Most adults are exposed to alcohol at some point in life. It’s a common part of social gatherings, events such as birthdays and weddings, and office gatherings. People like to have it with a meal or to enjoy a special evening. However, similar to other intoxicating substances, alcohol can cause addiction, which may later cause health issues.
Excess alcohol consumption can have severe consequences, from alcohol poisoning to liver failure and even a stroke. If your spouse consumes alcohol beyond limits, it could sabotage their happiness and also your married life. So, how do you deal with an alcoholic spouse? Should you help them or leave them? Before you come to a decision, you should know if your spouse has a drinking problem.
Keep reading this post as we help you find answers to your questions. Knowing the signs your spouse has a drinking problem can make it easier for you to take appropriate steps accordingly.
Signs Your Spouse Has A Drinking Problem
Every stage of addiction starts somewhere. It could be social pressure, work stress, or just a coping mechanism that your spouse uses to justify having ‘a few drinks.’ Identify these signs early on will help you address the issues in time.
1. They drink for no apparent reason
Usually, people drink for a reason or occasion. It could be something as big as a promotion or something as small as the successful completion of a project. But if you find them drinking while watching TV or grabbing a drink as soon as they come home, it could a drinking problem.
2. They drink in secret
Does your spouse drink alcohol and hide it from you? They might be doing it to avoid criticism, and they know it’s wrong. Drinking alcohol outside and coming home late, using mint or mouthwash so that they do not smell bad, and lying that they did not drink are a few signs that they hide their alcoholism habit and are embarrassed about it.
3. They drink alone
If a person drinks alone, it could be to cope up with depression or addictive personality disorder. Your spouse might be drinking to numb their worries and drown their sorrows using alcohol, which can be detrimental to their physical and mental health. They may not come home for days so they can binge drink without being judged or lectured at home. It indicates they are aware of their addiction to alcohol.
4. They need alcohol to function ‘normal’
Once an alcoholic builds up a certain tolerance to alcohol, they might turn into a ‘functional alcoholic.’ It means they can function normally despite their alcohol addiction. There may be times when you might not even notice they are drunk. If your spouse can’t go about their day without drinking, they are likely a high-functioning alcoholic.
5. They take any excuse to have a drink
It could be their favorite team winning a sports match or a close friend who recently got engaged. Regardless of how trivial or important the reason may be, alcoholics will use it as an excuse to celebrate.
6. They ignore key priorities under the influence of alcohol
Do you find your spouse getting late for work, forgetting things, making mistakes, or being careless? It shows they are not conscious due to excessive alcohol consumption.
7. They get defensive when you try to talk
If you ever try to engage with your spouse about how much or how often they are drinking, you may find them getting defensive. It further indicates that they might have alcoholic tendencies. They may counter you by saying they had normal amounts of liquor or that you are nagging for no reason. One way or another, they will try to divert the subject from addiction to other irrelevant matters.
8. They become unstable without alcohol
Alcoholism is not just a mental impulse to drink. It builds a physical dependency that manifests as withdrawal symptoms if an alcoholic suddenly stops drinking. These can manifest as loss of sleep, sweating, aches and pains, dizziness, irritability, and even anxiety. If you notice your spouse displaying these symptoms in the first 24 to 48 hours after they haven’t had a drink, it’s a sign of alcoholism. Their mood, productivity, and even appetite will be affected.
Effects Of Living With An Alcoholic Spouse
Alcoholism can ruin your married life. It can be painful to watch your spouse falling into the addiction, and it can alter your interactions with them.
1. You argue all the time
Once alcoholism becomes a part of their lifestyle, it touches every interaction and leads to arguments. You and your partner could constantly be fighting due to their mood swings, forgetful behavior, and failure to fulfill responsibilities.
2. You hardly have time for each other
An alcoholic’s life and schedule are dictated by how much they drink. If your spouse is an alcoholic, they might not join you in certain activities. They may even have a different sleep-wake schedule due to hangovers.
3. You’re not sure what to expect
Your alcoholic spouse could be volatile and unpredictable. They may get aggressive when sober and emotional and apologetic once they’re drunk or vice-versa. You would not know what to expect from them.
4. You are under pressure to drink
Peer pressure to drink isn’t something we face in social gatherings. Alcoholics may try to pressure their spouses to drink, so they have some company. In some cases, you might be at the risk of becoming an alcoholic.
5. You end up doing a disproportionate share of the work
Whether it’s housework, raising children, or even being a healthy partner in the marriage, you may not rely on an alcoholic spouse. You may think it’s unsafe to keep children around them. And so, you might take over every work and exhaust yourself.
6. You have to make excuses for them
Alcoholism is a trait that hardly goes unnoticed by people in your social circles. And so, you might find yourself facing tricky questions about your spouse from different people. Whether it’s their drunken behavior at an office party or being rude to friends, you might have to apologize on their behalf and make excuses for them.
7. You are worried about them
If your spouse happens to be an alcoholic, you need to worry about every tiny thing, such as them driving home, being late, or picking a fight. It’s like having a child, except it’s an unruly drunk adult you can’t control.
How To Deal With An Alcoholic Spouse?
If you are confused and find it challenging to manage your spouse, here are some ways to help you.
1. Try to engage them when they are sober
Do not confront your alcoholic spouse about their alcoholism when they are drunk. They may either attack you or misunderstand your emotions. If you decide to discuss with them, ensure it happens when they are sober.
2. Understand that it is not a personal issue
Sometimes, alcoholics blame a person or situation for their addiction as an escape. You need to understand that alcoholism is their problem, and their current state is not because of you. Do not assume it’s your fault, as it would take a toll on your health.
3. Do not get tempted to retaliate
If you lose your patience with an alcoholic spouse, you might tend to drink as well. It could be a subconscious response to deal with stress or could be spite to show them how it feels to deal with an alcoholic spouse. Regardless, hold yourself to a higher standard and don’t make the problem worse by joining your spouse in their addiction.
4. Maintain a normal schedule at home
Alcoholics are usually impulsive. It means they might wake up when they want, sleep late, and drink regardless of the day or time. While this can be an easy trap to fall into, you should maintain a regular schedule at home regarding work, meals, and chores. It will at least serve as a visual reminder to your spouse about how they should not be drunk at these times.
5. Do not engage in a physical confrontation
Alcoholics can often lose all semblance of decency and morality when under the influence and may tend to get violent at home. For the sake of your family, children, and your safety, you should not reciprocate. Get out of the situation and seek help. If necessary, contact the authorities.
6. Open up to family and close friends
Alcoholism is something that people tend to find out about sooner or later. Instead of hushing it up and not talking about it, you should confide in your family and loved ones and seek their help. You should also consider reaching out to your spouse’s family and friends for help if you feel safe.
7. Talk to a therapist
Being married to an alcoholic can take a toll on your mental health. Talk to a therapist about how the situation makes you feel and let them guide you. Only when things are stable, you can address the alcoholism of your spouse.
How To Help An Alcoholic Spouse?
If your spouse needs your help to come out of the addiction, support and guide them instead of running away.
1. Talk to them about the problem
Your spouse may or may not admit their addiction to alcohol. Talk to them calmly about how it affects your marriage and how they need to change this pattern of behavior. Not all addiction issues need outside intervention, and often, an open conversation can help start the healing process.
2. Remind them of their responsibilities as a spouse
With time and the influence of alcohol, your spouse may begin to ignore their responsibilities as a partner and parent. Remind them that they live for others in their family, and people care and depend on them to be functional members of society.
3. Try to make quitting easier for them
You should avoid consuming alcohol in front of an alcoholic or recovering spouse. It can trigger an impulse to have a drink, and things can go downhill. As far as possible, avoid consuming or storing alcohol at home if you want to help your spouse.
4. Get their family to help
As the spouse of an alcoholic, you may have to face an uphill battle when trying to get them to admit their issues. Try to recruit their family members to help you out with this, preferably a concerned parent or a close sibling, so they can get an outside perspective on how alcohol is harming their life. Once everyone in their inner circle expresses their concern and willingness to help, your spouse may try and make a change in their lifestyle.
5. Remind them of the risks of alcohol
As tolerance for alcohol increases, people tend to forget or underestimate the risks involved. Remind your spouse of the risks associated with heavy, frequent drinking and how every drive home, an argument in public, or even taking the stairs can lead to serious problems or tragedy.
6. Take them to a rehabilitation facility
If all other things fail, you may need to take your spouse to a rehabilitation center. The professionals specialize in getting people off substance addiction and bringing them back to a healthy mind space where they do not need substances to function. After some time, your spouse could leave alcoholism behind and get their lives back on track.
When To Give Up On An Alcoholic Spouse?
If you have tried everything you could and find no ray of hope, here are some instances where it is probably better to walk away from the relationship.
1. They are physically abusive
If your alcoholic spouse is physically abusive, you should report them. Otherwise, it may become a pattern that you do not want to get stuck in. If it still doesn’t subside, you are well within your rights to distance yourself from your abusive spouse.
2. They are unfaithful
While there are many reasons people are unfaithful in marriages, alcoholism is a significant enabler. Lack of inhibitions combined with excess confidence can lead them to be unfaithful. If it is the case, and you have already tried giving them a chance, you should leave your spouse for your own sake.
3. They influence your children adversely
If you have children witnessing your spouse’s alcoholism, it could adversely impact them. They may pick up some of these habits or be scarred for life. If your spouse doesn’t care about your children, you should disassociate and make arrangements to take care of your children.
4. They graduate to other substances
Alcoholism by itself is hard enough to deal with, but often, people may get equally tempted by other substances such as hard drugs. They are far more hazardous to health and mental sanity than alcohol. If you find your spouse moving on to them, you should know it’s time to leave them.
5. They associate with an unsavory crowd
Addicts tend to find other addicts as their addiction progresses. If your spouse continues to enjoy a crowd that is pulling them even further, it is not an ideal crowd of people to associate with and can even be unsafe for you and your family. If you cannot convince your spouse to walk away from that lifestyle, you need to walk away from them for your sake.
Having an alcoholic spouse can seem like an unsolvable life crisis, given all the ramifications it has on your income, lifestyle, social status, and family. While it is a serious issue and needs to be acted upon, there are several outlets you can reach out to for help.
From friends and family to dedicated, professional resources such as counselors, therapists, and rehabilitation centers for alcoholism, there are many options you can pursue. With some time and patience, you have a good chance to bring your spouse back from the brink and restore your marriage to what it used to be or should’ve been.