Jan 10, 2018 | By Kylah Strohte

How To Live With An Alcoholic


Living with an alcoholic can have it’s ups and downs – literally. The chaos and uncertainty of an alcoholic’s actions and unpredictable emotions can keep loved ones walking on eggshells and living in fear of what’s to come. The precarious lifestyle can set off an emotional roller-coaster for all involved. When there is no outside help, the turmoil and uneasiness of life behind closed doors can spiral down and leave the family holding resentments, anger and living on apprehensive ground. When family members seek out help, it can be a catalyst for change – if all are willing.

How to Live with an Alcoholic

Anyone, especially children, will have hurtful and lifelong memories of these events when there is an alcoholic parent living in the household. The psychological damage that occurs from living with an alcoholic can leave it’s mark on the psyche of everyone who must endure the angry outbursts, broken promises, and the squandering of household finances. A healing process, with guidance and insight, is possible for those who suffer from the ravages of an alcoholic parent or loved one.

Characteristics of Alcoholism

It is important for family members and friends to be able to identify the symptoms of alcoholism so that they can understand why their loved one is acting in an abusive manner. Alcoholism is a disease, and it needs to be treated by professionals who understand both the physical and mental aspects of this disorder.

Some obvious symptoms are:

  • Craving of alcohol
  • Inability to stop drinking
  • Need for an alcoholic drink in the morning

Some less obvious symptoms are:

  • Unexplained injuries or accidents
  • Neglecting important activities with family and friends
  • Building up tolerance to alcohol to have a desired reaction

These are only a few of the many symptoms that will point to someone being an alcoholic.

The Dangers of Living with an Alcoholic

Any adult or child who has lived with an alcoholic experiences physical and mental perils that affect them in almost every aspect of their lives. When an alcoholic becomes angry or threatened, physical violence may be the weapon of choice toward family members.

One of the most costly results of an alcoholic’s impaired judgement is driving while drunk. Damage from drunk driving not only happens to the driver, it also creates financial and medical hardships for the other victims of a vehicle crash. When bank accounts and credit cards are tapped out to pay for alcohol, a family suffers from the stress of financial obligations that can’t be paid.

Children who must live with alcoholism in their family isolate themselves from their friends and adults to deal with the shame and helplessness they feel in their daily lives. The emotional attachments that children and spouses have to an alcoholic make it hard for them to be objective about the destructive behavior of their loved one.

Enabling Alcoholics

One of the most helpful contributions to the recovery of alcoholics is to refrain from the act of enabling them, despite your feelings of compassion or obligation. When the rent is due, you may feel heartless to deny your son or daughter the money they need to keep a roof over their head. Providing your spouse with an alibi for missing work is enforcing the alcoholic’s network of people who are willing to be an accomplice to the avoidance of dealing with everyday struggles.

It is hard to admit to people outside the family circle that a loved one has a drinking problem. Denial is the first inclination, but refusing to face the problem is another form of enabling. Making excuses, allowing manipulation, and taking on additional responsibilities to cover for the alcoholic are all ways that well-meaning people allow an alcoholic to continue their harmful behavior.

Living with an alcoholic requires the courage and commitment to step away from the alcoholic’s problems. The act of detachment is hard for someone to accept as a way to help an alcoholic, but constantly focusing on the triggers that make someone drink excessively will only intensify the addiction. Abstaining from rescuing the alcoholic when they get themselves into trouble will create motivation within the addict to seek and accept help from treatment centers and support groups.

Treatment Centers

When an alcoholic agrees to enter a treatment center, careful research should be the first step in choosing a facility that will give the patient the best possible outcome. A treatment center that promises quick results may not be the best choice, but a facility that understands the complexity of alcoholism will be more thorough in creating a treatment plan that presents more realistic goals rather than shallow promises. Questions should be asked and answers should be verified.

Once a patient is admitted into a treatment center, the attitude and cooperation of the alcoholic will make the stay either successful or disappointing. The family members of an alcoholic may hear multiple complaints. Some may include the painful detoxification process or the lack of privacy, but they may also hear about the recreational time and the much-needed sessions with a therapist. While the length of alcohol rehab can range anywhere from one week to 6 months, the family of an alcoholic should understand that recovery is a lifelong journey.

Support Groups

A crucial part of the healing process ends when the patient is discharged. But it’s still just the beginning of the journey.  Another significant step still needs to be taken. Support groups will give the alcoholic a helping hand in reinforcing the courage it took to accept treatment in the first place.

Beating alcoholism is tough. Having an understanding group of people to share thoughts, fears and victories, can make the battle worthwhile. Support groups are a vital part of the recovery plan for an alcoholic, and they should never be dismissed as time wasted. The most well-known group is Alcoholics Anonymous. It wasn’t founded by doctors or mental health professionals, but by people who saw the benefit in alcoholics sharing their stories with each other. People from all walks of life and age groups have benefited from this organization and others like it.


There can be light at the end of the tunnel if you live with an alcoholic. You must persevere in not neglecting your own needs, but by also helping and emotionally supporting the person who is fighting alcoholism.

One response to “How To Live With An Alcoholic

  • Albert Martin

    5 years ago


    I’m in recovery myself and battled endlessly until i was finally beaten enough to A) ask for help and B) put in the work required to overcome the illness. I was expelled from school, messed up exams and stole from family and friends constantly to drink. I was diagnosed with alcoholism at the age of 18, i attended my first in patient treatment program at the age of 19 suffice to say i was not ready or willing to change. I played and manipulated my loved ones constantly in order to obtain the funds and means to continue my using with little to no regard of what i was doing to them or putting them through. when i was 22 i thought i had enough, lost the girl i though i was in love with and after another drinking spree which involved yet another hospital visit i thought i was ready so i rocked up at the doors of AA in London ready to give it a go and i did, i went through the 12 steps and worked the program on a daily basis, i wish i could leave it there but Alcohol and drugs are subtle foes… I stopped the meetings and stopped working the program, finished university still sober and the girl had come back into my life. I was offered a job in New York and decided i could drink again, the brakes came off and very quickly the insanity returned, i was posted to Dubai and the binges came closer and closer together needless to say the girl left again and the family started to push me away. After i was fired i returned to London and tried AA again, i went in and out multiple times in a 3 year period managing to obtain 3-6 weeks of sobriety each time, i had multiple sponsors who tried to help me but in my mind they were the fault and the reason i kept going in and out, My father ever loyal ensured i wasnt homeless and supported me in many ways which i used with efficiency. I WAS incapable of taking responsibility and being honest with anyone including myself, the usual things happened Homelessness, Destitution, Bankruptcy, multiple hospital visits and countless relationships. I moved to Asia for work and again the drinking continued destined for 6 feet under i continued and give up on AA and sobriety. What happened for me the in was divine intervention and love from my father. As i sat in my flat (now in Marocco) i was sitting drinking alone as usual, having just been fired from job number 25, something happened, a real gift. I saw my life go before me, (it didn’t look good) then i had a flash that i could change and the sudden urge to do so over took me.

    I opted and was fortunate enough for my father to give me the opportunity to attend a in treatment rehab in South Africa (6th treatment centre), which i jumped at with all haste, the game was up for me and i could feel it in my heart the drinking was done. Furthermore alcohol was not doing what i wanted it do, felt miserable with and with out it, if i was to continue the doctors would have been rite and i would be dead by 30. I went down to SA attended treatment in a facility which prides itself on being the final treatment center you will ever need. A lot of foreigners go there due to the costs and environments being much nicer than other places. I got involved in the program and picked up a new sponsor, My father supported me and now my family are back in my life, my friends are back, i have a piece and serenity which is more wonderful as time passes and have a career in a industry i never thought i would be in.

    I’m now 28 and life is opening up, what i’m trying to say is, i had to beat myself into the ground many times before i was willing to help myself, what people told me went over my head and i wasn’t interested int here help. I got ready to listen and opened up. Went through the steps which changed my whole outlook and attitude. I did it for me and so i didn’t have to be that person again. This is a illness that centers in the mind and tells the carrier they don’t have it. I help others now and give back, when i look back on who i was i cringe and cant believe who that guy is. Most importantly i give back and im there for my family who now trust me. Dont give up, there is a way out and there are people willing to help. i’m more than willing.

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