Being in a relationship with an alcoholic is perhaps the second worst thing after being an alcoholic yourself. Often it would seem like you are dealing with two people; the sober person who is genuinely repentant and even ready to fight the addiction and the person under the influence of alcohol, who is unable to deal with the challenges of real life. If you find yourself and your family increasingly being affected by your partner’s alcoholism, it is time to take action.
Identify the problem
The first step towards coping with an alcoholic partner is to recognize that he or she has a drinking problem. Pay attention to behavioral changes at home and at the workplace. Going through unexplained mood swings and becoming too boisterous or argumentative when your partner’s personality is actually the opposite are some of the obvious signs of alcoholism. At the workplace your partner’s co-workers may express wonder at his or her increasing tardiness and absenteeism while on road your spouse may get arrested for driving offences.
Read up as much as you can about alcoholism. This will not only help you understand better the causes and circumstances which draw people to alcoholism but also make you aware about the various ways to help your partner conquer his or her addiction. Even if your attempts are not successful, you would know where to seek help for yourself as well as for your partner.
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Talk to him/her
If you have diagnosed your partner’s drinking problem in the earlier stages, then you have a fair chance of making him/her realize of where he/she is headed for. Choose a time when your partner is sober and talk about how their alcoholism is affecting you and your children, if you have any. Tell your partner how you feel when he or she loses control over their behavior and how the addiction has consequences for the whole family. If your spouse still has some control over his or her drinking habit, this may act as a wakeup call and motivate them to combat the problem. However make sure that your spouse is sober when you speak to him or her, so that they register the significance of your words.
Be careful how you speak
It is extremely important to adopt the right tone of voice and the right kind of words when talking to your partner about his/her drinking problem. This is because the way you bring up the matter of his/her alcoholism is going to determine their response. No amount of nagging and complaining will make them realize that what they are doing is affecting you as well as the whole family. Rather approach the matter in a calm and even manner and hope that your spouse can appreciate your point.
Ensure a positive atmosphere at home
As far as it is possible, remain positive around your spouse when he or she is sober. Love and support your partner at such times. Laugh, sing, play games and do all the things you used to love doing together earlier when he/she was not yet addicted to alcohol. Also if you have a family, continue with your regular schedule and see that you and your kids are there for each other. Your partner may realize how lucky they are to have such a loving partner and beautiful family and how foolish they would be to destroy all these by their drinking problem.
Detach yourself when necessary
One of the ways alcoholics rationalize their addiction is to draw their near and dear ones into their problems and even blame their partners for their weaknesses. At such times make sure your partner knows that you will continue to love and support the person you love but not the alcoholic. Draw away when he or she is drunk and don’t argue or fight back. Leave the room and go for a walk or visit a friend. Or just put on a pair of ear plugs. Let your partner know that you will have nothing to do with them as long as they are not in control of their reason.
Don’t enable your partner’s addiction
Even though unintentionally, you may be enabling your partner’s addiction by making good their losses and helping them out of sticky situations. So while you may be accused of being hard-hearted, force yourself to let your spouse deal with the consequences. The easiest way alcoholics get away time and again with their addiction is to make others, particularly their partners, feel sorry for them. Don’t clean up after your partner when he or she is drunk and makes a mess or call in sick to their boss for them when they are too dazed to go to work. It is only when you stop covering for them that they will know they have to take responsibility for their actions.
If there is someone – like a close friend or family member – whom your partner trusts, see if they can talk to your partner about the effects of alcoholism and the need to get over it. Very often outsiders can bring a fresh perspective into a problem and suggest effective ways to resolve it since they are not directly or emotionally involved in the matter.
Join Alcohol Anonymous
Almost every city and major town has a branch of Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) - an international mutual aid movement whose purpose is not only help alcoholics stay sober themselves but also help other alcoholics achieve sobriety. Suggest to your spouse that he or she join AA in order to deal with their addiction. Even if they do not agree at first, go alone. Apart from being great help to those struggling to overcome alcohol addiction, the organization is also a valuable resource of information and support for families affected by alcoholism. When your partner sees you attending AA meetings regularly and feeling the better for it, most likely he or she will be ready to accompany you.
Encourage your partner to sign up at a rehab clinic. If there is social stigma attached to it, make your partner aware that health and quality of life is more important than social opinion.