My Husband Is An Alcoholic — What Should I Do?

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

Living with someone with an alcohol addiction can lead to a number of problems for family members. When the addict is your husband, it can be hard to know what to do, but multiple options are available.

How To Help An Alcoholic Husband

Approximately 2.7 million married couples in the United States are impacted by alcoholism due to an alcoholic partner. Having an alcoholic spouse can lead to a number of negative consequences, such as mental health issues, job loss, domestic violence, and financial struggles.

It is important to learn how to approach and discuss this delicate situation with your loved one. Becoming educated on what an alcohol use disorder is, how to identify a drinking problem, what treatment options are available, and how to take care of yourself if your husband is an alcoholic can help.

How Can I Tell If I Have An Alcoholic Husband?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), if a man consumes more than two alcoholic drinks a day or more than 14 per week, they are drinking more than is suggested for moderate alcohol consumption. This puts them at risk for developing an alcohol use disorder.

Additionally, if a man is drinking more than four drinks on any given day, they are engaging in heavy drinking. Consuming enough alcohol to bring their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above 0.08 is considered binge drinking, which is typically five drinks within a two-hour period.

Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) further defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking five or more times in a 30-day period.

Living With An Alcoholic Husband

If you are not sure how much or often your husband drinks, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has a set of criteria that is used by health professionals to diagnose an alcohol use disorder.

Think about your husband’s drinking habits over the last year and answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following:

  • Does your husband spend a lot of time drinking or drink more than he meant to?
  • Has your husband tried to stop or cut down on drinking, and failed?
  • Does your husband take a lot of time to get or drink alcohol, or recover from a hangover?
  • Has he experienced cravings for alcohol?
  • Has his alcohol use caused him to slack or fail at responsibilities at home, work, or school?
  • Does he continue to drink despite relationship issues that are directly caused or made worse by alcohol consumption?
  • Has your husband given up previously enjoyed activities to consume alcohol?
  • Does he drink in dangerous situations?
  • Is he continuing to drink even though he is experiencing negative health effects?
  • Does your loved one seem to need more alcohol than before to feel the same effects?
  • Is your spouse experiencing withdrawal symptoms when he isn’t drinking alcohol?

If you answered ‘yes’ to two or three of these questions, your husband may have a mild alcohol use disorder. Four or five affirmative answers meet the criteria for a moderate alcohol use disorder. Six or more ‘yes’ answers would indicate a severe alcohol use disorder.

Is My Husband A High-Functioning Alcoholic?

In the case of the high-functioning alcoholic, it is not always easy to recognize if your husband’s drinking meets the criteria for an alcohol problem. People who are drinking heavily but high-functioning may be able to hide their drinking for quite some time, maintain a job, and may show few signs of alcoholism.

Here are some behaviors that could be a warning of a high-functioning alcoholic:

  • drinking to relax
  • justifying alcohol consumption
  • plans activities or days around drinking
  • drinking more than intended
  • blackouts from drinking
  • joking or denial about alcoholism

When a person is using alcohol to self-medicate, or they are spending a significant amount of time planning events that must include alcohol consumption, it is a red flag that there is an alcohol problem.

How Living With An Alcoholic Spouse Can Affect You

As stated above, there are risks associated with living with an alcoholic spouse. In addition to a higher risk of domestic violence, partners of alcoholic husbands are also in danger of experiencing anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal thoughts.

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The partner of an alcoholic husband tends to grow ashamed and embarrassed by the state of their life and relationship, leading to them avoiding family and friends, as well as social situations.

The long-term outcomes of someone with an out-of-control alcohol or drug addiction are often divorce, health problems, trauma, financial issues, and harm to the young ones in the family.

Thankfully, there are support groups for the families of alcoholics, like Al-Anon, that offer support, guidance, and a safe space for people to talk about how their loved one’s alcoholism is affecting them. Having support from other family members and spouses of alcoholics can shift the focus back to your own health, well-being, and needs.

I Think My Husband Is An Alcoholic: What Now?

The most important thing to understand when a spouse has a drinking problem is that it is absolutely not your fault. Alcoholism is a disease that can be treated with appropriate professional help from an addiction treatment program.

Alcoholism can disrupt even the healthiest of relationships and can result in codependency, abuse, and a number of additional negative consequences.

Reach out to local Al-Anon groups or alcohol treatment programs to discuss what options are available to you and how to best support your husband to stop drinking.

If your husband is not interested in alcohol rehab, then you have to decide what steps you are willing to take to keep yourself happy and healthy.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself and your spouse is to take a step back and allow them to experience the consequences of their actions. It could be the wake-up call they need to realize the destruction that alcohol is causing in their life.

Getting Help For My Alcoholic Spouse

Seeking the advice of addiction treatment professionals will be helpful when finding help for an alcoholic spouse. They can discuss different treatment options, including detox, inpatient treatment facilities, and family therapy options, as well as help for you as the spouse.

Reach out to our helpline today. We have addiction treatment specialists standing by to offer their professional services to you and your husband. You are not alone, and we can help.

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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