Alcohol addiction affects the whole family. When you realize your spouse may be addicted to alcohol it’s not necessarily unequivocal. In fact most people vacillate between recognition of drinking related issues and experiences that appear to be quite normal.
Break out of denial
The first key to helping your spouse is to accept wholeheartedly the truth about alcohol addiction. It’s nearly impossible for you to be helpful if you’re not certain there’s a problem.
To become support for a person who’s addicted to alcohol takes significant effort, strength and commitment.
The way you break denial is to accept the truth of where your spouse’s relationship is to alcohol. Eliminate excuses.
Do you call work for your spouse when he/she is hung over? Do you clean up the mess when things get broken or they begin to vomit? Do you buy alcohol for them or make it easy for them to use alcohol? These are all enabling.
It’s not easy to stop doing these behaviors. If you tell yourself the reason you do these things is because you care, you need to reconsider. Enabling only prolongs the point at which your spouse may decide to get help and quit.
Speak the truth
What your spouse needs is the truth. When their behavior is offensive they need to know. When you’re isolated by their relationship to alcohol they need to know. They need to be aware of the emotional pain you experience as a direct result of their alcohol addiction.
Often the needs of the family come second to resources of time and money spent on alcohol. The toll the family takes needs to become part of your spouse’s understanding of what drinking does to the family.
Set boundaries you can keep
Everyone has limits. It’s common for your spouse’s alcohol use to create situations filled with hurt and anger. Out of these situations may come threats with no real intention to follow through.
If you really want to help your spouse you will need to set boundaries you are willing to defend without compromise. When you do there may be consequences. Weigh the cost of the boundaries you establish to be certain you are willing to follow through with when necessary.
Know your limitations
Alcohol addiction of your spouse isn’t your responsibility to fix. The most important issue is that you realize your spouse is responsible for his/her choices even as it relates to alcohol use.
Simply put you are responsible for what you think, feel, say or do. You are NOT responsible for what your spouse thinks, feels, says or does. If you fully accept and follow this idea you will be able to recognize your limitations.
Take care of your needs
When your spouse is addicted to alcohol you may find it difficult if not impossible to focus on your personal needs. It is crucial if you really want to be able to help your spouse to take time for your personal needs to be met.
It’s not selfish, it’s necessary. You’re more likely to be helpful to your spouse when needed if you’ve been able to get your needs met along the way. Your spouse may not be able to meet your needs and you may want to have friends who provide supportive conversation and emotional support.
Support for your spouse
Support for you and your spouse is available through 12 Step groups of Alcoholic Anonymous (for your spouse) and Al-Anon (for you). Treatment options are available for that time when your spouse realizes the cost of alcohol addiction is really way more than the perceived benefits.