelance/independent contractors. Maybe I’ll name it Wendy in your honor!

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            It’s also helpful to have a virtual person like this when handling negotiations, because it’s honestly easier for me to be calm and negotiate well when it’s not about me. So if I mentally pretend I am an assistant negotiating a contract for my boss, the personal, emotional stress is gone, and I can just concentrate on business. After all, if something goes wrong, I can just blame the non-existent assistant.

      3. MayLou*

        Also true for freelance tutors/teachers in the UK, I have discovered. The larger the organisation, the longer it takes to get money out of them. The invoices for my tutoring sessions with the child of a disabled single parent are always paid almost instantly, and if there’s more than a day or two delay I get a profusely apologetic email (in fact, I got a message checking whether I was okay because my invoice this month was late!). The local college I taught at for a few weeks to provide maternity cover: it took dozens of emails and calls, and the threat of legal action, before my invoice was paid. The expensive sport-specialist boarding school that charges £10k+ per term and which I had already quit “tutoring” (actually providing 100% of the students’ maths education, and no I am not a qualified teacher) after a month because BEES, BEES, SO MANY BEES, it was honestly awful? I did have to take them to the small claims court to get them to pay up. Ugh. It is really not great.

        I’ve never had any kind of written contract for any of my tutoring work, but I can evidence the agreed terms through emails. I will never again work for an organisation (as opposed to a private family) without, at minimum, a written agreement of payment terms and penalties for late cancellation of sessions or late payment. Lesson thoroughly learned.

        1. Chinook*

          Having worked as a ckntractor and done A/P, 5 can tell you that companies see freelancers and contractors as just another company to pay. They come out of A/P and not payroll and follow that bill payment timeline and cheque run. Some companies will only pay on the cheque run 90 days after the date on the invoice (so always date the invoice for the last day worked, contractors!) and it can only be overridden by the owner (and then usually only for utilities or other essential costs). Other companies have a separate payables cycle or contractors and small businesses, but you won’t know which type of company you work for unless you ask by putting it in your contract (because verbal responses are not reliable since the only people who really know are the A/P who scour the contract for payable requirements for the ability to pay as late as they can not out of maliciousness but because it makes financial sense)

          As a result, not only should you ollow Allison’s advice to put deadlines in your contract, but also penalties for missing deadlines (and reiterate them on your invoice AND add them to monthly statements for unpaid invoices) as this will a)make A/P put you at the top of the pile to pay in order to save them any money and b) possibly get you paid extra for the inconvenience.

          For the OP, all you can really do is go to your A/P and advocate for those invoices from freelancers being paid ASAP. Maybe they have been lost or missing information that you can help with. Or maybe telling them that you will lose a freelancer you need if they don’t get paid will put them in top of the pile.

          Unless the boss has total control of bill payment (which may include pulling a cheque from the signature pile, then all anykne can do is ensure that the cheque isn’t lost), A/P people can have a lot of power to shuffle payments to make them a priority, especially sjnce they hate being called by creditors for missed payments.

          1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            ” Some companies will only pay on the cheque run 90 days after the date on the invoice”

            Yup. And it’s absurd if it’s not explicitly contracted to take that long. Companies should be cutting checks every two weeks, at the least, and some can and do it more frequently (mine does it twice a week). Take into account a week for approval and so 3 to 4 weeks is vaguely OK in the modern world. 90 days or more is BS and reflects either laziness or a desire to be basically floated money interest-free.

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          I did some art as a contractor for a huge state university in the US, and it took me almost a full year to get paid.

        3. Agent Diane*

          In the UK you can also start charging late fees and interest. Default terms are 30 days from date of invoice.

          Freelance writers are not payroll! If you’re patrolling them you could be messing up their taxes. Tell your boss he’s going to start losing the talent.

      4. JanetM*

        I once heard a fairly big-name author say there were three types of contracts: payment upon acceptance, payment upon publication, and payment upon lawsuit.

      5. Mainely Professional*

        Yeah. I handle freelancers as part of my job and while we don’t usually do contracts (unless requested), our handshakes are firm: we pay our freelancers. And it’s done wonders for our reputation. Reputation is real. When I need a new freelancer for a project, my ex-freelancers’ word that we’re great to work with goes a long way. I’ve been told we pay faster than anyone.

        It’s not hard. Pay your damn bills. If you can’t pay your freelancers immediately on receipt of project or within the month when you do your accounting/reconcile all invoices at once, don’t contract them for work.

        1. Anonym*

          You’re awesome! I love stories of responsible business practices leading to great results.

          Operations: not just an opportunity for cost-cutting! Operational strength = success.

        2. FionasHuman*

          I love your company and don’t even know what you do. As a freelance writer myself I know from hard experience that places like yours are golden.

      6. pancakes*

        The one exception to this, as far as I know, is the legislation we have in NYC — the Freelance Isn’t Free Act was passed in 2016 and went into effect in 2017.

        “On May 15, 2017, Local Law 140 of 2016 took effect. The law establishes and enhances protections for freelance workers, specifically the right to:
        • A written contract
        • Timely and full payment
        • Protection from retaliation

        The law establishes penalties for violations of these rights, including statutory damages, double damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees.

        Individual causes of action will be adjudicated in state court.

        Where there is evidence of a pattern or practice of violations, the Corporation Counsel may bring civil action to recover a civil penalty of not more than $25,000.

        This law also requires OLPS to receive complaints, create a court navigation program, and gather data and report on the effectiveness of the law.”

      7. Ghostbeth*

        The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) may also offer protections. IANAL but in most cases, I believe a freelancer retains copyright to a work until payment is made. If a freelancer hasn’t been paid and their content has been published online by a client, the freelancer can file a DCMA takedown. It notifies the ISP hosting the site where the infringing content appears and the host takes it down.

        While it doesn’t guarantee payment, mentioning a DCMA can encourage delinquent clients to pay. I’ve done so once. When a client hit 90-days past due and offered nothing but more promises, I (professionally) explained that once their account reached 120 days, I intended to file a takedown. They paid me within a week. I now include language about this in my agreements with new clients.

        Filing a notice is easy and free.

      8. AVP*

        In New York City this would be illegal! We have a special law that passed a few years ago about freelancer payment (although there’s not much they can do to compel payment…sometimes “staying on the right side of the law” and “avoiding fines” are enough.)

      9. FionasHuman*

        The LW can mention to his boss, though, that there are freelancers like me out there. I don’t need any one client for a few reasons, and I would be looking into either small claims court or selling their bill to a collections agency by now. There are also groups like the Freelance Writers Union that will, publicly and loudly, go after deadbeat clients.

        The LW can tell their boss that they could well end up saving themselves money if they start acting like responsible adults and paying for the work that has been done for them.

      10. Curmudgeon in California*

        I have done 1099 contract work, and the company told me that they paid Net 90! I was ticked.

        Now I specify Net 30, with a 2% interest every month after that. If they are willing to make progress payments, I may extend that to Net 60.

        I loathe having to dun $BigCompany for a job that should be chump change for them.

    2. OP #3*

      Op #3 here – That’s so frustrating that you’re dealing with the same thing! They were perfectly content to let the groups languish, why are they suddenly so interested in them? How did you end up handling it?

      1. Chinook*

        When I moved into dealing as the contact person for small vendors, I helped them get paid by being the unofficial go-between for them and A/P. That meant:
        – I made sure that there were no human errors with the invoices if there was a delay (sometimes vendor invoices had errors on them or lacked PO numbers)
        – I monitored invoices for payment that I knew were for smaller businesses.
        – I let the business know about our pay cycle and how to optomize their invoices without crossing into fraud (i.e dating them for last day being charged for, not end of week or month).
        -I made sure A/P never got a problem from me without a solution available so that they wouldn’t dread my phone calls.
        – I ensured my number was the one our vendor called so they wouldn’t hassle multiple people for payment – that was my job within the company on their behalf, which meant I could figure out which individual needed to be talked to for a specific problem (I was know to stand outside the President’s office for a signatureor hand deliver an invoice for payment rather than wait on internal mail)
        – I escalated more forcibly with internal business reasons (like they are the only experienced welder for 400 km, so don’t tick them off or it will cost much more to get someone else with less knowledge).
        – Lastly, I only escalated or caused problems when it was important. To counter my being a pest, I also helped out others with computer issues or workflow if they needed it (basically trading favours)

        What I found is that most invoices were just paper to be shuffled and paid by those who cut the cheques. There is nothing wrong with that (as that is their job and they deal with 100’s of invoices) but it does mean that there is finesse that you need to do for anything that needs extra TLC. It also means allowing for things to be fixed without layjng blame or anger (even if you know it is the fault of the newbie who hid complicated invoices for months rather than ask for help to pay them)

        1. TardyTardis*

          Speaking as a former AP clerk, people who are nice to us over the long term somehow find more help in an emergency, and people who are unpleasant to us–well, they get paid on time, but no special favors. We’re human beings, too. We have to pay on the terms that we are told to pay (I didn’t like it when Old ExCompany changed their standard terms to 60 days in 2009, but they went back to 30 in 2010, when things opened up a bit).

          And yes, I know about the Secret Rat Piles of doom so often found on people’s desks (glances nervously at the past, though I always cleaned them out before I went on vacation).

          Chinook, we would have given *you* chocolate for helping (and in recompense for making you work with Titan, an elderly, clunky automated system).

          Plus we, too, have sometimes gone to the Big Shot’s office with an invoice and a chocolate bar for the Big Shot’s assistant.

  6. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #2 definitely bring this to your bosses attention. Im wonderi g if their are some laws that they could be breaking if not paying on time. If their is a contract involved is their a time frame for payment? If I was a freelancer and this was happening to me I would so put it in my contract that I was to be paid in full in x amount of days or their would be interest or late fees attached! If you can take a stand and say we aren’t doing any freelance until everyone who’s waiting gets paid. Also is there a way to see how much time is being wasted because people haven’t been paid?

    #3 If you can, keep records of everything. When you reached out before, when you deleted the accounts, etc. If your ex boss is really bad, which it sounds like it, I could see them do something horrible like trying to sue you or something.

    1. Catherine*

      As someone who has freelanced in the past, I’m not able to levy interest or late fines on a client if I ever want to work with them again. No late client has ever respected that clause and paid the fine, and it’s very difficult for me to take them to small claims court across country lines.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        This depends a lot on the client though, especially if it’s a longstanding arrangement like it sounds like in the letter. I’ve never tried interest but late fees have always gone one of three ways: 1) client throws a tantrum and doesn’t hire you again but who cares because they were paying late a lot and usually this is the client that tries to negotiate your rate way down, 2) client continues hiring you, pays up the late payment and fee fairly quickly, no drama, 3) the client continues hiring you but always pays late because they see the late fee as a cost paid to buy a later deadline.

        (I’ve never taken anyone to court over any of this. Most of them pay eventually because there’s a contract in place and I tend to start with clients through a service that moderates both sides. I also would not take new work if there were already late payments stacking up since those are the clients that are most likely to do a runner and better sooner than later on that.)

        1. KateM*

          Losing a client who doesn’t pay you for your work anyway doen’t seem to be a big loss.

          1. Natalie*

            I think the difficulty comes when you have a client you think will pay, just very late. It can be hard to decide when they’ve crossed the line between “late paying” and “not paying”.

      2. Dave*

        This is fairly true in most contract law. You have to decide at some point are you ever going to work for that company again. If you are not you have a lot more options. If you hope to work with them again, you accept some things knowing that is the price of doing business with the company.
        From someone that hires people for a company that may have issues, I try to watch who I hire and try to use any legal protections I can for my subs when telling my accounting department we have to pay people. Depending on how the company is behaving sometimes I know in the future I will get charged more for the same work and it will be that much harder to hire someone next time.

      3. Nanani*

        I always include late fee language on my invoice.
        I’ve had clients who pay the fee and then never send me work again, and at least one that tried to get me to do more work without paying me for the first job, so I fired them.

        It’s true that small claims court is logistically difficult, which is all the more reason to stop working with non-payers as soon as they reveal themselves to be so.

    2. JayNay*

      as a former freelancer, i’m horrified at this. I would already consider 90 days to be not ok, but having to chase down payments for months… is there a chance your company is not planning on paying these people at all, OP? because that’s what it’s starting to look like.
      I can assure you word of this has already gotten out, freelancers rely on networking and often know others in their same field.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        YES. “We’ll pay you someday, maybe” is usually either code for “we hope we’ll someday have the money to pay you, but we sure don’t now” or “we never intend to pay you, sucker.”

    3. MassMatt*

      #2 the boss is already aware the freelancers aren’t getting paid and seems to be fine with it. OP is doing the right thing by giving those poor folks direct access to the boss.

      Getting people paid is unfortunately out of OPs hands, but I would stop assigning any more freelance work, IMO it’s unethical given you know people aren’t getting paid.

      If the company is unable to pay freelancers it can’t afford freelancers, and should stop expecting them to work in exchange for vague promises of payment.

      I would be wary of working for such a company, if money is this tight and ethics are this poor, how long before they stop paying YOU?

      1. sofar*

        Yep. I’ve managed freelancers my entire career, and paying them falls through the cracks frightfully often. Often, it’s not about having enough money, but about someone forgetting to approve an invoice, a purchase order getting lost and things going wrong.

        I’ve put the brakes on several times, saying I’m not assigning more projects or hire any more contractors until we are caught up. The companies don’t like it, but, it’s the only thing that works (if anything is going to work).

    4. Ama*

      Years ago I coordinated a bunch of freelancers for a university and my biggest problem was that our accounts payable system was horribly inefficient (still run almost entirely on paper in 2013 when I left) and it was very easy for things to get lost or stalled. (I once called to find out the status of a request I had sent down six weeks earlier — it had been put on the desk of someone who then went on maternity leave and was still just sitting on their desk with everything else she hadn’t processed before she left, the person who told me this did so as if that was completely normal and not a massive failure of the system.)

      All I could do was maintain a list of invoices I had sent for processing and do regular checks on things that I hadn’t received a “paid” notice on within a month, and keep the freelancers updated when one of their payments got stalled. A few of them did ask to be taken out of our rotation, but I think most understood that I was doing everything I could to get them paid.

      1. Tiny_Strawberries*

        University finance offices SUCK. I was the president of a student group who brought in a lot of speakers and vendors like caterers. They almost never got paid on time, and we would be fielding calls from these folks several months later. It made it worse because we had hired folks we specifically wanted to support financially! We honestly just escalated this up and started talking about it at every single ‘town hall’ or meeting we had, and they’re currently overhauling the system.

        1. JKP*

          I’ve been brought in for events at all sorts of organizations and businesses. The only check I’ve ever had bounce on me was from a University. They paid two different bills with the same check number and so the bank bounced mine as a duplicate/fraud. It took months to get the check replaced, since their records showed they already paid me. Yeah, with a bad check.

      2. sofar*

        augghhhh I feel you. My old company ran that way — we had to put freelancer invoices on people’s desks to be signed and they’d get passed around the office.

        Even now, that I work for a company that has an electronic AP system, invoices will sit in people’s queues for weeks/months. And now that we are all remote, we can’t go bug someone in person anymore, but can only continue to send Slack/email “follow ups” into a black hole.

        Our company’s solution for everything is “hire more freelancers,” but they don’t realize all the extra hours that go into hunting down lost invoices, nagging people to sign off on invoices, and literal detective work to figure out what the eff is going on with an unpaid invoice.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          Ecoing Ama’s comment. We were held up for payment 120 days because “our” person went on maternity leave. I was horrified, they were blase.

          Sofar’s situation is our experience right now. What was once a hassel has turned into major headache. Weekly emails, daily emails, nothing works until we run it straight up the chain while on fire waving a flag. You can only do that every couple months or so. So, we sit on our receivables 60-90 days in between billing and resolution and then it takes another 30-45 to be paid. Again, I am horrified. Multiple people and systems are failing and no one that can help seems to notice.

          1. sofar*

            Yep. That’s how exactly it is. Constantly trying to decide if this is a “run it up the chain” situation, a “run it up the chain while on fire” situation or if a flag is warranted, or if you’ve done that “too many times” recently.

            My favorite part is that, our contracts say payment is promised within 60 days. If an invoice hasn’t been paid in 30 days (and nobody has reviewed or approved it in the audit chain yet), I always know something is “probably wrong.” That thing is usually that the first AP person has not reviewed the invoice and sent it along to the next step. But, if I follow up that soon, AP will just remind me that they have 60 days to pay. So then, I have to wait until the exact 60-day mark to point out that “something is wrong.” And, as you say, from that point it takes another 30 days to get the invoice through the rest of the audit queue, while I scream silently.

    5. HungryLawyer*

      For #3 (depending on where they live and where the company is) the statute of limitations for the company to sue OP have almost certainly passed. There is an extremely low risk of the company suing OP for deleting the groups that were in her name. No need to keep records about this, OP should delete the email and keep moving on.

    6. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Where I live, entering into a contract knowing that will not honor it is fraud, i.e. a felony.
      Payment terms are part of the contract, so this puts both the company and whoever signs the contract/purchase order in rather hit water, legally.
      Therefore, make sure the boss signs the POs, not you, so it’s his head on the block.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        This. When my cousin was young and naive, she was an assistant to a boss who tried to leave her holding the bag by making her sign off on all the illegal deals he was trying to do.

    1. HailRobonia*

      Agreed. It also sounds like a name Sean would use to introduce Gus in the show Psych. “I’m Sean Spencer, and this is my associate Tangerina Stewpot.”

  7. pcake*

    OP #2 – this is the kind of reason why I, a freelance writer and editor, get paid for my work in advance. Because I am well-known in my field for being reliable and good at my work, that hasn’t been a problem for me.

    After reading your letter, if/when I start working with new people who don’t pay 100% in advance, I’m going to change my contract to include that payment must be received within 30 days of receipt of work and invoice; depending on what a lawyer tells me, I will either start legal action on day 31 or keep all work done after the date of the invoice.

    Wow, I’m so very glad I don’t work for your startup! I’m sorry you have to deal with this, but there’s nothing you can do. Either the funds aren’t there, never a good thing, or the CEO is just a jerk. Or a combination there of. Good luck to you!

    1. Ego Chamber*

      This is all good advice. Paid in advance is ideal. At least a partial advance if it’s a longer project. Shorter work, like articles, I’m fine being paid after the fact but having a payment due date in the contract is necessary. Even if the “contract” is just an email thread—because the client is so cool and super-casual and doesn’t want to bother with legal stuff like contracts (huge red flag btw but too common with smaller companies)—be sure to do one of those CYA-mails where you list all the terms.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I worked for a guy long ago who didn’t want to put any agreements in writing at all. Yeah, I was really young and starry-eyed.

    2. pancakes*

      From one pancake to another, I don’t feel sorry for this person. Of course it’s possible there’s some reason they haven’t been able to look for or get another job over these past seven months, but from the letter I don’t have a sense that they’re even considering it.

  8. ENFP in Texas*

    You left four years ago, deleted the groups a few months ago, and they’re JUST NOW contacting you about transferring ownership?

    Hahahahahaha!! No. Ignore them, delete the email, and block them.

    It obviously wasn’t a priority for them, so there is absolutely NO reason for you to let it bother you in the least. Just walk away. It is not your problem nor your responsibility.

    1. Forrest*

      It’s also just bizarre from the organisation’s point of view. What on earth is the point of resurrecting social media groups that have been dormant for 4 years rather than starting new ones? Who’s looking at a client/contact list that’s four years out of date? I can understand wanting to get rid of them if they were lurking around and popping up when people google you, but if OP has already deleted them, what would you need them for?

      1. Beany*

        And surely the person requesting the ownership transfer has checked to see that the groups still exist? They should get a pretty big clue from the result of trying to access them at all.

      2. MassMatt*

        Perhaps someone new was hired by toxic former employer and new person is trying to pick up these very old pieces. Still not OPs problem after 4 years and multiple attempts to hand it off.

        1. Coverage Associate*

          This is my guess, based on my experience as a volunteer with a variety of non profits. Someone new come in, is tasked with updating records, or just is a new set of eyes, sees something that the organization has been overlooking, and a project is resurrected.

          It might be, for example, that there’s a notation about membership in these groups in a database of organization contacts. Old timers ignore the note. New guy asks, “What’s this?” And off we go.

          Or the OP’s computer or files weren’t cleared out. The immediate replacement knew this wasn’t a priority project, and just left the files; new guy finds the records…

          There’s actually whole professions that find business records that companies keep but ignore, sometimes for decades. High stakes examples are insurance policies from decades back and inspection and construction records, sometimes over 100 years old.

        2. OP #3*

          Op #3 here – No, I was contacted by someone I knew, who has been with the company for almost two decades. We had a friendly relationship and I tried to help him leave the company when half of us jumped ship, but I don’t think he’ll ever get a new job willingly. Even with all the evil bees, he’s too comfortable where he’s at now.

          I do feel bad ignoring him since I like him personally, but I really do not want to be dragged into a back-and-forth argument about this because I’m sure the owner would get involved once the employee wasn’t successful.

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Maybe they got a notification when they were deleted and rememeber those groups existed. But it’s been FOUR YEARS, they had more than enough time to ask them back.

    3. Choggy*

      This same thing happens to me at work all the time. I ask, follow up, ask, follow up, and only when I close something and move on to something else that it becomes an emergency for the person who I asked, followed up with , asked…

      I do not think anything of, just let them know I’ll get back to it when I have the time.

      OP has to stop letting the toxic job control any part of her life, she took that first step, they are trying to draw her back into the drama and toxicity, she should not take the bait. Blocking their emails would have been the first thing I did when I left!

    4. Quill*

      Yeah, my first thought was “laugh in their non-present face as you delete the email.”

      And this is coming from someone who has only just, after 3 years, eradicated my former workplace of strife from my google autofill settings.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Yes! Laugh, delete and bring out the crazy work story when we are all allowed to get back together for cocktails parties again.

  9. Storie*

    Yes, yes it is common. I had no idea becoming a freelancer would also involve being my own collections agency. I’ve worked for a wacky company and a very mainstream classy co, and I had trouble getting paid on time from both. One advantage I have is a contract to point to for pay periods (14 days!).

    1. The Original K.*

      I read an article by a freelance journalist about his experience chasing down payments from well-known publications – substantive ones, like a month’s worth of household expenses. He’d tacked on late fees and all his clients were really nasty about paying him money they owed him. I kept thinking, “he’s not asking them to do him a favor, he’s trying to settle debts owed to him.” It made me really mad.

      I do side hustle freelance consulting sometimes (it’s not my primary source of income) and I’ve had to deal with this too. And I remember in a previous role, someone called me looking for someone else (she’d dialed the wrong number) and was like, “I’m calling to follow up on Unpaid Invoice X; it’s been four months.” People are shaky.

      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely. And a lot of the time it’s really hard because you don’t have a name in Accounts, so you have no choice but to hassle the nice person who gives you the work and who has no say in when invoices are paid.

        1. pancakes*

          Why not ask them for a contact in accounts when that happens? I don’t think it’s at all nice for a person assigning work in those circumstances to act as if they’re unable to even identify which of their colleagues would be appropriate to follow up with. I had an editor try it on me once when a magazine swiped a photo I’d posted under a Creative Commons license against the terms I’d set for it. The obvious question when someone says “I don’t actually handle that” is, “Will you connect me with the person who does?”

          1. sofar*

            I’ve managed freelancers for several different companies, and in my experience, giving freelancers the names of the AP person/executive responsible for invoices (as much as I would LOVE to do so) would do nothing. I’d get in trouble (they’d dislike me even more than they already do for my constant nagging about invoices), the AP dragon would be enraged, and the entire AP department would ignore all the freelancer’s emails (they’re already ignoring mine, they have no problem ignoring e-mails), and the company would say, “let the freelancer sue us.”

            The only thing, as an editor, that I’ve found effective is to tell our executives that we are $x or months behind on paying freelancers and, “to protect the company from lawsuits and getting called out on social media,” I will not be assigning further freelance projects until payments are resolved.

            1. pancakes*

              And that’s just accepted in the workplace, that it’s fine for people in AP to take a disliking to colleagues who are trying to get freelancers paid, or go even further and be enraged? That’s seriously dysfunctional.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                Yeah, your AP department is horrible.

                I’ve freelanced in an industry where many (most?) people are active on social and some have large followings even in the general public; social media callouts of companies that don’t pay are common, there are whole high-traffic blogs devoted to naming and shaming bad clients, and companies have lost freelancers en masse and even folded because of such scandals. I can only hope sofar and OP’s companies are playing with fire in the same way, and realize it.

            2. Koala dreams*

              It’s usually not hard to contact someone in accounting, sometimes companies even post the names and e-mails on their website. The problem is to convince them to do anything. AP where you work seems unusually rageful, they should be able to handle a small thing like that professionally. The power company, the landlord, and the largest vendors will have some leverage since they can cut off their service and cause trouble for the customer, but the occasional freelancer will have much less leverage.

    2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      I’m a full-time freelancer, and I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had very few issues with payments. Things have been a little bumpy lately, which I can understand because, you know, pandemic. But overall, no complaints. I’ve even had clients who paid me ahead of their schedule if the job was at the very end of the year so I’d get payment for the current year and not the new one.

      Unless I were desperate, I don’t think I’d ever work for a place that took 90 days to pay as a matter of course. It’s too hard to track expenses and income. Heck, it can push you into the next quarterly tax period! OP2, if my indie author client can pay people on time, your startup’s CEO can.

  10. Language Lover*

    #3 It’s been four years and they only contact you after you delete the groups? It’s eerily like they were waiting for you to delete them so they could yell at you again for deleting them. (I’m not saying that’s the case because they might be able to tell but wow what a coincidence.)

    Ignore and block is definitely the way to go.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      From my past history with some poor management, I figure they were still referring people to the groups. They found out BECAUSE our op3 deleted them. And it still took them months to figure out what happened.

    2. Anononon*

      Yes, that’s immediately what I thought. “What?! You deleted them?! How dare you!” (First two sentences said in a majorly fake surprised voice.)

    3. OP #3*

      Op #3 here – this was literally my first thought when my ex-coworker messaged me, which is super messed-up because it makes no sense for them to spend energy on something like this. But nothing in that place was logical and they thrive on conflict. The owner would get EXCITED if a customer threatened to sue (which happened more often than it should have).

  11. Frustrated freelancer*

    #2 – No advice, just sympathy. I am waiting on $1,000 owed me by my former employer for freelance writing done between February and June 2018, when I finally stopped giving them the benefit of the doubt. About a year and a half ago, a local lawyer very kindly sent the owner a letter (at no charge!) on my behalf, and the owner told him to buy advertising so they could afford to pay me.

    1. Very very anonymous*

      Bad payment practices aren’t limited to small businesses either. I refused to keep sending new projects to external vendors when I found out they hadn’t been paid in 8 months. It was another 2 months before the offshored purchasing group told me the entire procurement system had changed without a company wide announcement. So not only hadn’t our contractors been paid, my boss had to recreate everything from budgets to purchase orders and request new invoices from vendors on ancient projects. Then Sales got upset we were behind schedule…and I flat out said we risked having no vendor willing to work for us if they didn’t get paid. The sales complaints stopped.

    2. pancakes*

      Why sympathy for #2? By all appearances they are being paid for their work, which is helping their boss not pay freelancers.

      You should consider filing in small claims court yourself. The process is straightforward, and where I live it only costs $15 or $20 depending on the amount you’re seeking. If the business is still in operation it’s very unlikely it doesn’t have $1000 worth of assets.

  12. MistOrMister*

    I agree with ignoring the request for OP3. I think even a polite response saying you waited 4 years and have now deleted the groups would be too much. If an apologetic email had been sent saying they knew it was an imposition and probably the groups had been deleted after so much time, but if OP still had them could they be transferred, I could see the argument for responding. But requesting them out of the blue with no acknowledgment that it was a long shot makes me think if OP says they’ve deleted them that they will get virtually yelled at for destroying the company’s virtual property and possibly threated with something legally, even though I assume nothing would stick. No point opening oneself up for that kind of abuse.

    1. Batty Twerp*

      At this point, any communications from Toxic Former Company should be treated with the same “respect” as that unsolicited email from the Nigerian Prince wanting to sell you medicine to enhance your member.
      Hum a specific song from Monty Python as you delete the email – they deserve no additional space in your head or your inbox.

      1. Duke Flapjack*

        Yep. Toxic company doesn’t need to know OP #3 is even still alive at this point. Treat any emails from them the same you would from any spammer: if you reply they WILL KNOW THE ADDRESS IS ACTIVE.

        1. OP #3*

          Op #3 here – unfortunately the message came via the social media platform the group was on, not through email, so they CAN see I’m alive based on my profile. Someone from the company creeps on my profile every couple months which is a whole other issue, though this is the first time they’ve reach out in many years. And, the message came from a former coworker who I had a friendly relationship with (most likely at the request of the owner). Still, I don’t think I’m going to respond…their request just isn’t reasonable and I just want them to leave me alone.

    2. Sun Tzu*

      OP#3, just flag their messages as spam when they arrive in your inbox. There’s something truly liberating in this kind of behavior. And once the spam filter has learnt enough, all their messages go to your spam folder.

    3. MayLou*

      I assumed the groups in question were on Facebook, in which case I’m not sure they would even be the company’s property? I’ve not closely inspected Facebook’s terms and conditions about business pages but my understanding was that the individual who creates the groups retains control, and Facebook has legal interest in anything created in a group. A very good argument for keeping that stuff in-house. It infuriates me that a huge number of organisations use Facebook exclusively for their business website and community. It’s like having a free-to-join drop-in session but it’s hosted in the back room of a building that requires you to pay for entrance (in the case of Facebook, you’re paying with your personal data). But I have lost this argument, it is the way the world is going.

    4. Coder von Frankenstein*

      Yup. LW3 actively tried to get the company to take over these groups. They didn’t do it. It’s been four years. At this point, LW3, you owe them two things: Jack and s**t. And Jack left town.

      Furthermore, responding to the request will only open the door to a conversation that can go absolutely nowhere good. You have no obligation here and should follow your instinct. Do not engage. Block and move on.

    5. OP #3*

      Op #3 here – yes, I’m very worried they would resort to legal action, though I doubt anything would stick. After all, if it were a paper file they were after, it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect me to keep it for all these years. The owner is sue happy and would get excited when customers would threaten to sue the company, so I don’t even want to acknowledge the message.

  13. Harper the Other One*

    OP1, I am so sorry you’re dealing with this on top of all the stress of the current time.

    I second those above about living separately if possible, and about consulting a lawyer about your legal rights if a divorce becomes necessary.

    Do you have access to a short-term paid leave policy? If so, I would encourage you to consider taking a brief leave of absence. Not exactly the sane situation, but my partner had a significant mental health issue five years ago that required extensive intervention. I was only working part time at that point and even that was a lot to take on while I was also dealing with the worry and the strain. If you have access to leave, you may find it helps get your feet under you, so to speak, because this is likely to be a long haul and it’s important to take care of yourself.

    1. Picard*

      Most short term leave (disability leave) policies only apply to the employee themselves, not family members but definitely look into this if you think you may be able to sue this.

      1. That'll happen*

        At the very least, OP can look into FMLA. This seems like it would count as a family member’s serious health condition. There are also several states that provide paid caregiver benefits that OP might qualify for if they live in one of those states. It’s worth looking into.

    2. Alice's Rabbit*

      Consult the lawyer, even if divorce is the last possibility you could forsee. Because they will know exactly what you need to do to protect yourself and your marriage from your husband’s drinking.
      I’ve known several family law practices. Only a handful of scumbags try to encourage divorce, and they’re easy to spot. Most are happy to offer a one-time consultation, with possible follow-up as necessary, to help a person understand their legal rights.
      And do this before even contemplating moving out, because in some places, that can cause legal problems if handled incorrectly.

  14. Xavier Desmond*

    Just a quick comment on OP1. A few people are weighing in with personal advice. While, appreciate all the advice is meant kindly it’s worth mentioning that the OP was only asking for advice that was work related. She wasn’t asking Alison for relationship advice so I think it’s worth us bearing in mind when commenting.

    1. KateM*

      Would “get a place away from husband for having your work presentations” be work advice or relationship advice?

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Yeah, I didn’t see anything that seemed over any lines yet. Maybe Xavier can repost their comment on the thread they were referring to and/or draw Alison’s attention to anything that needs to be moderated instead of dropping it here as a standalone vaguely calling out everyone commenting on the letter?

        1. Taylo*

          I agree with Xavier’s comment and I think its an important reminder for commenters, not just something to flag to Alison. I’m not sure exactly what comments Xavier is referring to, but I think the “get divorced” advice is wildly inappropriate. That’s not the kind of advice OP asked for.

          1. Forrest*

            Regardless of whether it’s helpful advice for the OP, it’s really important to clarify that “speak to a divorce lawyer” is not the same as “get divorced”–people don’t speak to divorce lawyers early enough because they think it means a commitment to divorcing and giving up on the marriage, but it’s just about understanding how to protect yourself so that if things DO go further south, you’re not in an even shittier situation.

            And to be back on topic, exactly the same thing applies about speaking to an employment lawyer when you’re in a work situation which MIGHT end up with a legal claim–getting good advice earlier can help you safely de-escalate, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be pushed into making a claim.

            1. Xavier Desmond*

              I think this exchange illustrates my point that we are getting into a discussion about the Ops marriage rather than the work situation, which is what she asked about

              1. Forrest*

                I agree, actually, but just wanted to clarify that “speak to a divorce lawyer” is not the same as “get divorced” because it’s a common misconception that really screws people over.

              2. NotAnotherManager!*

                Because she’s working at home, they overlap right now – for instance, if she leaves the home and stays with someone so she can work uninterrupted, an attorney could weigh in on whether or at what duration of time away that could be construed under state law as abandoning the marital residence.

              3. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

                Let Alison do the moderating please. If OP’s husband is resorting to ingesting poisonous rubbing alcohol, he is in late stage alcoholism and may not last much longer without serious intervention. The work and the personal are intertwined here.

            2. Taylo*

              “speak to a divorce lawyer” is the same type of advice as “get divorced.” Your distinction is just semantics. Either way you say it, the advice is for OP to consider ending their marriage and that is clearly not the type of advice OP is looking for.

              1. Harper the Other One*

                It’s actually quite different. “Speak to a divorce lawyer” is about finding out your rights/protections not just if you leave, but also if husband does. Addicts don’t always respond well when their partner draws the line. OP could discover an empty bank account, loans taken against common property, etc.

                Perhaps the commenters should have phrased it as a family law specialist, but many people in this situation will get referred to a divorce lawyer because splitting/protecting assets is a major part of their expertise.

                1. Taylo*

                  You’re just nitpicking here, but I’ll change my stance to: “I think the “speak to a divorce lawyer” advice is wildly inappropriate. That’s not the kind of advice OP asked for.”

              2. Forrest*

                Wow, it’s really not. It’s “your marriage may end regardless of whether or not that’s what you want, make sure you understand the position you’ll be in if that happens”.

              3. Quill*

                Disagreed, a divorce lawyer may know a lot more about managing her employment, housing situation, and workplace benefits rights at this point than a bunch of internet commentators. It’s as much money advice as relationship advice.

                Example 1: say they don’t get divorced but they have to live apart for a while. There may be insurance implications OP wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Perhaps OP needs advice on separating their accounts while still legally married to curtail risky spending behaviors. If OP’s husband carries the insurance and things go abruptly south at HIS workplace, OP may find themselves uninsured, etc.

              4. Observer*

                Actually, not really.

                The idea here is that the OP needs to know what their options are and that is something that a divorce lawyer can help with. For instance, someone mentioned that it might be better for the OP’s work if they find a separate place to stay. But, as someone else mentioned, that could have repercussions if things get worse and divorce comes up. So, the OP needs to talk to someone who can help her navigate that.

                Work and personal cannot be hermetically sealed off from each other. What people are saying here is that the OP’s work life is already being affected negatively by this, and she needs professional help to figure out what her options are, and what the true costs of each option runs out to be.

                1. Taylo*

                  OP didn’t ask for options regarding their marriage. They asked about taking time off to deal with a family health crisis. That’s it. That’s what the advice should focus on.

              5. pancakes*

                It isn’t semantics. Meeting with a divorce lawyer and proceeding with a divorce are two different things, and don’t invariably go hand-in-hand. You seem to be under the impression that someone who meets with a divorce lawyer is thereby somehow obliged to get a divorce, or somehow signaling an intention to divorce to their spouse, and that’s simply not how it works. It’s not like boarding a log flume ride and walking away with wet hair. Where is the disconnect?

                1. Taylo*

                  You’re just nitpicking here, but I’ll change my stance to: “I think the “speak to a divorce lawyer” advice is wildly inappropriate. That’s not the kind of advice OP asked for.”

                2. Natalie*

                  It doesn’t really matter what they asked for – someone already suggested they move out, and the subsequent suggestions were to consult a lawyer first as there are risks involved the OP might not be aware of. It’s not irrelevant to add an important caveat to an existing comment, just because that caveat feels like relationship advice.

              6. bluephone*

                OP1’s husband’s drinking has negatively affected their job AND Hubby is at the point of drinking *rubbing* alcohol to get that sweet buzz. When he overdoses on that, or gets busted for stealing robitussin from CVS, or crashes the car while tanked, it’s going to affect the heck out of OP’s job while they take bereavement leave, find a defense lawyer for their husband, or risk having all their assets seized in the DUI case. So I think advising them to consult a lawyer before anything, just to get all their ducks in a row, is not wildly inappropriate here.

          2. Jaybeetee*

            In fairness, I hadn’t seen any “get divorced” comments. “Speak to a divorce lawyer” sounds more precautionary to me (I have lawyers in my family, so perhaps I grew up understanding the nuance). At the same time, I do agree that that’s weighing in on the actual marriage in an inappropriate way. LW will have to make her own decisions about her marriage, and is looking for advice to navigate the work end.

        2. Xavier Desmond*

          It was definitely not meant to call anyone out at all which is why I posted it as a stand alone comment. I don’t think anyone crossed any lines, it’s just I feared it would be easy to slip into offering relationship advice and not work advice. Sorry for being vague!

    2. Harper the Other One*

      I understand what you’re saying, but personal and professional lives unfortunately don’t stay on their separate compartments, as OP has already discovered. I think the personal advice is valuable because a few days may not be sufficient for what OP needs to do. They may be thinking “I’ll get him checked into rehab and then I’ll be good to go” but addiction is complicated and hard on family.

      Also, if OP works in a field where your financial situation can impact your employment, like some areas of accounting/finance, speaking to a lawyer about protecting their personal credit is also protecting their career.

      TL;DR OP needs to keep in mind that a few days may not be enough and that the conversation with Boss should ideally reflect that.

      1. Tuckerman*

        Yes, especially right now with remote work- the line between professional and personal life is a bit more blurred.

      2. blaise zamboni*

        Agreed, especially with regards to the employment and financial situation. Someone desperate enough to drink rubbing alcohol is, unfortunately, not trustworthy with money right now. That seems like a pretty important point if OP has shared assets with her husband.

        OP says, “my personal life is interfering with my career right now and I am afraid of the possible consequences of this.” The personal advice I’ve seen so far seems to be responding to this part of the letter. Yes, she didn’t say “and how do I deal with this?” but it seems fair to respond to her stated fear and the emotional distress she’s clearly feeling. If nothing else, I hope those responses reassure her that her perspective of the situation is valid, and that there are resources available if she wants them.

    3. MassMatt*

      I am ACHING to get into more personal advice on the first letter, but agree, it’s not what the OP asked for. Maybe something for the weekend thread.

    4. Amtelope*

      Look, my work advice is, OP needs to not be trying to work out of the same house as someone who is an actively drinking alcoholic who isn’t yet in recovery. Anything short of moving out strikes me as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. But moving out could negatively affect the OP’s position if the OP decides to get divorced, so it is worth consulting a divorce lawyer before taking that step, if possible. It’s really hard to separate those pieces of advice; as the OP says, her personal life is colliding with her professional life right now.

    5. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      It may not always seem like it, but we are human beings with hearts who care about making sure that this and other OPs end up in the right place for them.

      Sometimes the answer to, “How do I address this one specific issue?” is really, “Many of us have been there before, and you’re asking the wrong question.”

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I understand the concern, but I haven’t seen any comments I’m truly alarmed by. Sometimes the advice here will be broader than one very specific question being asked because it’s an essential part of a serious situation. I’m removing some of the worst personal sniping from this thread and closing it.

  15. JJ Bittenbinder*


    I am so very sorry for this scary situation. Someone who has progressed to drinking rubbing alcohol is likely in need of immediate, inpatient treatment. I know you said you have “tried to get him help” before, but right now, the best thing you can do(IMO) is let the medical professionals take over and get yourself whatever help and space and security you need.

    I have not seen anyone mention FMLA yet, but if you are in the US and you qualify, FMLA can cover leave to care for a family member who is receiving treatment for substance abuse, assuming that the standards for a “serious health condition” are met (which, again, he is clearly in, but you’d need a physician to document). The DOL-dot-gov website has more info. (Important to note, FMLA does not cover time taken to deal with his substance use, only for treatment).

    That might not apply to this letter writer, but may help someone else in the future.

    1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      This is an important thing to underscore: it sounds like the OP’s husband has started harming himself in order to get a reaction out of OP and possibly sabotage her job. People can’t always see these things in their own relationships, but I feel something of a responsibility to point it out when I can spot it from my vantage point. The word “abuse” is overused here, but this is classic abuser behavior on top of the addiction.

      Love is not always a good enough reason to stay.

    2. Student*

      Both of my parents are heavy alcoholics.

      I second all the recommendations for OP 1 to get some help for herself. In fact, OP 1, if you get time off, I would strongly suggest your first appointment be to talk to someone for resources for yourself instead of resources for your husband. Once you’ve got an idea of what’s available to YOU, then search for what’s available for HIM. At minimum, talk with a work EAP, therapist, legal advice, and al-anon kinds of resources to find out what you have access to right now, what you could get access to, and what’s out of your range.

      Help for yourself is something you have full control over. Help for your alcoholic husband is not something you have full control over. Resources you can use for yourself WILL pay off. Resources for your husband are going to be hit-and-miss, so there will be wasted efforts and dead ends involved; alcoholism recovery is a difficult path.

      I sincerely hope you have a better outcome than I did. My parents have never recovered; in their case, they were never willing to try. We’ve been estranged for a long time. I’m not saying this to scare you, as many alcoholics do recover. It’s important that you understand that it is a possible outcome of your situation. Sometimes, alcoholics choose the bottle over their loved ones.

      While I wish my parents would get better, my biggest regret is actually that I didn’t pull out of a relationship with them much sooner. In my case, I sat through a lot of pain with no reason to believe it ever would get better. Make sure your investments in his recovery are met by actual, measurable actions on his part to recover, for your own sake.

  16. Seeking Second Childhood*

    #4 A reply to thank-you emails from job candidates is not mandatory. But do make sure that you give them a follow-up to whether or not you are hiring them. Do not assume HR is doing this — confirm whose role it is. Ghosting a job candidate is getting far too common, and it makes good companies look bad.

    1. Am I the Ingrate?*

      Thank you, OP4 here, and I agree 100%, we have a system that generates email replies based on the actions I take (interview, not selected for interview, etc., offer, not selected after interview, etc.) so ultimately everyone gets a response.

  17. Bookworm*

    #4: It’s really nice to do but as a candidate I think the general guidance is that applicants should consider that to be “the end”: we shouldn’t expect any response unless we get the job (because, as you probably know, some orgs also don’t tell candidates they DID NOT get the job, either).

    Agree with “Seeking”: If you’re not going to hire them, please tell the candidate. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just tell them. Don’t leave a candidate hanging. I actually had what happened as Seeking described. I had an interview, emailed HR, who said they were actually on their way out of the job and to contact the potential boss. Who of course, never replied to my follow-up explaining I was told to contact them.

    There are dynamics in that situation (that interview process was *TERRIBLE* and I have some suspicions on why HR happened to be leaving when I was interviewing), but agree: don’t make the candidate follow-up and then ignore a request for an update. Candidates put in an effort, too.

    1. Am I the Ingrate?*

      Thank you, OP4 here, every candidate I interview has my direct contact info, and I respond to every update request, sometimes the process is bogged down and we haven’t made a decision yet, and so I don’t have an absolute answer, but I respond and so far haven’t had anyone abuse the process with too many update requests or too soon. I do share my expectations for timeline, along with the caveat that there are often unforeseen delays. I am hiring very senior engineers, typically with 20-30 years of professional experience, which makes it very easy.

  18. Daphne Moon*

    LW 1: make sure you also take time for yourself. I’ve been through my qualifier’s relapses and experienced the emotional toll that carried into my day to day life. Check EAP to see about counseling for yourself and your kids.

  19. Duke Flapjack*

    OP #3, I would seriously consider laughing maniacally at them as well. It would probably be somewhat cathartic.

    1. OP #3*

      Op #3 here – I kind of hate that I still have such a bad reaction to them after all this time. Feels pathetic.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Try not to be too hard on yourself! One of the worst things about dysfunctional environments is how much they mess with your head. I would absolutely be freaked out if the awful job I had left behind reared its head again.

        1. valentine*

          I kind of hate that I still have such a bad reaction to them after all this time.
          They’re asbestos personified. You couldn’t help but be profoundly affected.

      2. tiasp*

        Not pathetic. Just a sign of how awful they were. And if you think the owner is the kind who would go after you over this, then they are also a threat (I can’t see them being an actual legal threat, but that doesn’t necessarily stop people from being nasty).

        I had a truly awful boss somewhere around 1997. Worked for him for less than a year. I still get the urge to drive into the car park and smash his vehicle on the very rare occasions when I happen to drive by his office building.

  20. Antisocialite*

    OP1: I am so sorry you are going through this and wish the best for you.
    The EAP suggestion is great. Personally I would also use the phrasing “medical emergency” for taking time off, just in case you end up needing to take additional time and/or some kind of leave (FMLA etc.).

    As for the divorce lawyer, that is totally up to you BUT I would also secure your credit cards and bank accounts right now just as a precaution in case he takes off and/or does something stupid while on a bender.

    Best wishes to you as you deal with all this <3

    1. Need to know*

      What do you mean by “secure”?

      How does one “secure” joint accounts from the other spouse?

      1. Amtelope*

        You can typically secure a joint bank account to require dual signatures for any transaction. This may not be workable if the OP and her husband have only a joint bank account to use for day to day expenses. Again, a divorce lawyer can help navigate protective financial steps that don’t necessarily have to lead to divorce.

      2. The Vulture*

        The person you’re responding to doesn’t say joint accounts – just “your credit cards and bank accounts”. Presumably more difficult if you only have joint accounts, but likely something a divorce/family law lawyer could help advise you on!

      3. OrigCassandra*

        Another way to do it is to open an account in just your name and transfer money from the joint account into it. This is playing hardball, and in some jurisdictions can get you in trouble if the situation becomes a divorce case. Don’t do it on a whim, and consulting a family-law lawyer first is wise. In the OP’s situation, I would do it, and I’d also move direct deposit of paychecks to the solo-owned account — work won’t blink; one form and it’s done.

        Joint credit lines should be closed if at all possible. Credit card? Close it. Secured car or home loan? That’s harder, but see if the dual-signature thing can happen. HELOC? Close it and move any balance to a loan structure where he can’t embiggen the owed principal.

        It’s possible based on the letter that the OP’s spouse is too disordered to plunder their finances… but it’s also possible he’s not. Any money that’s work-based — retirement accounts, stock options, anything related to the word “vesting,” even health-savings accounts — ask the right person at work how to keep him out of them and (as appropriate) from taking out loans against them. With luck that’s just not a thing that can happen… but ask what happens in forgery cases as well.

        I’m so sorry, OP1. Like a lot of commenters, I’m speaking from some unfortunate experience, both first- and secondhand.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Yes to all of this. And this is all stuff a divorce attorney can help her navigate, whether or not she wishes to sue for divorce. Honestly, most of their consultations don’t end in divorce. They just know the local laws better than we random internet individuals, and are adept at these issues. It’s not a bad thing to have an expert on your side.
          Also, it can cover the LW’s backside if her husband gets angry about the severed assets. Having done this on the advice of legal counsel gives her a modicum of protection.

  21. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP#1 — If your boss is at all decent, she will want to know about this. Over the years, I’ve had staff ask for flexibility to deal with various family emergencies. I DO NOT need to know all the details, but if personal circumstances are going to cause someone to struggle at work, I’d like to know so that we can make some accommodations.

    Someone upstream suggested investigating FMLA. I don’t know the details on this — I once applied for intermittent FMLA, but didn’t actually have to use it — but it would be worth discussing with your HR person, if your firm has one.

    You have my sincere sympathy. Nobody deserves to go through this.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same – I have someone dealing with a family medical crisis right now, and that’s all I need to know. We got them info on FMLA, EAP, and anything else in the benefits package that may be of use, and they’re set up for intermittent FMLA to use as needed while they’re navigating their particular situation.

  22. Cannibal Queen*

    OP1, I have been where you are (minus COVID), and I’m so sorry you’re going through that. A loved one’s addiction can turn your life to into a waking nightmare. Jedi hugs if you want them.

    I have to say my experience with my employer was overwhelmingly positive: I was allowed to take personal/carers’ leave (what you would call PTO, I guess) or flex time when I needed to stay home and make sure he didn’t drink himself to death. (Mind you, I work in government and I don’t live in the US, so your conditions may vary.) The option of working from home was also available, but I preferred to take time off as I was not really in a mental state to focus on my work with the man I loved destroying himself before my eyes.

    Regarding how much you have to disclose, it’s pretty much as Alison says: all I had to tell my employer was that my husband suffered from a medical condition (he had PTSD, which triggered the drinking) and that I needed to care for him during ‘attacks’. If it lasted more than a couple of days, we would both have to get a medical certificate: but again, the doctor would simply write ‘medical condition’ on his certificate and ‘carers’ leave’ on mine. I did in fact choose to share more information with trusted colleagues, and they were incredibly supportive. My only advice would be to return the favour whenever possible: cover for them when they’re looking after sick kids etc.

    If it gives you hope, my husband is much better after completing a year in rehab, and is almost ready to make the transition back to ‘normal’ life. I hope things get better for you, whatever form that takes.

  23. Friend of Bill and Lois*

    Seconding and echoing.
    1. You certainly can take days off from work. All you have to tell your supervisor is that you have a family health issue and you are a caregiver. OR because this is about your own mental health. You are taking a few sick days.
    2. Al-anon- Alanon saved and is saving my life. You are not alone. Many of us have spouses whose drinking has gotten worse during these pandemic times. There are on-line meetings. I urge you to try six of those and get some literature. Google ala-non intergroup and your city OR because NYC has so many meetings NYC intergroup Al-anon.
    3. Your husband can avail himself of on-line meetings and do the same AA and the city you live in or NYC.
    4. Shocking advice- YOU do not have to do anything except make your home safe for you. That might mean him going to detox and a residential program. Yes, even now during a pandemic. Get in touch with your EAP program and check to see given his job loss that he is transferred to your insurance.
    5. Take care.

    1. Another friend of Bill*

      I am a 10 year recovering alcoholic, I also recommend checking out Alanon. There isn’t anything you can do that will change his behavior unless he is truly ready to stop, trust me, I have been there. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself. Alanon can help you find a community of people who are experiencing or have experienced the same thing you are going through. I have many friends who are in it and it changed their lives.

  24. Choggy*

    OP 1, take the days or heck take a week, you’re situation is in crisis and needs your full attention. Many people have had to take time off to do the same, and no, you don’t need to get into the gory details with work. This is a health emergency, which needs immediate handling. Not sure if you could involuntarily commit someone to rehab if they are now resorting to drinking rubbing alcohol, I sincerely hope so for your sake and his. You are fighting for your survival and his, if he chooses not to get help, then you need to be ready to make a huge change. Please get support for this, after 4+ years, it’s obvious you can’t do this alone.

    1. AnonThisTime*

      FYI: you cannot involuntarily commit someone to rehab. Speaking from personal experience, the intake folks will not move forward with anyone besides the person who will be attending. So disappointing when you’re the person who desperately wants your loved one to get help, but it makes sense. An addict who doesn’t want help will not benefit from being in rehab and may harm everyone else who is there trying.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        This is true. My neighbor works with narcotics rehab, and has often said that a single person who doesn’t want to change can halt the progress of the entire group. While yes, addiction is a disease, the only way to overcome it is to want something else more than you want the addictive substance. You need a focus to inspire the change. Without that, rehab won’t work.

    2. AnonThisTime*

      Oops I see below from another commenter that I am wrong about this. There is a court option for requiring someone get treatment.

  25. Maisel*

    So sorry, op#1. If you’re concerned about immediate professional consequences, would you be able to schedule some time with your manager/team to discuss the recent presentation? That way you could explicitly connect that less than ideal delivery (which I hope you recognize as being actually amazing under the circumstances] with your family’s medical emergency and explain why you were “off your game” for example.

    It seems as if working remotely, rather, from home, is not a workable solution for you. Your husband’s behavior is too disruptive. So, taking some days off for the family emergency to try and help your husband seems like an excellent idea – though it might be good to speak to your employer about options for safely going back into the office or switching your work schedule so that you dont have to “see” this behavior if it continues (crappy fix, i know) . As long as you’re relatively open with your manager about any desired schedule changes, “to maintain my performance I’d like to work x, y and z instead of my current schedule in light of this ongoing medical issue” as a manager, I’d be fine with that as long as I knew it wasn’t covid.

  26. ZSD*

    #1 I’m so sorry you’re facing this, and I wish you and your husband well.

    Alison, can we please add this one to the update list?

  27. pieska boryska*

    OP1, please consider staying somewhere else for now. You can get your husband help, but he has to want it before it will do any good. Most likely this will be a long road with the potential to damage your performance at work. Protect yourself first, then do what you can to help your husband.

    1. Farmers wife*

      This. He has to want to change. If not, nothing the OP does will change his alcoholism.

    2. nep*

      No one else can do a thing to help till the drinker decides they want to stop drinking.
      Sorry you’re having to go through this, LW1. Peace and may you find resolution.

    3. Alice's Rabbit*

      Seek legal counsel before moving out. In some jurisdictions, that is seen as abandonment, and could cost her both shared assets and anything she left behind. It’s important that she knows what her rights are, and how to best protect herself and her family.

  28. HailRobonia*

    LW!: I want to thank you for your bravery in reaching out for help and sharing your situation. I’ve faced a similar problem, though in my case it is not alcoholism – my husband is bipolar and although it had been under control the stress of quarantine has thrown him out of balance, swinging between extreme mania and extreme depression, and his depression manifests more as anger than the stereotypical sadness. Things have evened out mostly but I never know day-by-day what his mood will be and I feel trapped.

    1. Alex*

      As someone who’s been down that road (in re: a loved one with poorly managed bipolar) I’m sending all my warmest thoughts to you. Not to get off topic that is an awful experience— I hope you’re able to access EAP services for yourself if you have access, or get some other source of support if not. Since the word “trapped” jumped out, and the anger, can I very gently suggest also contacting (text, call, online chat) with the folks at love is respect to make a safety plan for IF something comes up where you need it? It doesn’t mean you do, or you will, just that it’s excellent to have in your back pocket in case something goes off the rails with a partner who has problems with anger. They’re an American intimate partner safety nonprofit. Wishing you the best, hoping this isn’t an overstep.

      1. HailRobonia*

        Thank you so much for your kind word and advice/guidance. I was not aware of Love is Respect and will definitely check them out.

        1. Alex*

          I hope they’re able to give you some useful tools. I appreciate that they don’t make you use a label on talking about feeling unsafe, not everyone finds the big heavy words like “abuse” to feel like an appropriate fit. It’s just about supporting you in taking practical steps if you need them.

  29. Alice Quinn*

    LW 2: I was a freelancer as my primary source of income for over a decade, and I can confirm that very late payments are sadly common. I do a bit still on the side, and it’s purposely with a company I’ve worked with for years that I can depend to pay exactly when they say they will and within a reasonable time frame.

    If I were one of your freelancers, I would be alarmed at the late payments and probably would have already stopped working with you. It’s a bad sign when a company falls this far behind. My very worst experience with a freelancer started with a company I worked with earlier in my career. They started falling a couple of weeks behind, then a month or two and then several months. I stopped working with them at that point and did get paid most of what I was owed, but a lot of freelancers who kept working with them were owed several thousand dollars when the company claimed bankruptcy, and none of them ever got paid. It was terrible.

  30. Lucy Van Pelt*

    Re: post #3

    RE: post #3

    I am a social media manager at Great Company, which had a terrible past under Toxic Former CEO. He is now gone, I am newly hired, and one of my tasks is to revive our social media. Problem is, I CAN’T GET IN without authorization from Former Employee. Asking the social media companies for account access is a time-consuming process and sometimes doesn’t work. It is a mess if I establish entirely new social media accounts, because our old ones are still out there getting potential clients confused.

    I am very sorry to hear of your terrible time with this company in the past. I don’t want you to be bothered by these accounts from the past any more, either. If you give me the access I will take you off, write you a grateful thank-you note, and think nice thoughts about you for the rest of my tenure with Great Company.

    1. Quill*

      This is why you document all shared logins… even if nobody else is currently using them.

      1. JKP*

        The problem is that these are not shared logins. Facebook requires business pages to be managed with a personal Facebook account. No one wants to share their personal Facebook login with their company. It’s stupid the way Facebook setup the system and inevitably leads to these problems whenever the employee managing their FB page leaves.

        1. Quill*

          Yeesh that’s a terrible system, I thought this was more like a twitter where nothing is hooked up.

          (Though I don’t know what’s stopping the company from setting this up with a fictional person, i.e. Miss Anney Onymous, and using that, seems like it’s more professional all around.)

          1. KayEss*

            That’s against the Facebook rules and can get the account locked down unless you can prove via documentation (like literally a scan of a government-issued ID) that the person exists.

            The best thing is to have at least two current employee accounts as the group owners, and if one leaves replace them immediately.

        2. nonegiven*

          That reminds me of the Mat Honan Twitter hack. He still had the Buzzfeed twitter even though he was working for Wired.

    2. Forrest*

      This is exactly what I would do if the groups still existed (and in fact I did exactly that a few months ago for a defunct LinkedIn group connected to my employer!), but she says she’s deleted them. Someone getting in touch to ask for contact details without checking whether the groups still exist is just a bit sloppy.

    3. That'll happen*

      But OP 3 has already deleted the groups. They no longer exist, and facebook doesn’t allow you to recover deleted groups. The company will need to create new groups.

  31. Elizabeth Proctor*

    #4, I wouldn’t respond unless you have new or concrete information to share. Like when you’re going to make a decision by, etc.

  32. Go Pats*

    OP1, my thoughts are with you. Many years ago I was in a relationship with an alcoholic. His mother and I were at our wits end, but eventually he spiraled so far out of control that we were able to prove that he was a danger to himself. We were then able to go to court and have him sectioned into treatment and taken into custody by the state. He spent a month in a fully locked down treatment center. when I picked him up on the day of his release, he was like a totally different person. Sadly, it did not last. I ended the relationship shortly thereafter. I was in my early twenties at the time and was in no position to fix anyone or bear the brunt of his alcoholism. I felt so guilty for such a long time for leaving him. I really truly wish both of you the best and that you can weather this storm together. I know it’s not easy. If his issues are impacting your work, maybe you can work in a separate space? Perhaps you can work out of a friend or family members house in the meantime? I am sending positive thoughts!

  33. Go Pats*

    Also, please do not forget yourself in all of this. You also need help and support throughout all of this. I’m hoping you have a support system in place, family and friends, etc. I ended up seeing a therapist many years later for other reasons, but during those sessions we uncovered some things from that past relationship that affected me over time. while getting help for your husband is of the utmost importance, taking care of yourself is also equally important. Good luck!

  34. Moocowcat*


    That’s a terrible situation to deal with. Addictions, family, and employment is a Jello salad that no one wants to eat.

    Saying that, it would be useful for your manager to know that something medical is going on. As other have said, it can be phrased very generally to indicate a non-infectious medical crisis or a family emergency. I hope that your husband agrees to immediate medical treatment. From an employment standpoint, you should also look at what supports and survival strategies are available to you. Can you live seperatly from your husband? Do you have counselling or other benefits available from work? Is it time to visit a doctor for a physical/mental health/
    family and addictions resource check in? Our personal lives can absolutely and understandibly affect the quality of our work. And you’re living in an environment drastically affected by addictions during a pandemic! Taking a break (use vacation time?) to shore up your supports and care for yourself is totally okay. Kind regards to you.

  35. Observer*

    #1 – I’m probably repeating some of what other said, but I think it’s worth repeating.

    This is neither your fault nor your responsibility. Yes, you should be supportive as possible. Yes, you should be as helpful as you can. Yes, you should probably nor bring any alcohol into your house. But this is NOT your responsibility. It is NOT your job to get him help.

    It’s also not something you can fix. You can try to get him all the help in the world – if HE is not looking for it, not actively engaged with it, it is NOT going to help. It does not matter what kind of help. It will NOT work at all if he’s not the one driving this.

    Separate your finances. Make sure you have a bank account that he has no access to. That’s where your paycheck goes. Move ANYTHING that is not shared, or you share of anything that is shared, into separate accounts that he cannot access. Change all of your passwords. Lock down all of your work accounts. This may sound extreme, but this level of alcoholism means that he’s likely to lose his job and make himself unemployable. Also, addicts often act in very untrustworthy (to be kind) ways, even with the people who have the most call on their loyalty. So, please protect yourself.

    Figure out what bills MUST get paid, and make sure to pay those. Anything else? Get your name off them.

  36. pancakes*

    It’s wild that #2 thinks it’s credible to depict themself as having taken decisive action towards being less exploitative of freelancers because they’ve “already started assigning fewer pieces than I would normally.” Would you have us believe you’re not sure whether the people who’ve been waiting over 6 months to get paid have “already” had to try to pay for food, rent, and healthcare in the meantime?

    I question this approach, too:

    “I direct all questions from writers about payroll straight to my boss, since he has more insight into timing than I do (and he’s said it’s fine for me to connect him directly with writers), so they have a direct line of communication with my boss.”

    Have you ever asked how he responds, or confirmed that he responds at all? If you have any reason whatsoever to believe that he’s responding with a timeframe for when they can expect to actually be paid why wouldn’t you want to know what it is? How is that not critical information for you to have? It looks to me like you’d simply prefer not to know.

    1. bananab*

      Right? Hiring freelancers when you know they might not get paid THIS YEAR and calling it uncomfy is wild framing. OP gotta get outta there because their role is a whisper away from swindling people.

    2. Observer*

      What exactly are you advising the OP to do? If you noticed, they wrote in to ask what they can do. Do you have an answer?

      If you don’t have any good ideas, why are you criticizing the OP? The OP knows that they aren’t being paid, they are doing the only things that they can think of and they reached out for more ideas of what they can do. I hope they follow Allison’s advice.

      1. pancakes*

        I think it’s quite clear that I’m advising them to 1) stop playing little games with themself about whether or not they’ve taken appropriate action to move towards paying freelancers, and 2) follow up with their boss as described in my second paragraph.

          1. Observer*

            What exactly is the OP going to accomplish by asking the boss what they told the freelancers?

            1. pancakes*

              Do you not agree with what I said about his timeline for payment being critical information for the letter writer to have? It seems important for purposes of both responding to freelancers and being able to assess whether the company is in seriously financial trouble or merely mismanaged. It also seems important if the letter writer is hoping to progress from feeling uncomfortable to feeling more accountable.

              1. bananab*

                Agreed, if OP is a liason b/t the boss and the workers, there is nothing weird about needing to know what the message is here.

              2. Observer*

                I actually disagree with you.

                The OP can’t become more accountable because they simply don’t have the power to do anything about it, beyond what Alison already advised. That doesn’t require them to get this information from the boss.

                As for knowing whether the company is in financial trouble vs ethical trouble, nothing here will really tell the OP definitively. Especially since it’s likely to be both. Not that it really makes a difference – what is clear here is that the boss cannot be depended on to pay his bills. That’s something that the op should communicate to vendors and freelancers regardless of what the boss says.

                1. pancakes*

                  Having information to pass along to freelancers rather than just directing them to the boss and not knowing what, if anything, he’s actually said about payment could result in a straightforward and substantive increase in accountability to freelancers, if the letter writer is up for that.

                  “likely to be both” is arbitrary. You don’t see a disconnect between discouraging the letter writer from even trying to look into this while simultaneously speaking as if you have a good grasp on the company’s financial situation from the letter alone? I’m not interested in continuing to discuss this but that seems worth considering.

  37. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: I’m so sorry for what you’re dealing with. I have alcoholics in my family and it’s brutal to watch.

    For the work piece, all you have to tell them is it’s a personal or medical emergency with your spouse (nth the suggestion to clarify it isn’t covid). If you need more time off, the truth is your husband has a chronic condition that might be unpredictable. A good workplace will work with you.

    There is, indeed, a category here that isn’t directly about your work, but hopefully doesn’t broach too far into your personal life: but you do need to get support for yourself. People who spend time around alcoholics know “getting them help” is a dicey prospect, and if YOU don’t have proper support, that can affect your work (and everything else). People here have suggested EAP and Al-anon. Another option, if you can afford it, is a therapist – for yourself, not you and your husband. Build a team around you, and if at some point you have to make grittier decisions about your marriage, they can help you through that as well.

    Again, I’m so sorry.

  38. Observer*

    #2 – You really need to start a job hunt. If anyone asks you why you are leaving you tell them that you realized that the company was showing signs of serious financial issues.

    Here’s the thing – This job could taint YOUR reputation in a big way. Fair or not, a lot of the people your boss is stiffing (and that is what he’s doing – this is not just “late payment” – he’s stealing their work) are going to associate YOU with this, as well as your boss.

    Also, my comment about serious financial issues? That wasn’t just an excuse – it’s the simple truth. A business that can’t afford to pay key contractors in a timely fashion is not in good financial shape to start with. When it gets to just refusing to pay them at all, which is effectively what’s happening, you KNOW that either the business is on the verge or the boss is just an unethical jerk. Either way that’s not a really good place to be working for.

    1. bananab*

      Yep, I’m a freelancer and I remember things like this, and we talk. And don’t generally draw mental distinctions like, he was cool it was his boss that was rotten. More like: that experience was awful and I’ll do everything I can to not repeat it.

      1. Name (Required)*

        This. Depending on the industry, it gets around. And you will be part of it LW #2.

        And as both a freelancer, and a staff member that hired freelancers, 90 days is an absurd length of time. Imagine stretching yourself for 90 days with no pay. I’ve seen giant companies (Fortune 100) do 75 days and then wonder why they had a hard time getting freelancers. I worked on both sides of a company that paid after 30 days, so invoices were submitted multiple times a month just to keep the checks coming regularly.

        If he is purchasing services and refusing to pay, your boss is hinting at larger issues, none of which are good and could stain you in the future if you are seen as an accomplice.

  39. Matilda Jefferies*

    Sending all the love and strength to OP1. I’ve been in that position, and it’s awful. Good luck to both of you in getting through this.

  40. HailRobonia*

    Advice for all offices: Use shared password services like LastPass for password management. This will enable multiple people to have individual logins/passwords for sites but maintain a higher level of security.

    (this advice is do as I say, not as I do.. I’ve been trying to get our team to do this with no success).

    1. JKP*

      I think the issue is that Facebook requires a business page to be managed by a personal Facebook account, so the LW’s Facebook account is the one controlling that business’s page. They tried to transfer ownership to someone else’s Facebook account, but when that failed, they were sick of getting notices for that page and deleted it. It’s a stupid system that sets businesses up to have this problem when employees leave because there’s no way to have a stand alone business page for Facebook controlled only by the business. So it’s not about finding a way to share passwords, since I’m sure the LW wouldn’t want to share their personal FB password with work.

  41. agnes*

    LW #1 adding my support to the many good suggestions you’ve been given, especially those that are encouraging you to get some help and support of your own. Alcoholism is very disruptive to families and loved ones and taking care of yourself is an important priority. there are many good resources out there to help the loved ones of alcoholics, and if you have Employee Assistance at your job that is a good place to start.

    Good news is that your husband may have job protection while he gets treatment (if he will do so).

  42. QQ*

    LW1) I am so sorry you are experiencing this. It may also be worthwhile to look into FMLA in case you need to take an extended period of time to care for your husband while he manages his illness. (Addiction *is* an illness and mental health struggles are a valid use of sick time.)

    In the past, I have been able to care for family with FMLA for diagnosed depression. (In order to do this though you do need to establish medical care for a diagnosis. The person I had to care for went into the ER for a suicide attempt and their hospital documentation was used for evidence FMLA)

    Best of luck

  43. kib*

    1: time to put them in rehab and get it out of your hands so you can concentrate on your own life

    1. Observer*

      That only works if Husband is willing. It’s extremely hard to force someone in to rehab, and even when that happens, it tends not to work unless the alcoholic gets on board.

  44. Catabodua*

    For #1 I see the debate back and forth for some folks about giving work advice vs marriage / personal advice.

    Just a thought – there are readers here who may benefit greatly from the marriage/personal advice being provided by others who have been through something like this or deal with these issues in a professional capacity. When you are in these situations it can be so easy to get overwhelmed. Providing concrete ideas on things someone can do to help themselves can be a lifesaver for anyone who thinks they are in a hopeless situation.

  45. Jennifer Thneed*

    > payroll for freelancers

    I don’t think this is payroll, I think it’s Accounts Payable. And running your AP several months behind is not great, but it’s not terribly uncommon. However, these are people, not widgets, and your boss is taking advantage of people’s desire to avoid confrontation.

    Thing is, other terms for “freelancer” include “independent contractor” and “vendor”. I assume you sign contracts with your freelancers, just like with other vendors? (If not, they’re bad businesspeople.) You can make sure the contracts include payment terms and late fees for late payment.

  46. CW*

    #3- Four years? Ignore them, you have no obligation to help them. Especially after the way they treated you. Think about it. In four years:

    -We would have gone from one presidential election to the next
    -Those who entered college as a freshman would have graduated already
    -We would be in the next Summer/Winter Olympics (though COVID-19 made us delay it this year)

    My point is, it is a long time. Delete their email and move on, because it seems like they haven’t.

    1. OP #3*

      Op #3 here – unfortunately the message came via the social media platform the group was on, not through email. They still creep my profile from time to time…I really wish they’d move on because I just want them to leave me alone and not try to drag me back into their dysfunction. Definitely not going to respond to former coworker’s message.

      1. CW*

        I would say just ignore it then. If they start getting too aggressive, then block them. Again, you don’t work there anymore and even if you do, chances are they will not pay you. It has been a long time and your peace of mind and mental health are more important.

        Also, I hope you are at a much better job now.

  47. Jane*

    LW#1, I think you can use FMLA to care for a spouse so it may make sense for you to be clearer with your boss. Good luck to you. What a difficult situation.

  48. Been There Done That*

    I think people offering advice about leaving the husband or finding a new place to stay don’t understand what it’s like to be in a relationship with an alcoholic. You can love the person and hate the disease. I have been there and know how hard it can be. I wish you strength.

    I agree with Alison’s advice to say it’s a family emergency. Once things settle and you have a handle on things you maybe will want to mention your husband was having some issues that needed dealing with. It’s hard to explain to people the situation. Even some of my closest friends, I had to distance myself from them because I could tell they thought less of me for staying through the hard times.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think that most people are advising the OP to leave the marriage. But, the OP definitely DOES need to take measures to protect themselves. The reality is that when someone reaches this level of addiction, they become untrustworthy and can do an enormous amount of damage. In addition, the OP is already finding her work affected by this situation. She needs help in figuring out the pros and cons of each measure that she seriously considers.

    2. Moocowcat*

      Finding some kind of peaceful work space will be important for the OP. The husband’s health concerns did disrupt the OPs presentation after all. In normal times, they could probably go to the office for presentations or work calls. My thoughts were maybe the OP could work from a temporary home somewhere else? Or perhaps a space that could be locked for privacy? At least for me, I am absolutely not commenting on the OPs marriage. No judgement or thinking less of them at all. I understand that I don’t totally understand what it’s like to be in a relationship with an alcoholic. So much strength to the OP.

    3. Friend of Bill and Lois*

      No one who has been in this situation is saying “leave the alcoholic” I was fearful of going to Alanon because I thought that was what the “sane” person would do in my situation. That people would judge me for staying. For making the choice to live with someone who was creating this unmanageable situation.
      Not at all.
      Alanon gave me the tools to deal with MY life. No one else’s. People shared their own experiences. I could take what I liked and leave the rest.
      I did get others’ experience, strength, hope. I did get good suggestions on how to deal with the issues facing me in the present.
      FYI: We are still together almost thirty years later. My life blossomed in ways I could not foresee.
      Good luck. Come back and tell us how you are doing.

    4. Koala dreams*

      You can love a person and still make work presentations in a space they don’t share physically (before the pandemic this was quite normal), just as you can have a bank account in your own name and not share the password, or consult a lawyer. It’s a big assumption to say that people who recommend those things don’t understand loving someone. Love isn’t about giving up your job or your financial independence.

    5. Alice's Rabbit*

      I don’t think I have seen anyone say she should divorce him. Some have said to move to a safe space, at least for work hours. Others have suggested speaking with a divorce attorney, but that doesn’t mean they are suggesting divorce; those lawyers are well-versed in all aspects of family law, and can advise LW on how to keep herself safe and financially stable while still trying to save her marriage. It’s expert advice she desperately needs before doing anything else.

  49. garretwriter*

    Writing professions get no respect. I’m a technical writer and MBA, and people think all we do is spell check and make things pretty. The mindset seems to be “anyone can write” so why respect the writer by paying them enough, and in a timely manner?
    I don’t know whether this is the case, but I would assume the more revered professions like software development don’t have as much trouble getting paid. Any software developers out there that want to weigh in? Or other professions? Now I’m curious about the link between profession and getting paid…

    1. Nanani*

      I’m a freelance translator.
      Lots of people seem to think any bilingual can do the job (nope) or that MiddleManager who spent a few weeks abroad is qualified to make changes to the translated document (nopey nope).
      I charge late fees on payments not received (length of tim depends on the nature of the initial job) and fire any client who hit the stage where late fees are required more than once (not hypothetical).

      Note to new freelancers -You might think charging late fees means they won’t give you work anymore, but that is actually the point. If they don’t pay you they are not a client you want!

  50. Amorette Allison*

    Drinking rubbing alcohol is attempting to commit suicide. It is TOXIC. It can cause horrible neurological damage and kill. This is WAY past a “drinking problem.” If you have not had him admitted to an emergency detox program or some kind of suicide committal, do so. He needs IMMEDIATE medical help. If he refuses to go, draw the line in the sand. He will be dead if you don’t. Yes, consult a lawyer and make sure you are ready to carry on if your husband dies, which is sounds like he wants to do.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Yeah, Isopropanol is alcohol of kill you (as opposed to Methanol, which is alcohol of kill you slowly).

      I don’t know anything about how to deal with alcohol addiction; would it make sense to gather up anything with non-ethyl alcohols and lock them in a safe?

      1. I'm just here for the comments*

        I just want to put word out to be aware that alcohol exists in many household products, such as mouth wash, nail polish remover, hand sanitizer (i mean we’re more aware of that one now but Google the list of banned sanitizers with wood alcohol – people were getting sick and dying from drinking it, among other things), etc… If someone is drinking products not intended for human consumption they may need immediate medical attention. Also, alcohol withdrawal is potentially life threatening and needs to be managed in a medical setting, and typically the more severe the alcohol abuse the worse the withdrawal is.

        OP1 I won’t reiterate all the good advice that’s been given. I just want to say I’m so sorry you’re going through this, I wish you the best and hope you keep yourself safe.

  51. Coffee Bean*

    Letter Writer 1 – I am so sorry for what you are going tbrough. I have been in a similar position as you. It is exceptionally stressful. You have been dealing with this for four years, and that is a long time to deal with the extreme stress and anxiety that accompanies living with an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a vicious and destructive disease. I know that I had a mixture of fear, anger, and, yes, sadness for what my husband was going through. That mixture of emotions is exhausting.

    If you need to take time from work, and you don’t feel comfortable discussing the reason, Alison’s advice regarding what to tell your colleagues and boss is great.

    I know your post is seeking advice about taking time from work. I just wanted to let you know that if your husband decides to get help, he has to go to a hospital to detox. This is not something he can do on his own at home. That would be exceptionally dangerous. Your husband will also need inpatient treatment after the hospital stay, then most likely, he will need IOP (intensive outpatient) + relapse prevention therapy. Apologies if you are aware of this already. I am erring on the side of caution in advising all of this.

    Last and most important of all – please look after yourself. Al Anon is a resource to help you cope. Some other posters have mentioned EAP. This is good as well. One very crucial thing to remember as well is that you are not to blame here. This is beyond your control. Apologies again if you are aware of this.

    Please take care.

    1. Alice's Rabbit*

      Even if the letter writer does know all that, it’s still good advice to post. These threads will still be here years from now, and may benefit others who sadly find themselves in the same situation.

  52. AverageTeamLead*

    #LW1, I’m the manager of someone with an alcoholic husband. I’m going to slightly contradict Alison: if you can trust your manager, and they are average to good, tell them.

    It took a specific crisis before my team member told me, but it makes so much more sense now and I find it much easier to anticipate the possible nature of flexibility needed and to subtly adjust things without making a big deal for the rest of the team. I’ve got a few people with health / domestic issues going on and the flexibility or consideration they need is quite different from each other, so personally while “medical issues” is acceptable, it’s not helpful.

    1. Choggy*

      You sound like a rare manager to be that supportive, I don’t think LW #1 can *expect* the same. It would be nice to be treated as human beings with problems that at times need our laser focus, but not all companies look at their workers through the same lens.

  53. Nanani*

    #2 – this freelancer would have fired you guys as a client months ago – but you’d still have to pay me for work so far plus late fees.

    If none of your freelancers are charging late fees and continuing to accept work after not being paid, there is a high chance your company is exploiting people who are newer to the field (or at least to working freelance) or are desperate for reasons that may or may not include the global pandemic.

    I know you know it’s shitty but maybe some details will help you drive the point to your boss. You have to pay your people!

  54. Eether Eyether*

    LW#1: Please go to Al-Anon. Most meetings are being held via Zoom and, while not ideal, it’s better than nothing. You will see that you are not alone. And, it’s free.

    1. Alice's Rabbit*

      If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can even attend while sitting in your car, or at a park, if you want privacy from your husband during meetings.

  55. Hindsight is 20/20*

    OP 1:

    I was you. My heart is breaking for you. I know it can end well for you. For me, it did not.
    Here are the few nuggets of wisdom I have to offer, in hindsight:
    1. Yes, the immediate situation is a family health emergency, and it’s nobody’s business.
    2. You can’t save him. He has to save himself. Your “couple of days” working to get him into a treatment program, etc., can easily turn into much much more than that, and stepping into the mindset of taking the lead because you are well and he is not will only cause harm and more collateral damage to you in the long run.
    3. You do need to get professional legal/financial advice. Regardless of how good your insurance is, the costs of substance abuse treatment and ongoing care can wipe out even very substantial joint assets. Alcoholism is a lifelong disease, it is not something that can be fixed once and never rear its ugly head again. Even if your intent is to support your partner and the marriage and divorce is not an option you want to consider, I very strongly advise you (and this can mean you and your partner together, or you alone, with or without his blessing) to discuss with a family law attorney whether there are ways in your state to shield assets from the potential fallout from substance abuse – this could include placing assets in trust and establishing separate finances, or it could be that you remain vulnerable without a legal separation. Had I sought (and heeded) such advice at the beginning of our journey, I would be in a very different position than I am in today.
    4. You can be loving and helpful and supportive without allowing him to let you go down with the ship. You need to ask yourself every single day: Am I taking care of my own needs? Am I being kind to myself? Am I enabling him to avoid feeling the full weight of the problem and putting the hard work? What do I need so that I will still be okay?

    I wish you well.

  56. GradBoss*

    LW1-it depends on the relationship you have with your boss and the culture of your company. TBH I would hope if one of my employees was having this issue, they would come to me and be upfront so I could help in any way I could like reassign work amongst the team or give them options for extended leave which I have done for people in the past when they were having extreme family issues like these.

  57. Tidewater 4-1009*

    LW1, I’m seconding the advice to take care of yourself and your finances.
    Don’t be like someone I know. Her husband is an alcoholic who, like yours, was triggered by a business failure. He refused to get treatment or counseling.
    She stayed with him too long because she had never supported herself and was afraid to try. He lost his job and burned through a small inheritance, and a crisis led her to finally leave him and stay with her sister. At age 60 she was traumatized and had never supported herself.
    You are doing better than that! It sounds like you are competent at supporting yourself. Be sure to get the legal and psychological support you need to take care of yourself and your life, no matter how this turns out.
    Good luck!

  58. mgguy*

    Re: #2-
    I’ve been running a small business the past few years in addition to my full time job where I deal in a very, very niche area of servicing some specific models of older scientific equipment(Hewlett Packard 5890 gas chromatographs and 5971/72 mass spectometers if anyone is interested). There’s enough demand to keep me going at the level I’d like, and in fact have a good referral network from other independent service folks who saw demand drop to the point where it wasn’t cost effective to maintain parts inventory, etc, and have generally exited the market by selling me all their remaining relevant stuff and then referring any requests to me.

    I do both on-demand service calls(I go and fix it or do whatever, then send a bill) and also year-long service contracts(I’ll maintain it and fix anything that breaks for this flat fee that covers everything outside consumables). I had one job last year that was done in two steps-first was an initial relocation and lab set up that I billed at my flat per-day rate($1K+travel) since it was a one day job. I left everything running at 100% and essentially good as new, but had to replace about $300 worth of parts that I stressed were not included in the labor fee and they agreed to pay separately. A week later they contacted me and said “You did great setting these up and we’re really happy with them, but for peace of mind we want a service contract.” I sent over a standard one, and said we could talk when payment for the initial services was rendered. They paid me, then they signed off on the contract, I negotiated a bit and agreed to roll the parts into the contract(since they would have been covered) and was happy over getting a new $5K/year contract. The only issue was that they started calling me for work the day the contract was signed(and I agreed), but drug their feet for close to 4 months on paying me. At that point, I agreed to make the contract effective date the date I was paid, and since I’d taken care of everything it ended up being a fairly low-maintenance contract.

    With that said, I elected to not renew the contract their contract this year given the way the early days of it had played out despite their wanting to. I hated to walk away from what had been an easy $5K the previous year was all said and done, but at the same time I saw enough of them to see that even their user errors on the stuff could turn SUPER nasty really quickly and just didn’t want to deal with that.

  59. Koala dreams*

    #2 It’s not that uncommon to pay vendors and freelancers late, and the occasional freelancer probably comes far down on the list on which bills to prioritize, compared to things like power and internet where it would cause big problems if the vendor decides to cut off services until the bills are paid. However, since the payments are getting later and later, you might want to prepare in case this is a sign of bigger financial troubles to come. Update your resume, start looking at the job market, and make plans in case layoffs are coming or the company folds.

    The advice about the conversation about (not) assigning work to freelancers right now, and the timeline for paying the freelancers, is great. It will give you some insight into the situation, and an opportunity for you to advocate on behalf of the freelancers.

  60. AnonForThis*

    Re: letter #1… since I was also a person who didn’t find Al-Anon helpful, I wanted to offer another resource that was very helpful to me called Love Over Addiction. There’s a paid program but also a free podcast. It’s pitched to “women who love someone suffering from addiction.” (Men in this thread, sorry I don’t know of an equivalent resource.) It covers many of the topics recommended here about letting go of responsibility for his drinking and taking care of yourself.

  61. Azurelion*

    I don’t write, but I freelance in other ways. Not sure what sorts of nonsense freelance writers have been conditioned to put up with, but if you’re not paying for deliverables when you get them, then you’re in the wrong. 90 days is beyond the pale. At the 7-month mark…you’re actively stealing from people.

    If you can’t pay for work when you receive it, you can’t afford to commission the work.

  62. Al-amanda*

    I went through the same thing a year ago so I feel your pain. I urge you to find Al-ANON immediatley for yourself. As far as EAP goes, EAP is great but your husband needs more than what an EAP can provide. However Eap can be benefical for YOU.

    I chose to tell my boss what was going on with my husbands addiction. We are close. After she found out, she informed my CFO (with my permission) who then tells me HER husband is an alcoholic. My Cfo was the one who introduced me to Al-Anon, and even went with me to my first meeting. She also acted as a mentor during the painful crises when I felt so alone and lost. If it wasn’t for her i dont think i would still be married. My husband found AA and has been sober for a year now! It takes a lot of work on both parts, and I honestly didnt think we would make it. Hang in there, dont make any rash decisions yet (in terms of filing for divorce) take time for yourself, work on yourself, protect your assests and family, and pray.

    My point is, if you feel comfortable telling your boss, you may be surprised to have help from people you wouldn’t have otherwise. People affected by other’s alcoholism are very open, and always want to help. Please reach out to your local Al-anon if anything. ! Prayers for you and your family- It gets better

  63. #1 husband from a parallell universe*

    Thanks for all you talking about lawyers – that will make him definitely drink less and sober up! How about some support!? Like that was any new thing in those vows so long ago?

    I am not #1 husband, and not as way down the drain as he is (drinking rubbing alcohol), but I do know what the mindset is and what is going on.

    – You know you are not ”good enough”.
    – You know you ”are a loser”.
    – You know everything you do or do not do is going to be ”wrong”…

    So, you just end up in this mental maze doing rounds where the drink gives you the chance to break out of the depression, but then again the drink and your actions make you go back in further. To the point you can not face your partner even saying ”hello” in the morning sover as you are expecting her to complain about something, or didn’t do but all the same it will be ”everyone always complaining” and nothing you do is going to make it any better… alcohol takes off the edge.

    I am in no way defending his antics or what is going on, but the guy need a doctor more than she needs a lawyer!

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      The two things are not in conflict. He needs a doctor *and* she needs a lawyer. That’s doesn’t mean she has to or is going to leave him. But she would be much better equipped to help take care of him if she has taken care of herself as well. A lawyer can make sure she has the knowledge she needs to figure out what she can do and is willing to do for him without completely sacrificing her own life and her own security.

    2. Giant Squid*

      You can’t help people who don’t want to help themselves. No amount of love or selflessness. No amount of longsuffering (That’s a perfect word, isn’t it?).

      As others have pointed out, and as Alison has pointed out in the past, knowing your options in a situation helps you to handle it with grace.

    3. Aisling*

      She is the one who wrote in for help. We are giving her the help she needs.

      He did not write in for help. And, if you go back and read other comments, it is clear that unless HE wants to get help, it doesn’t matter if she wants to help him. He has to agree to the help.

      I hope that you can also get the help it seems you might need. Alcohol shouldn’t be used as a crutch to function.

  64. Anonforthis*

    LW #1, you didn’t ask for marriage advice. But I did want to tell you that I spent the last three years of my marriage patiently supporting my ex-husband’s increasing alcoholism and encouraging him to get help. Unfortunately, that only works if the person affected wants to get help, which he did not. I moved out of my house four years ago this weekend, and my life now would be unfathomable to the woman who left in 2016. My career, my home, my community, and my relationship with myself are better than I could have ever imagined. Divorce was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and also the best thing that has ever happened to me. Please remember how important you are, and do whatever is the best thing for you. I’m cheering you on.

  65. Anonymous for this*

    OP1- I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I’ve been in your husband’s shoes and had treatment in a hospital that worked for me (there was a false start in there but it stuck the second time around). The rubbing alcohol thing is familiar- I once was so far gone I attempted to drink cocktail bitters (disgusting if you don’t mix with an actual cocktail), it scared the hell out of me and helped spur me to seek treatment. They often say the person has to want to change, but sometimes knowing you’ll lose someone you love if you don’t can drive that desire and help get you in the door.

    Point is- I’m so sorry, this is absolutely a medical emergency like any illness so agreed with Alison’s basic script.

    I’m 7 years sober now and married to my boyfriend from that time. I’m wishing you and your husband all the best for an outcome like mine. I highly recommend comprehensive treatment programs at hospitals, mine was CATS at INOVA Fairfax hospital in Virginia. If there are programs similar to that in your area that’s my gold standard.

    I hope my personal story is helpful to you, or someone else struggling with this. I won’t presume to give you direct advice, I just wanted to share my story in case it could help. It sounds like you’re handling it like a boss, hang in there!

    1. Anonymous for this*

      I realized part of the above could be misread- I am 100% only sharing my personal experience about wanting to change, not saying it’s your job to make your husband change. I was lucky that my boyfriend stayed with me through it, although he made it clear he’d have to leave if I didn’t go to treatment- the deal was he would stay as long as I kept fighting. However, I would NOT have blamed him if he’d just left to take care of himself, and sometimes that’s what you have to do. No advice here, just a story I hope helps someone to get a true picture of something society talks so little about, and when it does often distorts in unhelpful ways.

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