How to Help an Alcoholic Husband
When it comes to gender differences regarding alcohol consumption, men are more likely than women to drink excessively—a quantitative description that includes both binge drinking and heavy drinking.1 According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 15.1 million adults age 18 and older battled with an alcohol addiction in the United States in 2015.2 Of those, 9.8 million were men, making up 8.4% of the male population in this age group.2 However, among this large group of men some of them are spouses struggling with compulsive alcohol use, only 7.4% had received treatment in the past year.2
Excessive drinking is also associated with significant increases in short-term and long-term risks to health and safety.1 Annually, an estimated 62,000 men die from alcohol-related causes in the U.S., accounting for more than 70% of the total 88,000 alcohol-related deaths each year.2 Excessive alcohol consumption can also increase aggression which can increase the risk of physical assault.1.
How to Help a Spouse with Alcoholism
Although alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), affects all people, for the spouses of men who struggle with this disease, it can be particularly difficult.3 Often they suffer psychological, physical and social trauma related to their partner’s problematic drinking.3 Various studies indicate that substance abuse may co-occur in as many as 40-60% of all incidents of intimate partner violence.7
It can be hard to know how to help an alcoholic husband because there are so many different types of treatment and routes to take to get them help. For these reasons and more, if your husband is struggling with an AUD, it’s important to understand how to best approach the subject of treatment, to learn more about what rehab involves, and to know what steps you can take to keep you and your family safe should the situation turn violent. Alcoholism is a complex yet treatable disease that can be managed through specialized programs to help your husband regain control of his life and maintain a life of sobriety.
If you’re asking yourself “is my husband an alcoholic” due to their excessive alcohol consumption, it may be time to seek professional help. Our admissions navigators are available to speak with you about treatment options 24/7. Call our hotline at to start your journey toward recovery today.
Does My Husband Drink Too Much?
If your husband can no longer control their use of alcohol, experience emotional distress when they are not drinking, and/or compulsively abuse it despite negative ramifications, he may be suffering from an alcohol use disorder.4 But note that only a doctor or other licensed addiction treatment professional can diagnose someone with AUD. AUD is diagnosed based on an individual meeting certain criteria outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). To be diagnosed with AUD, individuals must meet any two of the below criteria within the same 12-month period:5
- Being unable to cut down on alcohol use despite a desire to do so.
- Using alcohol in higher amounts or for a longer time than originally intended.
- Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol.
- Cravings, or a strong desire to use alcohol.
- Developing tolerance (i.e. needing to drink increasingly large or more frequent amounts of alcohol to achieve desired effect).
- Using alcohol in physically dangerous situations (such as driving or operating machinery).
- Being unable to fulfill major obligations at home, work, or school because of alcohol use.
- Continuing to abuse alcohol despite negative interpersonal or social problems that are likely due to alcohol use.
- Giving up previously enjoyed social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use.
- Continuing to abuse alcohol despite the presence of a psychological or physical problem that is probably due to alcohol use.
- Developing symptoms of withdrawal when efforts are made to stop using alcohol.
What Does Alcohol do to a Marriage?
Alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, can have many negative repercussions within a marriage. This may include trauma, mental and physical abuse, job loss, financial strain, familial tensions with children in the household and extended relatives, and even death from alcohol-related fatalities.
Should I Divorce an Alcoholic?
Getting a divorce is a personal choice. You must do what is best and safe for yourself and children (if any), but it’s a decision that should be carefully considered and perhaps discussed with a therapist or other licensed professional.
How to Talk to Your Husband about His Alcohol Use
Committing to getting sober and seeking treatment for alcoholism takes courage. Yet, often times, those struggling with alcohol may not immediately be receptive to discussing treatment or admitting that they have a problem. If your husband isn’t yet ready to seek treatment, don’t be confrontational. The types of “interventions” that you see on TV are rarely effective.8 They can even backfire and lead to anger or refusal to get treatment.8 Instead, try to imagine how you would like to be talked to if you were in your spouse’s shoes. Focus on getting them to at least talk to a doctor if they won’t talk to you.
Don’t blame your loved one for the problem. Remember that they have a disease that’s as real as any other chronic disease. So just as with other disease, they need treatment to get better.
Here are some additional ways relating to how to talk to your husband about his drinking:
- Only talk to him when he is sober and receptive to hearing what you have to say. Sometimes, it may take several small, honest, and simple conversations to get your point across.
- Educate yourself on the disease and treatment options that exist near you.
- Consider seeking out support for yourself via a therapist or support group, such as Al-Anon, a self-help program for family members of substance abusers.
- If at any time you feel unsafe physically or emotionally in your home when your husband is under influence of alcohol, seek immediate professional help. Do not try to diffuse the situation by yourself.
- Try not to take his drinking personally.
- Keep up with the family schedule regardless to keep a sense of normalcy and balance at home.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment Process
Once your husband has agreed to treatment, the real work begins—not only for him but for you as well. As you work through this new way of life, you may experience feelings of doubt, anger, resentment or sadness. This is completely normal and okay. But remember to be kind to yourself and don’t blame yourself for his actions or behaviors.
One of the most important things to do while your husband is going through treatment is ensure you are taking care of yourself and your family, both physically and emotionally. One way to do this is by seeking support in the form of private counseling and/or peer support groups (such as Al-Anon). The latter offers programs of recovery for the families and friends of those struggling with alcoholism.
Whether your husband is working toward recovery in an outpatient or inpatient setting, it is also a good idea to set healthy boundaries with consequences for when they are around. This could mean that if they relapse, you stay with friends or family until they’ve chosen to get sober again. But also understand that relapse is common, as addiction is a disease, and has a 40-60% relapse rates—similar to other chronic illnesses such as asthma and hypertension. Be prepared in case it happens and have a plan in place so that you know exactly what to do at that time.
Recovery is a lifelong process that doesn’t end once treatment is completed. But with the right treatment, a solid support network, and aftercare services, you and your husband can go on to live healthier, more fruitful lives.
Getting Alcohol Treatment for Your Husband
Common AUD treatment types include:8,9
- Detox is often the first step in the rehab process. Detox helps your loved one through withdrawal and become medically stable so they can enter treatment.
- Outpatient rehab, where your loved one lives at home but travels to a treatment center on a regular basis.
- Inpatient rehab, where they live at a residential treatment center and get round-the-clock monitoring, care, and support.
- Behavioral therapy, which is a broad category that can include methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or contingency management (CM). CBT helps people identify unhelpful thoughts and increase positive, healthy behavior. CM uses positive reinforcement to help people stay away from drugs and alcohol.
- 12-step groups or other types of mutual support groups, which help people in recovery through the support of others who have been in the same situation.
No one type of treatment is better than others. The best treatment for your spouse depends on different factors, such as how bad their AUD is, whether they have other physical or mental health issues, and their insurance plan. The most important thing is that your husband gets some form of help.
If you are finding yourself overwhelmed with where and how to help your husband, call us 24/7 to discuss treatment options. We understand that many are affected by one person’s alcoholism and we’re here to help.