Regarding gender differences surrounding excessive alcohol consumption, men are more likely than women to drink too much, including both episodic binging and heavy drinking. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an estimated 15.1 million adults aged 18 and older battled alcohol addiction in the U.S. in 2015. Of those, 9.8 million were male, approximately up 8.4 percent of the male population in this age group. Some of these were an alcoholic husband struggling with compulsive alcohol consumption among this large group of men, and only 7.4 percent had received treatment in the past year.
Immoderate drinking is also associated with substantial increases in short- and long-term risks to individuals’ health and safety. Yearly, an estimated 62,000 men die from alcohol-related causes in the U.S., accounting for more than 70 percent of the 88,000 alcohol-related deaths per year. Heavy alcohol use can also increase aggression which can increase the risk of physical assault.
Although alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD) can affect everyone, it can be especially challenging for the spouses of men who battle this disease. Often they experience psycho-emotional, physical, and social trauma related to their partner’s problematic drinking. Research has indicated that substance abuse might co-exist in as many as 40-60 percent of all incidents of intimate partner violence.
For these reasons and others, if your husband is struggling with an AUD, it’s essential to understand how to best approach the topic of treatment, to learn more about what professional addiction treatment involves, and to identify what steps you should take to keep you and your family safe should the situation turn hostile or violent. Alcoholism is a complex yet very treatable disease that can be managed through intensive, specialized programs to help individuals regain control of their well-being and begin to sustain a life of sobriety.
Am I Married to an Alcoholic Husband?
People who can no longer control their alcohol use experience emotional distress when they are not drinking or compulsively abuse it despite adverse consequences may suffer from an alcohol use disorder. AUD is diagnosed based on a person meeting specific criteria defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). To be diagnosed with AUD, a person must meet at least two of the below criteria within the same 12-month period:
- Being unable to reduce alcohol use despite a desire and multiple attempts to do so
- Drinking alcohol in higher amounts or for a more prolonged period than initially intended
- Spending significant time obtaining, using, and recovering from alcohol’s effects
- Cravings or strong urges to consume alcohol
- The development of tolerance, such as needing to drink increasingly large or more frequent amounts of alcohol to achieve the sought-after effects
- Using alcohol in dangerous situations, such as driving or operating machinery
- Being unable to fulfill significant obligations at home, work, or school because of alcohol use
- Continuing to abuse alcohol despite adverse interpersonal or social problems that are likely due to alcohol consumption
- Giving up previously enjoyed or important social, occupational, or recreational activities in favor of alcohol use
- Continuing to abuse alcohol despite a psychological or physical problem due to alcohol use.
- Developing withdrawal symptoms when attempts are made to stop using alcohol
Host an Intervention
Being motivated to getting sober and seeking treatment for alcohol addiction takes determination. Yet, often, individuals struggling with alcohol may not immediately be receptive to discussing treatment options or admitting that they even have a problem in the first place. If your spouse isn’t yet willing to seek treatment, it may be time to consider staging an intervention.
An intervention is a process that may involve a health provider, substance abuse counselor, or an intervention specialist along with loved ones. During an intervention, the discussion will revolve around expressing to the individuals that his addiction affects you and urge him to seek professional help.
Participants in an invention will also be asked to provide specific examples in advance, offer a pre-arranged treatment program, and provide outcomes for him if he refuses to seek help. Regardless of the consequences put forth, you will need to be prepared to carry them out if he doesn’t initially agree to treatment.
Here are some other ways to prepare for a discussion with a spouse:
1) Only try to communicate with him when he is sober and receptive to what you have to say. Sometimes, it may take multiple small, honest, and straightforward conversations to get your point across successfully.
2) Educate yourself on the disease of alcoholism and potential treatment options near you.
3) Consider seeking out support for yourself through a counselor, therapist, or support group.
4) If you ever feel unsafe physically or mentally in your home when your husband is under the influence of alcohol, seek professional assistance immediately. Do not try to handle the situation on your own.
5) Avoid taking his drinking personally—it’s not your fault.
6) Maintain the family schedule regardless of his decisions to keep some sense of normalcy and balance at home.
How to Cope Throughout the Treatment Process
Once your spouse has agreed to treatment, the real work will begin—for both him, you, and your family, as well. As you both work through this new way of life, you may encounter feelings of anger, resentment, or sadness. This is entirely normal. But remember to engage in self-care and don’t blame yourself or feel guilty for his behavior.
One of the most vital things to do while your husband is going through treatment is to ensure you are taking proper care of yourself and your loved ones, both emotionally and physically. One way to do this is by seeking comradery in the form of peer support groups, such as Al-Anon, which offers recovery help for loved ones of those battling alcoholism.
Whether your spouse is working toward recovery in a residential or outpatient setting, it is also a good idea to establish healthy boundaries with consequences for when he is around. This could mean that you temporarily reside with family or friends if he relapses until they have decided to get sober again.
But also understand that relapse is prevalent, as addiction is a disease and has a 40-60 percent relapse rate—similar to other chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes. Be prepared for this to happen and have a plan in place so that you know what to do in this event.
Getting Professional Treatment
Recovery is often a lifelong process that certainly does not end once treatment is completed. But with the proper approach to rehab, a solid support network, and aftercare services, you, your spouse, and your family can go on to live healthier, more fulfilling lives.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer individualized, multifaceted, long-term programs that treat alcohol and drug abuse. Our approach includes evidence-based services and therapeutic activities intended to help individuals from a holistic perspective and promote long-lasting sobriety and wellness.