How to Help an Alcoholic Husband

These tips on how to cope with a husband who drinks too much are inspired by my work in a residential recovery program for men who are alcoholics and drug addicts. I was also moved to write this post by a reader, who is searching for ways to help and cope with her alcoholic husband…

“I’m so confused, I love my husband very much but I’m so depressed and sad I can barely stand it,” says Kim on Does He Love You? 7 Signs Your Marriage is Over. “We fight a lot…he drinks for hours, several days a week. When he is sober he is a wonderful, sweet, funny, loving guy. Our fights happen when he has been drinking and I am sober…I hurt my back and was prescribed painkillers, and he’s taken at least half of my prescription. Tonight I wanted the half tablet I had left on my nightstand. I asked him about taking my medication, he said yes he took it. I tried to explain that I actually need it because my back is hurting, but he didn’t want to discuss it. I don’t tell my friends any of these stories, I don’t tell anyone, I don’t want their opinion of him to change…think I need help…do you have any comments or suggestions for helping an alcoholic husband? Thank you.”





If you haven’t told anyone that your husband drinks too much, you are 100% normal! It is embarrassing to talk about our problems. We care what people think of us and our husbands, and we don’t want to admit that we’re struggling. It’s painful to be honest about living with an alcoholic. It’s scary to share the truth.

But, life and healing is possible only when you share the truth. You are being incredibly courageous by searching for tips on how to help a husband who drinks to much! You’re making a brave new start. Take a deep breath, and know you are not alone. Every hour, thousands of women search for ways to help their alcoholic husbands and boyfriends.

My tips on how to cope with – and help – an alcoholic husband are based on information from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), as well as my experience working with men recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction in a residential recovery program. These tips range from educating yourself about Al-Anon to letting your husband suffer the consequences of his choice to drink.

8 Ways to Cope With Alcoholism in Your Marriage

Have you contacted Al-Anon? It’s is an organisation for the relatives and friends of alcoholics, who share their experience, strength and hope with each other in order to solve their common problems. Al-Anon has one purpose: to help the families and friends of alcoholics. Anonymity is an important principle of the Al-Anon program.

How to Help an Alcoholic Husband

How to Cope With an Alcoholic Husband

Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease – and the proponents of Al-Anon believe it is a family disease. They also believe a wife can help an alcoholic husband stop drinking. Whether or not this is true – that wives can help their husbands overcome alcoholism – depends on so many factors! For instance, how long has your husband been drinking? Does he want to quit? What has to change in his life? Should he go to a recovery program for alcoholics? Does he need counseling or therapy?

This is a lot to think about. Take a deep breath, and know that everything will be okay. You will figure out how to cope, you will get through this, and one day you will look back on this stage of your life with relief that it’s over!

1. Remember that he is not choosing to drink

As an alcoholic, your husband no longer has the power to choose not to drink, so he needs spiritual power to quit drinking. He can’t overcome the disease of alcoholism by himself or through willpower. The only thing he can do is turn to God, admit how powerless he is, and turn his life over to a Higher Power who can save him.

Alcoholism is a disease that your husband will never be able to conquer on his own. He is powerless over the urge to drink. He may love you with all his heart – and it may break his heart to prioritize his drinking over you and your family – but he has no choice. That is why Alcoholics Anonymous advises families not to get angry. It’s like getting mad at your husband’s cancer. Anger doesn’t help, it’s a waste of energy, and it just distracts you from healing and moving forward.

2. Learn what is involved in an intervention for alcoholic husbands

Here’s some important information from Alcoholic.org’s article How to Help an Alcoholic Husband: If you think he drinks too much – or if you even find yourself thinking but not saying “My husband is an alcoholic” out loud – then you need to think about the best way to help your husband stop drinking. Remember that an alcoholic husband must have a desire to change before he accepts treatment, and he should believe that stopping his dependency on alcohol will benefit his life. Treatment centers and interventions can help an alcoholic recover. Admitting that there is a problem is the first step to recovery, so it may be important to have an intervention.

During an intervention, a special interventionist can help you work with your husband and talk out the problem. You will be able to express how the alcoholism affects you, and with the interventionist’s help you may be able to get your husband to admit that he has a drinking problem.


Fix Your Marriage


An intervention may also be able to help you overcome emotional disconnection in marriage.

3. Do what you can to protect your relationships with others

Decide and be determined that your husband’s alcoholism won’t destroy your relationship with your children, your family, or your friends. You can still have a full, interesting, and good life even if you can’t learn how to help an alcoholic husband stop drinking. Don’t set your heart on reforming him, or helping him stop drinking. You won’t succeed no matter how hard you try.

The most valuable tip on how to cope with an alcoholic husband is to take care of yourself. You have to protect your mind, body, soul and spirit! You need to learn how to love yourself, how recognize what you need and strengthen yourself.

If you’re struggling with your relationship with your faith, read How to Hold on to Your Faith When Love Hurts.

4. Don’t tell him what to do about his drinking

In the “For Wives” chapter on how to help an alcoholic husband, the Alcoholics Anonymous book advises women never to tell their husbands to stop drinking or what to do about his drinking. If he sees you as a nag or killjoy, your chance of helping him may be zero. He will feel misunderstood and criticized, which won’t help him stop drinking.



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Take a deep breath, and allow your husband to make his own choices. But, do not allow him to mistreat you or your loved ones. Draw the line at abuse, okay? You are a beautiful, loved, honorable woman who deserves to be treated with honor and respect. If your husband’s drinking problem causes him to treat you bad, just tell one person. Talk to someone you trust. Don’t keep his secrets — don’t hide in shame. Your husband’s drinking problem is not your fault.

Don’t let your husband’s disease destroy more of your life than it already has.

5. Let your husband explain his behavior to people

Whenever possible, let him make his own excuses to his employer, coworkers, family members, neighbors, church community, etc.

Don’t protect him, don’t lie to people to cover up his drinking problem. If you are serious about helping your husband with his alcoholism, you won’t lie to people who have a right to know where he is and what he is doing. Talk about this with him when he is sober and in good spirits.

“Enabling” is allowing or encouraging your alcoholic or addicted husband to continue drinking or doing drugs. Enabling an alcoholic includes covering up, providing alibis, minimizing the addiction, attempting to take control by getting rid of the alcohol, and removing consequences (such as bailing him out of jail or spending your grocery money on booze or drugs).

Another type of enabling is hiding what he’s doing from your family and friends. You’re protecting him and allowing him to continue drinking when you hide his actions from your loved ones. Instead, you need to be honest about what’s going on, even if it embarrasses or shames you. Remember that your husband’s alcoholism or addiction is his problem, and not a reflection of who you are.

Remember that there is a difference between learning how to help your husband deal with alcoholism, and falling into a codependent relationship.

6. Don’t allow your anger or frustration to control you

“Never be angry” is one of AA’s principles for coping with a husband who drinks too much.

How to Help an Alcoholic Husband

How to Help an Alcoholic Husband

I’m not sure about this tip on how to cope with an alcoholic husband, but I’m sharing it anyway! The Alcoholics Anonymous book says that the first principle of success is to never be angry with your husband for his drinking problem (disease). Even though he may become unbearable and you have to leave him temporarily, they advise you to go in peace, patience, and a good temper.

“Leaving your marriage is an option to take, particularly if you are married to an alcoholic who is being abusive towards you,” writes Deborah Morrow on Wives of Alcoholics. “This is a brave step to take and many who have been involved in an alcohol fueled relationship for some time find it hard to do. Why? Because their self esteem is at a low and such a brave decision is beyond them. It is generally advised to seek counseling or some other kind of help before making such a choice. However, if you are involved in an abusive relationship GET OUT AS FAST AS YOU CAN.”

7. Get support for wives of alcoholic husbands

This is the most important tip for coping with a man who drinks too much: join with other women who are going through the same thing. Be vulnerable. It’s scary and difficult, but it’s the best way to learn and get help.

Find the closest Alcoholics Anonymous group, or the nearest Al-Anon group. Trying to deal with your husband’s alcoholism on your own is futile, and will set you up for disappointment and despair. Join forces with other women who need help with their alcoholic husbands. Get support, give support. Help yourself, and you’ll learn how to help an alcoholic husband help himself.

8. Hold on to your own emotional and spiritual health

The foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous is spirituality. The alcoholic is powerless to stop drinking because alcoholism is a disease. A drinker can’t summon the willpower to stop drinking – when he is an alcoholic, he has no choice. He needs to turn his life and body over to God (whatever he understands God to be)…and I believe that to help an alcoholic husband, you need to do the same thing.

We are weak and powerless when we are alone. The more you avoid your Higher Power, the weaker you will become. The more you hide your alcoholic husband’s actions and words, the faster your life will downward spiral. The less time you take to lift your face to your Creator and accept His grace and love, the more time you’ll spend in hell.

Take care of your mind, body, spirit, and soul. That is the only way you’ll cope with a husband who drinks too much. You need to get emotionally and spiritually strong and healthy, and then you’ll know how to help your husband with his alcoholism.

Coping With an Alcoholic Husband

how to cope with alcoholic husbandRead Reclaim Your Life: You and the Alcoholic/Addict by Carole Bennett for specific communication tools that empower you to implement confident boundaries in your marriage. I can’t tell you everything you need to know about coping with an alcoholic man in this blog post. You need to work through this process — and know that reclaiming your respect, dignity, and peace of mind are achievable goals.

Remember that you can’t help your husband cope with alcoholism by yourself. In fact, there is nothing you can do to reform or change him…you can only change how you respond to his drinking problem.

The more you read and learn about alcoholism, the better able you’ll be to help the man you love, save your marriage, and pull your family back together. But remember that stopping him from drinking is not YOUR responsibility. You can support and walk alongside your husband, but you can’t make him change unless he is ready.

If you’re confused about your marriage, read 7 Ways to Know if Your Relationship is Worth Fighting For.

Your thoughts on how to help and cope with an alcoholic husband are welcome below. I can’t offer advice, but you may find it helpful to share your experience. I know I haven’t offered any brilliant insights or ways to help him overcome his drinking problem, but I hope you see you’re not alone….and that God really is here for you.

You are loved more than you imagine. You were created for a purpose, even in the midst of this struggle. You are stronger than you think – especially when you are filled with His love, grace, power, and courage!

I especially hope you reach out to other women whose husbands are struggling with alcoholism, so you can gain strength, comfort, and solidarity.





xo

13 Responses

  1. Suzanne says:

    Thank you for this article. I’ve been struggling with an alcohol husband for 7 years. We have 5 children who I know he loves so much and they adore him. I have been an enabler for my husband since I also drink. But I never notice how bad his drinking is until I’m pregnant or can’t drink. Just recently I had to have surgery that required a lot of help from my husband and children. I asked him to please not drink during this time because most nights he’s out cold and can’t take care of the kids if they get up at night. Not only could he not do this for me, he lied to me about how much he was drinking. He hides his bottles and binge drinks. And when he goes a couple of days without drinking I end up feeling guilty because I know he’s under a lot of stress and does sooo much for our family. He is a very high functioning alcoholic. He’s got a terrific job, he pays the bills, and loves us very much. But alcohol controls him. The scariest part is that his dad and brother bother both died from the disease but that is not enough to scare him to stop. He says he can control how much he drinks but I know he can’t. I know it’s a disease and he needs help but I don’t think he’s ready for help. I’m just afraid of what might happen if he doesn’t stop. He is so high functioning that his drinking has never kept him from getting up for work or other priorities. But from 7-9 it’s downhill and sometimes passed out before kids are in bed. And he can’t find the bathroom half the time. I just told him I can’t control his drinking but I can control mine and I won’t be drinking at all anymore because it allows him to drink more. I feel hopeless and embarrassed.

  2. Laurie says:

    Dear Karina,

    Thank you for being here, and sharing how difficult it is to cope with an alcoholic husband – even one who lives in a different state! It sounds like you’re really torn between your love for your husband and your desire to have everyone together. A happy family is all we really want, isn’t it?

    Your husband can’t admit he has a drinking problem, and it’s not possible for you to convince him of that. He won’t change unless he acknowledges that he’s an alcoholic, and admits he’s powerless over his drinking.

    That’s all his responsibility. Your responsibility is to your children and to your self.

    What is the best decision for you? Your children?
    How can you help your children grow to be healthy, strong, capable adults?
    How can you help yourself grow into an emotionally and spiritually healthy woman?
    I encourage you to talk through these questions with a counselor. Join an Al-Anon group, and get support and insight from them. Spend time with people who help you feel whole, positive, and healthy.

    Also – learn about healthy boundaries with alcoholic family members! You can’t change your husband or heal his drinking problem, but you can learn what is and is not within your control.

    I’ll keep you in my prayers, for healing, freedom, and healthy decision making as you move forward…may you feel God’s peace, love, and joy regardless of what’s happening in your life and marriage.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  3. Karina says:

    I met my husband almost 13 years ago, he was drunk but it really didn’t bother me because I thought he was just partying. He was nice at the beginning of our relationship, with me, with my family, then one day everything change he just kept drinking some times a whole week with a little sleep. Some times he would disappear for 3 some times 5 days without me knowing where he was. He accuse me of stealing money from him. One night he chocked me in front of our kids he just had finish drinking a whole bottle of rom and vodka. I had left him twice the second time was the longest but I always came back to him because I had hope. Currently he stop drinking liquor but still drinks beer. He’s living in another state because of his work and we haven’t seen him for almost a year, we keep in touch we call each other but he’s still the same, he still drinks and we fight so much over the phone. My oldest daughter doesn’t want him back because she say that she feels stress when he is here they can’t play in peace because he get mad if they get to loud. I really love him but I have no hope anymore. He’s thinking to come home for the holidays but to be honest I don’t want him to come i’m afraid he would still the peace that I have created in our home with our kids. I have told that it’s better that he doesn’t come that we really don’t want to see him because of his drinking problem but he gets offended and says that he doesn’t have any problems. Can you please advice me on what I can do about this situation or if I should end this relationship? thank you.

  4. Laurie says:

    Dear Teresa,

    It sounds like you love your husband so much, and your kids love and need their daddy! But his alcoholism is ruining your marriage and family life, and is causing you pain and suffering. He is addicting to drinking, and his problem won’t be healed overnight. It also sounds like you have firsthand experience with drug and alcohol addictions in your childhood…and you don’t want your own children to have the same experience as they grow up.

    Since you can’t help an alcoholic husband stop drinking, all you can do is focus on getting yourself emotionally and spiritually healthy.

    Go to Al Anon. Talk to other women who are living with – or have left – alcoholic husbands. Get counseling, to help you work through your own issues and obstacles so you can make the best decision for you and your children.

    Here’s another article that may help:

    How to Love and Live With an Alcoholic Boyfriend
    http://theadventurouswriter.com/blog/how-to-love-living-with-an-alcoholic-boyfriend/

    But the biggest thing you need to do is seek advice in person! There are no easy tips or ways to help an alcoholic husband, and I can’t give you the support you need. You have to reach out in person and start taking steps towards healing.

    Stay in touch by signing up for my SheBlossoms newsletter! I send weekly articles and encouragement to women, to help them Blossom into who God created them to be.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  5. Teresa Mullins says:

    I am praying that I can find help for myself. I know I can’t make my husband stop but it is causing me so much anxiety that I am nauseous every day now. My stress levels sky rocket when I know he is coming home. It makes me sad because I am excited to see him and then I realize that he will come home with beer in hand. We have an 11 year Iold daughter who is daddy’s girl and a 7 year old boy. They would be devastated if I left their daddy but it is killing me! I have no joy because every time I have it, he steals it away within an hour or so. Please help meknow what to do? He is wwonderful in very other way but since I grew up in an abusive alcohol and drug house, the moment his eyes turn strange becaus he is drinking…I start to panic.

  6. Laurie says:

    Sometimes the best and only way to cope with an alcoholic husband is to leave. He has to want to change; you can’t change him or force him to quit drinking.

    Take care of yourself. Love yourself, respect yourself, and know that the hardest choices are the ones that will be best for you in the long run.

    Hold on to your faith. Believe that your life will be better and brighter than before!

  7. kim says:

    It is really hard to cope with an alcoholic husband, and i am leaving. this road will never get easier so for my sanity i have made this difficult decision

  8. chantel Iris says:

    Thanks for the ideas on how to help an alcoholic husband. i love them. i think one needs to exercise patience in dealing with a spouse who has drinking issues. the love,support, and devotion help them to get out of the addiction.

  9. armida says:

    When i met my husband he was in bad shape and i accepted it because i love him he was a heroine addict and i told him i didn’t want that in my life because im a recovering addict my self so he cleaned up and still clean but he started drinking now. Its becoming a real problem im afraid he will go back to using

  10. yomila says:

    I’m glad I found this because I don’t know what to do with my husband he’s drinking is killing me..

  11. Dr.preeti Rawat says:

    Actually when I talk to anybody about my husband’s drinking he became annoyed with me. He said that I made his insult in front of others so I have to lie to his colleagues and friends about his drinking.

  12. Laurie says:

    Thanks, Nini, I’m glad these ideas were helpful. Alcoholism is so difficult to kick! My heart goes out to wives whose husbands are addicted to the bottle.

  13. Nini says:

    I really like your ideas about how to help an alcoholic husband. My friend had a hard time with her husband’s drinking problem, and the 12 step program helped him quit alcohol. Addiction is hard but it can be overcome!

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