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! 


Please Log In or add your name and email to post the comment.

  • Tiffany RankinJan.11 06:17
    My mother is a alcoholic, I'm a young adult and I'm very close to my mother. My mom has always had a drinking problem since my dad left and over time it got worse, she blames him for her drinking even though he left about 6 years ago. My father is verbal abusive. I've always been the rock for both parents it's very exausting. My mother often lives in her past, she told me when we move she will drink less. When we moved out of state and the past two months I've been here are the worse I've seen her drink, it's draining to watch. She can say very hurtful things without caring, she's always emotional. It's hard to talk about to her because she gets irritated and drinks more or make me feel bad for bringing it up. Often buzzed or drunk. It's very easy for a argument to start when she wants me to stay up with her longer because she's intoxicated, or because she wants me to have a drink or another drink with her. She will find any excuse to drink if she's stressed,headache,back pains,annoyed or if she has to take care of the dog. She will have a drink to start the day because coffee gives her headaches. Today she laid in bed and drank all day, at moments I do need to recharge and I'll drive somewhere even if it's down the street. I've been applying to job's so I'm hoping to be out alot more than at home. I feel so much better after getting this off my chest.
  • Vanessa WalshJan.9 00:24
    I have been with my partner almost five years.. He has always liked to drink but the last 3 years have been the worst.. He has a few months where he's not to bad on the beer but then it changes and he drinks from morning until night he does have a full time job but does go through faces where he goes awol from work due to drinking.. He does suffer from depression and anxiety but drinking only makes it worse.. He has done two home detoxes where a nurse comes round and weans him off the drink with tablets where he can't be left alone so you have to sit and watch him all day.. But you can guarantee he turns back to drink.. It is awful living with the fact he has no sleep pattern so keeps me awake all night the emotional abuse I get i.e.: it's my fault/ I don't help him/ I make him drink he follows me around the house mithering me why don't you love me I need love and support I had to baracade myself in the spare room so he couldn't get in just to get some peace.. I have attended every doctors app hospital app councilling app AA meetings and pick up his medication I work a full time job then come home clean up cook and do the washing.. His family do not help in anyway what so ever they just brush the problem under the carpet .. I have no family to speak to whatsoever and the few friends I have are sick of hearing me complain when I don't act on it .. I am sooo tired drained and deflated it's untrue.. I like many of you I do love him but I've given up on him changing I am ready to leave him but I literally have nowhere to go!! I want more for my life and I want more it's not as easy as just leave when you have nowhere to go
  • karynJan.1 17:19
    My boyfriend 's an alcoholic. We've been together 8 years no children together (i have 4 from previous marriage~ im a widow and kids grown) It's getting worse. He's done sober for several months then starts again. When sober he picks me apart~ nothing is good enough and he's critical of me. When he's drinking he only does this when he drinks over a certain amount. The kind, caring, loving, romantic man is gone. We both work. I however work, come home, cook, clean and take care of his 81 year old mom (next door) . I try to squeeze time with my kids in when he's at work (if he's home he'll drink more and i come home with him sauced and it's hard to get into his world) even his mom finds reasons to interrupt my visits with kids. This past year has been hell. It's getting worse, he tells me never argue with a drunk and i try hard not to but he knows how to push my buttons~ saying mean things about me and my kids) he'll tell me I'm lying when i try to talk about it when he's sober. I've decided to record him (secretly) the next time he does this~ it still breaks my heart because words scar me and replay in my head. Lately I'm becoming angrier, less patient, and my tolerance level is at rock bottom. I had knee surgery a few months ago and probably overdid things trying not to burden him with my care. He tells me he wants to stop and that I'm not being supportive, that i like him buzzed. Doesn't matter if i say no i don't. We no longer go out, no more hikes, movies, social events. I no longer have a life. I can't be far away because of his mom or because if he's home and drinking it's worse. I no longer know what to do. I'm sad, lonely and angry
  • 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.
View All Comments /Add Comment