There are a number of ways to tell if your spouse’s drinking habit has shifted from harmless social drinking to alcoholism. It may seem like alcoholism will have obvious signs that anyone can recognize, but when it affects someone that you see everyday, the warning signs may not be so big and dramatic. Learning how to recognize when the fine line between normal drinking and problem drinking has been crossed can make it easier for a spouse to get help before it’s too late.
Dealing with an alcoholic spouse is never easy. Even just admitting that they have a problem that needs to be addressed is incredibly hard. You may be uncertain about whether or not they truly have a problem, fearful about their health and the future of your family, and stressed about how you are going to handle it all. It’s important to know when dealing with all these feelings that there are resources out there for families affected by alcoholism and that you don’t have to do it all alone. Find someone who can help.
Recognizing the signs of alcoholism.
When you are struggling to determine if your spouse has an alcohol problem, knowing the telltale signs can be very useful. If you recognize several of the following warning signs with a spouse, then it is a strong indicator that professional help is needed:
Relying on alcohol to relax or relieve stress: Everyone does this from time to time, but you begin noticing that a spouse relies on alcohol more and more often to unwind after work, having a stressful day, or getting into a fight or argument, then their habit may be turning into a dependence.
They continue to drink even though it causes problems: You may have already had a few discussions with your spouse about how their drinking has affected the quality of their life and your relationship. You may be upset about the way they behave when they drink, not fulfilling responsibilities, or the health problems it has created. If your spouse continues to drink even after all this, it’s a sign that they have a problem.
Work, family, or other responsibilities begin to suffer: If their performance has suffered at work, they’ve neglected family or parent responsibilities, or gotten into any other troubles because of their drinking, it is a strong indicator that help is needed.
How to talk to a spouse about their drinking.
Once you’ve determined that your spouse has an alcohol problem and needs help, the next step is finding a way to approach them about getting help. This is incredibly intimidating for many, so having a few guidelines beforehand can really be helpful. Some of the things you should definitely not do when discussing alcoholism with your spouse include:
-Don’t bring up the subject when they have already been drinking. They will likely become angry, upset, or just flat out deny they have a problem.
-Don’t drink with them.
-Avoid bribing them, making them feel guilty about drinking, shaming them, or trying to punish them.
-Don’t make yourself out to be the victim of their drinking. Remember, this is about their problem not you. Listen to what they have to say and respond with compassion.
-Don’t enable them. This is very common with spouses of alcoholics and includes trying to cover up their behavior, deny that they have a problem, or otherwise make it easier for them to continue to drink without facing any consequences.