Being married to an alcoholic can be incredibly stressful. One person’s drinking problem affects the entire family. If you’re in this situation, it’s natural to want to help your husband and convincing him that he has a drinking problem seems like a logical first step.
Unfortunately, you might not be able to convince your husband that he’s an alcoholic. It’s frustrating, but it’s common for alcoholics to experience denial. They often refuse to acknowledge the problem. You can do things to help him understand the seriousness and severity of his drinking problem but in the end, he might remain unconvinced.
During my years as a social worker, I worked with many clients struggling with issues like this. Focusing on yourself and on the things you can control is the way to go here. Here are some other things you can do.
Talk to Him
Talk to your husband when he’s sober. Share your concerns openly and honestly. Tell him why you believe he is an alcoholic and how you feel about his drinking. Stay calm while talking to him. Try to speak compassionately, not critically. Point out the ways his drinking affects you and your whole family. Ask him to get help. Resist the urge to nag him about it, though.
Don’t Enable Him
Psych Central, a mental health network providing information and support to the public, defines enabling as taking away the natural consequences of an alcoholic’s behavior, which allows him to continue drinking. Don’t lie to your husband’s boss and say he’s sick if he’s really too hung over to go to work. Don’t clean up the mess if he vomits throws up in the living room when he’s drunk. Don’t bail him out of jail if he gets arrested for driving under the influence. Allow him to see and experience the true consequences of his addiction.
Discourage Other Family Members from Enabling Him
If his parents, siblings or other family members agree to help him out when his drinking gets him into trouble, your husband will probably to continue to drink. He will not have to face the consequences of his drinking and can continue to deny the fact that he is an alcoholic. You can’t prevent other people from stepping in and helping him out if they want to do so but you can let them know you’d prefer they didn’t.
Seek a Professional’s Opinion
Your husband might listen to a professional even if he won’t listen to you. Of course, he might not. It’s worth a try, though. Ask him to accompany you to an appointment with a mental health care professional or his primary care physician. If he refuses to go, you should go anyway without him. A professional cannot diagnose alcoholism without actually seeing and evaluating your husband but can give you advice on how to deal with a difficult situation. Also, keeping the appointment even if your husband refuses to go with you sends the message that you won’t allow him to manipulate or control you.
Psychology Today. Ways to Approach the High-Functioning Alcoholic in Your Life.
Psych Central. Are You an Enabler?
HelpGuide.org. Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse.
Also by this contributor:
Planning an Intervention for an Alcoholic
Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism