Alcohol addiction not only affects the person suffering from it, it affects everyone who lives in their household too. Interpersonal relationships can suffer because of alcoholism. If you or someone you know is living with an alcoholic, it’s important to learn how to cope.
Here we are looking at some of the do’s and don’ts of living with an alcohol as well as how to overcome the challenges of addiction.
Understanding How to Live with an Alcoholic
The reason that alcoholism is so prevalent in the UK is because alcohol is widely available and affordable compared to other drugs and substances. The fact it can be purchased legally is another big sticking point. Being addicted to alcohol is a chronic and long-term disease which is difficult to overcome.
When the person you live with is a drinker, they will experience withdrawal symptoms, making their moods unpredictable. These mood swings can often lead to violence and abuse within the home. Violent outbursts like this put the entire household at risk.
Another huge thing that can affect everyone living with an alcoholic is that they practically live a double life. They are more than likely drinking in secret. Even someone who can function while still being an alcoholic may be concealing their substance misuse from everyone around them. This could happen for months or even years depending on the length of the addiction. Hiding alcohol consumption, drinking in secret and secreting away empty bottles are all parts of alcoholism that can be hard for a family to cope with.
How Alcohol Affects the Household
Alcoholism comes with a lot of negative effects and these effects will be felt by everyone living in the house. The most common risks for someone who is living with an alcoholic is damage to their mental and physical well-being. In fact, between 2017 and 2018 it was found that 39% of violent incidents involving one or more victims were believed to have happened while the offender was under the influence of alcohol.
Alcoholics tend to be intoxicated on almost a constant basis which is incredibly stressful for the people they live with because of the unpredictability. You may start to feel guilty about the situation which can cause depression. Between 2017 and 2018 it was reported that in 17% of domestic incidents the partner was under the effects of alcohol. Having a loved one with a vicious addiction can even start taking a toll on your finances.
Intoxication leads to unpredictable situations which unfortunately include physical altercations and dangers. In England and Wales, more alcohol-related incidents are reported to the police than those that have no association with alcohol. People who are drinking excessively can become increasingly angry and eventually lash out. It’s more than likely they’re not aware of their behaviour but it doesn’t make it any easier for the person who lives with them.
Even if a loved one doesn’t become violent as part of their addiction they can still pose a danger to the rest of the household. This is because they may be unable to perform their daily roles in your or your children’s lives like they once did. Family dynamics can be disrupted massively in this way and changes like this put stress and strain on the whole family.
Living with an Alcoholic Parent: Impacts of Alcoholism on Children
If a parent is suffering from alcoholism, then any children in the household could be experiencing excessive stress because of it. This is due to the unpredictability of the parent’s mood from one day to the next. Children often find they can no longer rely on that adult and there’s also the risks of emotional and physical violence too.
Children who grow up with a parent who is an alcoholic are much more likely to abuse alcohol in the future. They may also face other challenges in their life such as the inability to form close relationships, having low self-esteem and having a tendency to lie.
The Do’s of How to Live With An Alcoholic
There are a number of tips that you can use to make life more manageable when living with an alcoholic.
- Think about your own safety and the safety of those around you first. Anyone that could be vulnerable to the effects of violence such as children and pets should be removed if you feel your safety is threatened.
- Remove your loved one from any bank accounts or close them off. Restrict their access to cash so they can’t use it to buy alcohol.
- Don’t keep enabling them. Letting an alcoholic stay at in the same limbo is classed as enabling. It’s important to not give in to the feelings of anger and retribution your loved one is likely to feel when you are not giving them alcohol.
- Try an intervention. Other family members and friends will want to help stop this cycle of destruction. It’s important to involve a neutral party as well, such as a counsellor or therapist.
- Get them into a treatment programme. There are both in and outpatient programmes that will help your partner recover from their illness.
- Try to maintain as much normality as possible every day. Stick to your routines.
- Have any serious conversations when they are sober. They will be much more likely to listen and will be less confrontational.
- Let them know what impact their drinking is having on you and those around you. They should understand the emotional impact they are having on you by excessively drinking.
- Reassure your loved one that you will be there to support them through the recovery process.
- Find a reliable step-by-step treatment programme such as Al-Anon UK that can help your loved one overcome their addiction with support and care.
The Don’ts of Living With An Alcoholic
As many do’s as there are of living with an alcoholic, there’s also plenty of don’ts to consider too.
- Never try to talk things over when the person is drunk. This will usually lead to them becoming angry and defensive, making the situation hostile and potentially violent.
- Try not to judge or blame them. Addiction is hard and because of the pain they are putting you through it can be difficult not to lash out. Approaching them in a negative way could cause further issues.
- Don’t accept that you are the reason for their drinking, and you need to change for them to do the same. The situation is not your fault and that person would still be an alcoholic, even if you weren’t around.
- Don’t rush into putting together a recovery plan. This can lead to unrealistic expectations of cutting down or stopping drinking altogether. While you want this situation to be over as quickly as possible, it takes time to recover from this sort of addiction. If they are willing to change it will be step by step and can take a long time. Patience is vital.
- Try not to give up and that you’re not the only one who is going through this. There are people that care for you and that will provide support so things can improve.
- Time and energy shouldn’t be focused solely on the persons alcoholism and getting them to stop. They can’t control their drinking and it’s highly unlikely they will be able to change on their own. Encourage them to seek treatment through their GP or a centre where they can come up with the right steps forward.
- It’s more than likely that you will be covering up for the person you live with so that no one else finds out how much they are drinking. This is a waste of time and energy and it isn’t your responsibility to keep the secret. You shouldn’t feel ashamed of their illness and other people will want to give you help and support.
- Never stay in a position where you think you or anyone else in your home are unsafe either emotionally or physically. In this situation you should relocate immediately, don’t try to handle the issue yourself and seek out professional intervention.
Typically someone who is suffering from alcoholism will go through a rehabilitation programme. Parts of the programme will include assessing their mental health as well as providing aftercare to you and your family. The best thing anyone who is living with an alcoholic can do is get them help and support them as much as possible throughout the journey. Contact one of our advisors today to get free advice on how we can help support and treat your loved one for any sort of substance misuse including alcoholism.
A page revised the 6 of July of 2021, by Matthew Reece, a certified PG cons diploma, a clinical Lead/ Senior counsellor at Step by Step Recovery.