How to Help an Alcoholic Husband

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 15th, 2022

Content Overview

Watching your husband struggling with alcoholism is one of the most terrifying and heartbreaking experiences a wife can ever go through. It’s inevitable to be drowning in emotions, from being powerless, overwhelmed, angry and devastated all at once. You need to help him, but maybe you’re not able to create the actual plan of how to do it? Alcoholism is a complicated disease which is difficult to describe, and healing from it is even more difficult. At times it might seem like your partner is willing, even desperate, to stop drinking; at other times, however, maybe you feel like he has no intention to cease his harmful habits.

During these times of hopelessness, you may feel like giving up, thinking about admitting defeat. However, despair, although a common trait of the recovery process, should not be the ruling emotion. It is possible to win this battle, so long as you do not give up!. The good news is that, although you won’t be able to save him, you may be able to influence him to make the right choices about treatment and recovery. Rest assured that, here in the UK, there are plenty of both free and private addiction treatment services which can help you find the best approach to aiding your husband to heal from his addiction.

Does My Husband Have an Alcohol Problem?

Before taking the next steps, it is important that you understand what your husband’s alcoholism involves. Only with a fuller understanding will you be able to assess properly whether or not your husband does have an addiction to alcohol.

Alcoholism is usually described as alcohol use which follows a pattern. This involves problems with controlling your drinking, too often feeling preoccupied with alcohol, a continuous drinking practice, even though this may be causing health-related or other problems, upping the amount of drinks or the alcohol percentage to achieve the same effects as before or having withdrawal symptoms when decreasing or ceasing alcohol intake.

This means that alcohol use disorder, another name for alcoholism, is not about your husband going down to the pub with his mates and having a few too many once a week. If your husband really does suffer from an alcohol use disorder that means that he is no longer able to control and moderate his drinking, regardless of where and when he is drinking. If he is using excuses or is saying he’s going out for a drink, but is always back late and drunk – he may be suffering from alcoholism.

The following signs may help you determine whether your husband is suffering from alcoholism or not:

Signs Your Husband May Be Struggling with Alcoholism

  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies. 
  • Constantly going out, without inviting you or even sharing whom he’s going out with.  
  • He’s only interested in spending time with people if it involves drinking.
  • He is regularly tired, moody or unwell. 
  • He prefers to spend time alone when at home. 
  • He gets drunk most days.
  • He seems overly anxious or seriously depressed. 
  • You have noticed him becoming more secretive and dishonest. 
  • Constantly hungover. 
  • Easily angered and less in control of his emotions.  
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and appearance. 
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How Do I Approach My Husband about His Drinking Habits?

We can say that there are seven steps to successfully communicate the issue and begin a process of understanding the problem:

Communication – Communicating with your husband is different to just talking to him. This is a process and it’s an ongoing one. You communicate in both verbal and non-verbal ways. try to emphasise on what makes you feel uncomfortable around him when he’s drunk.

Discussion – Sitting beneath the communication umbrella, to discuss means to find the time to talk to your husband about your worries and concerns.

Listening – Once you have spoken to your husband, you need to listen to his responses, politely and without interrupting.

Finding solutions – There will be options available for your husband, talk them through with him and decide together. He will feel better having you involved in the process.

Decision-making – Decide on what actions need to be taken and help your husband be realistic. Encourage him to start with things that are achievable for him at each step.

Time to act – Practice what you agreed to do. Maintain your boundaries and support your husband without enabling him.

Progress analysis – Did you both do what you’d agreed to do? If so, have you discussed it and congratulated each other? Keep in mind that this is a difficult path to navigate; there will be bumps on the road. Just don’t give up.

Things to Avoid

  • Don’t nag; share.
  • Don’t try to teach him; show him.. 
  • Don’t judge, respect. 
  • Don’t blame; understand.
  • Don’t threaten, give incentives.
  • Don’t demand, make the goal desired. 
  • Don’t focus on the past, use it as a stepping stone. 

How Can I Help My Husband into Treatment?

The best way to help your husband get into residential treatment for alcoholism is to help him research the options. If your husband is expressing a desire or willingness to talk about alcohol rehab then that is a huge step in the right direction. Offer to speak to treatment facilities for him, or go with him to look at rehabs that he feels could be best suited to him. Help him decide what is important to him about his treatment and the place he stays.

Throughout the whole process make sure your husband knows that you fully support him and reassure him that you will be there to support him throughout the rehab process, and when he comes out of treatment. Find out if there is anything he needs you to do whilst he is away, to ensure that his transition back into his normal life is as smooth as possible. Reassure your husband that you will visit him in rehab if that’s what he’d like.

Private Alcohol Treatment vs NHS Outpatient Services

In the United Kingdom, you have the possibility of picking between private and public drug and alcohol treatment services. The NHS provides a limited amount of free drug and alcohol services. There are, however, certain problems with the services provided by the NHS such as long waiting times, and limited availability, as well as funding, for residential treatment. For that reason, many people prefer to use private treatment facilities.

Below are the pros and cons of both private and NHS drug and alcohol treatment:

  • Admission process – you will always be able to find somewhere private that will be able to accept you within 24 hours however with the NHS there is likely to be a lengthy admissions process, and you are never guaranteed a place somewhere.
  • Therapeutic community – It is much easier to create bonds and friendships with other people in treatment with you when you are in a private treatment centre, NHS treatment is unlikely to be in a residential rehab so the community is dispersed and therefore those in NHS treatment will not have the same network of support that those involved in a private treatment’s aftercare programme will have.
  • Continuity – in a private rehab you will likely be treated by the same staff throughout your whole treatment process, and all the treatment will be on one site. With the NHS treatments, you will most likely need to travel to different clinics or centres for different treatments and will be treated by whichever member of staff is on duty there that day.
  • Therapies – Private rehabs often have access to many more therapists and therapeutic modalities such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. Furthermore, private rehabs may provide free aftercare and support programme for family and friends affected by the alcoholic’s behaviour.
  • Cost – NHS treatment is free and accessible to everyone. Private treatment is more expensive that treatment on the NHS.

My Husband Refuses to Seek Treatment – What Should I do?

It can be really frustrating and scary if your husband is refusing to seek treatment, but you must try not to panic. Instead of threatening him, or trying to force him, the best thing you can do is make sure that you are fully educated around addiction in order to try to understand what he is going through.

Ensure that your husband knows that you still support him, even if he doesn’t want to go into treatment right away. Don’t withdraw your support because he is refusing to access treatment, or try to guilt-trip him into it; threats, guilt trips etc, just won’t work.

As hard as it might be, try to positively encourage him to do the right thing. Reach out to friends for support, or if your children are grown up, then check in with them regularly too as you will all be feeling equally as desperate and frustrated. If you are really worried about your husband’s immediate safety, there is always the possibility of an intervention that you could consider.

Can I Force My Husband into Treatment?

The simple truth is, no – you can’t force your husband into treatment. Forcing it won’t really help. One of the key ingredients to a successful treatment programme is an honest, heartfelt desire to be sober. If he hasn’t reached that stage yet, try to work it out with him – find the positives of sobriety, discuss, listen and respect your set boundaries until he is ready. Unless your husband can admit that he has a problem, and wants to do something about it, it is unlikely that any rehab will be able to help him long-term.


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