For Better or Worse: 5 Tips for Dealing with an Alcoholic Spouse
March 31st, 2019 by Arida Naz
More than 15 million Americans struggle with alcohol use disorder each year. These people are our neighbors, friends, colleagues, and family members. Living with an alcoholic causes lots of shame and stress for children and spouses.
If you are living with an alcoholic spouse, keep reading for 5 tips to help you help them.
Don’t Take it Personally
Often when someone is abusing drugs their loved ones have a tendency to question their love.
They wonder why, if the addict loves them, they can’t stop abusing drugs. In this situation, it’s important to understand that the person you love is caught in an abuse cycle.
Every human needs to feel at peace with themselves.
When this doesn’t happen, we seek coping mechanisms. Some cope by working, some meditate, some turn to drugs. The addict is in a cycle where they don’t feel at peace and the drug makes them feel aligned with themselves.
The only person that can break this relationship to the drug is the addict.
As a person that loves an alcoholic, you must understand that they would drink even if you were not there. Even if your spouse blames you, understand they are looking for a way to explain their own addiction to themselves.
Don’t Make Excuses for Them
If your spouse is drinking excessively don’t make excuses for them. You have to be honest about their behavior if you are going to help.
Verbal and physical abuse is unacceptable. You must set boundaries and have a limit. Both men and women can be physical and emotional terrorists. Don’t hang around someone that makes you feel unsafe.
It is possible that they will never recover. Be willing to walk away from the situation if things don’t improve.
If your spouse causes a crisis due to alcoholism, don’t bail them out. Never having to be responsible for bad behavior compounds. Losing a job or getting a DUI may be what they need to realize they need help.
Research Help Options
Alcoholism is difficult to recover from alone. To help your spouse, seek a professional. Treatment centers know how to detox from alcohol in the safest manner possible. They will help your lover develop new coping skills and confront their addiction.
A professional is also an objective third party. They don’t have the emotional investment you do. This allows them to be honest in a way you may not be able to. A therapist or counselor will walk them through triggers and help them to develop new coping skills.
Seek an evidence-based treatment center to give your spouse the best chance to succeed.
Host an Intervention for Your Alcoholic Spouse
Intervention doesn’t have to be more than an honest conversation. Talk to your spouse while they are sober. If you feel they may become angry or violent, don’t do it alone. A trained counselor can help with the intervention process.
Let them know you support them through recovery. Refusing to be honest, accepting/excusing bad behavior, and prioritizing their needs over yours are all enabling actions. Set boundaries for what will happen if they decide not to get help.
Commit to Change
Loving someone does not mean saving them. If you feel the relationship is worth the fight, help them as much as you can. Understand that relapse is also a normal part of recovery.
When relapse happens follow through on your commitment to not enable them. Seek help and support for yourself. There are several people who have gone through a similar situation. Their advice can get you through tough times.
Join activities to regain some normalcy in your life. Having a hobby and a separate friend group will help keep your situation in perspective.
Things to Remember
When someone you love is hurting, you have an innate need to help. The best way to help an alcoholic spouse is to get them professional help. Enabling behavior will only hurt them and your family in the long run.
Finally, set boundaries and consequences and follow through on them if the line is crossed.
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