How to start looking after yourself
Are you married to an alcoholic, or are you living with a partner who has an alcohol problem?
Are you increasingly worried about your partner’s drinking?
If so, I really hope the information here will help you to get a better insight into the relationship dynamics. Perhaps it will also help you to make some important decisions.
I can only imagine how desperate you may be feeling. And so the very best I can do for you right now is to give you the information you need to start feeling strong again. I want you to believe in yourself – I know you can tackle the problems. Doubtless you’ve been through tough times before. You can do this too!
Let’s start by taking a look at the warning signs of alcoholism. Then we’ll look at the issue of codependency, and at ways to help you cope.
Are you really living with an alcoholic spouse or partner?
If so, I imagine that all too often you’re feeling hurt, frustrated, angry, worried, sad and disappointed. I suspect there have also been times when you’ve felt embarrassed and ashamed.
If you have children, you’ve no doubt worried about the impact of your partner’s drinking on them too. You may even have wondered whether it’s you who has the problem. It’s likely that your partner’s tried to make you believe that his or her alcohol intake is no more than normal, and that you’re being melodramatic.
So you’re now looking for some confirmation of your suspicions – you want to know that you can trust your own judgement. You want to know that it’s not you, and if there’s anything you can do to help stop your partner sliding into the abyss.
Let’s start, then, with the warning signs from your perspective…
Warning signs that your partner is a problem drinker
I can so understand it if you keep hoping that things will improve. That if only you cared more, loved more, shouted more, cried more or told them how you feel yet again, then they would moderate their drinking.
Unfortunately, all of that would only put you too at greater risk of longer-term psychological problems. And it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference. Any attempt at a change of behaviour would almost certainly just be a temporary one. But I suspect you’re already aware of that.
If you’re still not sure, do also read my article: Stages of Alcoholism.
The most important decision you can make
There’s only one thing that‘s likely to bring about any change. It’s if you make a really important and significant decision. You decide that from now on, you’re going to take responsibility only for your own thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It’s the only way to make dealing with an alcoholic manageable.
This change in your behaviour may prompt a change in your partner’s, either for better or for worse. Nevertheless, you’re going to be focusing on yourself. You’re going to get back in the driving seat of your life and create the life you want. It might mean instigating a breakup – even if it’s just a temporary one. And making that decision is the very best thing you can do for your spouse or partner!
There’s nothing else you can do about your alcoholic spouse
It’s okay to confront your partner with how you’re feeling, and let them know that from now on you’ll be focusing on you. That may include telling them that you’re considering ending the relationship. That’s not to try to shock him or her and manipulate them into taking action, but to make it clear that you may have to split up to simply give yourself a chance to heal.
You may find my Comprehensive Relationship Test helpful in actually making that decision – even if you’re not ready to take action right now.
Does the very idea of making a life for yourself, including potentially ending your relationship, fill you with horror? If so, there may be something else going on…
Codependency and symptoms of alcoholism
The Mirriam-Webster dictionary⧉ defines codependency as:
For sure, codependency is a problem in many such relationships – to a greater or lesser extent.
However, I have a real problem with the blanket statement that if one is an alcoholic, the other is co-dependent!
What does a codependent relationship look like?
You may see your partner as a taker. The question is, then, to what extent are you the caretaker. In a healthy relationship, both partners take from each other and take care of each other. In a codependent relationship, both partners are on opposite sites of the continuum: one only takes, and the other only gives.
Here’s a test to help you become aware of where you are on that spectrum…
(Oh, just before you have a look – this is in no way designed as a judgement of you. You’ll have your own entirely valid reasons for thinking, feeling and acting the way you do.)
Do you need codependency counselling or treatment?
Let me answer the latter first. No, you don’t need treatment. You’re not ill!
However, if you’ve discovered that you are codependent, then codependency counselling is absolutely the very best way to help you overcome it.
In any case, the very fact that you’re on this page means that your husband or wife is most probably an alcoholic. Sharing your concerns, therefore, with a professional counsellor and getting their support and advice can certainly speed up your recovery. You can (re)create your identity – free from what’s happening with your partner.
To help you both (re)build a healthier relationship and focus on all the positives, you’ll find my Loving Communication Kit for Couples really useful.
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Self-help for when your partner, husband or wife is an alcoholic, and/or you’re in a codependent relationship
I would love you to seek counselling to help you get over that codependency. But, I would also like you to choose something right now from the following by way of self-help…
You too can set boundaries when you’re married to an alcoholic
Here’s why and how you can stop being a caregiver, yet still be a loving partner…
You can also learn more about what you can do to help by contacting Al-Anon, a group set-up by and for people just like you. You may find it a relief to know that other partners are going through much the same as you.
You probably already know your wife or husband is an alcoholic. Do yourself and them a favour now – focus on yourself. Don’t wait any longer before you take some decisive action when you know you’re living with an alcoholic.
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