How to Live With an Alcoholic
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.
How Alcohol Use Disorder Affects 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.
1. Physical Health Effects
Intoxication presents potential dangers to your physical being. People experiencing the effects of alcohol aren’t themselves. 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 affects everyone.
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:
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 with an alcoholic spouse can color your world, always anticipating, “What’s next?”
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.
Alcohol Abuse Withdrawal Symptoms
When your loved one stops drinking alcohol, they’ll begin experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Not drinking affects them both mentally and physically, and symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening.
Delirium tremens is the most severe reaction to alcohol cessation and can last up to a week or longer. Someone suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms can benefit from a medically assisted detox program.
How to Know If You Live with an Alcoholic
Spotting the symptoms of alcohol addiction is much like any other substance abuse problem. 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?
Would substance abuse treatment and a caring, professional treatment center do them some good? If the signs point to AUD in a family member, you can call Zinnia Health to speak with an understanding representative about your situation at (855) 430-9439.
Other Ways You’re Affected by Living With an Alcoholic
Whether the person struggling with a drinking problem is your husband, wife, significant other, child, or another family member, you and others living with you likely deal with difficult, even heartbreaking experiences. The stress and worry can affect your physical and mental health.
1. Your Relationships
- You may grow resentful.
- You may lose your ability to trust people.
- You might not feel safe or comfortable in other relationships.
2. Your Life
- You may reduce or even stop any self-care routines.
- You may have problems at your job, and losing income can worsen it.
- You may feel like you don’t have many friends or like you’re socially isolated.
3. Your Children
- Children often suffer intense emotional pain.
- Children with parents who have AUD can suffer from reduced brain size.
- Children of parents with a drinking problem are more likely to develop alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder later in life.
- Children of alcoholic parents can feel like life is a constant battle, even in adulthood.
- Children can benefit from childhood counseling and other support.
How to Take Care of Yourself When You Live with an Alcoholic
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. You matter! 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):
- 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:
- It’s not your fault.
- Don’t be afraid to recognize, state, and respect your own boundaries.
- Learn how to spot if your partner’s been drinking (especially if you suffer from any type of abuse).
- Protect your own mental health with coping strategies that work for you.
- 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).
- Look for resources. There are support groups and peer support for people who love addicts. You can also consider professional help and family therapy.
- Trust yourself. If it’s time to walk away — it’s time.
Zinnia Health 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 treatment programs are available. Reach out to the caring specialists at Zinnia Health. You can call our alcohol addiction hotline at (855) 430-9439.