How to Help an Alcoholic Spouse

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mark Hrymoc, M.D.

Understanding how to help an alcoholic spouse requires patience, understanding, and a proactive approach. Encourage your spouse to seek professional help through therapy or support groups. Offer emotional support without enabling their behavior, and consider joining a support group to learn coping strategies. Setting boundaries is crucial for your well-being and can motivate them towards recovery.

Addressing addiction within a family, especially when it involves a spouse, requires careful navigation through emotional and psychological complexities.

Providing support while encouraging professional help from a doctor offering alcohol addiction treatment in Los Angeles is a delicate balance that demands understanding and patience.

This article explores how to help an alcoholic spouse.

Understanding Alcoholism

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder, is a medical condition characterized by an inability to manage or cease alcohol consumption despite its adverse effects on one’s health, relationships, and responsibilities.

It’s a chronic disease that can affect anyone, involving genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Understanding that alcoholism is not a choice but a complex disorder is crucial. It requires empathy, patience, and a supportive approach towards treatment and recovery.

Recognizing alcoholism as a disease helps in destigmatizing the condition, making it easier for the affected individual to seek help and support.

Recognizing the Signs of Alcoholism

Recognizing the signs of alcoholism in a spouse is essential for providing timely support and guidance toward recovery.

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, can be identified through a range of behavioral and physical symptoms that may impact relationships and daily functioning. These signs include:

  • Increased secrecy or dishonesty about alcohol consumption.
  • Experiencing frequent blackouts or memory lapses.
  • Exhibiting irritability or extreme mood swings.
  • Neglecting home or work responsibilities.
  • Encountering withdrawal symptoms in the absence of alcohol.
  • Developing a higher tolerance for alcohol.

Acknowledging these signs and approaching the situation with empathy is critical for the health and recovery of both partners.

How to Help an Alcoholic Spouse

Facing the challenge of wanting to help an alcoholic spouse can be daunting, especially with the fear of potentially exacerbating the situation.

This delicate balance often leaves individuals feeling helpless and unsure of the right approach. However, it’s important to remember that navigating this complex journey is possible with the proper support and guidance.

Here’s how to help an alcoholic spouse:

Talk with Your Spouse

Approaching your spouse about their drinking requires sensitivity and timing. Choose a moment when they’re sober, and you’re both calm.

Express your concerns without blame or judgment, focusing on the effects of their drinking on you and your relationship. Use “I” statements to communicate your feelings and the changes you’ve noticed. Encourage your spouse to share their feelings and listen actively.

This conversation isn’t about confrontation but about opening a dialogue for understanding and support.

Seek Professional Help

Out of the 2.2 million Americans with an alcohol use disorder, only about 7.6% receive treatment (NIAAA).

Encouraging your spouse to seek professional help is vital in their recovery. This might include therapy, counseling, or attending support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Professionals can offer strategies and treatments tailored to your spouse’s needs, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or medication-assisted treatment. Offer to help them research options or accompany them to appointments.

Professional intervention can provide the tools and support necessary for managing alcoholism effectively.

Set Boundaries

Setting clear and consistent boundaries is critical for your emotional and mental health and the well-being of your relationship.

Determine what behaviors you cannot accept and exercise assertive communication to set these boundaries with your spouse in a direct yet supportive manner. Boundaries may include not tolerating drinking in the house, refusing to enable their behavior, or requiring they seek help.

Following through on the consequences you’ve set if boundaries are crossed is essential.

This approach helps maintain a sense of respect and accountability in the relationship, making it clear that recovery is a shared priority.

Remember to Take Care of Yourself

Focusing on your well-being is essential when supporting a spouse with alcoholism. Engage in activities that promote your physical, emotional, and mental health.

Whether pursuing hobbies, spending time with friends, or practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques, prioritizing self-care helps maintain resilience. Additionally, seeking support through therapy or groups like Al-Anon can provide valuable coping strategies and emotional support.

Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s necessary for sustaining the strength and clarity needed to support your spouse effectively while ensuring your health and happiness.

Explore the Benefits of Addiction Treatment

Seeking professional help is a pivotal step toward recovery for those struggling with alcoholism.

The Mental Health Center can help connect you with a doctor who can provide you with an initial assessment and a personalized treatment plan for alcohol addiction treatment in Los Angeles.

Contact us to schedule an appointment today.


Helping an alcoholic spouse requires a multifaceted approach that includes understanding the nature of alcoholism, recognizing its signs, engaging in open communication, seeking professional assistance, establishing boundaries, and prioritizing self-care.

The journey towards recovery is challenging but possible with the proper support and resources.

The Mental Health Center in Los Angeles stands ready to assist individuals and their families through this process, offering hope and a path toward healing and healthier relationships.

Now that you know how to help an alcoholic spouse, contact us to take the first step together.