Living With an Alcoholic: How To Deal With an Alcoholic Partner
Everybody drinks, right? Sometimes it seems drinking is involved with every social event. In fact, one study shows that almost 67 percent of people over the age of 18 drank within the last year. Social drinking is accepted, but when you have an alcoholic partner, it can cause many problems in the relationship, no matter how progressed the alcohol use disorder (AUD) may be.
Despite efforts from family members and loved ones to encourage an alcoholic to stop drinking, it can seem there is no end in sight, and your desire for them to stop drinking isn’t being respected or acknowledged.
When your partner’s drinking begins to erode the relationship, it can be very difficult to be supportive — but know that the level of support and your approach to the situation can make all the difference in the world.
Whether you have an alcoholic spouse who is a functioning alcoholic who gets up and goes to work every day, or you’re head-over-heels in love with someone who is a raging alcoholic, but you see their potential and love their “sober side,” living with an alcoholic takes a lot of compassion, love, support, and self-care for both of you.
As their primary support person, how you treat an alcoholic can have a big impact on how they feel about themselves. However, you shouldn’t put too much burden on yourself, as it can be a lot of pressure and burden to bear.
The key is to find them a support group where they feel accepted and understood, and ideally, keep supporting them along the way by letting them know that you believe in them.
If you love someone suffering from substance use disorder (SUD) and they can’t stop drinking alcohol — or don’t want to stop — keep reading for ways to support them and yourself.
What Are the Negative Consequences of Alcoholism?
When you live with someone with alcohol addiction, the negative consequences of alcoholism are on display. No matter how much you may love them, let’s be honest — it’s a front-row ticket to a show you never wanted to see.
Even if your alcoholic partner hides their habit from the rest of the world, you see the good, the bad, and the ugly of a person’s life with a drinking problem.
Alcoholism can cause physical health problems and make mental health problems worse than before — after all, alcohol is a depressant. Substance abuse orders can lead to financial problems, putting further strain on your relationship.
And the effects of alcohol can maximize emotions, causing hurt feelings and embarrassment, and shine a light on a serious denial of a substance abuse disorder.
Where To Find Support
One of the most loving acts you can do for your partner is to give them the courage and support to find a strong support system that can be their go-to solution on tough days. This will not only help them feel understood among peers with the same problem, but it will also lift a lot of the burden off your relationship.
Sometimes, people don’t seek help on their own because they’re living in a state of denial and refuse to believe that a problem exists in the first place. Other times, they have hectic schedules that make it seem impossible to get to treatments or meetings, and they feel it’s too much to add one more obligation to an already packed agenda with work and family.
For all of these reasons and more, Sober Sidekick was created. It’s a sobriety app that provides a non-judgmental community and is 100 percent free. Check out what this app offers below:
Sobriety Counter – Once your partner is on board to quit drinking, the app helps to track sober days on a calendar and encourages celebrating milestones along the way.
24/7 Meetings – Forget scheduled AA meetings if they don’t fit into busy schedules. Sober Sidekick is a 24/7 app, meaning even if it’s 2:00 am, someone is available for support and encouragement.
Give-To-Receive Support – The app encourages giving and receiving support, making support a two-way street. This encourages engagement and participation.
Messaging – Group members can message right on the app. Members share coping strategies for withdrawal, dealing with cravings, and more.
Daily Motivations – Sometimes, a little motivational message goes a long way on a tough day. Daily motivations are sent to members to remind them that quitting their substance abuse is entirely within their reach.
Professional Help, if Needed – Members can access professional help via the app if they feel that’s something needed. There is no pressure, but it’s there if it’s needed.
Resources – Finding additional resources is easy when you have the app and more than 180,000 members to tap into to learn about what worked for them and what didn’t.
There are other support groups out there, and some recovering alcoholics use the app in conjunction with AA or another support program or addiction treatment. Others start with Sober Sidekick, and as they progress, they can learn about other services if they choose to use them. For some, the app is enough to end alcohol abuse and say goodbye to their substance abuse disorder.
If someone has a severe drinking problem, and you feel Sober Sidekick is a starting point, but additional treatment options are needed, you may want to look into an inpatient alcohol treatment facility for your partner. A professional treatment center may be needed to support withdrawal symptoms and detox if your partner has been drinking for many years and the drinking is heavy.
Encouraging your partner to seek out resources, like Sober Sidekick, or additional treatment programs, as needed is the first step. If they agree to take a step towards sobriety, no matter how small, consider this a win!
Also, you may want to look into attending Al-anon to learn coping strategies for dealing with an alcoholic partner. Whatever you do, don’t give up hope — remind yourself that three out of four people who suffer from addiction eventually recover to go on and live normal, fulfilling lives.
How much of a role you are willing to take on as a support person depends on you, your commitment level, and, honestly, your capacity to do so. If you’re determined to help, kudos to you — having a positive mindset will be one of the most supportive things you can do for them.
How You Can Support Your Alcoholic Partner
One of the strategies for beating addiction is to come up with distractions, hobbies, or other ways to spend healthy time rather than focusing on alcohol cravings. Building new coping mechanisms is key to recovery.
Helping your partner to find healthy activities they enjoy, or finding things you can do together, is a lifelong coping strategy for beating all kinds of addiction. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Replace drinking habits with physical activity, such as walking, swimming, or joining a gym or exercise program together.
Help them curb their drinking habits by encouraging them to start a hobby they’ve always talked about wanting to try or help them to start back an old habit they’ve abandoned from the past.
Instead of drinking alcohol, consider researching mocktails, which can be effective because alcoholics are used to having a drink in their hands. Non-alcoholic beverages can be flavorful and replace a bad habit with a good one — seltzer and cranberry anyone?
Consider finding activities you can do together if you share the same interests. Let your partner know they’re not alone, and you’re in it for the long haul to see them through their addiction to recovery. However, as much as you want to help, you should also set healthy boundaries for yourself.
Keep reading to learn about signs to watch out for.
Signs To Watch Out For
If your partner is the person of your dreams when they’re sober, but they’re an angry drunk with an alcohol problem who calls you names, belittles you, or physically abuses you — get out. Don’t walk to the front door — run.
Don’t put yourself at risk for codependency. Your partner has bigger problems than you should reasonably be expected to handle — you must focus on your own well-being.
Have you ever heard the saying about putting your own oxygen mask on first before helping others on an airplane? It applies here, too. Never put yourself in a dangerous situation because of someone else’s addiction.
Unfortunately, substance abuse is linked to domestic violence in many cases. Did you know alcohol plays a role in 40 percent of domestic abuse cases in the U.S.? There’s a strong correlation between alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
Here’s a recap of behaviors that aren’t okay and warrant setting a healthy boundary and getting out of an unhealthy relationship:
Physical abuse: causing physical harm to you, hitting, punching, slapping, pushing
Verbal abuse: name-calling, belittling, and other toxic behaviors related to language
Financial abuse: causing financial problems due to drinking, or exercising control through finances in the household
If you are experiencing any of the above behaviors from your partner, you must seek help from a friend, family member, or a professional program. Don’t allow your partner’s alcoholic problem to impact your life. One study showed that wives of alcoholics reported showing signs of fear, nervousness, guilt, anxiety, and depression.
If your partner is an alcoholic, evaluate if you’re in a safe situation. If you aren’t, find a way to leave as soon as possible. Regardless of your situation, self-care goes a long way, especially when living with an alcoholic.
If your safety isn’t an issue, helping your partner to engage in self-care activities is a great coping strategy. Often, alcoholics feel shame and guilt about their addiction, and self-care is a step towards self-love.
Check out these tips on self-care when battling a substance use disorder.
Living with an alcoholic can be challenging; getting them the help they need is critical to being supportive. Encourage them to become a free member of Sober Sidekick, and let them know you’re there to support them in their recovery journey.
Help is available for your loved one and for you. Set healthy boundaries for yourself and be sure that you both engage in self-care routines.