Your partner’s alcohol abuse is a serious issue that affects not only the drinker but also their loved ones. When a partner abuses alcohol, it can have a significant impact on the relationship, family dynamics, and the mental and physical well-being of those involved. You may have concerns for yourself as well as your children and other family members. In this blog, we will explore the effects of living with a partner who abuses alcohol abuse and provide some helpful tips on how to cope with it.
What is alcohol abuse?
Alcohol abuse refers to excessive and harmful use of alcohol. It is a pattern of drinking that leads to significant impairment or distress. Alcohol abuse can range from mild to severe and can cause various physical, psychological, and social problems. There are a number of ways to determine if your partner is drinking excessively. Some common signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Drinking alone or in secret
- Drinking in the morning or at unusual times
- Losing control over drinking
- Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school
- Continuously drinking despite negative consequences
- Drinking to cope with stress or emotions
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
Alcohol abuse or addiction can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health, relationships, and overall well-being. Here are some of the common ways alcohol abuse can affect you:
Emotional Impact of Your Partner’s Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse can have a significant emotional impact on the partner of the addict. It is common for partners of alcoholics to feel a range of emotions, such as anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, and helplessness. You may feel angry at your partner’s inability to control their drinking, sad about the loss of the relationship you once had, anxious about what the future may hold, fearful about your partner’s safety, and helpless about how to help your partner overcome their addiction.
Partners of alcoholics may also experience emotional trauma, such as domestic violence or emotional abuse. Alcohol abuse can cause the addict to become irritable, aggressive, or emotionally volatile, leading to arguments and fights that can escalate into angry exchanges or violence. Living with an alcoholic spouse can have long-lasting emotional effects on the partner, leading to feelings of fear, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Psychological Impact of Your Partner’s Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse can also have a psychological impact on you. The constant stress of living with an alcoholic partner can cause mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to develop. You may also struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame, believing that you are responsible for your partner’s addiction.
The psychological impact of alcohol abuse can also affect the partner’s ability to cope with their own problems. You may become overwhelmed and find it difficult to manage your own emotions and responsibilities, leading to feelings of helplessness and isolation.
Social Impact of Your Partner’s Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse can have a social impact on the partner of the addict. You may become isolated from friends and family, particularly if you feel embarrassed or ashamed about your partner’s behavior. You may also feel like you have to cover up for your partner’s drinking or make excuses for their behavior, leading to barriers or a breakdown in relationships with others.
The social impact of alcohol abuse can also affect the your ability to work or maintain a career. You may miss work due to stress, anxiety, or caring for their partner, leading to financial problems and potential job loss.
Physical Impact of Your Partner’s Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse can also have a physical impact on the partner of the addict. The stress of living with an alcoholic partner can cause you to develop physical health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and chronic pain. You may also experience physical injuries, such as bruises or broken bones, from domestic violence.
Living with a partner who struggles with alcohol abuse can be an extremely challenging experience. Coping with a partner’s alcohol abuse can be emotionally and physically exhausting, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Here are some coping strategies that can help you support your partner and maintain your own well-being.
Understand Alcohol Addiction
The first step in coping with your partner’s alcohol abuse is to understand what addiction is and how it affects the brain. Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that can have physical and psychological effects on the person who is addicted. It is important to understand that your partner’s alcohol abuse is not just a choice but rather a serious condition that requires treatment.
The next step in coping with your partner’s alcohol abuse is to encourage them to seek treatment. Treatment options for alcohol addiction can include therapy, support groups, and medication. It is important to approach the topic of treatment with empathy and understanding, rather than judgment or criticism. Offer to help your partner find a treatment program that meets their needs and support them throughout the process. It’s important to remember that you are not responsible for your partner choosing to address their alcohol abuse. You can offer and encourage, but your partner must take the needed action.
It is essential to set boundaries when living with a partner who struggles with alcohol addiction. You have a limited amount of energy and resources and cannot spend them all on the addict. Boundaries can help protect your emotional and physical well-being, and also encourage your partner to seek treatment. Setting boundaries can include limiting the amount of alcohol that is brought into your home, not enabling your partner’s behavior (not lying for them or otherwise erasing the consequences of their drinking behavior), and having a plan in place for when your partner is drinking excessively.
Take Care of Yourself
Caring for a partner with alcohol addiction can be emotionally and physically draining. It is important to take care of yourself to prevent burnout. Taking care of yourself can include seeking support from friends and family, engaging in self-care activities, and seeking therapy. It is very easy to become obsessed with the drinking or your partner’s behavior. It is also important to maintain your own hobbies and interests to prevent becoming consumed by your partner’s addiction.
Join a Support Group
Joining a support group can be beneficial for both you and your partner. Support groups provide a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and receive emotional support. They can also provide education on alcohol addiction and coping strategies. Consider attending a support group specifically for partners of individuals with alcohol addiction. Al-Anon is one such widely available group. Both online and in-person meetings can be useful.
Communication is key in any relationship, especially when living with a partner who struggles with alcohol addiction. Practicing open and honest communication can help strengthen your relationship and encourage your partner to seek treatment. It is important to avoid blaming or criticizing your partner but instead focus on expressing your concerns and emotions. Seeking therapy can also help improve communication skills. If your partner refuses to communicate about the problem or becomes defensive or angry when drinking is brought up, seek therapy to help you decide how and when to talk about the problem as well as how to manage the complications that come from denying a problem as it worsens.
Living with a partner who struggles with alcohol addiction can be difficult, but it is important to stay positive. Develop outside interests so that you are able to remain optimistic. If your partner is trying to address the problem, celebrate small victories and show your partner your support throughout their recovery process. Maintaining a positive attitude can also help you cope with the challenges that come with supporting a partner with alcohol addiction.
Find Healthy Outlets
Finding healthy outlets to cope with stress and emotions is important when living with a partner who struggles with alcohol addiction. Healthy outlets can include exercise, meditation, journaling, and creative hobbies. Good strategies will allow you to vent negative emotions as well as bringing you new, positive energy. It is important to find strategies that work for you and engage in them regularly.
Consider Couples Therapy
Couples therapy can be beneficial for partners who are struggling with alcohol addiction. Therapy can provide a safe space to discuss concerns and improve communication skills. It can also provide education on addiction and coping strategies. Speak to your partner about their alcohol use and your concerns about the effects. Consider seeking couples therapy if you and your partner are having difficulty communicating or if the addiction is impacting your relationship.
Keep Yourself and Your Children Safe
Sometimes, your partner’s behavior while under the influence becomes dangerous. The threat to safety may come from either their carelessness and inability to control their own actions while inebriated or through angry outbursts and aggressive behavior. You might feel you have no way to prevent your partner from driving a vehicle while you or your children are in the car or you may lack confidence in your partner’s ability to keep your children safe in the home.
Angry and abusive outbursts may pose an immediate physical harm. You may not trust your partner not to threaten you with a gun or other weapon while he or she is drunk. It is time to leave an alcoholic partner – even just for a short time – if you sense physical danger to you or to others. Despite your love for your partner and your concerns about your partner’s well-being, there are no situations that justify you or your children being endangered. If you feel at-risk please find a safe place to stay or look for local resources that support spouses experiencing domestic violence.
Help is Available
Coping with a partner’s alcohol addiction can be a challenging experience, but there are strategies that can help. You don’t need to handle this problem alone. At TBCRP, we offer therapy to those who want support in navigating the challenges and are there to guide you in the process.