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Are You Married to an Alcoholic? Here’s What to Know

When you’re in love with an alcoholic, sometimes days can feel stressful and hopeless. It’s common for someone who’s married to an alcoholic to start to internalize many emotions of what’s happening around your partner’s alcohol use disorder, and you might easily find yourself depressed.  Maybe you’re not even sure if you’re married to an alcoholic, but you have your doubts. You see the heavy drinking, destructive behavior, and struggles to remain abstinent. But, you might still find yourself doubting. It can be challenging to recognize a loved one is struggling with addiction.  When you’re married to someone with substance abuse problems, you may find yourself wondering whether divorce is the right choice and how you can avoid that to help your loved one. The situation often feels like a heavyweight on your shoulders at all times. 

How to Recognize You’re Married to an Alcoholic?

Denial is a prevalent coping mechanism of people with addicted loved ones. Sometimes, even without noticing, people enable the addict’s behaviors. While you might see the signs of addiction in your spouse, you can quickly come up with excuses like, “they had a bad day at work,” or “it’s been stressful lately,” perhaps you might find yourself saying things like, “oh, they’re just heavy drinkers, it’s normal.”  Recognizing an alcoholic can be even more challenging if they’re what’s known as “high-functioning alcoholics.” These are individuals who indeed have an alcohol use disorder but can still manage most of their responsibilities at work, school, or home. Still, they might burst into anger, engage in risky behaviors, or become violent at some point.  To help you recognize whether or not you’re married to an alcoholic, we invite you to take our free, 3-minute “Am I an Alcoholic?” self-assessment. The evaluation consists of yes or no questions intended to be used as an informational tool to assess an alcohol use disorder’s severity and probability. This test is free, confidential, and no personal information is required to receive your results. 

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Everyday Things Spouses of an Alcoholic Experience

Anyone married to someone struggling with alcoholism may experience fear for their safety, future, and their family. It all depends on the situation and the severity of their loved one’s addiction. Unconsciously, alcoholic spouses may experience different feelings and problems that stem from their loved one’s addiction that can be detrimental to their well-being. 

Blame Themselves for the Problem

One of the most common issues is that spouses will blame themselves for the problem. Remember, alcoholics and addicts are exceptionally well at manipulating their loved ones, so while under the influence, they may even blame their partners for their drinking problem. Sometimes, spouses will recognize they’re enabling their loved one’s behaviors to avoid fights or prevent violence. As a result, it is expected that spouses blame themselves for the addiction. 

Attempt to Control the Problem

It’s common for spouses of alcoholics to try to control the problem themselves. As the addiction disease progresses, spouses might feel hopeless and often try to take matters into their own hands. They may try to get rid of all alcohol in the house, they’ll start shaming their spouses about their alcohol use to try to make them stop, or they may begin to use ultimatums to get them to stop.  While it is possible to understand a substance use disorder, and these attempts can help someone recognize they have a problem, it won’t solve it. Spouses of an alcoholic need to remember it takes professional help to help their loved ones. Addiction is a brain disease that requires medical assistance. In fact, in some instances, attempting to stop drinking cold-turkey can even be dangerous and life-threatening. 

Become Enablers

A prevalent issue most people married to alcoholics experience is that they become enablers. This is particularly common among married couples with children. They want their children to be happy and safe, so they’re likely to make excuses and cover up evidence of the problem to make it go away. However, this particular behavior only enables them to keep drinking. At the same time, they may also accept troublesome behavior. If their loved one takes an aggressive, abusive, or dangerous personality while intoxicated, spouses may firmly believe that this isn’t who their loved one is, so that they might excuse the behavior. Here’s when you may hear some domestic abuse victims say things like, “they were drunk when it happened. It’s not their fault.” 

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What Can You Do to Help?

It can be overwhelming to help someone struggling with an addiction. If you’re married to or in a relationship with someone struggling with alcohol abuse, you first need to speak with a therapist, social worker, or spiritual guide yourself. Finding emotional support can help you get the strength you need to help your loved one.  Here are some steps you can take to get help for yourself and your loved ones:

  1. Plan an intervention. It’s essential to have an honest and open discussion about the issue. To stage a successful intervention, you need to have a therapist’s assistance, and you need to rehearse your approach. Stay focused on the problem, leave emotions aside, and use this opportunity to discuss facts. 
  2. Get help for yourself. You can’t help your spouse if you’re not caring for yourself first. Seek support from friends and family members, or try attending support groups for family members of alcoholics. Taking the time to focus on your wellbeing will give you the emotional strength you need to help your partner. 
  3. Commit to the change. During an intervention, both parties commit to a transformation, stick with it. Whether this is sticking to stated boundaries, moving on with your divorce, or whatever it is you committed to, stick with it. While it’s essential to help your partner, personal health and your safety are also a priority. Remember that you run the risk of becoming codependent if you only focus on someone else’s needs. 

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5 Things to Stop Doing If You Love an Alcoholic

When you love an alcoholic, you might fall for self-sabotaging behaviors without realizing it. The situation is indeed troublesome and complicated to understand. No manual tells you exactly what to do when and how to help your loved one. But, there are some everyday things most people in love with an alcoholic do, and these are the ones you need to stop doing:

  • Taking it personally. Remember that alcoholism changes the brain chemistry of a person. They may not be in control of their decision-making process. Nothing that you do or say is impacting them to continue their drinking habits. 
  • Trying to cure it. Make no mistake about it, alcohol dependence is a progressive disease, and you can’t fix a disease. Regardless of your background, you need outside help to help your loved one genuinely. 
  • Having unreasonable expectations. As you try to negotiate your boundaries, you might set unreasonable expectations like expecting them won’t drink ever again. But with alcoholics, they’re not honest with themselves, and they can’t control their actions, so how can you expect them to abide by these expectations. 
  • Living in the past. Most people don’t know that alcoholism is a progressive disease, meaning it will continue to worsen unless they seek help. It’s vital to deal with alcoholism in the family by focusing on the disease’s state today. 
  • Dismissing help. While most people focus on getting their loved one’s help, they often overlook finding help for themselves. Most of the time, they don’t even recognize the extent of the damage until they reach out for help from a support group, like attending AL-non meetings. Seeking professional help can be an incredible source of support, guidance, and strength that many also need to find healing. 

Next Steps

We know this is a stressful, scary, and heartbreaking moment in your life. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our alcohol addiction program incorporates couples and family therapy throughout the program to help heal the family unit. We’ve seen that our patients stay longer in treatment by including the family in the addiction recovery process and remain sober for longer. This is mainly because they’ll have the right support at home to continue their recovery journey. Long-term treatment programs can also offer a safe space to address mental health conditions that often co-occur with addiction. Whether you’re looking for help for yourself or your loved one, contact us at (866) 308-2090 to speak with an admission specialist. Our calls are 100% confidential.

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