If you are worried that your husband is drinking too much, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to approach the subject with him. It is possible that you have already tried on several occasions and your attempts are met with hostility. It is very common for someone who is addicted to alcohol to be defensive when a loved one confronts them or even aggressive about it until they are willing to admit they have a problem.
As someone close to him, you are most likely to be the person who has first noticed the changes in his behaviour, as the signs can often be hard to spot. You may have observed that he is drinking more often and larger amounts before he starts to get inebriated and he may also have established a regular drinking pattern, but it is most likely to be the physical and behavioural changes that will first trigger your concern
Physical symptoms – someone who is becoming alcohol dependent could start to experience withdrawal symptoms in just a few hours if they can’t get a drink. His hands may start to tremble or he may start to sweat. These symptoms subside soon after he has had a drink.
Emotional and Behavioural symptoms – when he is unable to get a drink he may get irritable and restless. He may also get angry and defensive if you question his drinking habits and could be confrontational when he has been drinking.
So what can you do?
If you want to help your husband overcome his addiction you will need to think of yourself first, before you can help him.
First and foremost you must look after yourself. Living with an alcoholic is not easy. Alcoholics can be abusive, violent, aggressive, unpredictable and unreliable and this will inevitably put an
enormous strain on your marriage as well as potentially your own physical and mental wellbeing. If you need support of others, ask for it. If you are struggling yourself, you will not be in a good place to help him recover and get your marriage back on track. Make sure you are safe and not suffering from physical or emotional abuse.
The first challenge for you is getting him to recognise and accept there is a problem.
Choose your moment – you need to talk to him about getting help but you will have to choose your moment carefully. Bide your time. Bringing the subject up when he has been drinking or is in need of a drink will inevitably end in an argument. A lot of people who drink too much are in denial so you will have to be clever about catching him at a moment when he is open to your help. Hold the conversation in the privacy of your own home when you know you are not going to be interrupted.
Plan your approach – try and plan what you are going to say beforehand and think about how it is going to make him feel. Notice the difference between, “Why can’t you just stop drinking, it is making me so unhappy” or “I’m really concerned about you and want to help”. Don’t make accusations, lecture or argue.
Do your research beforehand – go armed with information on what help is available. Look in to different rehabilitation options and be positive. He might put up barriers, saying he doesn’t have time or can’t afford the cost, so research an option that you believe will suit his life and pocket.
Be supportive – if you still love your husband and want to help him, make sure he knows that. Tell him you are there for him and will support him through his rehabilitation.
Accept that progress is better than no change – giving up alcohol does not happen overnight. But if your husband is willing to try but has relapses, work with that as a positive step in the right direction. If you support and encourage his efforts, he will continue. If you put his efforts down and point out his failures, you will potentially make things worse. People don’t become sober overnight.
Do not enable him to drink – stop covering up for him if he can’t get in to work or making excuses for his behaviour. He needs to face up to his problem and if you keep enabling him to get away with it, he has less incentive to give up. Stop buying them alcohol to drink at home.
To find out more about different rehabilitation options, speak with one of our expert advisors who will listen to your story and advise you on the best course of action