Updated on February 28, 2024
8 min read

How to Help an Alcoholic Husband

Is Your Husband an Alcoholic?

Sometimes it can be hard to notice if your husband drinks too much or struggles with alcohol use disorder. Even if you spend significant time with your alcoholic partner, the warning signs can go unnoticed.

Your spouse may hide the signs of alcohol addiction, covering up how much they drink. This is because they might not want to admit they have a problem or are ashamed of their heavy drinking.

It's essential to familiarize yourself with the common signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction if you think your partner has a drinking problem. This can help you gauge when your husband needs help or intervention.

Identifying the Warning Signs of an Alcoholic Husband

There are various signs and symptoms that can help you determine whether your spouse has an alcohol use disorder. These include:

  • Mood swings
  • Withdrawal from responsibility
  • Less concern with appearance and hygiene
  • A defensive attitude
  • Paranoia or overreaction to criticism
  • Frequent small accidents or mistakes
  • Tiredness
  • Secretive or dishonest behavior
  • Distraction
  • Sudden weight loss

However, it can be difficult to identify if your husband is a high-functioning alcoholic. They can often maintain a career, practice healthy relationships, and remain financially stable.

However, despite their appearances, functioning alcoholics often need a drink to get through the day. They're also good at hiding their drinking problems from family members and friends.

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How to Deal with an Alcoholic Husband

The best way to help an alcoholic partner is to communicate, discuss the issue, and understand the problem. It's important to be sincere and genuinely show concern about their drinking.

Communication is an ongoing process that requires verbal and non-verbal techniques. When you sit down and talk to your husband, try to emphasize how you feel and how his drinking affects you.

It's crucial to note that living with an alcoholic requires certain strategies to manage the situation effectively. Consider reaching out to an addiction specialist for help and guidance.

What to Do

Here are a few key techniques you can use when talking to your alcoholic husband:

  • Share your thoughts and concerns openly
  • Encourage treatment and help him find help
  • Empathize with his struggle and respect him
  • Understand that alcohol addiction is a disease and not a weakness
  • Provide incentives that motivate him to stay sober
  • Create realistic and achievable goals that can help both of you
  • Focus on improvement and moving forward
  • Call medical attention when he experiences withdrawal
  • Provide a safe and secure space for them to talk about their drinking

You should also allow them to experience the consequences of their drinking. You are enabling their behavior if you cover or make excuses for them.

What Not to Do

When you communicate with your husband, there are some things you should avoid. Otherwise, you may aggravate the issue.

Things to avoid:

  • Do not nag him about his alcohol problem
  • Do not try to control their drinking
  • Do not judge him
  • Do not blame him or use accusatory language
  • Do not threaten him
  • Do not make demands or give ultimatums
  • Do not focus on the past
  • Do not enable his behavior or drinking habits
  • Do not talk to them while they're drunk

Although you may be tempted to control your partner's drinking, you shouldn't. They can't control their drinking, and if they stop, they may experience harmful or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

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How to Help an Alcoholic Husband Stop Drinking

Here are some ways to help an alcoholic husband stop his alcohol abuse problems:

Benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for Alcoholic Spouses

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA, or Al-Anon) is an international organization for those struggling with alcoholism. The organization consists of peer groups that meet to support one another through addiction and substance use recovery.

Members often meet in these support groups to discuss ideas and concerns linked to their alcohol and drug addiction. They support one another through triumphs and relapses.

There are also Al-Anon groups that can help you manage living with an alcoholic partner. These groups are similar to AA, but they focus on helping the loved ones of an alcoholic person.

Consider an Intervention

Committing to recovery takes a lot of courage, and some people may not be on board with admitting they have a problem or discussing treatment options. If your husband is reluctant to seek treatment, consider an intervention.

An intervention is a process that involves a physician, an addiction counselor, or an intervention specialist meeting with loved ones. During the intervention, encourage your spouse to seek treatment by confronting him about his alcohol addiction and how it affects you.

You should provide examples of his substance abuse ahead of time and offer potential treatment plans. You should also help him explore different treatment programs catering to his needs.

Effective Treatment Options for Alcoholism 

Various treatment programs are available for alcohol use disorders. However, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan.

Explore different treatment options and find one that's best for you and your husband. Here are a few options you can consider:

Behavioral Treatments

Behavioral treatments aim to change drinking behavior through counseling. Health experts lead them, and studies support that they are beneficial.

According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, behavioral therapy is the most commonly used form of treatment. Family therapy is one of these services that can benefit you and your partner.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

There are medications approved in the United States to help people quit or reduce their heavy drinking and prevent relapse. A health professional prescribes them and may be used alone or in combination with other treatments.

Medical Detox

Professional detox may help manage the withdrawal symptoms that can occur when someone experiencing alcoholism quits drinking suddenly. This can happen in an inpatient setting when the patient lives in a medical treatment center. Alternatively, it may be in an outpatient treatment program where the patient can detox while living at home.

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How to Pay for Treatment

Healthcare insurance is one of the most common ways to pay for alcoholism treatment. The amount of money insurance covers depends on the insurance company and what the health provider accepts.

Types of healthcare insurance that may cover addiction treatment include:

  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • State-financed health insurance
  • Private insurance
  • Military insurance

Another way to save money on addiction treatment is to look for a free or low-income facility. You can also seek programs that offer financing options. Financing can be an excellent choice because free rehabilitation centers often have long waiting lists and limited funding.

How to Live with a Functioning Alcoholic Husband

If you live with a high-functioning alcoholic or think you may be, communication is essential to help them. It's important to avoid placing blame or judging his actions. It's also essential to talk to him when he's more receptive to the idea of help and intervention.

However, there are a few things you can do to help your husband, including:

  • Avoid letting them have easy access to alcohol
  • Avoid giving them money to buy alcohol
  • Set boundaries on what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable
  • Keep yourself mentally and physically healthy
  • Do not stay in a position where you are physically or emotionally unsafe

It's also important to take care of yourself. Your partner may find it difficult to recover from alcoholism if your health and happiness is also struggling.

Risks of Living with an Alcoholic Husband

You may face many challenges when living with an alcoholic husband. The relationship can feel overwhelming and lead to serious mental health problems.

While these risks vary depending on the situation and the people involved, they include:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Frustration
  • Displacing frustration on your children
  • Ignoring your children’s needs
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Not paying attention to your own health
  • Spending less time socializing
  • Feeling ashamed around others
  • Financial difficulties
  • Being threatened
  • Hearing spouse threaten to kill himself
  • Physical harm
  • Suicidal thoughts 

When is it Time to Leave an Alcoholic Husband?

Leaving an alcoholic husband is challenging and deeply personal. Although it may seem easy, it can be tough because you may want to hold out hope that your relationship will change for the better.

With proper treatment, many people can recover from alcohol abuse and addiction. However, some people will still struggle.

There is nothing wrong with leaving your partner when the situation feels hopeless. Here are a few reasons to help you determine when it's time to walk out the door:

When Their Drinking is Affecting Your Mental Health

Living with an alcoholic spouse can negatively impact your emotional, physical, and psychological well-being. Your husband's alcohol addiction is stressful, and the stress puts you at risk for:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Neglecting personal, family, or work obligations
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

When Your Husband Shows No Signs of Stopping

Living with an alcoholic husband who doesn't recognize drinking as a problem can be frustrating. Your husband may have been in and out of alcohol rehab or relapsed several times.

If you see that he's unwilling to commit to recovery, maybe it's time to leave. He might not be ready to change, or maybe he'll never change.

When You're in Danger

Alcohol can affect a person's judgment making an addict's behavior unpredictable. This unpredictability is scary.

When your husband is drunk, he may:

  • Abuse you physically or emotionally
  • Get extremely angry
  • Lose self-control
  • Drive drunk
  • Become violent and get into physical fights with other people
  • Spend excessive amounts of money

Summary

It can be hard to determine if your husband is struggling with alcohol use disorder. Especially if they're a high-functioning alcoholic.

However, there are signs and symptoms you can look out for. If your partner is an alcoholic, there are various ways to communicate and help them seek treatment.

Consider reaching out to an addiction specialist for more information and support. Living with an alcoholic partner can be stressful, overwhelming, and require professional assistance.

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Updated on February 28, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on February 28, 2024
  1. Sharma, Nitasha et al., "Living with an alcoholic partner: Problems faced and coping strategies used by wives of alcoholic clients," Industrial psychiatry journal, 2016.

  2. "Intimate partner violence and alcohol," World Health Organization (WHO), 2006.

  3. Krentzman, Amy R et al., "How Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Work: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives," Alcoholism treatment quarterly, 2010.

  4. "Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help," National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2014.

  5. NIDA. "Principles of Effective Treatment," National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020.

  6. Leonard, Kenneth and Eiden, Rina, "Marital and Family Processes in the Context of Alcohol Use and Alcohol Disorders," Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 2007.

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