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How To Help Alcoholic Spouse

How To Help Alcoholic Spouse

Alcohol use disorder is one of the most common conditions affecting society today. When your spouse is the one living with the condition, life can be difficult. The emotional toll it takes on both of you can cause animosity and resentment. You know the person you fell in love with is still there, but how can you help your alcoholic spouse?

Between 2015 and 2019, 791 males and 390 females reported a chronic alcohol-related condition in Ohio. The top two conditions were alcoholic liver disease and alcohol dependence. At SUN Behavioral Health Columbus, we treat every aspect of alcohol use disorder from physical to mental. Alcohol use disorder affects everyone involved and our staff of trained professionals is here for our patients and their families.

Focus On Yourself First, Before Trying to Help Your Alcoholic Spouse

When going through difficult times, it is key that your own mental and physical health take precedence before trying to address issues with your partner. Being in the right headspace yourself is important because it’s the only way you can provide the help your partner needs. Some mechanisms you can implement for yourself include:

  • Healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Journaling
  • Seeing a therapist
  • Talking to friends and family

You cannot help someone else if you are not feeling 100%. Make yourself a priority first. It can be hard, especially when seeing your spouse in their current state. Stay focused and keep up your healthy habits.

Don’t Use Negative Words When Talking with Your Alcoholic Spouse

Your partner is most likely feeling guilty and disappointed with themselves about their alcohol use. When talking to them about how their alcohol use makes you feel, do not use negative speech.

This may cause them to be defensive and it could cause resentment. Some keywords or phrases to avoid:

  • Addict, addiction, alcohol abuse
  • Problem, struggling
  • Blaming words or placing fault
  • Jumping to conclusions

It is important that the conversation stays supportive and understanding. For example, instead of saying “you came home drunk again! I am tired of this,” try a supportive tone, “I’ve noticed you have been going out more often lately. This makes me feel lonely, can we talk about what has been going on?” By engaging in a tone of compassion, your spouse will be more likely to open up and stay calm in the situation.

Plan What You Want to Say

When it is time to discuss your feelings with your spouse, be prepared for what you want to say. Plan out everything you want to address with them. Do not be afraid to write things down as you think of them. Alcohol use disorder can affect many aspects of the relationship. Remember to keep your words compassionate and supportive. Remind your spouse that you care and are there for them.

Finding the Right Time and Place Matters

After planning your discussion, the next key is finding the right time to have it. Trying to have the discussion while they are inebriated will not be successful. Also, avoid times when they are at their most stressed. For example, do not try to have a discussion10 minutes before they leave for work. Instead, set a time together that you would like to sit down and talk. Emphasize that you would like to have the conversation sober.

Talk to Them Honestly but Respectfully

Your spouse is not just their alcohol use disorder – they are a person first. Don’t be afraid to mention how their drinking lately has made you feel, but also see their side. Avoid words like “problem” or refer to them as an “addict.” This speech will shut them down rather than open up the conversation.

Set boundaries moving forward for each of you. Some boundaries you may set for your spouse can be:

  • No buying alcohol with joint bank account money
  • No drinking at family gatherings
  • No hiding or lying about any alcohol use
  • Communicate after alcohol use

Some boundaries to set for yourself:

  • Ask your partner to not drink in front of you
  • Tell your partner you’re not comfortable with them using your car while they’re drinking
  • Prioritize self-care and make sure your basic needs are met
  • Communicate any time you feel your boundaries are not being respected

If your discussion goes well with your partner, keep communicating and moving forward. Remember to celebrate their victories, not criticize the slips. If your partner is not open to the discussion at all or does not respect your boundaries, suggest therapy and take a step back. Your spouse needs to see their alcohol use as an issue on their own. Forcing them to do therapy or go to treatment when they do not want to will not help the situation. Instead, it will build resentment and could prevent them from getting help in the long run.

While it can be difficult, if your spouse does not see their alcohol use as an issue, start implementing consequences for not respecting boundaries. For example, if they used your car while drinking when you clearly stated not to, take away their access to the car. By providing consequences for their actions, you are helping them to see that your boundaries are important.

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment at SUN Behavioral Health Columbus

If your spouse needs help with their alcohol use disorder, SUN Behavioral Columbus is here. Our staff is fully trained to treat AUD from detox to outpatient. Our program consists of the following:

Alcohol Detox: during alcohol detox, our staff medically monitors all patients and manages withdrawal symptoms with medication. Group therapy sessions happen twice a day and life skill classes happen three times per day. Our facility gives patients a safe and comfortable place to stay and prevent relapse.

Inpatient: inpatient treatment consists of daily therapy and mental health assessments to find out the root causes of alcoholism. Our primary focus is on different types of therapy such as cognitive behavioral, group, and recreational. The program also has a wellness component that teaches stress management and mindfulness techniques.

Partial Hospitalization (PHP): some patients choose PHP after detox. This is a way to continue medical monitoring and prescribing medications needed. Group therapy is a key component of PHP. This program is 5 days per week and patients attend 5 therapy sessions per day.

Intensive Outpatient (IOP): for those who need structure as they continue their recovery. Group therapy sessions 5 days per week, 3 times a day. The focus is on wellness and working through current issues. Medication management is also continued.

Addressing alcohol use disorder is difficult, especially when trying to do so with your spouse. SUN Behavioral Health Columbus is here to help you through the process of not only treating your spouse but providing therapy and resources for you as well. Give us a call at 614-706-2786 to hear more about our complete treatment program.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is helpful to say to someone with alcoholism?

The most helpful words to say to someone with alcoholism are positive and supportive phrases. Always avoid words such as “addict.” Be respectful with your words and remember that they are a person, not a problem. Remind them that they have your support in pursuing a healthier path.

What if they do not want my help?

It is key to not force the issue. Take a step back and implement consequences for not respecting your boundaries. They have to want help on their own in order to be successful.

Is it a good idea to have others intervene when helping a loved one with alcohol use disorder?

If you feel that you are not being heard by your spouse, seeing a therapist can be a more productive solution. Be careful bringing other family or friends into the conversation as this can provoke the person drinking and cause more harm than good.

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