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Tips for Handling an Alcoholic Spouse

Alcohol use disorder (AUD), also known as alcoholism, is a chronic medical condition characterized by an inability to stop or control drinking despite health, social, or professional consequences. Alcohol use disorder, however, is not synonymous with binge drinking. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in 2019 more than 14 million people in the U.S. suffered from some form of AUD. The impact of an AUD isn’t always limited to the one suffering from this chronic medical condition though. AUDs may not only affect the person with the drinking problem themselves, but their loved ones, and others around them.

Living with an alcoholic will often make the spouse or loved one think that they are to blame for the person’s drinking. Maybe you think it’s your responsibility to monitor their drinking. You may make excuses for them enabling their behavior. According to Al-Anon, you did not cause your spouse’s drinking, nor can you control or cure their drinking.

Let’s look at some ways you can more proactively handle your alcoholic spouse.

Tips for Handling an Alcoholic Spouse

Stop the Self-Blaming 

If your spouse has an AUD, they have a chronic medical condition. If they had diabetes or high blood pressure, would you blame yourself? Of course not. Rather than blaming yourself for your partner’s drinking, realize that they alone are responsible for how they handle their emotions and their recovery from an alcohol use disorder. 

Stop Controlling Your Spouse’s Drinking

In addition to talking to your children about your spouse’s alcoholism, you should also talk to your friends and family members, too. However, you should watch how much detail you add to these conversations. When handling an alcoholic spouse, you want to let your friends and family members know that your spouse is ill. However, many people don’t quite understand that addiction is a disease, so they may not be so empathetic. Just let your friends and family members know that you won’t indulge in details, but your spouse is working through his or her own demons through the addiction. In time, you hope they will accept Brentwood Springs Detox‘s help.

Stop Enabling Your Spouse 

Enabling your spouse means that you’re likely covering for their behaviors. For example, you may make excuses for them for missing an event, telling them he was “sick” when he’d really been drinking. Enabling can also be bailing your spouse out of jail for a DUI, minimizing the impact that the drinking has on your family, or avoiding the issue or denying it exists. In time, you can learn to say no, set healthy boundaries, and follow through with consequences.

Take care of yourself

Taking care of yourself is always important, but maybe even more so when you are handling an alcoholic spouse. Although it may seem selfish to focus on yourself first when your spouse may be showing worrisome addictive behaviors, it’s critical to look at your own emotions and needs before you can take steps to help your spouse. Self-care, whether emotionally, physically, or spiritually, is key to your ability to cope. It might involve activities like meditation, exercise, or new hobbies to pursue during this stressful time. Making time for, and even prioritizing, these activities can be beneficial.

Reach out to friends, family, peer support groups

You will need a support group for yourself. While the person with the AUD is the one who is sick, chances are you’ve suffered a lot of mental abuse and oftentimes physical abuse. You’ve blamed yourself. You’ve resulted in sneaking around to keep tabs on your spouse’s drinking and consequential behaviors. You’ve worried about other family members and the effect this is having on them. Don’t think you have to take this on by yourself. If there isn’t an appropriate family member who can truly supportive, then a peer support group such as Al-Anon, which was founded to help families of people who abuse alcohol. In Al-Anon, you can learn coping skills that help you detach from your spouse’s behaviors and take care of yourself. These groups may help you respond to your spouse’s drinking in a more constructive way while giving you the support of and connection with people who are going through something similar.

Therapy can be a lifeline

Therapy can be helpful for you to learn how to cope with an alcoholic spouse. Research studies have shown that even when the alcoholic spouse refuses to get help, family therapy can help the nonalcoholic spouse reduce stress and learn coping methods.

Education always helps

Educate yourself on what your partner is going through, what treatments may be available to them, and what resources they may be able to access when they’re ready to get help. Being prepared for when they are ready to talk about their problem may make you feel more at ease.

When a child is involved

With children living with an alcoholic parent, it’s a tough life. They’re witnessing things they can’t yet understand. While explaining alcoholism to a child might not be a remedy for what they’re experiencing, it can be helpful to at least guide them through what’s happening and help them understand that it’s neither normal nor their fault.

  • When talking with a child about alcoholism, it’s important to approach the process of explaining alcoholism as a disease. There needs to be an understanding that someone with alcoholism is unwell or “sick,” but that doesn’t make them a bad person.
  • One of the most important things for a child to understand is that it’s not their fault, and they need to know that they neither caused the addiction nor can they do anything to stop it.
  • It’s important for children who grow up in homes with an alcoholic parent, that they don’t have to feel ashamed. They don’t need to feel like they’re responsible for covering the “family secret.”

Alcohol Rehab in Nashville

Are you concerned that your spouse is an alcoholic? Handing an alcoholic spouse is not easy. Are you looking for help in Nashville or the surrounding area? Are you unsure about handling an alcoholic spouse? Each person is unique when it comes to addiction and everyone handles addiction differently. Here at Brentwood Springs Detox, we treat our patients as individuals. We assist them in developing a treatment plan that is personalized to their specific needs so they can meet their goals for medical detox and start living again. Learn more about our admissions process or call us today at 615.560.7545.