How do you live with an alcoholic? It’s a difficult question to answer. Having a short- or long-term relationship with an alcoholic can be incredibly destructive. Most people end up avoiding regularly drinking themselves because they’ve seen the consequences of overdrinking.
Living with an alcoholic can begin to damage not just the relationship but your own mental wellness. There’s an overwhelming sense of guilt as you try to juggle the feelings of taking care of your loved one, taking care of yourself and questioning if it’s okay to leave.
Signs Your Partner Is an Alcoholic
The first step is to confirm that your partner is, in fact, an alcoholic. Simply confronting them likely won’t give you any answers, as they’re probably in denial about their condition.
Some signs your partner may have a drinking problem include:
- They have an alarmingly high tolerance for alcohol
- They’re irritable when not drinking but happy when intoxicated
- Drinking has started to cause problems, such as at work or in other relationships
- They have a history of alcoholism in the family
- They drink every single day
- They hide their drinking from you and come home intoxicated
- They drink at inappropriate times (early in the morning or on occasions that don’t call for alcohol)
- They display withdrawal symptoms
How Do You Live With an Alcoholic: 8 Expert Tips
After identifying that your partner has a problem, you might be wondering, “How do you live with an alcoholic?” Here are eight expert tips you should follow:
1. Keep Yourself Safe
The most important thing you should do is make sure you’re safe. When people drink, they can black out or lose control. This can cause them to become physically or emotionally abusive.
If you’re living with an alcoholic boyfriend, chances are they’re bigger than you and can physically hurt you. (Although we should mention that, while rarer, a female can also physically abuse her male partner.)
If you’re concerned for your safety, you should immediately make a plan to leave. Trust your instincts — there’s a reason you’re worried. And don’t convince yourself that it will only happen one time. If your partner has gotten drunk and hurt you, there’s a very high probability they’ll do it again.
Additionally, don’t discount emotional abuse. A partner who gets drunk and verbally abuses you can have a detrimental impact on your self-worth. Alcoholism isn’t an acceptable excuse for any form of abuse.
2. Encourage Them to Get Help
Living with alcoholism is difficult for loved ones, but it also takes a toll on the addict. Alcoholism is a potentially life-threatening condition and can lead to memory loss, liver fibrosis, fatty liver, cancers, high blood pressure, stroke and even death.
The longer a person continues with their addiction, the higher their risk of severe side effects. That’s why it’s so important to encourage your partner to get help for their addiction.
It’s not necessarily the best idea to confront your loved one on your own. Instead, it’s best to encourage them to get help without accusations or judgment.
Typically, the most successful approach is to show the person you’re concerned for their safety and future. You can also mention the impact their addiction is having on those around them.
If you wish to stage an intervention, make sure you seek help so a mental health professional can be in the room.
3. Get Therapy
Some of the best advice for the partner of an alcoholic is to go to therapy. Living with an alcoholic can be emotionally, financially and physically exhausting. Instead of a partner you can rely on, you have one you have to worry about constantly.
Therapy can help you learn healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the addiction. It will also help you recognize unhealthy thought patterns, such as blaming yourself for your partner’s addiction. Plus, a therapist can keep an eye on your mental health to ensure you don’t spiral or develop a codependent addiction.
4. Seek Group Support
Loving a partner who has an addiction can feel like a very isolating experience. Your family and friends might not understand why you don’t just leave. A support group will help you feel less alone and give you a judgement-free space to discuss your thoughts and feelings with people who are in a similar situation.
5. Set Healthy Boundaries
It’s crucial to set healthy boundaries with your partner for what you consider to be unacceptable behavior. Some boundaries might include:
- They aren’t allowed to blame their addiction on you
- They aren’t allowed to drink or get drunk in front of children
6. Educate Yourself
Addiction is complicated. When you live with an alcoholic, it can be very easy to fall into judgmental thoughts about why they won’t just stop drinking or why they’re choosing to drink themselves to death.
Learning about addiction can help you be more understanding with your loved one. It can also help you learn coping mechanisms so you’re better equipped to navigate your relationship’s complexities.
7. Avoid Enabling
When you love someone, all you want to do is make them happy. If you see that drinking makes them happy, it can be easy to fall into enabling patterns. However, enabling your partner will only drive them further into addiction.
You also shouldn’t be satisfied with a status quo — some would argue that this is a form of enablement as well. Ultimately, you want to be working toward getting your partner to accept professional help for their alcoholism.
8. Understand When It’s Time to Leave
Addiction is a brain disease and has negative consequences on how a person behaves and thinks. As addiction takes over, the individual can become very self-fulfilling and prioritize their needs above all else. Still, it can be quite challenging to leave, especially if you love the person.
An alcoholic mentality puts cravings above all else — including your relationship and needs. You must establish in your mind when it’s time to leave. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Have they made any progress or efforts to change?
- Have they respected your boundaries?
- Have they put you (or your children) in danger?
- Has their drinking gotten worse?
It might be hard to hear, but if your loved one isn’t getting better and has no interest in doing so, it might be time to leave. If your partner isn’t putting you first, you need to put yourself first. At some point, you may have to make the decision that you’ve done everything you can.
If you’re ready to get professional help, turn to FHE Health. We specialize in drug and alcohol addiction treatment. Contact us to find out more about our alcohol addiction programs by calling (844) 299-0618 so your loved one can get the help they need today.