Is My Boyfriend An Alcoholic? | What To Do If You’re Dating An Alcoholic

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 14, 2020

Depending on how long you have been dating, it may not be easy to tell if you have an alcoholic boyfriend. However, there are a number of observable warning signs that indicate a cause for concern.

How To Help And Alcoholic Boyfriend

You may have recently started dating someone or maybe you have been in a relationship for a few months. Over a short amount of time, maybe you have seen a change in their drinking habits and you think they might be abusing alcohol. Perhaps you think he might have an alcohol addiction.

Or, you may have been with your boyfriend for a year or more, and have noticed him struggling with his drinking. Are you wondering if your boyfriend is an alcoholic?

There are a few telltale signs that your boyfriend may have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Understanding what alcoholism is and how it affects a person can help you recognize these signs.

Alcoholism causes a person to have strong cravings for alcohol. They might continue to drink, even after they have endured a negative impact on their life caused by alcohol, among other red flags. This might be health-related problems, relationship issues, or even trouble at work or with the law.

Types Of Alcoholics

Not everyone that struggles with AUD is a severe alcoholic.

There are different levels and types of alcoholics:

  • Young Adult — start drinking around 20 years old, drink only a few times a week but binge drink when they do
  • Young Antisocial — start drinking around or before 15 years old, have an antisocial personality disorder
  • Functional — educated, relationships seem intact, employed, usually hide how much they drink, often binge drink multiple times a week
  • Intermediate Familial — have family members that abuse alcohol, start drinking around 17 years old, usually drink to cope with stress related to family
  • Chronic Severe — mostly men, struggle with employment, multiple DUIs, higher rate of divorce, many abuse multiple drugs
  • High-Functioning Alcoholics — These types of alcoholics are usually able to hide their drinking, often by engaging in binge drinking. They are typically employed, appear to have decent relationships, and are educated.

Some Warning Signs You Could Be Dating an Alcoholic

There are some questions that you can ask yourself about your boyfriend’s behavior that might indicate that he could be struggling with alcohol addiction. The questions below are broken down into different subsections, based on criteria similar to that used to diagnose an alcohol use disorder.

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Drinking When They Didn’t Intend To

  • Have they said they wouldn’t drink but then started hanging out around others that have been drinking and start to drink?
  • Or, maybe they’ve said they would only have a couple drinks but ended up getting intoxicated and staying out much longer than planned?
  • Did you ask him to stop drinking and he said he would, only to find out he is still drinking alcohol?

Being Irritable When They Can’t Drink

  • Do they tend to get upset about things they shouldn’t get upset about when they haven’t been able to drink?
  • Do they get angry when unprovoked?
  • Has your boyfriend ever gotten physically aggressive with you while he was drunk?

May Not Seem Intoxicated

  • Have you noticed he can drink more, for longer periods, and he doesn’t show signs of being drunk?
  • Does it seem like his tolerance for alcohol keeps increasing?
  • Does it seem like he can “out drink” most people?

Makes Up Reasons Or Excuses To Drink

  • Does your boyfriend always seem to have a reason to drink?
  • Does he tell you that he is only drinking because he had a bad day?
  • Is every celebration a reason for drinking alcohol?

Plans His Life Around Drinking

  • Is it hard to get him to attend social events where drinking isn’t allowed?
  • Does he always want to go to the bar, or go have drinks after doing things where he can’t drink?
  • Is he primarily only making plans with other people that drink?

Drinking Even Though It Has Been A Problem In The Past

  • Has he been in trouble for his drinking?
  • Has he ever lost a job due to drinking?
  • Has he ever had any health issues related to excessive alcohol consumption?

Personality Changes When Intoxicated

  • Has he ever become physically or verbally abusive when intoxicated?
  • Has he ever gotten into a bar fight after a night of drinking?
  • Have you ever felt forced to have sex with your boyfriend after an evening of drinks?

Tries To Hide His Alcohol Consumption

  • Has your boyfriend ever lied to you about how much he has had to drink?
  • Have you caught him going out drinking when he said he would not?
  • Have you ever found alcohol hidden in strange places in his house (the garage, the bathroom, his car)?
  • Does he use gum or mouthwash to hide alcohol on his breath?

Showing Withdrawal Symptoms

  • When your boyfriend doesn’t drink for a couple days, does he get headaches, nausea, or vomiting?
  • Does your boyfriend become irritable or have anxiety after taking a break from drinking?

Is My Boyfriend Having Alcohol Withdrawals?

When a person who is addicted to alcohol decides to quit drinking, even for a short period, they will usually experience withdrawal. This is because their body has become dependent on it, and basically becomes sick without it.

While many symptoms of withdrawal range from uncomfortable to painful, some can be very dangerous. It is important to understand that severe alcohol withdrawal requires medical attention and can be fatal in some cases.

Some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • anxiety
  • excessive sweating
  • increased heart rate
  • loss of appetite
  • irritability
  • depression
  • mood swings
  • headache
  • nausea/vomiting
  • shakes or tremors
  • seizures

Delirium Tremens (DT) is one of the most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, and usually emerges within 48-72 hours after a person stops drinking. A person can experience psychosis, hallucinations, delusions, unprovoked aggression, coma, and death. Untreated, DT can be fatal.

Codependency In Alcoholism

If you find yourself making excuses to others about your boyfriend’s drinking, he probably is struggling with an alcohol use disorder. If a lot of your own time is being spent meeting his needs, and you are neglecting your own wants and needs, these are signs of codependency.

In addition, if you feel badly about yourself, or your self-worth feels dependent on your boyfriend, you could be in a codependent relationship with an alcoholic boyfriend.

Codependency can be destructive, especially in a relationship with a person with alcohol problems. It can create a cycle of dysfunction that is hard to recover from. Usually, both people end up needing some kind of treatment or support groups, like therapy or attending Al-Anon meetings.

It’s important to remember that your boyfriend’s drinking problem is not your fault. He is fully responsible for his mental health, alcohol consumption, and seeking a substance use treatment program to help him stop abusing alcohol.

How To Find Help For An Alcoholic Boyfriend

If you responded ‘yes’ to many of these questions about your boyfriend and his drinking, he could be at a higher risk for an alcohol addiction. You may want to consider talking to him about your worries. Try to approach him with empathy but be clear about your feelings.

Support and knowledge about treatment options may be helpful if your boyfriend is willing to accept help.

If he is not receptive to your concerns, it is completely okay to decide that you cannot be in a relationship with someone who is struggling with an unmanaged alcohol use disorder. Your needs and wants are just as important as his.

We have a number of addiction specialists standing by to speak to you about treatment options for your loved one. Contact our helpline today to get help navigating this complicated situation.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 14, 2020

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