Parenting is hard enough with two partners who are fully invested. But if you have an alcoholic partner, it may feel more like you have another child than a true partner.
It’s not that your partner doesn’t want to be invested. Alcoholism is a disease, and your partner will never be in control as long as he or she is drinking.
And even with parenting aside, you just want your partner back. Alcoholism has taken him from you, and it’s time to start the fight to get him back.
Here are 5 ways to help your partner beat alcoholism:
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1. Assess the Situation
Before you can address the problem, it’s important to understand the scope of your partner’s alcoholism. Is he hiding alcohol around the house? Drinking before or during work?
If your partner is consistently drinking during the day, he is what is called a functional alcoholic. These people drink just enough to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay while at work. Then they may drink more at home. This is a severe form of alcoholism and it will require a full-time detox program to help your partner deal with the physical withdrawal symptoms.
Your partner’s alcoholism doesn’t have to be extreme for you to address the problem. Actually, it’s much better to address problem drinking before it leads to alcoholism. Recovery is much easier without physical withdrawal symptoms.
2. Join a Support Group
No one will understand your struggle like someone who has been there. Join a support group that focuses on families of alcoholics. Members will be able to relate to some of the physical and emotional struggles of having an alcoholic spouse.
Your partner is in for the fight of his life. Recovery is a long and difficult process. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that being married to an alcoholic is tough. It’s important for you to talk about your feelings. You may also need to work through some anger, but it’s not the time to address these feelings with your spouse. A good support group will help.
3. Resist the Urge to Lie
No one likes admitting that their life isn’t perfect. And with an alcoholic spouse, your life is far from where you planned. Know that this is temporary. There’s no need to feel shame.
Resist the urge to lie for your partner. If he got himself into a mess, tell the truth about it. You don’t have to tell the nosey neighbors, but do tell people you can trust. He’s in rehab working on recovery. The more people know, the more likely it will be that he’ll want to recover.
4. Avoid Judgment
This one is so much easier said than done – especially in those intensely frustrating moments. But it’s important to remember that this isn’t your partner’s fault. Yes, he decided to drink alcohol. You may have done the same.
The difference lies in a chemical reaction that happened in his brain. At some point, his brain became rewired to crave alcohol. When he had a drink, his brain saw a dopamine increase in its reward pathway. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical and the reward pathway is the system responsible for pleasure-seeking behavior.
Whenever you feel anger and judgment, remind yourself that your partner is dealing with a disease. His actions may be undesirable, but they aren’t his fault.
5. Take time for Yourself
This is a time when you need to focus a lot on your partner. You’ll spend a lot of time and effort focusing on his recovery. This can feel all-consuming.
And it may feel counter-intuitive to take care of yourself at this time, it’s actually very important. Think about your patience and decision-making skills when you’re stressed. If you’re like most people, they probably are a fraction of what they should be.
In order to take the best care of your spouse, it’s crucial that you take care of yourself. Find healthy outlets for the stress that will inevitably come your way. Try yoga, massage or meditation. Anything that relaxes you, aside from a glass of wine, will help you recharge and become a better support for your partner.
Alcoholism is a disease that has ripped many families apart, but if your partner wants to get better, there’s hope. Do what you can to support him through the process and remember to take care of yourself too.
Note: There is a correlation between alcoholism and domestic violence. If you feel unsafe around your partner, prioritize your safety and the safety of your children over helping him or her.