Living With An Alcoholic

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living with an alcoholic

How to Handle Living With an Alcoholic

If you have been living with an alcoholic, you have been suffering right along with them.

When someone you love has developed an alcohol use disorder you have likely been drawn into its vortex. In fact, it will quickly become clear why they always say that alcoholism is a family disease.

Family members often bear the brunt of their loved one’s alcohol problem. It is common to become immersed in maladaptive coping, like enabling the alcoholic or becoming codependent. They often find themselves manipulated and lied to, even though you know this isn’t who the person really is.

It is the disease that is in charge now. In essence, the alcohol takes center stage in the loved one’s world and the spouse and kids become obstacles to overcome.

If you are trying to stay sane while living with an alcoholic, the best thing you can do is to take care of yourself. This entails practicing self-care and also seeking out sources of support. To learn more about the challenge of living with an alcoholic, and for some helpful tips, read on.

How an Alcoholic Family Member Impacts the Whole Family

An alcoholic in the house can cause a lot of chaos and drama. You cannot predict their moods, and are even unsure how to approach them. Their drinking casts a shadow over everything.

When someone’s drinking habit takes over, it becomes an obsession. This leaves little room for family time, parenting, or participating in the kids’ activities. The alcoholic may be physically present in the home, but they are often intoxicated and not really tuned in.

Some of the effects of living with an alcoholic include:

  • The disease causes stress on all family members; there is constant worry about the alcoholic.
  • The alcoholic may become violent or abusive when intoxicated, leading to domestic abuse.
  • The alcoholic’s behavior erodes trust.
  • The drinking can lead to major financial problems. They may get a DUI with huge fines, they may lose their job, or they might stop paying the bills.
  • The disordered alcoholic behavior teaches children unhealthy ways to manage stress in life.
  • Has an adverse effect on health and wellbeing of family members due to chronic stress.

Maladaptive Coping Techniques

It is natural to want to help your alcoholic family member. You might cover for them when they are too sick to work. You might lie for them when they decide to skip a social event and stay home to drink instead. Even though you mean well, these methods of coping are not going to help your loved one get the help they need.

Here are some pitfalls to avoid if you live with an alcoholic:


It is very common for family members to find ways to limit the damage caused by the alcoholic’s behaviors. Often, the enabling is rooted in love and good intentions, but this soon backfires. When you keep covering for them, lying for them, paying their bills, you just keep them comfy in their disease. There is no reason for them to change if all their needs are being met.


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Codependency can occur between the alcoholic and a spouse or parent. A toxic relationship can emerge when the other party becomes fixated in controlling their loved one’s disease. The other party has an unhealthy need to feel valuable, to take a helper role. This causes them to give up all their normal interests to focus only on the alcoholic, to become a martyr.


By being in denial about a loved one’s alcoholism, it can serve a purpose. Denial helps cover up any feelings of shame, guilt, and fear. As long as they can ignore the problem they hope to avoid facing the dire situation. Denial only postpones the person getting the treatment they need and allows the disease to progress.

Support Sources for Families of Alcoholics

As anyone living with an alcoholic will attest, the disease has a profound impact on the wellbeing of all. The entire family is drawn into the disease. The bonds of trust between family members and the alcoholic have been broken by lies and deceit. Stress levels ratchet up and impact mental health.

There are groups that serve families of alcoholics. These are great sources of support and useful information, and fellowship. These support groups include:

  • Al-anon
  • SMART Recovery Family and Friends
  • Alateen
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA)
  • Codependents Anonymous

The focus of each group will differ slightly, so find the one that best fits your needs.

Treatment Options for Alcoholism

It may not be easy to convince your family member to go to rehab for his AUD. He may be in denial and not yet ready to let go of the substance. If you have not been able to persuade them to get help, you might want to think about an intervention.

An intervention expert can aid the family in planning and preparing for the meeting with the loved one. During an intervention, each family member will read a letter aloud that describes the impact of their alcohol problem. After all members have shared their thoughts and feelings, the intervention expert asks if they would be open to treatment.

If they do agree to get help, the treatment process involves various stages:

  1. Detox and withdrawal. Alcohol detox takes place in a closely monitored setting and lasts about one week.
  2. Therapy. The loved one will engage in multiple types of therapy to bring about needed changes.
  3. Education. While in rehab, they will learn coping skills and stress reducing techniques to help them avoid a relapse.
  4. 12-Step. Many rehab programs include A.A.’s 12-Step program.

When the Alcoholic Isn’t Yet Ready to Get Help

No matter how much you have pleaded and begged, your loved one may still resist going in for treatment. When this is the case, all you can do is take care of yourself. Here are some things family members can do to protect their own health:

  • Seek out the help of a therapist.
  • Get quality sleep.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Participate in family therapy.
  • See your friends.
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Practice relaxation techniques.
  • Engage in activities you enjoy.

If you are struggling because you’re living with an alcoholic, do take care of yourself. At the same time, never lose hope that they will reach out for help soon.

Capo by the Sea Provides Intervention Services and AUD Treatment

Capo by the Sea is an upscale rehab that blends evidence-based treatments with holistic methods for excellent recovery results. For more detail about our program, please reach out to us today at (888) 529-2114.