Sometimes it’s obvious you’re involved with an alcoholic. But this isn’t always the case. There are instances in which you might suspect there is a problem with alcohol, but you aren’t sure of its severity.
A few of the signs you are dating an alcoholic include:
Everyone is different and signs of alcohol abuse vary from person to person. But if one or more of these things has occurred in your relationship, you might want to consider whether or not there is a problem with alcohol or if your partner has an alcohol addiction.
Functional alcoholics maintain their life despite their misuse of alcohol. It takes years for their drinking to affect relationships, careers, and other aspects of their life if it ever does. But this doesn’t mean that dating a functioning alcoholic is easy. The same is true for a closet alcoholic who hides his or her problem and maintains an outer appearance of doing just fine.
People in relationships with non-traditional alcoholics struggle with:
The trouble with dating a functional or closet alcoholic is that despite the world not seeing a problem, you deal with one every day. Functional or closeted doesn’t mean the disorder doesn’t exist. In many cases, the problem is worse for someone dating a functioning alcoholic because they feel isolated and alone as if they are the only person who believes there is a problem.
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One of the most difficult aspects of dating an alcoholic is that there might be nothing you can do to help the person. There are several things you can try, but until your significant other is ready to accept help, you could be fighting a losing battle.
To make it easier to cope with a romantic partner who has a drinking problem, you can:
If speaking to your partner gets you nowhere and you are not sure what to do next, the CRAFT method might help. It is used in place of a traditional intervention and many mental health experts consider it a more productive option.
CRAFT stands for Community Reinforcement and Family Training. Studies show the CRAFT approach to be up to 70% effective at getting a loved one to participate in treatment. CRAFT gives loved ones the tools to:
The best thing you can do to help your partner and yourself is present options, be supportive, and follow through on any consequences you present.
In addition to what you can do when a loved one has a drinking problem, there are also some things you should avoid doing. The most important is becoming codependent. Codependency occurs when your focus is on your partner’s life more so than your own safety and well-being. It involves being overly focused on his or her behavior or actions and obsessively worrying to the point that it interferes in your life.
It’s also important to remember you cannot force your significant other to get treatment. The only thing you can truly control is your own life, so it does no good to obsess over helping a partner that doesn’t want help.
Codependency is the greatest risk of romantic involvement with an alcoholic. It creates an unbalanced relationship in which you enable disordered alcohol use by cleaning up your partner’s messes.
Being a codependent partner gives you a higher risk of addiction, especially to food, gambling, sex, and substances. It’s isolating and often results in the loss of other close relationships. It’s a mental health condition that interferes with your ability to maintain responsibilities outside of the relationship. Your career could suffer because of your partner’s drinking problem.
Ultimately, someone who is codependent works so hard to care for his or her partner that they neglect their own needs. They tend to experience:
Codependency also doesn’t do the drinking partner any favors. In a way, codependency supports the problem with alcohol. Both people in the relationship are dependent on the addiction.
Dealing with issues of codependency is just as important as dealing with any other co-occurring disorder during recovery.
There are many treatment options available for those with alcohol use disorder and their loved ones who want them to stop drinking. If your partner is struggling with substance use, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information about treatment centers. SAMHSA provides information for addiction treatment and recovery, as well as support services for loved ones. You can also get information about a 12-step program in your area, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon.
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“Are You A Functioning Alcoholic?” HuffPost, 28 Mar. 2008, www.huffpost.com/entry/are-you-a-functioning-alc_n_91909. Accessed 30 Nov. 2020.
“Co-Dependency.” Mental Health America, www.mhanational.org/issues/co-dependency.