Skip to main content

The Unspoken Truths: What is it Really Like Living with an Alcoholic?

The Unspoken Truths: What is it Really Like Living with an Alcoholic?
August 21, 2023
by admin
man holding his head sitting in front of beer glasses

If you have a significant other battling an AUD (alcohol use disorder), you can take certain actions to help both of you through the challenges of binge drinking. It’s important to realize you’re not the cure or cause of your partner’s substance abuse problems, but you could positively contribute to their recovery and heal yourself.

Living with an alcoholic partner isn’t easy, and it’s crucial to understand that your partner’s drinking is not because of you. Though you can’t make them stop drinking if they aren’t ready, there are some things you could do. Let’s focus on them now!

Impacts of Dealing with an Alcoholic Spouse

An alcohol use disorder is considered a chronic medical condition. It happens when a person cannot stop or control their drinking, despite professional, social, or health consequences. However, the impact of the AUD isn’t just limited to the person suffering from the problem. They could affect not only the person who has the problem but also their loved ones, family, and others.

Living with an alcoholic partner could make you attempt to control their drinking or lead to feelings of self-blame. Likewise, you might unknowingly enable their behavior, making excuses for what they do.

It’s important to understand you didn’t cause your spouse to drink, and you cannot cure nor control their alcohol addiction. If you are dealing with any of these experiences, here are some alternative solutions:

  • Self-blame – Instead of blaming yourself for the alcohol use disorder, realize that your partner is solely responsible for their emotions and recovery. You do not have to endure domestic abuse, screaming, or yelling. Overall, your loved one has an AUD, which is a chronic condition. If your partner had other chronic health problems, such as cancer or diabetes, you wouldn’t blame yourself for their physical health, and you shouldn’t be in this situation.
  • Enabling Your Spouse – Enabling means that you’re performing behaviors, such as making excuses or covering up for your loved one. For instance, you might call your spouse’s workplace to tell the employer they are sick, but they’re only hungover or intoxicated. Enabling can also take the form of bailing your spouse out of jail, avoiding everything, pretending the issue doesn’t exist, and more. You must focus on setting healthy boundaries and following through with any consequences.
  • Controlling a Spouse’s Alcohol Intake – Most people feel they must be obsessive in monitoring their spouse’s drinking, constantly finding out where they are, throwing out alcohol, giving lectures, forbidding them from going to bars, etc. However, none of these things work! You must actively release control over your spouse’s substance use disorder. In a sense, you didn’t cause it, can’t control it, or can’t cure it.

If you live with a spouse with an alcohol abuse disorder, self-care is important. While it often seems counterintuitive to focus on you when your spouse is showing these behaviors, you must think about your needs and emotions before you can help them.

Helping Family Members Deal with Substance Abuse

It’s impossible to cure substance use disorders alone. However, you can give them support and information to make it easier for them to seek their recovery. Here are some ways to support an alcoholic partner:

  • Education – The first thing you must do is educate yourself about those who abuse alcohol. This includes withdrawal symptoms, diagnostic criteria, treatment options, and detox. Knowing these things will help you empathize with your partner’s experience and assist with decisions and discussions.
  • Offer Help – You can encourage your spouse to seek treatment, counseling, group meetings, and more. Then, provide information for those resources. It’s also possible to suggest activities that both of you will do together which don’t involve alcohol.
  • Talk to Your Partner – The National Institute of Health claims that you should wait until your partner sobers up and calmly discuss your issues about their drinking. Explain how alcohol impacts the body and mind, focusing more on available treatment options. If there’s a risk of domestic violence, it’s wise to do this in a public space or during a doctor’s appointment.
  • Schedule an Intervention – Interventions aren’t appropriate in all circumstances. However, you might consider exploring this option. Various approaches and interventions are available, and professional help will ensure you choose the right one for your family member.
partner talking to each other

Talking to Your Spouse About Their Mental Health Issues and Alcohol Use

Opening up to your partner about their misuse of alcohol is uncomfortable and tricky. It could take multiple discussions before they are ready to take action, which lengthens the process. However, talking to them about the situation is crucial, communicating its impact on you and the other family members. You’ll also offer options for them to seek professional help.

However, if you’re worried about intimate partner violence (you feel they might rage if you ask them to stop drinking), you may want to wait until you’re at a doctor’s appointment or in another safe location.

If there’s no fear for your health from physical violence, here are a few tips to help with the conversation:

  • Prepare for Your Conversation – Find a good time and place to talk when both are calm and open to what’s said. Practice your speech ahead of time, keeping it brief if possible. Focus on a single change you hope your partner will commit to. This might be learning more about their drinking problem or finding a support group.
  • Stay Positive – Focus on positive language and change. For example, you could mention that it would be excellent to wake up level-headed each day or spend time as a family. Now, you’ll offer support, emphasizing that things could improve. Also, make sure you mention you believe they can change.
  • Get Specific – List the reasons you’re worrying and provide concrete suggestions. You could say you’re worried about their drinking because they spend less time with the children or miss work often. A direct proposal might look like this: “Can we do more things together without drinking, such as going on a bike ride or having a picnic?”
  • Create a Plan and Offer Support – You can’t do the recovery process for your spouse. However, you can be supportive, asking how you might help while they start drinking less and finally abstaining from alcohol altogether. Make a list of goals they should work toward, and set a date for a future talk to see how things are going.

Coping Strategies for an Alcoholic Spouse

Coping with your alcoholic partner is dynamic; it’s a whole journey. What helps now might not be helpful in the future, so you should have various coping methods. Make sure they understand that domestic violence is never the answer. Hurting you will not help them. This could be the first step toward recovery if they often become violent while drunk.

Here are a few ways to help you cope with a spouse who has an alcohol use disorder:

  • Find Peer Support Groups – Al-Anon is there to help families of alcohol abusers. Here, you’ll learn coping skills to detach from their behaviors so that you can care for yourself. Likewise, you might focus on responding to the drinking constructively while offering connection and support.
  • Self-Care – This is crucial to coping; you might do so emotionally, spiritually, or physically. You may meditate, try new hobbies, exercise, and more.
  • Educate Yourself – Knowing what your partner is dealing with and the treatments available will help you feel better about yourself. Plus, you’ll be ready when they wish to discuss the problem.
  • Therapy – This can help you learn how to cope with your alcoholic spouse. Research indicates that family therapy can be beneficial, even when a spouse refuses to admit there’s a problem.
  • Involve Family and Friends – Be honest with everyone about what they can do to assist you, talking about it often. You’re not alone in your struggle!

Online Resources

Here are a few online resources to help you:

You might feel comfortable talking to someone directly so that you could call the National Helpline from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The phone number is 1-800-662-4357. Overall, the call is free and confidential, and it’s open , with operators who can offer information services and treatment referrals for those with mental health problems.

man refusing alcohol

Alcohol Treatment Options

Alcohol use disorders are common, but people can benefit from ongoing care and treatment. The treatment options will vary depending on the length of treatment, service intensity, and therapeutic interventions used.

Typically, inpatient treatments are necessary for alcohol addiction, and some people might need to work on their mental health problems before doing much else. Once they get clean, they might visit a recovery house like Sober Living Austin – Ascension House.

Here are a few things to consider to ensure treatment is the most effective:

  • Readily Available – When your spouse chooses to go for treatment, you don’t want them to change their mind or lose momentum. The earlier they get treatment, the greater the chance for positive outcomes.
  • Individualized – There are countless treatments, and each one is different.
  • Length – Studies show that a three-month treatment is required to reduce the person’s risk of a relapse.
  • All Aspects of the Person’s Life – Effective treatments focus on all parts of their lives, including legal issues, mental illness, family, and work. Likewise, they need something tailored to their gender, age, ethnicity, and culture.
  • Behavioral Therapies – A behavioral therapy approach is often used in treating alcohol abuse. They will improve relationships, find outlets to grow, and build skills to help them resist alcohol/drug abuse.
  • Ever-Changing – Treatment plans aren’t static at most treatment centers. They’re flexible, proactive, and reactive. If you want the treatment to be effective, someone must evaluate your spouse’s needs and create a plan specifically for them.
  • Mental Concerns – The treatment they receive should address their mental health disorders to be the most effective. People often have co-occurring mental health conditions, so they might require an integrated approach that simultaneously addresses substance use and mental health problems.

Work with Sober Living Austin – Ascension House Today

Whether you’re living with an alcoholic partner or an alcoholic parent, it’s time to deal with it. The best thing you can do is protect yourself, focus on self-care, and discuss things openly with your loved one.

Having an alcohol use disorder doesn’t mean a person is unfixable. They have to work hard to avoid alcohol at all costs. This is often challenging and nearly impossible without professional help.

Sober Living Austin – Ascension House is here to help. This recovery home promotes sober living through long-term care. It’s possible to overcome an alcohol problem, and we can assist. Please call 512-598-5030 to get started today!


What Are 3 Ways to Cope with Living with an Alcoholic?

If you’re living with an alcoholic partner, there are many ways to cope with them. Here are the top three:
Focus on yourself
Protect yourself and your family from harm
Educate yourself about the condition and how you can help your alcoholic partner living with an AUD

What Happens to the Family of an Alcoholic?

Alcohol abuse can damage entire families, impacting future generations. When one member suffers from alcoholism, their closest relatives and friends must deal with strained relationships, financial difficulties, etc.

How Long Do Most Alcoholics Live?

Doctors cannot predict when someone with an alcohol addiction will die. However, estimates suggest chronic alcohol abuse could lower their life expectancy by as much as 12 years.