Living with an Alcoholic: What a Sober Partner Can Do

Living with an Alcoholic
Print icon

On good days, life seems to be exactly as you hoped – full of laughter, good conversation and shared goals. On bad days, you wonder if you’re in the same relationship at all.

Living with an alcoholic, someone with alcohol use disorder, can feel like a frenetic ride on an unpredictable and uncharted road, according to Pamela Mirante, a licensed clinical social worker at Rushford who works with clients with alcohol use disorder and their family members.

“I try to bring everyone together” she said of the recovery process. “You can’t do this separately.”

Anyone wondering if a loved one has a drinking problem, she said, can ask these questions:

  • Are they missing work or school regularly?
  • Are they disappearing for lengths of time, spending too much time in the basement or the garage?
  • Are they hiding alcohol?
  • Are they experiencing mood swings, maybe acting more argumentative than usual?
  • Has their hygiene lapsed?
  • Has there been a change in appetite and/or weight change?
  • Have they been charged with driving while under the influence (DUI)?
  • Are they lethargic?
  • Do they drink at regular times and get irritable if they can’t?
  • Are they avoiding activities they once enjoyed?

The first response to the alcoholic should always be one of love, not what’s known as “tough love,” Mirante said, adding that loved ones should broach the subject of drinking openly and honestly.

“Ask the person about it. Say, ‘Do you think you’re drinking too much?’ Whatever you’re thinking about, just ask it. You don’t want to be part of the problem in the long run,” she explained, although she quickly said the answers given may not be as truthful as the questions. “They will probably lie at first, but you need to get it out in the open.”

Because the alcoholic may lie, the sober partner is left feeling as if the problem were imagined.

“Usually, the sober partner feels crazy, wondering ‘Am I imagining this?’” Mirante said. “It’s hard to know what to do but if everything comes from a place of love and the desire to communicate, it generally works out.”

It can help the sober partner stay motivated to help, she said, by not thinking of alcoholism as a shameful disease.

“I tell people to urge their loved one to get help and then just love them to death as if they have stage four cancer,” she said. “Help them do the tough work of getting and staying sober. Support what they need to do to be sober, whether it’s getting a sponsor, going to meetings or maintaining a sober home.

“Treat alcoholism like a peanut allergy. If your loved one is allergic to peanuts, you wouldn’t have anything with peanuts in your house. Alcohol in the home of an alcoholic is just dangerous.”

While putting these steps in motion, Mirante suggested that the sober partner also seek help dealing with the disease. There are support groups for family members and parents of alcoholics seeking care through Rushford and free Al-Anon meetings elsewhere in the community.

“I see a lot of partner resentment when the alcoholic seeks help,” Mirante said. “They have new friends, get out for meetings, chat with their sponsor and the sober partner feels left out and alone. It’s especially difficult if they feel they’ve done all the work while the alcoholic was drinking – paying the bills, making excuses to family members and friends. They need an equal amount of support because it can become an unequal balance in the relationship again.”

Her goal is to “help rebuild the love and compassion in the home” and help the sober partner settle back into the role of partner or parent again. A registered certified yoga instructor, she also suggested yoga and meditation for both the sober partner and alcoholic and offers sessions at Rushford, part of Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network.

For information about alcohol abuse treatment at Rushford, click here.

 

 

 


What's New

Opioids illustration

These Three Medications Are the Best Way To Fight Opioid Epidemic

Fentanyl, the super-potent synthetic opioid that dealers and distributors have introduced into the illicit drug stream, has complicated efforts nationwide to prevent opioid-overdose deaths. Fentanyl, inexpensive to manufacture in “basement labs,” is being added to opioids and cocaine to stretch supplies and boost the highs, according to Dr. J. Craig Allen,...

Suicide Prevention

IOL Sets Conference as Part of World Suicide Prevention Day

As American healthcare progresses on many fronts, trends around suicide remain alarming with the Centers for Disease Control saying the suicide rate is the highest it’s been since World War II. Consider these statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: In 2017, there were 13.42 suicides per 100,000 people....

Millennials' health

Why Are Millennials Less Healthy Than Gen Xers?

So often, people say “it’s an age thing,” but in the case of millennials, poor health may be directly related to their age, and their regular use of social media and electronic devices. According to a report issued as part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Association “Health of...

Jeffrey Flaks

Leadership Change at Hartford HealthCare

Hartford HealthCare has named Jeffrey A. Flaks its President and Chief Executive Officer, effective Sept. 1. Flaks succeeds Elliot Joseph, who has been Hartford HealthCare’s Chief Executive Officer since 2013. Joseph made the decision to retire after leading the organization for more than 10 years. “For several years, the Hartford...


Program Spreads Hope, Health and Healing for Abused Children and Teens

The eighth grader knew she needed to tell someone. She turned to her school guidance counselor and revealed her uncle had touched her inappropriately the night before. How could she go home? Several blocks away, a teen-aged girl was sexually assaulted by a former boyfriend. Traumatized, she would later tell...


More Screen Time? It’s Now Part of Teens’ Mental Health Treatment

By Dr. Paul Weigle Psychiatrist, Natchaug Hospital Contrary to what you may think, video games, social media and related digital technology can actually improve the mental health of our younger generation. This is not to say Little Johnny should be allowed to lock himself in the basement and play Fortnite around...

Rushford sign.

Dr. Silverman announces retirement

After 18 years developing education program at Rushford, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network (BHN), Samuel Silverman, MD, will retire on July 5, 2019. Dr. Silverman, director of medical education, will step down from his duties as program director of Rushford’s Addiction Medicine Fellowship. Known to many as...