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Living with an Alcoholic

Apr 20, 2023

It’s not easy to watch a loved one struggle with alcohol use for years. It certainly takes its toll on you and the whole family when you are living with an alcoholic. If your response to a spouse who won’t get help hasn’t changed, it shouldn’t surprise you when their view of treatment hasn’t changed either. So let’s explore new options for dealing with an alcoholic spouse who refuses treatment or help.

When you are living with an alcoholic, it’s easy to neglect yourself. But taking care of yourself can help you sustain your support for your loved one long-term. You may not be able to control their behavior, but you can take steps to increase self-care in your life. This includes finding ways to get sufficient rest at night, practicing stress management techniques, eating a nutritious diet, and spending time on activities you enjoy. Attending Al-Anon meetings regularly is another way to deal with the daily challenges of living with an alcoholic spouse.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-270-1753.

Start with looking at your usual responses to your spouse’s drinking problem.

Take note of what behavior is typically related to your spouse’s drinking and how you respond to it. This can be an area where you have been enabling their drinking by helping them get alcohol, covering for them when they’re too hungover for work, defending them when they say something hurtful while under the influence, or not addressing risky choices made when they’ve been drinking. Becoming aware of your role in their alcohol use disorder is an important first step toward recovery.

Be honest with yourself.

As you begin your journey to help your spouse, being honest with yourself about what you want is important. Do you want your spouse to stop drinking, or do you just want them to stop drinking in front of the kids? There’s no shame in wanting smaller steps first in the journey to full sobriety.

Make self-care a daily practice.

Living with an alcoholic spouse can be tough, but it’s essential to prioritize your own self-care. This includes getting proper rest, finding support for yourself and your family, feeding yourself well, and spending time on enjoyable activities. In many cases, providing self-care for yourself is challenging when caring for someone else. It takes time and dedication. However, the benefits of good self-care will make supporting your loved one easier in the long run.

Protect your professional interests.

Helping a spouse get into recovery should not require you to sacrifice a career or your own professional goals. If that’s an outcome, it can create resentment and anger. Creating boundaries to enable you to focus on your work allows you to remain productive, keep your career intact, and ensure financial stability during a demanding time in your personal life.

Let go of your spouse’s past attempts at sobriety.

You may reflect on how past attempts at sobriety failed and how those experiences shape your perspective on a potential outcome next. It can be discouraging if your spouse has returned to drinking after a visit to detox or a brief stay in an inclient program. Judging what’s possible based on what’s already happened won’t allow you or your spouse to see sober living as something within reach.

Take time to face your fears.

Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of if I try to help the person I love get sober?” You may fear upsetting your spouse if you talk about treatment needs. It may cause more friction or even end the relationship. You may struggle with the uncertainty of what sobriety will look like in the person you love and whether they want to stay with you once they recover. Addressing your fears is integral to the self-care you need to sustain yourself as you support your spouse.

Be clear about what you want from seeking help for your spouse’s alcohol use.

It’s important to be open and honest about what you want for yourself when helping your spouse face an alcohol use disorder. Their sobriety isn’t the end game alone. Communicating with them about your personal needs and relationship goals should be a part of the conversation. Recovery is a long-term commitment for both of you, and your thoughts and feelings on the subject are valid and must be heard.

Recognize how mental health may play a role in your spouse’s drinking.

Your spouse’s inability to stay sober in the past may have a hidden factor within their mental health. If past treatment didn’t address underlying anxiety, depression, or trauma, your loved one might have struggled considerably to stay in recovery. However, understanding how unmet mental health needs can worsen a drinking problem should give you a clearer picture of what your spouse needs in treatment next.

Use a new approach to discuss treatment with a spouse.

Take the time to prepare for treatment-related conversations. Avoid bringing up the subject abruptly and speaking with only emotions. Planning for these exchanges can help you practice what you will say and prepare for your spouse’s responses. Equipping yourself with information about medically-monitored detox and treatment is one way to emphasize the benefits of your loved one getting into a program.

Enlist the help of others.

Help is available in many forms. It can be a trusted friend or family member who joins you for a conversation with your spouse about a treatment. Help for you specifically can be talking to a therapist regularly about the impact of your spouse’s drinking. Another valuable resource comes from Al-Anon meetings, where you can get support from people in similar circumstances, examine how you have responded to your loved one’s drinking, and learn healthy coping strategies for living with an alcoholic spouse.

Headwaters is a well-known care provider offering a range of addiction treatment programs for executives and their families targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-270-1753.

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