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If you’re wondering how to help an alcoholic husband, understanding whether he has a drinking problem is the first step. Spotting an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in your spouse isn’t always easy. However, there are some signs to look for.
Alcohol addiction presents itself differently in each person. While some alcoholics struggle with daily functioning, others can maintain responsibilities. Living with a high-functioning alcoholic husband has different challenges because it may seem to outsiders that there is no problem.
If you suspect your husband is an alcoholic, there are some common signs to look for.
There are several vital signs your husband has developed alcoholism. Some of these include:
Alcohol can cause people to become more risk-taking and excitable.3 If your husband is exercising poor judgment, lacks inhibitions, and seems different to you, alcohol consumption could be the cause.
If you notice your husband has sudden erratic and unpredictable mood swings or is dealing with depression or anxiety, this may be a sign of an AUD. Additionally, anger, frustration, and irritability can all be caused by heavy alcohol use.
Alcoholism isolates both parties in a relationship. You might feel you cannot trust your husband or that he treats you disrespectfully.
Many alcoholics will hide, deny, and lie about their drinking. You may also notice that he is sneaking around and generally being distant. Untrustworthiness may be a sign your husband is an alcoholic.
When someone is drunk, they lose physical coordination. If you notice that your husband is stumbling, slurring his speech, driving erratically, or is generally clumsy, he might be excessively drinking.
While sometimes drinking can increase sexual desire, drinking heavily for long periods can negatively affect the libido. That’s because heavy alcohol consumption lowers testosterone. If your husband is less interested in sex or has trouble getting aroused, this may point to an AUD.4
Excessive alcohol use has severe effects on the body. Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, leading to disease. Additionally, the risk of cancer increases significantly in heavy drinkers.13
Alcoholism negatively affects the heart, liver, pancreas, and brain.13 If your husband drinks excessively, you may notice his overall health declining.
Has your husband given up hobbies he once enjoyed to do activities that involve drinking? This could be a sign of an AUD. Instead of being with friends or playing sports, they have opted to spend time at a bar or drink at home.
If your husband wakes up shaky, this may indicate he’s addicted to alcohol. Other signs of alcohol withdrawal include:
After heavy drinking, it’s common to experience a hangover. If you notice that your husband is hungover often, this may be a sign of an AUD. Symptoms of a hangover include, but aren’t limited to:
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Watching a loved one struggle with alcohol addiction is one of the most challenging experiences a person can go through. This is especially true when that loved one is your husband.
There are things you can do to help an alcoholic spouse and improve the chances of recovery. If you’d like to help your husband stop drinking, consider the following steps:
Try not to talk about his drinking when he’s drunk or hungover. To have successful conversations, discuss these issues when he's sober and able to communicate properly.
When you confront him, let him know how his drinking affects you and other family members. Avoid blame, and focus on using “I” statements. For example, you can say, “I feel hurt when you drink too much and neglect our relationship.”
Don’t enable your husband or make excuses for him. This ranges from calling into work for him to bailing him out of jail. Making excuses for him only allows his alcoholism to continue. Enabling him can make his AUD even more dangerous.
Be honest about how his drinking affects you and the rest of the family. Your honesty may be the best way to help him understand how his alcoholism negatively affects the people around him.
Don’t make empty threats. Be clear with the actions you’re prepared to take if your husband continues his destructive behavior. Make sure to follow through with those consequences and hold yourself and your husband accountable.
Be supportive, not judgemental. Tell your spouse you want to help them get treatment but can’t do it without their help. Work together as a team and show your support the best you can.
You can’t help other people if you don’t care for yourself. Make sure you get proper sleep and are eating enough. Staying healthy will help you get your husband healthy, too.
Additionally, consider attending group meetings like Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a free support group and program to help people affected by their alcoholic loved ones.
Ideally, divorce wouldn’t be an option. But it might be the right choice if you’ve tried everything to help your spouse, and nothing has worked.
The critical thing to remember is that your safety and the safety of your other family members are your main priority. For many, the solution for dealing with an angry, drunk spouse is leaving the marriage.
If an alcoholic spouse threatens you or your children, physical distance from him is appropriate and justified. Ending a marriage with an alcoholic and starting over can be overwhelming. However, it may be the best decision for you and your family.
You have options if you’re ready to help your husband get treated. There are plenty of different ways to help your husband get sober, including:
Consider planning an intervention with the help of an addiction professional. That specialist serves as a mediator and resource, helping everyone deal with a difficult situation.
An intervention gathers everyone who cares about the alcoholic loved one. It allows friends and family to confront their alcoholic loved one respectfully.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a 12-step program that has helped many alcoholics deal with recovery. It’s a community program that allows people to speak openly and honestly about their AUD and get support from their peers.
Inpatient or residential treatment programs offer full-time options for people struggling with AUD. These programs provide medically supervised detox, round-the-clock care, and attention from addiction specialists.
People in residential treatment programs focus entirely on recovery, away from the stress and challenges of their everyday lives. These programs are ideal for people who have attempted recovery in the past or have the option or need to make recovery their full-time focus.
Outpatient treatment helps people get sober without requiring them to live in the facility full-time. These treatment centers offer a lower level of care than inpatient centers, as people can continue living at home, working their jobs, etc.
Alcohol use disorders look different in each person; however, there are common signs to look for. Changes in behavior, sneakiness, poor physical health, and a lower libido are all signs of an AUD.
Treatment options are available for alcoholism, and the right choice depends on your husband’s situation. While it’s essential to be there for your husband, it’s also necessary to take care of yourself too.
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