Substance Use

Living With An Alcoholic Spouse: How to Deal With Partner’s Drinking

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Wondering if you’ve done or said something wrong, feeling scared and anxious…these feelings are natural if you live with someone suffering from alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder (AUD). Adults living with an alcoholic partner or family member and children who’ve grown up with alcohol abuse or substance use disorder in their home often wonder what they can do to help an alcohol-addicted family member.

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What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorder, or AUD, is a serious health condition related to drinking too much alcohol. It’s essential to know about it because it can affect people’s lives and well-being. (1) (2)

AUD happens when someone drinks alcohol in a way that causes problems in their life. It’s not just about drinking a lot; it’s when drinking starts causing troubles like problems at school, home, or with friends. AUD is more than just enjoying a drink; it’s when drinking becomes a challenge.

Recent studies show that many people, including teenagers, may be affected by AUD. About 15 million adults in the United States alone have AUD, and it’s not only an adult problem; young people can struggle with it too. It’s important to be aware of these numbers to understand the scope of the issue.

There isn’t just one reason why people develop AUD. It’s a mix of different things. Some people might have a family history of alcohol problems, while others may use alcohol to cope with stress or sadness. 

Peer pressure and easy access to alcohol can also play a role. Understanding these factors helps us see that it’s a complex issue with many influences.

Recognizing the Signs: Do You Live with an Alcoholic?

Spotting the symptoms of alcohol addiction is much like any other substance abuse problem. (1) If you’ve seen no evidence of alcohol in your home, it could mean that alcohol isn’t the problem.

On the other hand, it can also mean they hide it well. If you’re certain they’ve been drinking alcohol excessively, it may be time to ask for help.

If in doubt, here are three questions to ask yourself:

  • Can you smell alcohol on their breath?
  • Have you witnessed them drinking?
  • Is there evidence of consumption in or around your home, such as empty bottles?

Impact and Effects of Alcoholism on Your Home

Living with an alcoholic isn’t easy. There are so many aspects of your lives that are interconnected, especially if you have children. The burden you carry can lead to high levels of stress and steal the happiness you’d usually have for other things in your life.

It’s an all-consuming environment of sadness that affects you now, but it can also lead to long-term health problems in the future. In fact, the physical, mental, and emotional health of the person addicted to alcohol and all family members is at risk. Especially if there is domestic violence occurring. As a disclaimer, in this case, it’s safe to call 911 or seek professional help as soon as possible.

1. Physical Health Effects

Intoxication presents potential dangers to your physical being. People experiencing the effects of alcohol aren’t themselves. (3) They might get angry over trivial matters, yell at you or their children, or physically strike you, putting you and your family’s physical well-being in danger. Their behavior affects everyone and impacts the entire dynamic of your home. 

Even if domestic violence isn’t occurring, the physical effects of alcohol on your partner still present dangers to your well-being and that of other household members. The drinker may experience moodiness, impaired memory, lack of energy and motivation, and other changes, including depression and anxiety, that affect everyone. (4)

In addition, physical incapacitation caused by intoxication may make them unable to assume responsibility for tasks they once undertook without question. Even if the person addicted to alcohol attempts to stop drinking, withdrawal is a sensitive time for everyone.

2. Mental and Emotional Effects

If you live with someone with AUD, it’s likely you have or will experience feelings of:

  • Anxiousness
  • Frustration
  • Shame
  • Hopelessness
  • Embarrassment

As a family member of an alcoholic, you might also:

  • Lie to cover for them
  • Clean up their messes
  • Have a hard time trusting anyone
  • Neglect responsibilities
  • Neglect your children if you have them
  • Experience physical abuse
  • Experience mental abuse and trauma

An intoxicated person constantly influencing the rest of the household is stressful. The unpredictability of your day-to-day life with an alcoholic spouse can color your world, always anticipating, “What’s next?” As spouses of alcoholics, you have choices.

If you have a job outside the home, aside from co-workers, you might not spend much time with people who don’t live with you. It’s hard for someone who hasn’t lived with an alcoholic partner and isn’t familiar with the symptoms of AUD to understand why someone would use a substance that creates so much turmoil and tears so many families apart.

3. Financial Effects

While alcohol itself is relatively inexpensive, a drinking problem can take a toll on your finances. Financial problems can compound due to overspending, lack of budgeting, or other issues and can worsen if one or more adults in the home become unemployed. (5)

How to Talk to Your Alcoholic Spouse About Their Addiction

Approaching a conversation with your spouse about their alcohol addiction and alcohol dependence requires care, empathy, and strategic communication.

Here are some helpful strategies:

  1. Choose the Right Timing and Setting: Find a time when both of you can talk without distractions. Avoid bringing up the topic during arguments or when your spouse is under the influence. Select a quiet and comfortable setting where you can have privacy and focus. Creating an environment that fosters open communication increases the chances of a constructive conversation.
  2. Express Concerns Empathetically: Start the conversation by expressing your feelings and concerns using “I” statements. For example, say, “I’ve noticed that your drinking has been affecting our relationship, and I’m concerned about your well-being.” This approach helps to avoid sounding accusatory and makes it clear that you care about their health and the relationship.
  3. Use Non-Confrontational Language: Avoid blaming or criticizing your spouse for their binge drinking or onset of mental health disorders. Instead, use neutral and non-judgmental language. Focus on specific behaviors or situations related to their drinking that have raised concerns. This approach helps your spouse feel less defensive and more open to discussing the issue.
  4. Listen Actively: Allow your spouse to share their perspective and feelings. Listen without interrupting, and validate their emotions. Understanding their viewpoint can provide insight into the reasons behind their drinking. This step is great for building trust and establishing a foundation for future discussions about seeking help.
  5. Offer Support and Solutions: Communicate your willingness to support them in making positive changes. Avoid ultimatums, but gently suggest seeking professional help or attending support groups. Presenting solutions rather than focusing solely on the problem can make the conversation more constructive.
  6. Be Prepared for Resistance: Understand that your spouse may initially resist the idea of addressing their alcohol addiction. Approach this resistance with patience and persistence. Reiterate your concern for their well-being and the relationship, emphasizing that you’re there to support them throughout the recovery process.

Remember, talking about alcohol addiction is a delicate matter, and emotions may run high. By approaching the conversation with empathy, understanding, and a genuine desire to help, you create a foundation for collaboration in addressing the challenges of alcoholism together.

Coping Strategies for Family Members

How can you live your best life and still support your struggling loved one?

If you live with an alcoholic, you don’t have to let it destroy who you are. It’s important to take care of yourself.

If you live with someone struggling with AUD, please remember the Three C’s (taught in Al-Anon and other support groups for families of addicts): (6)

  • You didn’t Cause your loved one’s addiction.
  • You can’t Control your loved one’s addiction.
  • You can’t Cure your loved one’s addiction.

In other words, don’t be hard on yourself. Remember:

  1. It’s not your fault.
  2. Don’t be afraid to recognize, state, and respect your own boundaries.
  3. Learn how to spot if your partner’s been drinking (especially if you suffer from any type of abuse).
  4. Protect your own mental health with coping strategies that work for you.
  5. Know when it’s time to get professional help (which can sometimes mean setting up an intervention with AUD specialists and finding medication-assisted treatment).
  6. Look for resources. There are support groups and social support groups for people who love addicts. You can also consider professional help at a treatment facility and family therapy.
  7. Trust yourself. If it’s time to walk away — it’s time.

How to Help Your Loved One Overcome Alcoholism

If someone you care about is struggling with alcoholism, there are ways you can support them on their journey to recovery.

Here are some helpful strategies.

  1. Intervention Strategies: If you’re worried about your loved one’s drinking, consider having an intervention. This is a structured conversation where you express your concerns and encourage them to seek help. It’s important to approach it with love and understanding, emphasizing the impact their drinking has on themselves and those around them.
  2. Supporting Without Enabling: Supporting your loved one doesn’t mean making excuses for their behavior. Avoid covering up their mistakes or providing them with opportunities to keep drinking. Instead, encourage healthy habits and be there for them emotionally. Helping them find professional assistance is more valuable than unintentionally enabling their addiction.
  3. Family Involvement in Recovery: Family plays a crucial role in the recovery process. Attend support groups together, engage in family therapy, and educate yourselves about alcoholism. By creating a supportive environment at home, you contribute significantly to your loved one’s chances of success in overcoming alcoholism.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options

When dealing with alcohol addiction, seeking professional help is essential. Here are different treatment options that can make a significant difference.

  1. Various Treatment Modalities: Treatment for alcohol addiction comes in various forms. Inpatient rehabilitation involves staying at a facility and providing a structured environment for recovery. Outpatient programs allow individuals to attend therapy while still living at home. Counseling and therapy, both individual and group sessions, are often key components of these modalities. Each person may respond differently, so finding the right fit is crucial.
  2. Importance of Professional Help: Professional assistance is crucial in overcoming alcohol addiction. Trained therapists and counselors can help individuals explore the root causes of their addiction and develop coping strategies. Medical professionals can also provide medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. (7) Having a support system of experienced individuals significantly increases the chances of successful recovery.
  3. Personalized Treatment Plans: Everyone is unique, and so is their journey to recovery. Personalized treatment plans take into account individual needs, circumstances, and preferences. Regular assessments and adjustments ensure that the treatment remains relevant to the individual’s progress.

Navigating Recovery and Life Post-Alcoholism

Recovery from alcoholism is a courageous journey that involves several crucial aspects.

Here’s a breakdown of navigating life post-alcoholism.

  1. The Recovery Journey: Recovery is a process that takes time, commitment, and patience. It involves acknowledging the challenges, seeking professional help, and making lifestyle changes. Embracing a support system, which may include support groups or close friends and family, plays a vital role in navigating this journey.
  2. Maintaining Sobriety: Once in recovery, maintaining sobriety becomes a daily commitment. It involves adopting a healthier lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep. Engaging in ongoing therapy or support groups helps individuals stay focused on their sobriety goals. Developing coping mechanisms to deal with stress and negative emotions is crucial for long-term success.
  3. Rebuilding Relationships Post-Recovery: Alcoholism can strain relationships, but recovery provides an opportunity to rebuild and strengthen them. Open communication is key, allowing individuals to express remorse and seek forgiveness. Rebuilding trust takes time, and consistent, positive actions are necessary. Additionally, self-care is key when your spouse’s drinking habits are bad.

Worried About An Alcoholic Husband or Wife? We Can Help

Living with an alcoholic is hard. But you weren’t the cause of the addicted person’s life choices, and you can’t be the cure. Thankfully, alcohol addiction can be treated with the help of professional treatment providers.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or substance abuse, even when it includes mental health issues, various types of detox treatment and treatment programs at treatment centers are available. Reach out to the caring healthcare specialists at Zinnia Health. You can call our alcohol addiction hotline at (855) 430-9439.


Call us
Ready to get help?
(855) 430-9439
Why call us? Why call us