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Living With an Alcoholic

Signs Your Loved One is an Alcoholic

Alcoholism is hard, not only on those who suffer from alcohol addiction but their loved ones as well.

People suffering from alcohol addiction or an alcohol use disorder(AUD) often have severe cravings while not actively drinking. This makes it difficult to quit or even cut back.

As their tolerance levels build, they need to drink more to achieve the same desired effects.

In addition to the issues listed above, alcoholism may lead to:

  • Drinking alone
  • Repeated blackouts
  • Agitation or shaking if alcohol cannot be obtained
  • Hiding alcoholic beverages in multiple places
  • Strained relationships 
  • Employment problems
  • Legal troubles
  • Losing interest in other activities besides drinking

7 Tips for Living With an Alcoholic

1. Recognize the signs

The first step of safely living with an alcoholic is to recognize the signs of alcoholism.

If you live with a loved one exhibiting the telltale signs mentioned above, it's important to accept this reality. Understand that you may need to make some changes.

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2. Set boundaries

Try not to enable behaviors that are harmful to yourself and others living with the person.

Ensure that you and any other household family members are physically safe. Don't put up with emotional or physical abuse.

If the situation becomes unpleasant or dangerous, you may need to stop living with the person until they get proper treatment.

Don't allow your loved one to blame you for this or any other changes that are not your fault or in your control. 

3. Get help from others

There's no need to face this alone - getting help from others is crucial.

Not only is there no shame in asking for help, it might help you and your loved one successfully move forward together.

Help can come in the form of emotional support, reinforcing boundaries, or setting up an intervention.

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4. Find support groups for yourself (Al-Anon/Alateen)

It's vital to take care of your mental health when living with someone who is an alcoholic.

Support groups are a great way to ensure you are dealing with the situation as best as possible. This can also be applied to other members of the household, such as children and other relatives.

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5. Do not blame yourself or take it personally

Alcohol use disorder is a disease that involves constant vigilance against relapse. When it occurs, loved ones that have supported the journey to sobriety may feel betrayed or coerced.

It's natural to want to take things personally, but an alcoholic is not in full control of their behavior.

While it's important to realize this is not their fault, it's also imperative to remember it's not yours either. It may be difficult, but try to remain detached and not take it personally.

6. Try to refrain from becoming angry

A person struggling from alcohol abuse may lash out, blaming their spouse and engaging in some form of abusive behavior.

This can be an incredibly challenging time. Staying calm may seem next to impossible, but becoming angry can make matters even worse.

It's crucial to stay focused on healing instead of engaging in combative behavior.

7. Remember that alcoholism is a serious disease

Addiction often brings negativity and uncertainty to any situation. This is especially true for the home environment.

Remembering that alcoholism is a serious disease may help you deal with a loved one who is suffering. It will help keep things in perspective and allow you to focus on helping them get better rather than casting blame.

Alcoholism is a form of substance use disorder that often requires addiction treatment to find the path to recovery.  

The Effects of Living With an Alcoholic Spouse or Partner

There are a variety of negative effects and risks from living with an alcoholic spouse or partner.

These include:

  • Fearing for your safety and your loved one's health and happiness
  • Damaged relationship
  • Blaming yourself
  • Blaming your spouse
  • Trying to cover up the situation
  • Children being negatively affected
  • Domestic abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Declining mental health
  • Financial difficulties
  • Feeling ashamed while around others
  • Sleeping issues
  • Thoughts of suicide

How to Help Your Alcoholic Partner 

There are several actionable ways to help an alcoholic partner. Some of the most universally successful actions are listed below:

Don't enable

Make an effort to stop your loved one from engaging in harmful behavior.

Restrict their access to your money and remove them from any joint bank accounts. Refrain from giving them money, regardless of whether it's for alcohol or not. 

Don't accept unacceptable behavior 

Avoid denying or excusing problematic behaviors. If your loved one is being aggressive, suicidal, abusive, or dangerous, this needs to be addressed and not ignored. 

Encourage them to seek professional help (addiction treatment)

Try to assist your loved one in finding and attending a treatment program. These can include inpatient facilities and 12-step programs, as well as family therapy or group therapy.

A trusted doctor or healthcare professional can help determine which treatment is right for them. 

Set up an intervention 

There are several types of interventions, but most involve bringing family members and close friends together to help persuade them to quit drinking.

It's essential to have a therapist or mental health professional present to assist. Interventions can be great for helping loved ones if they are adequately planned in a focused manner.

When to Step Away 

It's up to you when it is time to step away from a bad situation. However, if you feel unsafe at any time while living with an alcoholic, strongly consider leaving.

Domestic violence or physical abuse shouldn't be tolerated under any circumstances. If you need help or support with leaving, talk with someone you trust or seek help from authorities.

It may also be time to leave even if you don't feel in danger. If you've done all you reasonably can do to help without success, it may be time to move on. This could be permanently or temporarily.  

If and when that time comes, having support available is critical to ensuring you can do what is best for you and the whole family. 

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Updated on March 25, 2022
9 sources cited
  1. Sharma, N., Sharma, S., Ghai, S., Basu, D., Kumari, D., Singh, D., & Kaur, G. . "Living with an alcoholic partner: Problems faced and coping strategies used by wives of alcoholic clients." Industrial psychiatry journal, 25, 65–71.
  2. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "Excessive Alcohol Use." NCCDPHP.
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Support & Treatment." NIAAA. 
  4. Hussong, A. M., Huang, W., Curran, P. J., Chassin, L., & Zucker, R. A. . "Parent alcoholism impacts the severity and timing of children's externalizing symptoms." Journal of abnormal child psychology, 38, 367–380.
  5. Bennett, L. A., Wolin, S. J., & Reiss, D. . "Cognitive, behavioral, and emotional problems among school-age children of alcoholic parents." The American Journal of Psychiatry, 145, 185–190.
  6. Easley, Margaret J., and Norman Epstein. “Coping with Stress in a Family with an Alcoholic Parent.” Family Relations, vol. 40, no. 2, 1991, pp. 218–224. JSTOR.
  7. Moser, Richard P., and Theodore Jacob. “Parent-Child Interactions and Child Outcomes as Related to Gender of Alcoholic Parent.” Journal of Substance Abuse, JAI, 15 May 2002.
  8. Callan, V J, and D Jackson. “Children of Alcoholic Fathers and Recovered Alcoholic Fathers: Personal and Family Functioning.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 1986.
  9. Lyon, D., & Greenberg, J. . "Evidence of codependency in women with an alcoholic parent: Helping out Mr. Wrong." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 435–439. Hughes, J. M. . "Adolescent children of alcoholic parents and the relationship of Alateen to these children." Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 45, 946–947.

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