Do You Wonder Whether Your Spouse has a Drinking Problem?
He says he just needs to unwind sometimes, and that the
beers are no big deal. She says all she wants is a little bit of fun and
relaxation with her friends. You’re not sure what to believe, but there’s a
feeling in your heart that the drinking isn’t okay.
Maybe it’s the embarrassment you’ve felt when your spouse
drinks too much. Maybe it’s the fact that holidays often get ruined because your
spouse is drunk much of the time. Maybe the fact that your spouse’s friends are
heavy drinkers is a worry to you. Maybe you’re getting tired of covering up your
spouse’s drinking—making excuses, in other words—to employers, friends and
Whatever the reason, you’ve reached a point where you want
to address the situation, because you can’t go on like this.
How can you know for sure?
You can’t really know for sure whether there’s a drinking
problem without having a consultation with a healthcare provider. But the
answers to these four questions can give you something to go on, a place to
If your loved one would honestly answer yes to one
question, it’s possible that there’s a problem. “Yes” to more than one question
means that it’s highly likely there’s a problem.
- Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
- Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever ha d a drink first thing in the morning to
steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
But what do you do with this information? The best solution
is to have your loved one see a healthcare provider to talk about a possible
alcohol problem and what should be done to treat it. But you can’t force people
to see a doctor if they don’t want to. Many people who have a drinking problem
remain in denial about it for a long time. They become angry and argumentative
when you bring up the drinking. It’s extremely difficult on you and your whole
What can you do about the drinking problem?
First, tell your spouse you’re concerned about the
drinking. Do this when he or she is sober. It’s often a good idea to have this
discussion shortly after there’s been some kind of incident related to the
alcohol. Explain how the alcohol abuse is affecting your life.
Have in your mind what you want your spouse to do after
this discussion. Have the number of your doctor ready, or the number of a local
Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Tell your spouse what you will do if he or she
doesn’t take steps towards recovery. You may say decide that you won’t attend
any gatherings where alcohol is served. You may even say you’ll move out of the
house. Whatever it is you decide on, make sure you can act on those decisions
and not back down.
To help you through all of this, you need help yourself.
There are many places where you can find that help.
Where can you find advice and support?
The truth is that it’s pretty rare for families to have a
completely smooth experience when they decide it’s time to deal with their loved
one’s drinking. People rarely like to admit they have a problem, especially one
like alcoholism, which still carries quite a stigma. Someone who has a drinking
problem is likely to be ashamed, embarrassed, angry, depressed …there’s a wide
range of emotions, and none is especially easy to deal with on your own.
Many families do recover. Many people who have a problem
with alcohol do eventually address it and get treatment, and many go on to live
meaningful, alcohol-free lives.
But it can take a while to reach that point. In the
meantime, you, as the spouse, need support. There are many options for you. You
can join your local Al-Anon meeting, where you’ll find people like you who have
had to deal with having a loved one with a drinking problem. You can talk with
your doctor, who can recommend a mental health professional who specializes in
alcohol and other substance abuse. You can call the National Drug and Alcohol
Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP. You can speak directly to
a representative about treatment, or you can find information about local
substance abuse treatment in your state.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism;