What’s it like to live with an alcoholic?

If you currently live with an alcoholic, you are likely familiar with that person’s mood swings and personality changes. Out of love for the person, you may have done everything in your power to help them put a stop to their alcohol use disorder. Maybe you have gone as far as to seek out every hidden bottle and dump it down the drain. Perhaps you have pleaded, threatened, yelled, and bribed as a means of getting that person to stop drinking only to discover that none of your methods are working. Eventually, you reach a point when you realize that treatment must be their choice, not yours.

Now that you know you cannot force your loved one to quit, you are likely asking yourself, “what next?” Living with the person may feel exhausting and frustrating. You may even reach a point where you feel like throwing in the towel. How can you possibly go on living with this person? First, you need to take a deep breath and repeatedly tell yourself that their alcoholic addiction is not your fault, nor is it theirs. Alcohol use disorder is a disease, and a complex one at that. Many factors contribute to the development of alcohol use disorder, including the person’s mental and emotional wellbeing, genetics, and external circumstances. It is likely that your loved one needs medical help and intervention.

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

The first step to living with an alcoholic is understanding alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is a medical term used to describe someone who has a severe drinking problem that goes beyond a nightly drink to wind down at the end of the day. Instead, the person’s brain and body seek the compulsive use of alcohol. The person loses control when consuming alcohol and may experience negative mental and emotional reactions when they go without alcohol for any prolonged period.

Alcohol use disorder is often known by a different term by those who are attempting recovery and attending AA meetings. The term frequently used in AA meetings is alcoholism. However, it should be noted that alcoholism is not a medical term. Medical professionals use the term alcohol use disorder to diagnose someone who has a severe drinking problem. The person’s level of drinking causes emotional and mental distress and harm and is likely causing distress and harm to anyone living with that person.

Your Loved One has Alcohol Use Disorder

If you are newly exposed to a loved one suffering alcohol use disorder, you may not recognize the signs and symptoms. Identifying the symptoms can help you understand the disease so that it is more manageable for you to live with it. Symptoms of alcohol use disorder often include:

  • Drinking alone, often used as a method to conceal their level of addiction
  • Prone to blackouts
  • Hides bottles of alcohol, in vehicle, or even at work
  • Has a set time when drinking occurs and experiences distress and agitation if alcohol is not readily available at that time
  • Drinks to the point of getting drunk and beyond and is unable to enjoy just a drink or two to relax
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Issues with relationships, employment, and the law

Perhaps your loved one has not yet reached the level of alcohol use disorder, yet their drinking habit is still a cause for concern and causing you distress. In that case, it is important to identify behaviors that can lead to alcohol dependency, such as:

  • Drinking regularly
  • Drinking that starts at an early age
  • Any family medical history of alcohol disorders
  • External factors, such as having friends and family who drink regularly
  • Any existence of mental illnesses

What You Can Do about It

The most important thing to remember when living with an alcoholic is not to blame yourself. You are already experiencing enough pain, stress, exasperation, and perhaps anger. Seek the support of a professional to help you deal with your emotions. Also, it is important that you make sure you and your family is safe when the person you love is in the process of drinking. A person who drinks may become unstable and aggressive, so your safety and the safety of anyone else in the house is of the utmost importance.

With your safety and mental and emotional health addressed, it is time for you to consider staging an intervention. Pack a bag of your loved one’s essentials and be concise in your approach. Make sure you do not use anger and do not turn the intervention into a lecture. Instead, be firm, but understanding. Remember that you cannot force your loved one to go to treatment. Treatment is more effective if the person goes willingly.

Treatment options are available for your loved one. Make sure you prepare yourself to answer any questions your loved one may have. The more knowledgeable you are, the easier it will be for you to approach the issue and get results. Once your loved one complete treatment, make sure you remain encouraging and help them avoid any possible temptations that can lead to a relapse. Call us at 954-523-1167.