How to Help an Alcoholic Husband? | Alcoholics Anonymous for Spouses | Alcoholic Behavior in Marriage

How to Help an Alcoholic Husband?

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As a socially acceptable substance, alcohol is easily available and difficult to avoid. Many people drink excessively without even realizing it and the annual death toll caused by excessive alcohol use across the nation is over 95,000.1

While the majority of people who drink excessively are not clinical alcoholics or alcohol-dependent, some can develop a severe drinking problem.1 As many as 15% of people in the U.S. could be considered “problem drinkers”.2

It is often said that alcoholism is a family illness.2 Not only can alcohol abuse have a detrimental effect on the person’s health and functioning, but it can also have a ripple effect on all the people in a person’s life, especially those closest to them.3

Being married to an alcoholic can be an enormous burden and the communication breakdown between the alcoholic and those closest to him or her only further aggravates the situation.3 Living with an alcoholic, especially one who refuses to admit they have a problem and start working on resolving it, can be frustrating, stressful and emotionally draining, and the psychological and even physical effects on the whole family can be severe and long-lasting.3

Fortunately, there are ways to help an alcoholic husband get over his problem, and evidence-based approaches include behavioral therapies and pharmacotherapy.4

Living with a functioning alcoholic husband

Am I Married to an Alcoholic Husband?

A person may be diagnosed with alcoholism if they are frequently and excessively intoxicated, have impaired control over their drinking, show signs of preoccupation with alcohol and continue to use alcohol despite its adverse consequences.2

For a suspected alcoholic to be referred to specialized treatment, the telltale signs have to be there. Signs that a person’s partner or spouse has become dependent on alcohol and developed an alcohol use disorder (AUD) may include:2

  • Craving alcohol and experiencing an uncontrollable urge to drink.
  • Loss of control and being unable to stop drinking.
  • Feeling anxiety and irritability without access to or when denied alcohol.

How to Cope With an Alcoholic Spouse?

Dealing with an alcoholic is not easy, especially when they are unwilling to seek help with alcohol abuse. The following may help a person with an alcoholic spouse cope:5

  • Peer support groups
  • Therapy
  • Friends and family
  • Self-care

Marital and family therapy, in particular, can be effective in helping the spouse and other family members cope better and motivating alcoholics to enter treatment.

How to Talk to an Alcoholic Spouse?

Approaching a spouse who is struggling with alcohol abuse can be difficult, but there are ways to create a more favorable environment to have the talk:6

  • Wait for the person to be sober.
  • Discuss facts rather than putting the blame.
  • Stay away from labels such as “alcoholic”.
  • Be caring and patient.
  • Show concern and readiness to offer support during treatment.
  • Suggest treatment options, counseling and group meetings.

How to Identify the Warning Signs in an Alcoholic Husband?

A person may resort to increased or excessive alcohol use as a way of coping with pressure and managing stress, but that does not necessarily mean they have developed an AUD.1

However, if a person is often under the influence, getting in trouble with the law, or flaking on personal commitments more frequently than usual, there may be cause for concern. Therefore, being on the lookout for warning signs of alcoholism or a drinking problem may be advised.2

A person may have a drinking problem if they:2

  • Often end up drinking more or for a longer period of time than they planned, intended, or promised.
  • Have to increase their intake of alcohol to feel its effects.
  • Wanted or attempted to cut down on or quit drinking but was not able to.
  • Spend a considerable amount of time drinking or recovering from drinking.
  • Feel a strong need to get a drink whenever stressed or under pressure.
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms when the effect of alcohol starts to wear off.
  • Continue drinking even if it is taking a toll on their mental or physical health.
  • Constantly replace previously enjoyable activities with drinking.
  • Get involved in dangerous situations and engage in risky behaviors.
  • Keep drinking even if it is preventing them from functioning normally, interfering with their family life, job, and other aspects of their life and causing issues with family and friends.
  • Had withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol was wearing off. These include sleep disturbances, restlessness, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, nausea, sweating, depression. Those with severe alcoholism may even develop a fever, experience seizures, or hallucinate.

How to Recognize the Warning Signs of Alcoholism in a Partner

A person can quickly slip into alcoholism and even those closest to them may not realize that the problem has escalated.5 Warning signs that a partner in a relationship may have a problem with alcohol misuse may include:5

  • Frequent drinking-related arguments.
  • The partner who drinks may use the stress and tension caused by above arguments to justify their drinking.
  • Having to come up with excuses to cover up for the partner who is drinking too much.
  • Drinking is the only or one of the few activities partners do together.
  • Domestic violence when alcohol is involved.
  • The inability of one or both partners to be affectionate or discuss relationship issues when sober.
  • Distancing from friends and family in order to hide alcoholism.

What Is Binge Drinking and Heavy Drinking?

Binge drinking is an indication of a person’s excessive use of alcohol. Frequent binge drinking can increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), which can rapidly lead to a range of detrimental consequences. Not everyone who binge drinks has an AUD, but they are at higher risk for getting one.1

Binge drinking is defined as consuming a large quantity of alcohol within a short timeframe. For men, this is 5 or more drinks on an occasion, within 2 or 3 hours, and for women, a minimum of 4 drinks on an occasion within the same timeframe.1 Heavy drinking is defined as 15 or more drinks a week for men, 8 or more drinks a week for women.2

Binge drinking and heavy drinking increase the risks of:1

  • Certain cancers.
  • Fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.
  • Brain damage and damage to other organs in the body.
  • Fetal damage: drinking by pregnant women can also cause serious harm to their unborn babies.

Alcohol can be especially detrimental for individuals taking certain over-the-counter or prescription medications or experiencing certain medical conditions.1 Finally, excessive alcohol use raises the risk of death from accidents, injuries, car crashes, as well as homicide and suicide.1

What Does Alcohol Do to a Marriage?

Chronic alcohol abuse can affect everyone involved, including the person’s family, partner and children. Potential effects include:1

  • Mental trauma, anxiety, depression or other mental health effects.
  • Family issues, conflicts, violence, physical abuse.
  • Sleep quality deterioration and poor stress coping skills.
  • Alcohol intoxication can alter a person’s thoughts, judgment, and decision-making.
  • Impaired coordination ability and diminished alertness.

Additionally, living with an alcoholic can be an enormous financial burden.1

Getting Help for My Alcoholic Spouse

If you are concerned about your spouse’s alcohol abuse or other forms of substance abuse and the far-reaching ramifications of this, help is available. Evidence-based approaches to addiction treatment that rely on pharmacotherapies and behavioral therapies can be effective at treating all forms of substance abuse, including alcohol abuse.4

Finding information about alcoholism treatment payment options and insurance coverage in absolute confidence is just a phone call away. American Addiction Centers is a trusted provider of addiction treatment services across the country, offering professional help and guidance to those struggling with alcohol and other types of addiction. By calling an AAC helpline, you can acquire all the important information on available treatment options and possible payment plans.

Additionally, admissions navigators who answer the call can also check your insurance coverage while you’re still on the line and help you initiate the process for yourself or a loved one.

Other helpful and anonymous resources for the loved ones of individuals struggling with alcohol use disorders include:


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