A Partner’s Guide to Loving an Alcoholic

loving an alcoholic

Do you cover up your partner’s drinking? Are there frequent arguments about their alcohol consumption? Are you making excuses for their physical abuse or aggressive intimate attention because it only happens when they’re drunk?

Loving an alcoholic can lead to any or all of these repeating scenarios and more. In the United States, 40% of domestic violence reports include the presence of alcohol at the time of the attack. The severity of the abuse increases when consuming larger amounts of alcohol. 

If you’re feeling trapped in a toxic situation where alcohol addiction is impacting the stability of your relationship and personal well-being, keep reading. We will share tips on what you can and can’t control in this situation and the positive steps you can take toward a better life. 

It’s Not Your Fault

Alcoholics are great at turning the blame on you-it’s your fault they are under stress, your fault they drink, your fault they act violently toward you. Don’t become a victim of their lack of self-control. They are responsible for their emotions and self-destruction attributable to substance abuse.

Getting control over addiction is their problem, not yours. You can’t fix the problem for them through lectures, dumping alcohol down the drain, begging them to stop, monitoring the number of trips to the bar or liquor store, or the number of drinks they consume each night. You are responsible for your behavior, not theirs. Don’t let their actions monopolize your time.

Impact on Relationships

When one person in a relationship has alcoholism, there are several common areas of concern:

  • Anger, betrayal, and resentment lead to abusive behavior
  • Financial problems due to the cost of alcohol
  • Legal issues because of drunk driving and domestic abuse charges
  • Pattern of deception, denial, loss of respect
  • Sexual dysfunction resulting from excessive drinking
  • Social problems because of spouse arriving drunk or drinking to excess

When your partner is a recovering alcoholic, you need to lend support without losing control of who you are. Set boundaries that allow you to manage your well-being separate from your partner’s addiction. The purpose of the boundaries isn’t to control your partner but to establish acceptable behavior around you. 

  • Not being around them when they are drinking
  • Not providing them with money or favors that enable their drinking
  • Zero tolerance for abusive behavior
  • Zero tolerance for drunk driving

Attend family therapy that helps with understanding your spouse’s needs as they work to achieve sobriety.

Create a home environment that supports recovery. This includes not having alcohol in the home, even if other members can safely drink. Remove that temptation, as well as other items that encourage its use.

Participate together in activities that do not incorporate alcohol into the mix. This may be bike riding, watching a movie, exercising, etc.

The critical factor is offering constructive support without enabling their drinking habit.

Don’t Become an Enabler

Negatively helping an addict is destructive to their recovery. Addiction and relationships are tight-wire acts where your behavior may support their abuse.

Don’t cover for them by calling their employer and claiming illness when they are hungover or intoxicated. Don’t bail them out if they land in jail on a DUI charge. Let them experience all the social, work, and legal consequences of their actions. 

Don’t cover for them with family and friends. If they are drunk, be honest. If you arrive alone because they are home nursing the bottle and can’t function, explain your circumstances. Enlist the support of family and friends as you work through the problem, making long-term decisions that are good for you.

This doesn’t mean broadcasting the abuse. It means obtaining the help you need so you can help your spouse. Understanding alcoholism and the need for professional help is essential.

Understanding Alcoholism

Most adults control their drinking, keeping it at a level that does not impact their work, social life, or ability to function in society. When a person becomes dependent on alcohol, they have lost control, and once they have a drink, they can’t stop.

The alcoholic needs to frequently increase their consumption level to achieve the same satisfaction. If they stop drinking, they will experience withdrawal, including convulsions, hallucinations, irritability, nausea, restlessness, sweating, and tremors.

Alcohol disorders are attributable to several factors, including genetic, social, physiological, and psychological. The reasoning varies, including low self-esteem, impulsivity, peer pressure, abuse, and emotional problems.   

Contrary to popular belief, a person who can hold their liquor is at a higher risk of developing a dependency problem. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, genes are why about 50% of people develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD). A preoccupation with alcohol and uncontrolled drinking characterizes this chronic disease.

Even a person who is pre-disposed to alcohol reliance due to genetics can overcome the draw. It is also possible for people with no family history to become alcoholics.

Functional Tolerance Alcoholism

People with functional tolerance alcoholism can consume significant amounts of alcohol without appearing intoxicated. This allows them to participate in daily activities without anyone realizing how much alcohol is in their system.

Studies regarding this ability vary, showing 20% to 75% of people meeting diagnostic criteria for AUD being able to function at a high level when intoxicated. Because they can handle their daily life and responsibilities without appearing intoxicated, their alcohol consumption may go undetected. This is especially true when associating with people outside the immediate family environment.

Signs that your spouse is a functioning alcoholic include:

  • Behavior changes: mood swings, easily agitated, depression, anxiety
  • Blacking out after consuming alcohol
  • Concealing the amount of alcohol they drink
  • Heavy drinking regularly
  • Developing tolerance for alcohol; increasing consumption levels
  • Drinking at work
  • Justifying their drinking, claiming it’s necessary to relax, deal with stress, or feel social
  • Keeping alcohol hidden around the house
  • Lying about how much alcohol they consume
  • Lying about the strength of their drinks
  • Not appearing drunk after consuming a high level of alcohol
  • Sneaking alcohol into locations where it isn’t available 

Other signs they may be a functioning alcoholic include binge drinking or heavy use in private to relieve stress.

Take Positive Action

If you know or suspect your spouse suffers from alcohol addiction, the first step is to seek professional help for yourself. A professional familiar with alcoholism can help you develop a plan to encourage your spouse to begin the healing process. This may include staging an intervention.

Interventions help family members hold the alcoholic accountable for their actions, including the pain they are causing loved ones. By taking part in an intervention, you create an environment that shows love and support for helping your spouse take the steps necessary to become sober.

The majority of alcohol-dependent people are not trying to hurt themselves or their families. They are battling a medical condition that necessitates professional intervention to achieve recovery. Their treatment will become a permanent lifestyle change to maintain sobriety.

Two locations in Arizona allow you to obtain inpatient or outpatient alcoholism treatment for your partner. The Phoenix Rehab Center offers patients guidance and encouragement as they learn to overcome addiction. They tailor the program to the patient’s needs, including a medical detox, residential inpatient programs, therapy, and outpatient treatment for less intensive treatment needs.

For a more down-home atmosphere, the Purpose Healing Center in Scottsdale may fit your spouse’s needs. This drug and rehab facility provides your spouse with comfortable accommodations, outdoor spaces, and common areas for interacting with others.

Treatment is designed around your spouse’s needs. This may include residential inpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient treatment, or a gradual progression through all levels of care.

Healing You From Their Abuse

Loving an alcoholic can leave you feeling broken. It is a traumatic experience and may cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Spouses of alcoholics are trauma victims of a neglectful, abusive partner.

Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and nightmares. These feelings may be triggered by the smell of alcohol or when a person raises their voice; sometimes, no trigger is necessary. Seeking professional mental health treatment will help you overcome this condition.

Addiction is something millions of people around the world struggle with. We can rework the alcoholic’s steps to healing from addiction so they apply to the spouse:

  • Acknowledge your spouse’s problem
  • Acknowledge your need to gain control over the situation.
  • Seek professional guidance for helping your spouse with addiction
  • Obtain counseling or join support groups, such as Al-Anon, to handle the challenges of loving an alcoholic
  • Build a support system of family and friends who can help you during this difficult time
  • Understand the risks of relapse your spouse faces and how to help prevent them

Learning about healthy lifestyle changes you can make to help your spouse maintain sobriety will give you a sense of control over a stressful situation.

Get Help Loving an Alcoholic

Loving an alcoholic creates an emotional, stressful situation. Get help from Purpose Healing Center, Arizona’s leader in alcohol and substance abuse treatment.

We provide your spouse with a customized addiction treatment that meets their needs. This can be inpatient, outpatient, or a progressive plan as they obtain sobriety.

Take a tour of our Scottsdale and Phoenix treatment centers, then call us at 480-579-3319 with any questions. Admission staff is available 24/7, and transportation is provided. Take the first step to helping your alcoholic spouse today.