Alcoholism may never go away by itself. If your alcoholic partner has no plans to make an effort to quit their addiction, you must educate yourself about alcohol abuse disorder. Read up on how to help an alcoholic as well as the signs of alcoholism, so that when you talk to them, you know the things you should be addressing during your conversation.
However, many times things get beyond a certain extent where these things don’t help much, and may take a lot of time even if they do. It’s precisely at that point when the information shared in this article would come in handy.
And when you’re living with an alcoholic who doesn’t seem particular interested in quitting his alcohol habit anytime soon, there are 5 things you should and should not do. So stop worrying and learn about these things (first up are the things to DO); maybe things are about to change for the better for you.
#1 Take care of yourself
Living with an alcoholic can often be physically and mentally exhausting. Spouses of heavy drinkers tend to deal with a lot of issues, which leads to a deteriorating physical and mental health. Increased stress levels, financial problems, lack of emotional support and having to deal with many problems alone, regular fights and arguments all take a toll on your overall health and happiness.
Hence, one of the first and most important things to do is to take care of yourself. Make sure your spouse’s alcoholism isn’t turning out to be harmful for both them AND you. It’s important for you to stay strong and healthy if you are to get out of this situation. Even if things don’t improve, you would be able to do a lot better than you otherwise would if you didn’t bother looking after yourself.
This approach can sometimes work wonders, as your spouse too may feel inspired to follow you. On the other hand, if you look miserable, they may not be able to get a feel of the benefits of being completely sober.
Finally, it’s also important to keep in mind that you must always have a last resort when things start getting out of hand. If you find yourself or your children at the receiving end of physical or mental abuse by your alcoholic husband or wife, you may want to leave the home at least for a short period of time.
#2 Focus on reality over your past
As sad as it may sound, it’s extremely common for the spouses of alcoholics to keep looking back to the “beautiful” days when their husband or wife were not into drinking. While those beautiful may not be worthless now, they are not what you need currently.
At this point, you need to focus on the reality, and thinking about the golden past is only going to distract you from the issues you’re facing. Similarly, if you keep thinking about how you took a terrible decision by marrying someone who was going to turn into an alcoholic, you’re going to have a greater struggle effectively dealing with the issues that are emerging or may emerge as a result of the alcoholism of your spouse.
Instead, the only thing that should get your focus currently is the present. The more focused you’re on your present and the reality that’s staring you right in the face, the better you will be able to do to get out of your struggle.
#3 Try to get help
You may have already tried to seek help for your partner, but things likely didn’t work out. Well, you can try again with a slightly different approach this time around.
Perhaps a good thing to do would be to first try to get into their comfort zone. Try not to talk about anything unpleasant for a few days, and be kind and nice to them.
Then, you can pick a time when they are sober and explain to them how you’re worried about them and how you think they should at least try getting into a treatment program. You can also assure them that you will always be by their side, and would support them at every phase of their journey to going sober and living a happy family life again.
Finally, there are also many support groups out there, for both alcoholics and the family of alcoholics. If your alcoholic spouse is not willing to join any such group, you can certainly consider doing so, as you may get to learn a lot about other people’s experiences and find the support you need to handle your situation better.
#4 Get emotional support from your loved ones
It’s surprising how many people overlook the importance of their parents’ or loved ones’ support in difficult times. Even most experts that offer help on these issues don’t talk about it much.
The truth is, when your seemingly biggest support – your spouse – turns into your biggest weakness or, worse yet, your biggest problem, parents are the first people you would want to talk to. They can be a great source of moral and emotional support, something that’s likely the need of the hour for you.
You can also talk to your siblings or other relatives that you trust and are close to. With a boost in your moral and emotional strength, you will be much better equipped to get your spouse out of the alcohol slavery.
#5 Leave if you have to
Remember what we said above. It may be better to get out than get into any kind of serious danger.
If your alcoholic spouse is willing to change and accept help and support, then obviously you would want to stick around and try to be their support to help them get out of the mess. However, if they are rude and violent even when they are sober, and flat out refuse to seek any kind of help or even listen to what you want to say about how their alcoholism is affecting your relationship, you may want to consider pulling the trigger.
You can’t make someone go and stay sober without they having the slightest of will to do so. There are cases when the alcoholic’s spouse would try to maintain the “status quo” even in such times, but it’s usually a matter of time before things get into the “unacceptable” zone and they have to take the decision that they tried so hard to avoid.
That said, leaving your alcoholic spouse on their own may not necessarily mean doing away with the relationship for good. Apparently in majority of the cases this doesn’t turn out to be the case.
The abusive spouse suddenly finds it difficult to pursue their alcoholism with the same level of comfort that they once did, with no one to handle their responsibilities and they being held accountable for things. However, they are usually capable enough of doing things they wouldn’t in your presence, and given there may not be another “escape” option they may finally have to give in to the situation and take on at least a minimum level of responsibility in their life.
This can often be the “realization” point they need when they realize the damage their alcoholism has caused to their life. Their brain may at least see alcohol as a reason for they being alone and in a near-helpless state.
That said, this doesn’t mean you should consider leaving your home even when your alcoholic spouse is being themselves when they are sober and things haven’t reached an extreme low. The reason for this is that they may think you just don’t care about them and decided to leave them when you could have tried helping them.
Things Not to Do
Now that you’re aware of what you should be doing when living with an alcoholism, it’s also important to know the things you should avoid. These can often be just as important as the things to DO, as they tend to make matters worse – usually for both you and your alcoholic spouse.
#1 Hiding your partner’s alcoholism
This is another common thing spouses of alcoholics do. Although it’s understandable that they would want to hide or even lie about the alcoholism of their partner, but they often fail to realize that what they are doing isn’t doing them any good.
In fact, lying or hiding the reality from people around you leads to kind of a denial of the problem. The alcoholic may feel even more motivated to continue with their alcohol abuse, as you covering up for them may make them feel safe.
However, it’s also important to note that while it may be a bad idea to cover up your partner’s alcohol habit, it may also be just as bad to go around talking about it to people you barely know. This can agitate your partner when they find out about it, and they will then be way less likely to listen to you.
They may even refuse to seek any help that you want them to, and that may mean denting your chances of making them go back to their sober days significantly.
#2 Offering financial help
A huge majority of alcohol addicts try to get money from their spouse in whatever way they can. In fact, when many of them fail to get enough money (they never get enough, by the way) from them, they even tend to resort to stealing.
Hence, a wise thing to do when your spouse’s alcoholism starts damaging your family’s financial health is to stop offering any kind of monetary help to your spouse, except when they land in hospital and you’re paying their medical bills directly. However, you need not tell this to them in a rudely straightforward way.
You can instead tell them that you’re willing to spend as much as it takes to make them “themselves” again, but you can’t let them destroy their health and happiness by giving them money to buy alcohol. Of course, they may retaliate but there’s a good chance they will not feel sour about it or try to blow it out of proportion that they otherwise might.
#3 Feeling devastated when your efforts fail
Alcoholics tend to go back to alcohol over and over again even after quitting it or promising to stay off it for good. If you have put a lot of efforts into making them quit, they ending up being an alcoholic again may turn out to be very hurtful.
However, you should understand that alcohol addiction is kind of a disease, and alcoholics relapsing is part of the disease. While you should obviously continue to your efforts to keep them sober after their shift to sobriety, you shouldn’t feel depressed or miserable if they return to alcohol.
It can be extremely difficult for an alcoholic to give up on their alcohol, especially without professional detox and a good treatment program. That being said, perhaps you would be able to significantly improve your chances of keeping them sober by making them join a treatment program as soon as you manage to make them quit alcohol.
#4 Accepting abusive behavior
Accepting everything that your spouse does just because they are under the influence of alcohol isn’t the kind of approach you would want to have towards their alcoholism. Sure, it may not always be a good idea to react angrily to their unacceptable behavior at that time, but depending on the situation, you can calmly tell them how their behavior is not what you expect of them.
You can also consider bringing it up in a polite way when they are sober. Avoid blaming and make it a point to include the fact that you’re worried and concerned for them.
#5 Deciding not to do anything about it
You would be surprised how many spouses just accept their partner’s alcoholism after a certain point and decide not to do anything about it. Of course, this can often be a recipe for disaster.
If they are into alcohol abuse, they certainly need help. The help need not come in an aggressive way, but it needs to come as soon as it can.
In other words, make consistent efforts to bring your partner back to sobriety. Take your efforts down a notch if the response is being too aggressive. Take a brave step if you have to, like leaving the home.