How to Cope When Living with an Alcoholic Person


American Addiction Centres reports that more than 9% of people have been married to or lived with someone who has a drinking problem. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) also reveals that 1 in 5 adults have resided with a relative who struggles with alcohol addiction.

This means if you’re living with an alcoholic spouse, partner, or family member you’re not alone. It’s been proven that living with an alcoholic partner or parent can be stressful and traumatic, negatively impacting the mental health of the sober party.

Helping the person you cohabit with through addiction treatment requires you to pay attention to your own health and leverage coping strategies so you both achieve positive outcomes.

This article shares practical tips to help you live with a loved one struggling with alcohol abuse and provides vital info about how you can help them.

What Is It Like Living With an Alcoholic?

Alcohol addiction is tough for the person struggling with the addiction, as well as their spouse or other family members.

Alcohol problems affect every aspect of the cohabitors’ lives, from physical health to mental health. It causes relationship issues, financial problems, and other forms of emotional challenges. Let’s see what it’s like in detail.

How Alcohol Use Disorder Affects a Spouse or Partner

If you have an alcoholic spouse, their drinking habits may lead to mistrust, sexual assault, intimacy challenges, chronic health problems, domestic abuse, intimate partner violence, and other mental health issues.

  • Your partner’s drinking habits may cause them to become untrustworthy. They may lie to you repeatedly and engage in deceitful practices like hiding their drinking, stashing alcohol in weird places around the house, lying about their alcohol consumption, etc.

When you confront them, they can become defensive or even engage in domestic violence. This may subdue the sober spouse into silence or cause them to start making excuses for their spouse’s behaviors.

  • Binge drinking and other forms of prolonged alcohol abuse may lead to a decrease in sex drive and sexual function. If the alcohol use disorder is prolonged, it may lead to a total cessation of sexual activity and intimacy over time.
  • Living with a partner struggling with alcohol use disorder may lead to anxiety and fear. Alcohol misuse has different effects on the consumer. Research shows that people who drink heavily are at risk of presenting a variety of behaviors, one of which is hostile and unpredictable, involving physical violence.

The unpredictable nature of an alcoholic’s behavior may make them generally unpleasant to be around.

  • Living with an alcoholic spouse predisposes the other party to mental health challenges and a myriad of negative emotions. Codependency, enablement, conflict avoidance, and even alcohol addiction may arise. That’s because there are cases where a partner’s drinking habits influenced the other party to also look to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

How Alcohol Use Disorder Affects Children and Other Family Members

Addiction experts believe that children are one of the most at-risk victims in homes where a parent suffers from alcohol use disorder.

AACAP mentioned in a report, that alcoholism runs in families, and children of people dealing with alcohol use disorder are four times more likely to struggle with the mental illness themselves.

The child of an alcoholic may struggle with any of the following during their growing years or even as adults:

  • Feelings of Neglect: Parents dealing with substance abuse disorder may not be able to adequately care for and provide for their children, which may cause them to grow up feeling neglected or abandoned. It makes the children susceptible to mental and physical problems which are also risk factors for drug abuse and alcohol use disorders.
  • Anxiety and Communication Issues: Due to the erraticness of the alcoholic parent’s behaviors, children living with alcoholic parents may become withdrawn and have difficulty expressing themselves and interacting well with others. Alternatively, they may become paranoid or hypervigilant leading to panic disorder.
  • Emotional and Developmental Challenges: Young children in this home setting may face emotional, social, and psychological trauma that stems from worrying about their alcoholic parent or feeling guilty and blaming themselves for their parent’s lifestyle. They may also feel angry at themselves or their parents for their substance misuse. All these unprocessed emotions may lead to a child growing up with adult behavioral problems.

Generally, family members living with an alcoholic may struggle with stress, anxiety, and emotional abuse. The unpredictability of the alcoholic person’s behavior puts you at risk of domestic violence and can be damaging to your overall well-being.

How to Live With an Alcoholic Person (and Not Lose Yourself)

If you’re living with someone who has Alcohol Use Disorder, these are a few ways you can improve your quality of life and try to maintain a healthy relationship with the person:

1. Get Informed About Alcohol Use Disorder

Updating yourself with information about substance use disorders, addictions, treatment options, and more is the first place to begin. This will not only help you understand your loved one better, but you’ll also be better equipped to help them.

It’ll help you identify patterns in their condition or mental health challenges they may already be struggling with in response to their illness. Educating yourself also gives you valuable data that you can present to the alcoholic person as you take the next step below.

2. Discuss with Your Partner

Once you’ve gathered sufficient info about their condition, the next step is to talk to them about alcohol abuse. You should never verbally attack them or talk to them in an accusatory tone. Instead, be supportive and empathetic. Encourage them to discuss what may have forced them into the habit of drinking.

Share some of the information you’ve previously gathered to help them see why they should get professional help like addiction treatment, family therapy, or counseling. Try not to use shocking statistics or anecdotes to avoid “scaring” them into therapy.

Offer to walk with them on the path to recovery by attending support groups with them so they know they’re not alone and that you care.

3. Set Healthy Boundaries and Look After Yourself

Take care to put your own well-being and safety first in situations like this. If the person in question is violent and abusive, you may need to relocate temporarily to protect yourself and your children or pets, if present.

In dealing with an alcoholic, people tend to look after themselves last, usually putting the needs of the other person before them. This can put you at risk of looking for unhealthy coping mechanisms. Focus on your self-care to maintain sanity so you can provide the best care they will need.

4. Plan Events for Both of You That Don’t Involve Alcohol

First, make sure you communicate with your spouse or loved one about your plans before you proceed to set up alcohol-free outings and activities. This way, they don’t feel like you’re attempting to trick them into sobriety.

Enjoy time together at events that don’t revolve around downing glasses of wine or bottles of alcohol. Go to museums, art shows, park picnics, or cafes where drinking isn’t allowed so you can both have a safe, comfortable environment without temptation.

5. Stage an Intervention and Get Them Into Treatment

This may be the most difficult step when cohabiting with an alcoholic. But if you believe your loved one is in denial or treatment-resistant, it may be necessary.

An intervention involves bringing in their close friends, colleagues, family members, etc., to try to persuade them to stop drinking. It helps if there’s a professional intervention specialist present for the best results.

If they agree to treatment, consult with an addiction treatment doctor to find out the best course of action for their specific situation.

How To Help an Alcoholic Parent or Partner Who Is Trying to Stop Drinking

When your spouse, parent, or loved one begins their alcohol recovery journey, your support — emotionally and physically — is essential for their recovery. Here’s how you can help them:

  • Avoid enabling them or becoming codependent, however, offer them your unconditional support which may necessitate that you stop drinking as well.
  • Ask them how you can help them and pay attention to providing the help they need. Help them maintain their sobriety at events where they may serve alcohol.
  • Offer them positive reassurance by attending treatment sessions with them, or joining their support group meetings as often as you can.
  • Be mentally prepared for occasions where they may relapse. It’s almost inevitable in every recovering alcoholic’s journey, so don’t let it discourage you or dissuade your faith in them.

A Few Tips to Help You Cope When Living with an Alcoholic Partner

As you go on the journey to recovery with your partner, you must have the right coping mechanisms so that you don’t slip into negative behaviors.

Here are a few that’ll help you:

1. Join Peer Support Groups

In groups like Al-Anon, you’ll learn helpful coping skills that’ll teach you how to detach yourself from your spouse’s behaviors and look after yourself without getting overwhelmed.

You’ll find support among people who are dealing with similar situations, and learn how they have handled situations you may be going through.

2. Try One-on-One Therapy

Seeking counseling from a professional therapist can help you manage and reduce stress during your spouse’s alcohol recovery journey.

Even if your spouse doesn’t get the needed help or treatment, therapy can equip you with useful coping methods to de-escalate tough situations.

Wrapping Up

Living with an alcoholic requires patience and continuous support, and this can eventually take a toll on the carer, whether spouse, child, friend, or loved one.

Knowing this, seeking professional help and getting them into an addiction treatment program becomes necessary.  

If your loved one is struggling with alcoholism, the team at Curednation is available to help. Book an appointment to discuss treatment options with addiction treatment professionals from the comfort of your home.


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