Living with an alcoholic partner can be very difficult.
Anyone who is struggling with an addiction is undoubtedly struggling with a lot of internal issues, and this can be hard on a relationship. This, coupled with the fact that alcohol is a drug notorious for causing emotional outbursts, irrationality, and memory loss can be very destructive for a marriage.
If you’re wondering how you can help your alcoholic husband, don’t worry – there are some steps that you can take to improve life for both of you. This article will outline some of the best things that you can do to help strengthen your marriage.
Alcoholism is a complex disease to deal with, not only for you but for your husband as well. If you’re having problems in your relationship because of his alcoholism, imagine how he must be struggling internally.
If you’re going to approach your husband about his alcoholism, then it’s a good idea for you to understand a bit more about what he’s going through before doing anything.
To start, alcohol is a very dangerous drug. This is evidenced by the fact that it can cause an alcoholic to black out and do things that they usually wouldn’t do – a danger not just for them but for anyone around them. Alcoholics are often known for:
All of these problems can combine to create a highly unstable and reactive individual. It can be tough to live or maintain a relationship with a person like this.
In an ideal world, it’d be nice to simply bring up the issue of alcoholism to your partner and ask them to stop.
Even if they were willing to stop, many alcoholics are unlikely going to be able to do this without experiencing serious and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. There are a number of biochemical reasons for this, one being the way that glutamate is synthesized after an alcoholic stops drinking.
While an alcoholic is drinking, their GABA system is working harder, and the brain is utilizing less glutamate. GABA is an inhibitory system, whereas glutamate is an excitatory compound. These two things are essentially opposites.
What the GABA system does, among other things, is inhibit the excitatory hormones in the brain. Over-excitation in the brain leads to things like agitation, anxiety, and over-stimulation, whereas inhibition of these things leads to relaxation, reduced anxiety, and lower stress: the things that alcoholics usually drink to relieve.
Unfortunately, through constant drinking, the GABA system ends up producing less GABA on its own. An alcoholic’s brain begins to rely on alcohol to produce their inhibitory GABA. Conversely, since the brain produces less glutamate when they’re drinking, it reacts by producing more glutamate when they stop drinking.
This creates a whole host of symptoms that can be potentially dangerous. Glutamate rebound leads to hyper-excitation in the brain, and with no GABA or alcohol to calm the nerves, symptoms can get quite serious:
The reduced seizure threshold means that an alcoholic who suddenly stops drinking might actually have a fatal seizure and die. For this reason, harsh alcoholics need to know how to wean themselves off or seek medical help before trying to stop drinking.
Now you understand why it’s not so easy to just ask your husband to stop drinking. There’s a lot going on during an alcohol addiction.
There are a few things to consider when you’re thinking about approaching your husband about his problem.
It can be challenging to decide on a good time to approach your husband. If he is drunk, he is liable to be emotionally sensitive, aggressive, or confrontational. Many alcoholics refuse to talk about their problem while they are intoxicated.
On the flip-side, if you speak to him when he is going through withdrawal symptoms, he may have a short temper and be unwilling to acknowledge his problem. Depending on your husband, one of these times may be better to approach him.
When you are going to approach him, remember that it’s important to speak with compassion and love. Do not be aggressive and do not attack him or judge him for his problem – it’s likely that he will feel judged or attacked anyways, but if you are genuinely concerned about his well-being and for the goodness of your marriage, you may be able to get through.
It can be challenging to talk about these things without causing a confrontation.
One thing to keep in mind is that you should speak from your perspective and refrain from using any aggressive terminology. For example, instead of telling your husband that he is an alcoholic and needs help, explain to him how you feel and why it’s affecting you.
“You’ve been drinking too much, and it’s ruining our marriage,” would be considered an aggressive statement and is likely just to trigger an argument.
“I’m not able to connect with you as easily anymore. Since I’m not drinking, things don’t feel balanced.” This could be a much more appropriate method of bringing the topic into light.
If your husband is receptive, then continue to explain your feelings from a first-person perspective. If you are genuinely hurt or upset by his behavior, tell him that – don’t tell him that his behavior is a problem. Remember, the more “I-statements” you use, the better.
So if your husband is receptive and willing to listen to your concerns, what do you do afterward? There are lots of different things you can move towards if he is willing to acknowledge and move through his problem.
If your husband has been drinking heavily for a long time, then the first thing that you’ll want to do is get him through a detox.
Since alcohol withdrawal can be serious enough to kill him, it’s important to do two things here:
If you choose the rehab route, then therapy will likely be provided for your husband. If you don’t decide to go through rehab and your husband is able to stop drinking on his own, then it’s incredibly important to seek some sort of therapy to help identify the root cause of his drinking.
Even if your husband can stop drinking, if he doesn’t figure out why he drank in the first place, then he’s liable to relapse and start drinking again weeks, months, or years in the future. Therapy will help him understand himself better so he doesn’t feel the need to drink. This is much better than simply forcing him to avoid alcohol while he still desires it.
Finding a support group is vital.
A good group of non-drinking friends and family can be instrumental in making sure that your husband doesn’t fall back into his habits. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are also an excellent way for him to connect with other recovering alcoholics to share stories, tips, and advice on staying sober. Many people report that they wouldn’t have been able to stay sober without their support groups.
Alcoholism is a complicated condition that can affect not only the alcoholic but those that they are close to – especially their spouse.
If your husband is an alcoholic, it can be hard to get through to him – but with enough compassion and kindness, you can help him see the error of his ways. If you can do this, you can help him get the support that he needs to get healthy again. Call Lakeview Health at (866) 704-7692 for help today.
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