How do I help my husband get over his drinking addiction?

Meg Elam
Meg Elam
Addiction and Wellness Specialist
Does your husband WANT to get over his drinking addiction?  Motivation is a critical component of recovery....and it can't be just your motivation!   When a loved one is immersed in their addiction, we often feel as though we have lost them.  When he is ready to get help there are a lot of wonderful programs out there including: AA meetings, SMART recovery, faith based programs and online services.  It is always a good idea to have a medical evaluation prior to making major adjustments to your drinking patterns as his body may literally be dependent on alcohol.  

In the meantime, what you do have 100% control over is what you accept in your life and the boundaries you set to protect your well being.  Spend some time focusing on what you want in your life?  What are some changes you can make to protect yourself?  Maybe it's time you saw a therapist, joined a support group, engaged in a new hobby!  And...try not to "rescue" your husband too much!  Natural consequences can be a great thing for our loved ones that are struggling in their addiction.  
The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

Acknowledgment from your husband and wiling to make changes is essential first.  We often try to force people to make changes hoping that they will see that we are right, even when they may not be ready.  Having a willingness to work together and be supportive is fundamental in recovery.  If he is not quite there yet I would snuggest individual therapy for yourself where you have an outlet and can also gain suggestions on what the next steps might be. If he is ready I would suggest you engage in therapy together and be ready to listen to him and what his needs might be. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Karen Keys, LMHC, CASAC, NCC
Karen Keys, LMHC, CASAC, NCC
Recovery and Wellness Expertise
It's not easy to be married to an alcoholic and I want to extend my support to you.  Without knowing the pattern of his substance use, I'll accept your description that he is an addict. 

The short version is that his addiction is not in your hands. Period. However, addiction is a "family disease", so you are definitely connected to it. Most people benefit from professional help, whether they are the addict or the other person. You might read some material from al-anon to improve your insight into how addiction works within relationships. It is safe to say that you are likely to have a role as a "co-dependent" or "enabler". The most common pattern is doing overt and subtle things that insulate the addict from the consequences of their behaviors. From calling out sick for the person when they're hung-over to allowing money to pay for alcohol, to simply remaining in the relationship, these are all behaviors that make the addiction more likely to continue. 

Change is difficult for all of us, especially when a physical dependency on a substance may be involved. But the awkward truth is that not one of us ever made a change unless we were in at least some pain. Pain in our present circumstance is a requirement to achieve change. By "enabling" your husband, you minimize that pain. Let me state again, though, that his addiction is not in your control and it's not for you to fix. You can, however, change your own behaviors in ways that might change his odds. Even if he does not get over his drinking addiction, as a general rule, you will be happier if you stop being a participant in it. 

Many people find that an addiction removes the addict from the relationship -- they're not really there, even if they appear to be. At the same time, there's a third person -- the substance. Some people choose not to remain in a relationship that's constructed in this odd and off-balance way.

I hope that gives you some thought-starters but I would encourage you to seek in-person help from a local provider. And I wish for you and your husband recovery and well-being. Best regards,
Karen Keys, LMHC, CASAC



The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

By being truthful with him about how his drinking affects you.

People who are addicted to a substance, have tremendous emotional pain they are covering up.  The only action someone who would like to help, can do, is to be truthful when loving the person.

Show your love and express your own wishes on what you'd like from him.   

This may encourage him to try loving you back instead of drinking to feel better about himself.

It also may not since addictions are the result of behavior patterns set very early in life.

My best advice is to stay clear that your love is no guarantee he will want to look at his deep emotional pain, clean it out and be open to loving you and to stop harming himself with excess alcohol.

Keep in mind that his problem of great emotional pain, can only be solved by him.  Try not to get lost into offering more help than he is able to utilize.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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