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Alcoholic Help - I need help for my alcoholic partner who drinks too much alcohol
When the two of you first got together, you both enjoyed a drink from time to time. But over the years, your partner's drinking has steadily increased. In fact, alcohol has become an integral part of day-to-day life in your home - and your partner's heavy drinking is becoming a problem.
Any sign of a drinking problem is a serious threat to your relationship, whether your partner recognises it or not -- and if they're in denial about their growing alcohol dependency, the chances are that they won't.
As a result, you spend so much time worrying about their health and their behaviour that you may have little energy left over to focus on you and what you need from the relationship.
"The partners of people with alcohol problems are often very lonely, and that isolation can often be traced back right to the first signs of their partner's alcoholism," says Sue Allchurch, director of the Linwood Group.
"They'll probably spend a lot of time alone, while their partner is out with their drinking buddies. When the two of them are out together, the sober partner will be too busy monitoring their partner to enjoy themselves. And even when the couple is alone together at home, one partner may well be too intoxicated to take part in any kind of coherent conversation with the other - whether that's a serious discussion or just a cosy chat," she says.
Sound familiar? There are other signs to look for, too. The physical side of the relationship may suffer, because by bedtime, all your partner is ready to do is pass out.
If the two of you have kids, you may find it hard to get your partner to take their family responsibilities seriously and commit to firm plans, from shopping for school shoes to attending end-of-term concerts. In fact, where one parent is notoriously unreliable because of a drinking problem, the other is usually left to pick up much of the slack and over-compensate in order to give their children a sense of routine and stability.
You are in deeper trouble still if your partner tends to become confrontational when drinking. They might snap at the kids or shout at you. They may blame you for things that are clearly not your fault. You may worry that their emotional and mental abuse might escalate into violence - a perfectly legitimate concern, given how heavy their drinking has become.
It's clearly time to take action - but what can you do? The truth is that you may need to help yourself before you can help your partner. With that in mind, you should:
1. Acknowledge co-dependency
First, it's important to recognise that you have slid into co-dependency with your partner. That means that you support each other's addictions - they're addicted to alcohol and you're addicted to supporting them, come what may. In effect, you're enabling them to continue drinking, because you regularly cover up for them and keep household life functioning when they're too drunk or hungover to care.
2. Take steps to re-establish your own identity
The co-dependent partners of people with drinking problems need to do as much as they can to re-establish their own identity outside of this problematic relationship. That means going out with your own friends, pursuing your own hobbies and interests and not neglecting your own career. If you feel you need to, get help for yourself from family support groups such as Al-Anon. The very act of seeking help independently is part of your recovery.
3. Don't enable your partner's drinking
Concerned partners should put a halt to activities that encourage someone who is alcohol-dependent in their drinking behaviour. Don't drink around the alcoholic. Don't give them money to buy alcohol. Don't take them to places or events where alcohol is served. Explain why you are taking these measures, with reference to past episodes where their drinking has been uncontrolled -- but do so without blame or recrimination.
4. Be ready to help...
...but only once your partner admits they need that help. Until that point, begging, bullying and criticising won't help. Once that point has been reached, however, there's a lot you can do: express empathy and concern; provide details of treatment options for alcohol dependency; and offer to accompany them on their first visit to the alcohol clinic.
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