According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, In 2019, more than 25 percent of adults reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month. Having a high functioning alcoholic or addict spouse can be one of the most tumultuous things you’ll deal with in your life. It doesn’t matter if they’re a high functioning alcoholic or addict. Unfortunately, there’s little you can do to “save” them. Don’t think that your relationship isn’t fixable; it can be. There are ways that you can help yourself. You can educate yourself on and alcohol abuse and alcoholism (Alcohol Use Disorder), how to maintain your wellbeing, and offer support without enabling. It sounds like a manageable list, but it can be terrifying at first. Education, awareness and action are the best ways to help your functioning alcoholic spouse.
How Do I Know If I’m Living With an Alcoholic?
Start by educating yourself. Go online, look up signs and symptoms of alcoholism and addiction, try to be aware of what is going on if you’re unsure if they have a drinking problem. Substance abuse can blindside you if you have no previous experience with drug and alcohol addiction or alcohol abuse. Arming yourself with the facts about alcohol use disorder and drug addiction is the first part of being able to know what your spouse is going through. There are plenty of websites, support groups, and literature on living with an alcoholic or addict. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a chapter called “To the Wives,” and it is to the families of alcoholics.
Addiction is a family disease, whether it’s Alcohol Use Disorder or Substance Use Disorder. It doesn’t only affect the person being intoxicated. Knowing that your spouse is dealing with long-term substance abuse takes a toll on you. It is easy to lose yourself in your spouses’ alcohol addiction. Your relationship can quickly go from a healthy, loving relationship (during sobriety or before knowing that there was a drinking problem) to an unhealthy codependent wreck. All the focus shifts to your sick spouse, and you can get sucked into the mental health issues that an addict or alcoholic brings into your life.
Self-Care When You’re Living With an Alcoholic
One of the hardest parts of dealing with a functioning alcoholic husband or wife is forgetting how to take care of yourself. Your thoughts are often consumed by what they’re doing, are they getting high, are they drinking, what if they overdose, or get a DUI, the list is endless. The racing thought trains never slow down. The mental health impact and emotional disruption an alcoholic or addicted spouse brings to our lives makes it nearly impossible to be healthy for ourselves. Even if your spouse is capable of doing tasks like going to work, it’s still troubling knowing the amount of alcohol or substances they are consuming. Just as your alcoholic spouse isn’t healthy and can’t help themselves, the same applies to you. You must be able to be healthy to take care of yourself.
Taking care of yourself can start at any time. Remember that it is for you. A popular way that the loved ones of an addict or alcoholic get help is through programs like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon that are for the loved ones of people with substance use disorders. These support groups offer you the support of people who have been through what you’re facing and can help you teach you how to care for yourself. Having the experience of others and the advice can change how isolated you tend to feel when you’re stuck in your spouse’s functioning addiction. It’s essential to learn to take care of ourselves first. If we can’t help ourselves, there’s no way we can help another person.
How to Support, not Enable Your Functioning Alcoholic Spouse
There is a fine line between what is considered support or enabling when you don’t have the proper education or support in your life. All three of these critical components come together for you to help yourself. There is a massive difference in enabling and supporting your functioning alcoholic spouse. By not enabling your alcoholic spouse, you must set boundaries, which is difficult at first. Seeking outside help can assist you in this, such as therapy, counseling, or a support group. When dealing with a functioning alcoholic, it may feel like the lines are blurred as to what will help them stop drinking or what will make the drinking or substance use increase.
Boundaries are for you, not the other person. It is hard to find ways to support your functioning alcoholic spouse. In setting boundaries with your alcoholic spouse, you can still help them without sacrificing yourself. Setting boundaries can be hard at first, but it’s important to remember that you must adhere to them. Setting boundaries becomes more comfortable with time and will help your functioning alcoholic spouse, no matter how angry or upset they are in the beginning. They will thank you later down the road.
Living with and loving a functioning alcoholic or addict is a journey. It is one you can get through by educating yourself and knowing more about substance use disorders is the first part of understanding. There is nothing that you can or could have done that would make a person stop drinking. Education gives you freedom from guilt. Alcoholism is a disease, not a moral failing. Freeing yourself from guilt allows you to begin to take care of yourself; you can be a healthy person being with a functioning alcoholic. Healthy people set boundaries in their life and can stick to them. Finding the support that works for you is the best way to support your functioning alcoholic or addict spouse.
Resources for Helping an Alcoholic Spouse
If you’re looking to stage an intervention for your functioning alcoholic, learn more about interventions or if your functioning alcoholic spouse wants to stop drinking, call GateHouse Treatment today at (855) 844-3588. We also offer a fantastic family program that gives you and your family members a chance to heal.