June 12th, 2023
Sharing a home with a loved one who has an alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be very difficult. Alcohol is a powerful depressant, one which has the potential to noticeably impact your loved one’s temperament and behaviour. Witnessing this unfold from such an intimate setting can lead to various emotions, from anger to helplessness and, in some cases, even depression. Therefore, when sharing a home with an alcoholic, it is vital you take precautions to protect and care for yourself. For more information about navigating such a difficult situation, look to this page to address all of your concerns.
Am I encouraging Alcoholism?
Unfortunately, the act of enabling our loved ones in their alcohol addiction is an all-too-common response, with many of us not even realising that we are doing it. Looking out to keep them safe is an understandable motivator, but it is vital that you determine whether you are simply caring or instead allowing the addict’s behaviour to continue.
You might be afraid to let go, to detach yourself from the situation at hand and leave the addict alone. Your loved one might become manipulative, using excuses to make you feel that their disorder is under control. If you are unsure whether you are enabling an addict, ask yourself if you are engaging with any of these behaviours:
- Am I giving them money?
- Have I turned a blind eye to some of their behaviours?
- Am I ignoring their addiction?
- Am I taking care of their responsibilities?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, try instead to:
- Remind them of where their addiction has taken them and that it is not sustainable to keep things as they are.
- Tell them that you love them but will not aid them in continuing their addiction.
- Suggest that they seek out help and enter an alcohol rehab programme, perhaps through staging an intervention.
Things to remember when living with an alcoholic
When living with an alcoholic, separating their problems from your own can seem near impossible. However, if you have an alcoholic partner, parent or another member of your household, your own health and that of any children in the home must be prioritised. Unfortunately, the effects of alcohol can cause people to lose control of their emotions, and you must take care of yourself and anyone else who is potentially at risk.
If you do not prioritise your well-being, you run the risk of being entirely consumed by their destructive behaviour, even engaging with some of it yourself. Therefore, it is vital to set clear boundaries when sharing a home with an alcoholic.
While each person’s experience living with an alcoholic is going to be unique and personal to them, we have compiled some general examples to represent clear, healthy boundaries that can be established to protect your space:
- No alcohol is to be allowed in the house.
- No offensive language or insults.
- No ‘friends’ or drinking partners are permitted in the house.
By communicating these boundaries with your loved one, you will be encouraged to put yourself first, ensuring that your home environment is one that is not ruled by the addiction but instead a place where you can feel you want to live.
Look after yourself
Make sure you practice self-care, looking after your own health and that of any children in your household. When life at home is getting too much to handle, you may want to consider spending some time with other family or friends. This can work as a wake-up call to your loved one, providing the catalyst for them to potentially seek treatment. Some tips for practising self-care whilst living with an alcoholic include:
- Taking part in activities that you find appealing.
- Spending time with friends and family.
- Opening up about your situation in a safe space by seeking out mental health counselling.
By engaging with your hobbies and making room for your own life, you allow yourself to become more detached from a distressing and troubling situation.
Talk to others in a similar situation
Throughout this journey, it is important to remind yourself that there are others out there who can help take the weight off your shoulders. Programmes like Al-Anon, for example, are fantastic spaces where individuals can voice their concerns and accept fellowship during difficult times.
Dos and don’ts when cohabiting with an alcoholic
- Talk to your loved one about the issue and your experience
- Prioritise your own safety and well-being and that of any children in the home
- Try to socialise and relax at home without alcohol
- Make excuses for a loved one with an alcohol use disorder
- Buy alcohol as gifts for loved ones with drinking problems
- Offer alcoholic loved ones a place to stay because they spent all their money on alcohol
- Provide money or other means for the purchase of alcohol
The effects of alcohol on families can be huge, but the power that a family can have in helping to turn the situation around is also significant. Relationships might be strained, and the atmosphere in your household could be hard to cope with at times, but it is important that you don’t encourage or facilitate any substance use disorders, including alcohol abuse.
How to help someone you live with consider quitting alcohol
Alcohol use disorder is like any other addiction, and the decision to seek support needs to be made by the person who has the problem. You can be a positive influence in the life of your loved one, however, and encourage them to get help by suggesting different treatment options. Long-term recovery from alcohol or drug use always starts with a single step, and that comes when the person recognises they have lost control and wants to make a change in their life.
If your loved one is unsure about where to start, gently encourage them to do their research on how to stop drinking, ensuring that they do so safely and with the right information.
More information about supporting your alcoholic loved one
If you are unsure of the next steps in getting your home back to the environment it once was, UKAT has several pages you can refer to for more specific information.
Living with an alcoholic husband or wife can test the love and strength of marriage in many ways, and speaking with your spouse may make them defensive or lose control of their emotions. When speaking to a partner about their alcohol use disorder, you should try and wait until they are sober. They are more likely to listen and understand the problems their drinking is causing in your relationship if they haven’t been drinking.
It can be very difficult to know how to help an alcoholic parent, particularly as many children’s emotional and mental health can suffer as a result of a parent’s drinking. Alcoholism can be particularly hard on children, and you can read our guide for advice if you are under eighteen and need a little support.
Alcoholism does not just affect children and spouses but siblings as well. Having a brother or sister with a drinking problem can also be very tough as you may be trying to support your sibling whilst also taking care of your own family. If you are in this position, speak to your parents, your sibling’s partner, or anyone else who may be able to help.