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Do You Wonder Whether Your Spouse has a Drinking Problem?

separator He says he just needs to unwind sometimes, and that the beers are no big deal. She says all she wants is a little bit of fun and relaxation with her friends. You’re not sure what to believe, but there’s a feeling in your heart that the drinking isn’t okay.

Maybe it’s the embarrassment you’ve felt when your spouse drinks too much. Maybe it’s the fact that holidays often get ruined because your spouse is drunk much of the time. Maybe the fact that your spouse’s friends are heavy drinkers is a worry to you. Maybe you’re getting tired of covering up your spouse’s drinking—making excuses, in other words—to employers, friends and relatives.

Whatever the reason, you’ve reached a point where you want to address the situation, because you can’t go on like this.

How can you know for sure?
You can’t really know for sure whether there’s a drinking problem without having a consultation with a healthcare provider. But the answers to these four questions can give you something to go on, a place to start.

If your loved one would honestly answer yes to one question, it’s possible that there’s a problem. “Yes” to more than one question means that it’s highly likely there’s a problem.

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever ha d a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

But what do you do with this information? The best solution is to have your loved one see a healthcare provider to talk about a possible alcohol problem and what should be done to treat it. But you can’t force people to see a doctor if they don’t want to. Many people who have a drinking problem remain in denial about it for a long time. They become angry and argumentative when you bring up the drinking. It’s extremely difficult on you and your whole family.

What can you do about the drinking problem?
First, tell your spouse you’re concerned about the drinking. Do this when he or she is sober. It’s often a good idea to have this discussion shortly after there’s been some kind of incident related to the alcohol. Explain how the alcohol abuse is affecting your life.

Have in your mind what you want your spouse to do after this discussion. Have the number of your doctor ready, or the number of a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Tell your spouse what you will do if he or she doesn’t take steps towards recovery. You may say decide that you won’t attend any gatherings where alcohol is served. You may even say you’ll move out of the house. Whatever it is you decide on, make sure you can act on those decisions and not back down.

To help you through all of this, you need help yourself. There are many places where you can find that help.

Where can you find advice and support?
The truth is that it’s pretty rare for families to have a completely smooth experience when they decide it’s time to deal with their loved one’s drinking. People rarely like to admit they have a problem, especially one like alcoholism, which still carries quite a stigma. Someone who has a drinking problem is likely to be ashamed, embarrassed, angry, depressed …there’s a wide range of emotions, and none is especially easy to deal with on your own.

Many families do recover. Many people who have a problem with alcohol do eventually address it and get treatment, and many go on to live meaningful, alcohol-free lives.

But it can take a while to reach that point. In the meantime, you, as the spouse, need support. There are many options for you. You can join your local Al-Anon meeting, where you’ll find people like you who have had to deal with having a loved one with a drinking problem. You can talk with your doctor, who can recommend a mental health professional who specializes in alcohol and other substance abuse. You can call the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP. You can speak directly to a representative about treatment, or you can find information about local substance abuse treatment in your state.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism;
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