How To Handle An Alcoholic Spouse
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Susan Saper Galamba (2013), Divorce and Family Law Attorney, Author of Don’t Burn the Underwear, and Legal Analyst for the Huffington Post, reports that alcoholism is the number one cause of death in the United States. Moreover, it is also one of the major causes of divorce.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease that affects people of all nationalities, races, genders, ages, and socio-economic classes. It is often progressive in nature, and characterized by excessive drinking, an inability to stop drinking, drinking even when it causes severe issues, a preoccupation with drinking (i.e. constantly thinking about drinking and/or obsessing over when you will get the next drink), developing a physical dependence on alcohol (i.e. having to drink larger amounts of alcohol or stronger types of alcohol in order to receive the same effects as before), and withdrawal symptoms, if you try to cut back or stop drinking.
Although the exact cause varies, social, biological, genetic, environmental, and psychological factors appear to play a role in the development and progression of this condition. When an individual suffers from alcoholism, it can be very hard on his or her children, parents, spouse, co-workers, and friends. It can also negatively affect the sufferer’s self-esteem and self-confidence. In other words, alcoholism can disrupt every part of that individual’s life (i.e. work, school, family, personality and coping skills). If you suspect that your spouse is suffering from an alcohol addiction, it is imperative that you encourage him or her to seek treatment for it. If you are looking for ways to handle an alcoholic spouse, you have come to the right place. This article will teach how to cope with a spouse, who has an alcohol addiction. Listed below are helpful ways to handle an alcoholic spouse:
Create a List
If you want to effectively handle your alcoholic spouse, you may first want to create a list of all of the ways that your spouse’s alcohol-fuelled behaviors have hurt you, your friends, his or her parents, and your children. This step is important because it provides you with an outlet to express your concerns, issues, and fears for your spouse, yourself, your marriage, and your family, as a whole. Moreover, making a list of your spouse’s “poor” behaviors may help you get to the root of his or her alcoholism. In other words, it may help you identify what originally triggered your spouse’s alcohol addiction, and what keeps it going.
You will also want to talk to your alcoholic spouse, if you want to better handle his or her moods and behaviors. Openly and honestly share your concerns with him or her, and make a pact to work together to get help for him or her, you, your marriage, and your family. Allow your spouse to share his or her concerns with you. And, actively listen to what he or she has to say. Why? Well, because it may give you a sense of what is actually triggering the alcohol abuse. In other words, if you are busy blaming your spouse for his or her condition, you may miss the real reason he or she drinks excessively. It is important to understand that your spouse may be drinking because he or she feels alone – no one to listen and be supportive. So, listen to your spouse and pay close attention to what he or she has to say, but do not make excuses for his or her behaviors, and definitely do not enable him or her by purchasing alcohol, and/or ignoring alcohol-related issues. If your spouse refuses to communicate with you, or if he or she refuses to make changes or seek help, you may need to separate from him or her, until he or she takes steps to heal from the disease.
Express Your Concerns
As mentioned before, it is extremely important that you express your concerns to your alcoholic spouse, especially if you want to effectively handle him or her. Wait until your spouse is sober, or as sober, as he or she can be, and ask to talk to him or her. Do not be shy or timid, and don’t downplay the issue because you don’t want to upset or anger your spouse. Be honest and tell him or her how you feel, and how it is affecting your family. Remain calm and collected, while you talk to your spouse, and make sure he or she understands that you love him or her, and that you will stand by him or her, if he or she seeks treatment.
Don’t blame, bully, judge, or criticize your spouse because it will only make him or her recoil in anger – defeating the purpose of the intervention. If you completed the first step “Create a List,” talk to your spouse about what you wrote down, but if he or she becomes agitated or confrontational, remove yourself from the situation, and try again at another time. It is important to understand that you cannot make your spouse talk to you, just like you can’t make him or her seek treatment, however, if your spouse refuses to take steps to improve his or life, the only thing you can do is tolerate the drinking or separate yourself, temporarily or permanently, from the situation.
Another way to handle an alcoholic spouse is to be supportive. Why? Well, because your spouse is going to need your support as he or she addresses issues, and works to change his or her life. Even though your spouse is going through a hard time right now, it is important that you remember that he or she has a disease. Your spouse does not want to be an alcoholic. No one wants to be addicted to drugs and alcohol. What type of life is that? So, show your spouse how much you love him or her, and how much you want him or her to recover. Go with him or her to Alcoholic Anonymous (A.A.) meetings, attend counseling sessions with him or her, and keep alcohol out of your home.
Get Rid of the Alcohol
Another good way to handle an alcoholic spouse is to get rid of the alcohol in your home, at his or her office, and in his or her vehicle. Moreover, do not drink around your spouse, and refrain from going to places that serve alcohol. Furthermore, limit your spouse’s contact with his or her “drinking buddies.” Suggest that you stay at home and watch television, go to a nice dinner (away from the bar), catch a movie, cuddle in bed, exercise at the gym, go to church, go bowling or putt-putt, etc. These non-alcoholic activities will distract your spouse, and lower his or her risk of a relapse.
If you have tried all else, and simply cannot handle you alcoholic spouse, it may be time to seek counseling for yourself, your marriage, your spouse, and/or your family, as a whole. If your spouse does not want to attend counseling with you – go alone. A counselor will teach you healthier, more effective coping strategies, so that you can “better” handle your alcoholic spouse. Truth-be-told, you are probably experiencing high levels of stress because of your spouse’s disease, so it is important that you also take care of yourself – even if it means seeking individual counseling. A counselor will also be able to help you decide, if your marriage is worth saving. He or she will ask you questions about your willingness to stay in the marriage and work things out. If the answer is “yes,” the counselor will teach how to better communicate with one another, however, if the answer is “no” he or she will teach you how to exit the relationship in a healthy way.
This may one of the hardest steps you will ever take, but it may actually save your marriage, especially if you are married to an alcoholic. If your spouse is not ready to seek treatment for his or her alcohol addiction, you may not have any other choice, but to separate from him or her for a while (until he or she decides to seek treatment). Remember, if you have children, it is your duty as a parent to put their needs first (above your own), so if it is in their best interest for you to separate, then that is just what you will have to do. You can still be supportive and loving towards your spouse, but you will need to do it from a distance. If you give your spouse space to realize what he or she has lost, hopefully, he or she will seek treatment. If not, you may have to consider a divorce. As mentioned above, you cannot help someone that does not want to be helped, but you also cannot stay in an unhealthy relationship with someone, who is unwilling to change.
- Dr. R. Y. Langham
Galamba, S. S. (2013). The relationship between alcoholism and divorce. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-saper-galamba/the-relationship-between-_3_b_2577492.html Mayo Clinic. (2014). Alcoholism. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcoholism/basics/definition/con-20020866 Smith, M., Robinson, L., & and Segal, J. (2015). Alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Help Guide. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/alcoholism-and-alcohol-abuse.htm