How To Get Help For Your Alcoholic Spouse
Marriage to an alcoholic can be stressful, and breaking the cycle of addiction that affects you and your family can seem impossible. You can help your alcoholic spouse toward recovery, though – but the key to doing that is to help yourself first.
You Can’t “Save” Your Alcoholic Spouse
A husband or wife addicted to alcohol frequently blames the spouse for their addiction. If the spouse hadn’t done this or that, or hadn’t said that particular thing, they say, they wouldn’t be drinking. But you can’t really “drive someone to drink.” A complex combination of biological and emotional factors creates addiction, and addicts often look for others to blame.
While you can support your spouse in the process of getting help, it’s important to realize that you can’t make them stop drinking. You can’t save them from the consequences of drinking, either.
Often, a partner tries to help by keeping life running as normally as possible – covering the addiction or bailing out the alcoholic in difficult situations. But that’s called “enabling,” and it doesn’t place responsibility for the addiction where it belongs. The first step toward helping an addicted spouse is to stop protecting them from the consequences.
But You Can Empower Yourself
A partner’s alcohol addiction can suck you in before you realize it, leaving you vulnerable in many ways. A wife who depends on her alcoholic husband to earn a living and take care of all the bills can find herself devastated when he loses his job or fails to make major payments. A husband who worries constantly about his wife’s binge drinking while he’s at work may find his performance suffering. It’s essential to take charge of your own life, and separate yourself from the partner’s alcoholism.
Empowering yourself in the face of a partner’s addiction to alcohol could include things like:
- Learning about addiction
- Finding new ways to manage finances
- Creating an “escape plan” if the situation gets worse
- Taking better care of your health
- Finding a support group for people in your situation
You Don’t Need to Do It Alone
One way spouses enable addicts is by helping them to keep their addiction secret, so it can be hard to tell others about what’s happening. But talking to other family members and friends can help you gain perspective and brainstorm ways to encourage the addicted person to seek help.
Turning to professionals such as counselors and groups can help, too. You can learn from others’ experiences, find resources and build a network of support for both yourself and your alcoholic spouse.
Offer Honest Support
Helping your alcoholic spouse begins with honesty. Find a time when they aren’t drinking to discuss your concerns calmly. Offer specific help, such as driving them to meet with a counselor or visit a rehab program. Without issuing ultimatums, state the consequences if they continue to drink – “ I won’t bail you out of jail any more.” “If you’re too hung over to go to work, I won’t call your boss and say you’re sick.” Focus on what you will do, not what you want them to do.
While it’s important to talk with your spouse, it’s also essential to feel safe. Be sure that you have an ‘escape route’ and help to call if your partner becomes angry or abusive.
Good people can have bad addictions – and getting help for your alcoholic spouse can be the first step toward rebuilding your life together. Are you struggling with your partner’s alcoholism? Are you looking for ways to help them recover? We’re just a phone call away. Contact us at 800-839-1686 for the answers you need today.