Living with an alcoholic can be unpredictable, confusing, and scary. It can be difficult just to admit that your loved one may be dealing with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). However, if you are living with someone who is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, it will be very important to get informed about what alcoholism is, what you may experience, and how you can help.

What is Alcoholism?

Put simply, alcoholism is an addiction to drinking alcohol. A true alcoholic will compulsively prioritize his or her relationship to alcohol above everything else in their lives. This means their relationship with their husband, wife, children, managers, money, and even the law will be negatively affected.

Even if they are normally kind, responsible, loving people, becoming addicted to alcohol will change them. There is always hope that they can return to their healthy self, it is a process. When you are trying to figure out how to handle living with an alcoholic, you should be aware of the common tendencies of alcoholics and what you can do to keep yourself healthy and help them.

What You May Experience When You’re Living with an Alcoholic

You will inevitably notice some increasingly severe problems when you’re living with an alcoholic. While it may be tempting to deny these problems and hope that things return to normal, this will only make things worse. Instead, when you are informed on the typical habits and tendencies of alcoholics, you can handle the difficulties easier and more effectively.


Addicts are notorious liars. Even if your friend or spouse was a very honest person, their addiction to alcohol can and will change their behaviors. If you know that they have a problem with alcohol, be aware that they will not always tell you the truth.

Under-Functioning and Over-Functioning

If an alcoholic continues to progress further into their addiction and dependency on alcohol, they will get deeper into trouble. This could mean financial trouble, no-showing at their job, physical fighting, domestic abuse, criminal activity, and more. Under-functioning happens when they are no longer managing their responsibilities in life and operating in roles such as employee, husband, wife, or parent.

If someone in a marriage relationship is under-functioning, the spouse will be over-functioning.

This means the spouse is picking up more of the slack and dealing with the alcoholic’s outbursts and potential trouble with the law and employment.


When you’re living with an alcoholic as their husband and wife, it is easy to blame yourself for their addiction. Alcoholism is not caused by anyone else, but blame a natural instinct that many, many spouses experience.

Stress, Anxiety, and Fear

When alcoholics are out of control, they will be angry, dishonest, and unpredictable. This naturally causes a high level of tension in the home, leaving their friends, parents, or spouses with elevated levels of stress. This added stress can cause spouses to develop emotional disorders, health problems, social problems, financial problems, and even physical violence.

What You Can Do to Help an Alcoholic

Senior Couple

When you’re living with an alcoholic, it’s easy to feel desperate. It’s also natural to try to control the situation in various ways. However, in most cases, the instincts you naturally have in response to the alcoholism will not be the most helpful. If you truly want to help the alcoholic in your life–as well as yourself–there are plenty of resources to help you become educated and equipped to do so.

Ensure Safety First

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for alcoholics to commit domestic violence. In fact, according to recent studies, the majority of people who commit domestic violence were drinking. Even when you desperately want to help the alcoholic get healthy, you need to make sure you and your family is safe first. Call the Rehab Helpline immediately if you are in danger.

Join a Support Group

It’s extremely important to find a group of people who are facing the same situation as you are. Even if you have a great community of friends and family who want to support you, they will not have the same level of understanding and tools as you will find in a support group. You can get more information on where to find a support group here.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Oftentimes, spouses who are trying to help their loved ones are actually unintentionally enabling their addiction. By learning how to set healthy, loving boundaries, you will show that you do not accept behaviors from your alcoholic like blaming or yelling. Even though it can be difficult to create these boundaries and stick to them, it is necessary for your health and for the alcoholic.

In the beginning, many friends and family members of alcoholics don’t have any boundaries and have trouble creating them. Being in the right support group will help you with this.

Set Up an Intervention

An intervention might be what your loved one needs to see how his or her behavior has gotten out of control. When you’re having an intervention, timing is extremely important. Everyone should be calm and ready to communicate openly and lovingly. You can prepare for this by packing a bag for the alcoholic and having one or a few treatment centers in mind.

Call the Alcohol Rehab Helpline for Guidance

While there are resources for alcoholism everywhere, it can be overwhelming to make the right decisions, especially when the stakes are so high. You can call the Rehab Helpline for Drugs and Alcohol at any time to talk to a professional. It is free to call, and they will help you find support groups, rehabilitation facilities, or a safe place if you are in danger.

How to Handle Living with an Alcoholic

It isn’t easy for anyone to live with an alcoholic. Accepting that there are problems is a courageous and important step. You can move forward by learning some of the tendencies of alcoholics and ways to communicate and help them. Even though it’s difficult, you are not alone. There are plenty of free resources and support available. To find them, call the Rehab Helpline for Drugs and Alcohol at 877-467-4825.