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How to Help an Alcoholic Spouse

It is important to know how to help an alcoholic spouse, being a significant other. Alcoholism can lead to severe emotional and health problems not only for alcoholics but also for their families. An alcoholic’s spouse is often forced to bear one of the largest burdens of all. You are not helpless, though, and there are several ways to receive support and help if you have begun to suspect and complain, “My spouse is an alcoholic.” Read on to learn more on how to help an alcoholic spouse and some of the different resources and support for spouses of alcoholics.

Why is Quitting Alcohol So Hard?

One of the first things that spouses of alcoholics can do to help their significant others is attempting to understand what alcoholism is and what mental and physical hardships are experienced by an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a disease and shouldn’t be underestimated. It is characterized by a physical dependence on alcohol. It can be very difficult to remove this dependence, especially on one’s own. Understanding the extent of alcoholism and maintaining realistic expectations will help both you and your spouse.

Alcohol dependence occurs not when a drinker simply can handle large amounts of alcohol, but rather when he or she needs to drink any quantity of alcohol in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms or to be able to carry out his or her normal daily functions and responsibilities.

Trying to Cope with an Alcoholic Spouse

Alcoholics often become emotionally unstable in addition to their debilitating physical condition. Emotional instability can translate into a number of other problems that affect spouses of alcoholics and their family. Among these problems are conditions like apathy towards work, family, and social exchanges. Alcoholics often lose sight of their prior goals and values and can only focus on getting more alcohol. This addiction often takes over the majority of an alcoholic’s time and can lead to, among other problems:

  • loss of work
  • failed career
  • poor personal fitness
  • poor personal hygiene

When the continued dependence on alcohol is combined with the normal stresses of everyday living at home, work, or school, the way that an alcoholic thinks can become distorted, leading to relationship complications with coworkers, friends, and, most of all, the spouse and family. According to the Missouri Department of Mental Health, alcohol and substance abuse contribute “to at least one-third of all child abuse reported.” This is why it is very important that you seek professional help if you continually find yourself thinking, “My spouse drinks too much.” Problems can quickly develop, but by seeking support and help from knowing individuals, you will find yourself better equipped to handle the effects of your spouse’s alcoholism.

Finding Help for an Alcoholic Spouse

Once people suspect that their spouses are alcoholics and that alcohol is preventing them from functioning normally, it is important to seek help. Many spouses attempt to treat their significant others’ disease on their own. This often leads to more stress for both parties and takes up valuable time. As a spouse, it is important to realize that being unable to help your loved one overcome alcoholism does not mean that there is a problem with you. Numerous programs exist to provide support for spouses of alcoholics and their families to help cope with and overcome alcoholism. Some are outpatient services and require the alcoholic to come to group and personal sessions on their own. Others are residential and require the patient to stay at the organization’s treatment center, so that alcoholics are cut off from their supply of alcohol and can progress with in-depth, one-on-one group therapy. Different programs are available for people’s varying needs, and talking to your spouse is the only way to decide what is best for your situation.