There is no doubt that living with an alcoholic is challenging. Living with anyone who has an addiction can change everything about your life, and there can be a great deal of frustration and stress involved. Sometimes that stress comes from the alcoholic themselves, but often it comes from frustration with ourselves, and the choices we make concerning the alcoholic. It is very important to find the right perspective when living with an alcoholic; otherwise, the problem will dominate your life and change you in ways that might not be for the better. 

How to Live with an Alcoholic—Things to Do or Avoid

Learning to live with an alcoholic is a process. There is no guidebook to tell you how to do it, as each person and each situation is unique. However, there are ways to learn living with an alcoholic, and learn to have a new perspective that will keep you from slipping into stress, frustration or even depression.

Know you are not to blame

Often an alcoholic is ashamed of what they are doing, and they will try to place the blame for their behavior on someone else. That person is often the one who lives with them. When the alcoholic begins to blame you, remind yourself that you are not the cause of this –the alcohol is. The alcoholic is just trying to find a way to live with the daily addiction, one that doesn’t make them feel any worse than they already do. 


Don't take it personally

Alcoholics will often swear they can change, and then they do – for a little while. But then they go back to the drinking, and they leave you wondering why they lied to you and betrayed you. It is important to remember that they really do want to change, but a long-term alcoholic has an altered brain chemistry that won’t allow them to go without that next drink. 


Don't try to cure them

It can be tempting to do everything you can to “cure” the problem, but remember that alcoholism is a disease, one that even the best of medical care can’t always help. You can ask them to get help, but you can’t make them do it. 


Understand you cannot control them

An alcoholic isn’t going to stop drinking until they truly want to do so; and even then, they might need serious medical intervention in order to make it happen. When you try to control them by hiding the alcohol or doing other things like this, it only makes you more frustrated with them when they find a way around that control. It can also make them angry at you, which intensifies their blaming of you. When living with an alcoholic, remember that you can’t stop them. 


You should not accept bad behavior

Just because someone can’t control their alcohol consumption does not mean they get away with bad things. When an alcoholic says or does things that are unacceptable, make it clear that those things will not happen again. There is no pass for abusive behavior simply because they were drunk. You absolutely must take a stand when their behavior gets out of hand, or you will soon find yourself in an abusive relationship. 


There is no need to hide

Never make excuses for the alcoholic, or try to cover up what they are doing. Never lie for them with family members or friends. Everyone around them needs to understand the full extent of the problem in order to deal with it. The alcoholic is trying to hide the problem because they know how bad it is, and they don’t want anyone to ‘help’ them – they want to continue drinking. By not covering up for them, you are taking away that opportunity for them to hide. 


Do not enable them

Never do things that make it easier for an alcoholic to be an alcoholic. Never buy alcohol for them, and never cover for them when they have a hangover. Never lie to anyone about their behavior. Never make up for their shortfalls – if they say they will do something but then they are too drunk to do it, don’t make up for it by doing it yourself. Leave it there for them to deal with when they sober up. The less you enable them, the more likely they will be to see that they are doing something wrong. 


Don't live in the past

There was probably a time you can fondly remember, before the alcohol took over. But now that person you love is an alcoholic, and those happy days are gone. If you continue to believe that things will go back to the way they were, you are ensuring that it will take even longer before your loved one gets help. Be realistic and honest about what life is like now. 


Hold back those reasonable expectations

It seems reasonable that if someone says they will get help, they will – but then they don’t. Or they might do something over and over that keeps hurting them, like buying more alcohol, but they really don’t seem to see the logical reasons why they shouldn’t. Remember that an alcoholic is beyond reason – they have given up that ability. If you have reasonable expectations, you will be hurt by them. 


Find support and help

If the alcoholic won’t get help, that doesn’t mean that you have to sit there and suffer with them. You can get help for yourself. Support groups are full of people like you, who have to deal with addiction and alcoholism of someone they love. When you take that step and attend, you will definitely realize you are not alone, and that can make coping with the problems much easier. 


Talk about it at proper time

Many people will think that if they simply don’t talk about it, it will go away. But that’s enabling the alcoholic to pretend that everything is okay. It’s important to be willing and able to talk about the situation, and to know how to approach it the right way. Keep it simple and straightforward, and try to talk to them when they are sober or at least hungover. Someone who is truly drunk won’t hear what you have to say, or at the very least, won’t remember it later. 


Don't threaten or issue ultimatums

 This is not a game, so don’t make it into one. If you begin to threaten what will happen if they keep drinking, and then you don’t make good on that promise, they will immediately see you as weak, and they know they can continue to get away with it. The best thing to do is stay silent and calm, talk to them when they are sober, and have your own game plan in mind. 


Don't nag or get angry

When living with an alcoholic, it sounds like a tall order, but the more you nag them about their behavior, the more likely they are to blame you for it: “I drink because you nag at me!” Take away their opportunities to lay the blame on you. By that same token, don’t get mad and say angry things, as that gives them even more reason to think it’s okay to drink. 


Never drink with them

Even if you do enjoy a drink every now and then, don’t do it with them, ever. Alcoholics love having a partner in crime, so to speak. That’s why they love bars – everyone is drinking, so they feel like it’s okay to keep doing what they are doing. If you refuse to drink with them, they are left alone with their alcohol, and that drives the loneliness home a little more. 


Don't hesitate to leave

An alcoholic will often escalate their behavior until they are making life miserable or everyone around them, including themselves. If they escalate to verbal or emotional abuse, physical abuse, or threatening your life or the lives of your children, it is time to get out of there. Move out of the house and consult an attorney. Remember that your safety and well-being is of utmost importance! 


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  • KateNov.10 14:54
    WOW I knew I wasn't alone but I didn't realize how NOT alone I truly am, every story has the same author it seems. I love my husband so much and I think about all the times we have when he is sober but when he drinks all my happy memories get erased by the pain and sadness I feel. Thank you for this article it has given me all the things not to do being that I have done 14 out of 15 things so much so that I just gave an ultimatum yesterday just to be told by my best friend that all I am doing is wasting my breath because he is going to let me down again. Thank you again for opening my eyes to this. I think I will look into classes myself.
  • HollyOct.28 02:33
    My husband is an alcoholic. We have been married for 11 years. We have had some really good times. When he is not drinking, he is kind and funny and loving. When he drinks, he turns into a monster. He has never hit me but i think i would rather him do that than talk to me, yell and curse me the way he does. I'm tired of hearing "I'm sorry'. I don't know what to do.
  • JessicaOct.24 19:00
    My husband is an alcoholic I have daughter 6y and if few weeks we will have a baby boy. I'm afraid 2 kids he drinks every Day and I have no Money to live him. No job I dont know how to live like that anymore help.
  • Lonely ladyOct.15 02:41
    Hardest thing living with an alcoholic ... Just today I asked my partner to leave because I can't take it no more he broke his heart but I hoped that the threat of losing me after 20 years and out teen children would scare him into sorting his problem .... It's it so bad he's stealing money I have to hide my purse he's sneaky and always seems to find away to get a drink .. When things don't go his way or I ask him to leave he will do and he will sit in a park and drink all day with no word of his where abouts so leaves me and the kids all day worried sick ... Not just that he has an issue with alcohol but he can not handle drink so I know he's outing him self in danger outside .... To me he cares about alcohol more than me and out children and it's breaking my heart I can't cope with it any more I feel weak because I can't try and help him any more bit feel strong because I made him leave :(
  • AnonymousOct.8 02:26
    I live with my alcoholic wife. She gets angry when she drinks and trys to push all my buttons to argue. Most times I dont bite. I cant leave her i do love her but she refuses to stop. Dont argue with an alcoholic
  • Liam ReillySep.9 22:25
    My Wife is an alcoholic. To me she is just an empty shell functioning on alcohol. I cannot leave her as I have nowhere to go or the means to do it. I have to hold down a full time job to pay the bills while she spends lots of money on wine. My life consists of going to work, coming home about 6 then going to bed between 8 and 9. I dread the weekends. It's all very well saying leave her, I did for about 4 weeks, but spent the time sleeping on relatives sofas, while holding down my job. Her alcoholism has cost us dearly and I cannot believe the lack of care or support. How can I get guidance, I have to work 40 hours a week! I am writing this while she is lying on the bathroom floor after having fell on the shower door, breaking it from its hinges.
  • LJAug.24 23:55
    I have been married to my functioning alcoholic husband for 11 years, I do not drink, through his 1 year jail term 10 years ago (oddly not related to alcohol ) and most recently his medical detox and 60 day rehab stint last August. After 2 months of his being sober in February 2016, he chose to begin drinking 2 beers a day to "feel normal again" which has now escalated to a 6 pack a day. He works nights, I work days so I can not and do not want to "babysit" him, the only reason I am still with him is because I am a co-owner with him on the house mortgage and can not afford the house without his paycheck- nor could he without mine. Anyway "blah blah blah" enough about him- IT HAS BEEN ALL ABOUT HIM FOR 11 years- now about me. Clearly I am SO ANGRY at him and myself for trusting his promises, by his betrayal to drink again and resent him for making beer his priority. Yes I have friends, yes I have hobbies, yes I have a job that requires me to work 60 hours a week-what I don't have is a marriage or a partner. So Somebody PLEASE tell me what the f*ck do I do with all this anger and disappointed I carry? Please don't tell me to go to Al-Anon, I tried that and was told his drinking was my fault, really is his not showering , not brushing his teeth and wearing the same clothes every day for 3 weeks my fault also? If I won the lottery tomorrow my first decision would be a divorce lawyer, so back to reality, my question is how do you resign your life to remain where you are stuck? Do I love him? sort of,,,but I love myself more.
  • orlamarieAug.20 22:03
    Reading this article had me in tears cause it's so right,all of it I've been with my alcoholic husband since I was 16,I'm almost 40 now.He is a functional alcoholic but everything is down to me. I work 2jobs to put our eldest daughter through college,while he sits at home playing computer games I can't remember the last time I was really happy He has been sick for past few months and had some tests done, last week he was told by the doctors that he has liver disease,he has to stop drinking immediately or it will kill him, he waited 3days to tell me,cause he wanted to keep drinking He has not drank the past 5nights but I feel like I'm living on a knife edge I'm on edge just waiting for him to drink again as we have been here before
  • CKJul.24 16:47
    How can one leave your alcoholic partner when your kids and animals adore him? Guess who will forever be the fall guy? The inconsistencies, the lies, the verbal abuse (only when the children are not present), and other indignities make my life miserable. But to endure the hatred of my children would be worse than miserable. It would be hell.
  • Janie TallantJul.23 16:51
    I live with an alcoholic husband that is calm, happy, loving , & always kind to me & the kids. I guess he's what is called a functioning alcoholice. I do all the work around the house & raising the kids while he drinks and plays endless video games. While I'm actively motivated, he sits. I don't nag, but I feel resentful. I tell myself that it could be so much worse, so I never complain. He lives by default, & I try to live with purpose, but I'm getting exhausted trying to hold everything together.
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