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How To Deal With An Alcoholic Spouse

Having an alcoholic spouse is one of the hardest experiences anyone can face in a relationship. You love your spouse and it can be devastating to see them struggle to maintain their sobriety. Not only can it have a negative effect on their health and daily life, but it can also put a great deal of strain on your marriage. Though not always the case, an alcoholic spouse is more likely to engage in antisocial behavior, emotional abuse, and even violence.

Therefore, being married to an alcoholic spouse can be a long, difficult, and very painful road. But contrary to popular belief, many people who have an alcoholic spouse are not fully aware of it. Sometimes, it can be easier to deny your partner’s alcoholism or simply believe their lies about drinking. In other cases, you may think that your partner’s drinking habits are normal because their condition does not seem to affect their work or social life in a significant way.

Unfortunately, just because an alcohol abuser doesn’t exhibit extreme symptoms does not mean that they don’t have a problem. For this reason, it is extremely important to learn how to identify alcoholism in your spouse or someone else you love. This way, you can help get them the alcohol therapy they desperately need.

Understanding What An Alcohol Use Disorder Is

In order to better understand alcoholism and alcohol abuse, it’s best to understand the medical term used to identify it. Generally, healthcare professionals designate an individual with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) when the person has developed a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control the use of alcohol. The degree to which someone suffers from AUD can vary, as some people can successfully self-treat mild conditions, especially when confronted with the social, professional, or even health-related consequences of their drinking.

However, for most people suffering from AUD, self-treatment is simply not enough. Moreover, it is not a particularly safe option. People whose bodies have become dependent on alcohol must ween off of it with the help of trained professionals. This is why you’ve probably heard a lot of different terms associated with AUD, including alcohol dependence, alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol addiction. All of these terms refer to the same condition with the same symptoms.

There are a number of different medical indicators that will help a doctor or therapist determine whether or not your spouse suffers from AUD. Additionally, the number of behaviors or symptoms your spouse exhibits will determine the severity. For example, exhibiting 2-3 of the symptoms listed in the DSM-5 means that your spouse has mild AUD, while 4-5 symptoms indicate moderate AUD, and 6 or more indicate a severe case of AUD.

You should always seek out the expertise of a medical professional when attempting to figure out if your spouse suffers from AUD (as well as the severity of their condition). That said, you can often identify the disorder based on the following diagnostic behaviors and symptoms that have occurred within the last year:

  • Drinking more (or for a longer period of time) than intended
  • Trying unsuccessfully to stop or reduce drinking on more than one occasion
  • Spending a significant period of time drinking and/or taking a long time to overcome the “hangover”
  • Craving alcohol so much that it occupies all of one’s thoughts
  • Drinking or hangovers have interfered with home life, family, work, or school
  • Continuing to drink even though it has caused issues with family or friends
  • Abandoning or reducing the time dedicated to important, interesting, or pleasurable tasks in order to drink
  • Drinking has brought about more than one situation that increased the chances of getting hurt or hurting someone else
  • Continuing to drink even though it has a negative effect on mental health, including increased instances of depression, anxiety, or memory loss
  • Drinking the same amount no longer has the same effect, requiring increasing amounts of alcohol to reach the desired level of inebriation
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol begin to wear off, including difficulty sleeping, restlessness, shaking, nausea, sweating, increased heart rate, seizures, or hallucinations

How To Cope With An Alcoholic Spouse

Naturally, dealing with a drunk spouse can be challenging while they are inebriated, but dealing with the long-term consequences of an alcoholic husband or alcoholic wife can be even more difficult. You want to show love and understanding, but you also have to make decisions to ensure your own safety, as well as the well-being of your spouse and the rest of your family.

For this reason, support groups for spouses of alcoholics can be some of the most beneficial resources out there. Not only will you get to vent your issues with people who have had similar experiences, but you will also get actionable advice and therapy to help cope with your spouse’s condition. This way, you will be better prepared to deal with the long and difficult road ahead.

Additionally, it’s important to strike a healthy balance between setting boundaries and giving your spouse a healthy amount of space. When confronted with their alcoholism, some alcoholics can become aggressive, violent, or simply resentful. Therefore, it is best to consult with medical professionals and therapists to find the best path forward for you and your family.

How To Get Help For An Alcoholic Spouse

While coping with an alcoholic spouse can be painful, one of the most difficult steps is actually getting your spouse the alcohol addiction treatment they need. Many people suffering from alcoholism will be in denial that they have a problem, making it even harder to get them into an alcohol rehab program or detox center. You, your spouse, and your doctor will also need to consider the severity of your spouse’s condition before choosing the best option.

For example, if your spouse is suffering from moderate to severe AUD, then alcohol withdrawal management will be a primary concern. This means that you will likely need to check your spouse into an inpatient facility for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. However, this is often a short-term solution to help stabilize and detox your spouse. If you want more long-term treatment, you should consider ongoing treatment options that aim for permanent sobriety.

However, if inpatient hospital care and outpatient care have not proven to be enough, it is time to consider a more long-term, multi-faceted solution offered by Prosperity Haven. In addition to offering residential alcohol and drug rehabilitation, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and group therapy, Prosperity Haven also specifically provides couples counseling. This allows you to get your spouse the help they need while also working on the stability and longevity of your relationship.

Is your spouse struggling with alcohol addiction? Are you looking for treatment options that target each patient’s specific needs? Finally, are you looking for couples counseling to help you cope with alcoholism in your relationship? If so, feel free to contact the experts at Prosperity Haven to learn more about making positive changes for you and your spouse.


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