How To Cope When Living With An Alcoholic

Quick Access

Alcoholism can affect all aspects of a person’s life – however, it can also have an impact on the people around them.

You may be deeply affected by the actions and behaviours of an alcoholic loved one – especially if you live with them, are close to them, or spend a lot of time with them.

Living with an alcoholic can be difficult, whether they are currently drinking or are in recovery. That’s why, on this page, we are going to discuss how you can help somebody with an alcohol problem, as well as how to cope when living with an alcoholic.

Read on to learn more about how to spot the signs of alcoholism in somebody you live with, advice for living with somebody in active addiction, as well as advice regarding living with somebody in recovery.

At Help4Addiction, we are here to help. In fact, Help4Addiction was founded by an addict who needed rehab to save his life – and since then, he vowed to spend his life helping others in addiction find the right treatment.

Spotting The Signs of Alcohol Addiction and Substance Abuse

Even if you live with an addict, it isn’t always easy to spot the signs of alcohol abuse and addiction – especially in the early stages. Some people may be ‘functional alcoholics’ or in denial about their addiction, and others may simply refuse treatment and keep drinking.

However, several signs can indicate somebody has an alcohol dependence – including a lack of control over drinking alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop drinking. Read on to learn more.

Lack of Control Over Drinking Alcohol

One of the main signs that somebody you live with has an alcohol use disorder is the lack of control over drinking.

This can include being unable to control when they start and stop drinking, how often they drink, how much they drink, and where they drink.

For example, you could both be happily eating breakfast and they begin drinking alcohol first thing in the morning.

If somebody you live with drinks at unusual times (such as first thing in the morning or during work), struggles to stop drinking once they start (which can carry on into the next day), or frequently abuses alcohol, then they likely have alcohol use disorder and should seek treatment.

People with alcohol use disorder (AUD) will often prioritise alcohol. They may neglect their responsibilities in order to drink. Alcohol can quickly become the main focus of an alcoholic’s life.

They may stop participating in activities or hobbies they once enjoyed, or face difficulty at work or school. They may also stop spending time with loved ones and begin isolating themselves.

Personalised Support For Your Recovery

We provide personalised support and resources for addiction recovery. Take the first step towards a brighter future today.

Withdrawal Symptoms

People with a physical dependence on a substance (such as alcohol) will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it or lower the amount their body is used to.

One of the main signs of a drinking problem is the inability to stop drinking. Withdrawal symptoms can make it difficult to stop drinking – as people will experience discomfort and cravings when they stop drinking and then give in to the alcohol cravings to relieve the unpleasant sensations.

In regards to alcohol use disorder, withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological. Some physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

Psychological and behavioural withdrawal symptoms can impact a person’s mental health and behaviour. Some common ways that alcohol withdrawal can affect someone psychologically include:

Although alcohol withdrawal isn’t severe in most cases, some people have delirium tremens. This is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal and typically requires hospital treatment or urgent medical care.

Generally speaking, the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms depends on the severity of the dependence. For example, people with a severe dependence on alcohol will experience more severe withdrawal symptoms.

The same applies to the length of time that withdrawal symptoms last – the longer a person has been addicted to alcohol or the more severe the addiction, the longer the withdrawal symptoms tend to persist.

If you have concerns that your partner may be an alcoholic, check out this page – Is My Partner an Alcoholic? The Key Signs Explained.

Alternatively, speak to our addiction experts at Help4Addiction, who can listen to your story and discuss the next steps for you and your alcoholic spouse or partner.

Living With Somebody In Active Addiction

There’s no denying that living with somebody in active addiction can be difficult, and sometimes it may feel draining. However, if you wish to help somebody in active addiction while taking care of yourself, we can help – read on for some helpful tips.

Communicate With Them Calmly

It can be difficult to help an alcoholic in denial – however, clear and calm communication can make it a little easier. Instead of expressing anger about any unacceptable behaviour, speak to them openly and calmly about their alcohol consumption.

Avoid trying to hurt their feelings or lash out at them – after all, alcoholism is a disease, and people addicted to alcohol can find it difficult to stop drinking no matter how much they want to.

Instead of making hurtful or negative comments about their excessive drinking, open up about how it makes you feel.

Encourage Them To Seek Treatment

Whether you’re looking to help your alcoholic dad, spouse, or friend, the goal should be to get them to seek professional treatment for their alcoholism.

Alcohol addiction treatment can vary from clinic to clinic. For example, some clinics offer private residential rehabilitation, and others only offer rehab services on an outpatient basis. You can find NHS-operated rehab services and private luxury rehab centres.

At Help4Addiction, we are in contact with many substance abuse treatment clinics across England and Wales and can find the right addiction treatment for your loved one.

We’ll listen to your story, needs, and preferences to find the right personalised treatment plan that will give your loved one the best chance of a steady recovery.

Rehab treatment involves three core stages – detox, therapy, and secondary treatment. Detoxification addresses the physical aspect of addiction, whereas therapy delves into the social, behavioural, and psychological aspects of addiction.

Some forms of therapy in rehab include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy), counselling, group therapy, family therapy, and many more.

Secondary treatment, also known as aftercare, provides ongoing support once you leave rehab. Ultimately, secondary treatment can help to prevent relapse, and manage the transition from rehab to ‘everyday’ life.

Without treatment, alcoholism can ruin lives, posing a range of physical health risks, psychological risks, and even legal risks. If you have tried to communicate with them but had no success, you may wish to consider staging an intervention for alcoholism.

Contact our team at Help4Addiction today to learn more about the process, and to discuss how we can help your alcoholic friend, family member, or loved one.

Don’t Enable Their Behaviour

Many family members of alcoholics will make the mistake of enabling their destructive behaviour, whether it be intentional or unintentional.

When living with somebody with an addiction, you should declare and implement healthy boundaries. Your friend, spouse, or partner’s drinking problem can impact you, but you don’t have to encourage it or even enable it.

Part of setting boundaries includes allowing natural consequences to occur. Constantly shielding a person from the consequences of their actions is a form of enabling.

This can prevent them from understanding the severity of their problem and ultimately prevent them from seeking the treatment they need.

Even though it may feel difficult, it may be best to leave them to their own decision-making and let them face the consequences. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, and you can’t protect a person from their actions forever.

Another way that you can set healthy boundaries is to avoid feeding your addiction. If they request that you pour them a drink or add alcohol to the food shop, don’t do it – and explain your reasoning behind it.

That being said, it can feel difficult saying no to somebody – especially when it’s something they really want.

People dependent on alcohol may lie to you or attempt to manipulate you. However, stand your ground, otherwise, the problem could escalate.

Take Care Of Yourself

Firstly, it’s important that you don’t take a loved one’s alcoholism personally. Although it may be your first reaction to take their broken promises and lies personally, try to understand that they have an illness.

No matter how much time you want to dedicate to helping an alcoholic loved one, it’s important that you take some time to practice self-care regularly.

Consider your own pain as well as theirs – and find an outlet (for example, a support group for friends and family of alcoholics) to share your problems with.

Likewise, you should consider your own safety as well as theirs. For example, if they become violent or aggressive while in active addiction, it’s important to remove themselves from the situation and set firm boundaries regarding this negative behaviour.

Many friends and family of loved ones feel a range of emotions – for example, guilt. Know that you are not responsible – and although you want to help, it’s important to take care of your own needs.

Be sure to take personal time to relax and meet friends, and avoid isolating yourself. Looking after somebody with an alcohol addiction can impact your well-being, so be sure to take care of yourself during this time.

Living With Somebody In Recovery

Although it can be difficult living with somebody in active addiction, it can also be tough living with somebody in recovery from substance use disorder too.

For example, you may spend time treading carefully or worrying about them relapsing, and ultimately neglecting your own mental health and life in general. Read on for some tips on living with somebody in recovery.

Check In On Their (And Your Own) Mental Health

Alcoholism can have an impact on a person’s mental health, and this can continue during recovery.

Many people have mental health problems before they turn to alcohol, and this could be one of the reasons that they turned to alcohol in the first place. When a person has a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health disorder, this is known as a dual diagnosis.

People in recovery may also feel lonely – which can take its toll on a person’s mental health. However, simply being there for your loved one can make a lot of difference.

Many people practice mindfulness to help them be more present and ‘in the moment’ – and to relieve stress and other unpleasant feelings.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, be sure to open up to loved ones. Alternatively, speak to your GP to arrange counselling or therapy. You’re not alone, and there is always help out there for you.

Attend Support Groups Together

If you want to support somebody who is an alcoholic, you could attend a support group together. Attending support groups can help you understand the issues and obstacles that those with addiction face and better equip you to help them.

Support groups provide emotional and social support, not only for the person with the addiction but for their loved ones too.

Many support groups are open, allowing friends and family to attend too. You can speak to other people in a similar position as you, and learn more about how to cope when living with a loved one in recovery.

Assess Your Own Behaviour

When living with an alcoholic, it’s important that you consider your own behaviour. Are you a good influence?

Do you encourage them to drink? Are you putting too much pressure on them? Are you taking care of yourself?

There’s no denying that it can be difficult to live with an alcoholic, but as well as considering their behaviour, it’s also important to assess your own.

For example, although it isn’t totally unreasonable to drink alcohol in front of somebody in recovery, it may be considered a little insensitive.

Likewise, if you have bottles of alcohol lying around the house, or regularly host parties involving drugs or alcohol, it’s important to assess this and consider whether this is the right choice whilst living with somebody in recovery.

Likewise, if you are spending too much time helping this person and it is affecting your mental health, work, relationships, or finances, you may come to the realisation that something needs to change.

What To Do If Somebody You Live With Relapses

Watching somebody relapse can be scary, and it may feel as though all the progress made was for nothing. However, this isn’t the case. Many people in recovery relapse, whether it be due to stress or an unpleasant experience.

Instead of panicking, the most important thing you can do is create a calm environment for them to recover. After all, long-term sobriety takes constant dedication, so it’s natural to slip up every so often.

Speak to your loved one about their relapse, and offer them support. If they respond well, it could be helpful to discuss their treatment options. Alcohol treatment/ rehab can be just the thing to get them back on track and make a lasting recovery. The same applies to rehab for drug abuse and excessive drug use.

Alternatively, if they have a sponsor or therapist, gently encourage them to make a call. However, try to avoid coming across as pushy or guilt-tripping them, as this could have adverse consequences. It could add to their stress, and lead to them drinking more.

Every day that a person is in recovery is an achievement, and instead of dwelling on the relapse, focus on the sobriety aspect of recovery. Support them and help them to get back on track, whether it be via rehab or at home.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

Request A Callback

Receive a callback, we’re ready to help you get on the road to recovery.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

24/7 Helpline Support

Don’t hesitate to reach out – we’re here to provide the support you deserve, anytime, day or night.