Jan 19

How to Help an Alcoholic Spouse – Alberta, Canada

Being married or living common-law with someone who is struggling with an alcohol use disorder is heartbreaking and frustrating in many ways. Perhaps the person has tried several times to end their addiction or maybe the addiction has just begun after decades of marriage. Maybe the spouse was a high-functioning alcoholic, coping with job stresses and consuming large quantities of alcohol at the same time, without appearing to struggle, but they are now beginning to suffer serious consequences as time progresses. Whatever the situation is in your home it has pushed you to seek help. At Canada Drug Rehab we can help you get the answers you need and help you and your spouse break the chains of alcoholism. We can be reached right here in Alberta at 1-888-245-6887 so don’t hesitate to get started. It is never too early to stop a potential addiction but if you aren’t sure let’s continue on.

Is my spouse an Alcoholic? If you find yourself asking that question, it’s imperative that you learn the answer for the sake of your marriage, the health of your partner and your own peace of mind. In an ideal scenario, you would gather information, initiate a conversation, and your husband or wife would realize they need help and agree to get it immediately. The reality, unfortunately, paints a far different picture which is why it’s critical for you to begin taking care of yourself immediately. Living in the shadow of impending alcoholism is difficult enough, but the longer it goes unaddressed, the greater the toll it will take on your marriage.

10 Signs Your Loved Has a Problem With Alcohol

Alcohol Misuse can be classified as Mild, Moderate or Severe – the latter of which is what, in layman’s terms, is considered alcoholism. It is said 1 out of 10 people have a problem with addiction or alcoholism in Alberta so chances are you know someone if not your spouse.

If it’s someone close to you, it may be enough of a concern that you want to offer help — but how do you know for sure? There are a number of warning signs you can look for that may reveal whether someone you love may need help

  1. Their entire social life revolves around alcohol. They’re enthusiastic about events where alcohol will be available and tend to avoid ones that do not. Every social function or celebration has to involve alcohol.
  2. They drink to relieve stress. If they’re having a bad day, they’re counting down the minutes until they can get relief from a drink.
  3. They get defensive about their drinking. If someone suggests they should cut back or stop, they grow resentful, even angry; they make excuses for why they drink or point to peers who drink just as much as examples of how they couldn’t possibly have a problem.
  4. They have a high tolerance. They can put away several beers, drinks or shots and show no overt signs of being drunk, and people often talk about how they can hold their liquor.
  5. Their personalities change when they’re under the influence. If they’re shy, they become gregarious; if they’re closed off, they become overly emotional; if they’re gentle, they become aggressive.
  6. They drink in the mornings, or excessively at lunch, or at other periods of the day when other people do not. They often take steps to hide this fact, such as excessive teeth-brushing or mouthwash consumption.
  7. They don’t know when to quit. Even if they set a limit like I’m only going to have three drinks tonight; they seldom, if ever, adhere to their own boundaries, and they push to keep the party going even after everyone else is ready to call it a night.
  8. They’re suffering consequences from over-indulgence DWI/DUI arrests, job losses, failures in school. They may not even see the correlation between their drinking and those consequences, instead of blaming others such as overbearing bosses, zealous cops or obtrusive professors for the problems their drinking has caused.
  9. They make rash decisions while under the influence insisting they’re OK to drive or leaving the bar with a complete stranger, or other actions that sober judgment would prevent them from undertaking.
  10. They show physical and emotional symptoms of alcohol withdrawal trembling hands, profuse sweating, extreme irritability and other hallmarks of acute alcohol detoxification, all of which are usually ratified by a drink.

What Can I Do?

You might be just questioning where or not your spouse is an alcoholic. In some Alberta marriages, the answer is a clear-cut and definitive answer. If she polishes off a bottle of wine every night and passes out in the living room, that’s a pretty obvious sign. If he hits the bar after work and stumbles through the door sometime in the a.m. hours, that’s also a pretty obvious sign.

In other cases, however, it’s not so obvious. You may have your suspicions such as why does he spend so much time in the garage? Why is there a pint bottle in the back of her closet? But without concrete proof, it’s not a conversation you’re ready to have.

Make no mistake, though If your husband or wife has a drinking problem, it’s a conversation you’re going to have to have eventually. So what can you do in the meantime? 

Five Ways to Educate and Care for Yourself in Alberta

Here are five ways to educate and take care of yourself and be there for your spouse when the time comes for them to do something about it.

1. Recognize That Alcoholism is a Disease

The most important thing you, as a spouse, can do is to further educate yourself through the lens of science and medicine and not the echo chamber of armchair physicians on social media. You’ll find that most Alberta resources will tell you that Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic.

Even though scientists and physicians have continued to regard it as a disease, however, alcoholism still faces a great deal of public scrutiny and scorn, mostly because it’s different from most other diseases, according to a 1996 scientific paper titled The Natural History of Alcoholism. First, it generally develops slowly over a person’s life and can occur in people of all ages. Second, it has no single known cause. Heredity, culture, economics, and the environment all contribute to its development, and each alcoholic has his or her own personal drinking history. Third, both alcoholics and their alcohol-related disabilities can change over time.

Knowing the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence is important in clarifying our understanding of problematic drinking. Alcohol dependence, often referred to as alcoholism, occurs when an individual is physically or psychologically dependent on drinking alcohol. Alcohol abuse, which includes binge drinking, is present when there is the recurrent harmful use of alcohol despite negative consequences. Both conditions are now classified by the (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as alcohol use disorder (AUD).

2. Understand You’re Not Alone

When alcohol (or the suspicion of a spouse’s overindulgence) has created marital turmoil, it can seem like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Much of that has to do with the stigma that still surrounds alcoholism. You may feel worried, angry, alone and afraid.  Perhaps you are trying to hide your private life from friends, co-workers, and even family to cover up the problems created by addiction or alcoholism with your spouse. Your shame isn’t warranted; nonetheless, you still may feel responsible for your spouse’s actions.

Again at least one in ten Albertans will have an alcohol or drug misuse issue and while that may bring you little comfort if the spouses of those individuals aren’t talking about it any more than you are, there are resources out there of which you can take advantage so you don’t feel so isolated. One, in particular, Al-Anon, is specifically for the family members and loved ones of alcoholics. It’s a companion program to Alcoholics Anonymous, but your spouse doesn’t even have to admit he or she has a problem for you to start working on your own self-care. Your spouse doesn’t have to go to AA for you to go to Al-Anon. In other words, you can attend meetings at which you can meet and bond with other spouses, many of whom may offer you comforting insight, important feedback or just a sounding board off which you can bounce your concerns, worries and fears.

Self-care is critical during this time, and you don’t have to wait until your marriage is crumbling to take care of yourself. Is your spouse an alcoholic? Maybe, but you can work on your own recovery while he or she comes to terms with that.

3. Gather Resources to Help

If you’re wondering how you can best assist your spouse in addressing his or her drinking problem you can call or email us at Canada Drug Rehab and we can provide them to you. There are obviously many free AA meetings in Alberta you can get information on to provide to your spouse but in many cases, meetings on their own just aren’t enough to recover fully. Especially if there is childhood trauma, PTSD or other dual-diagnosis that needs to be addressed as well. Alcoholism, as noted above, is a chronic and progressive disease, and those diagnosed with a severe alcohol use disorder may have progressed to the point that they’re unable to function without drinking. Their bodies have become dependent on alcohol, and the dangers of alcohol withdrawal can be deadly. The good news is that no matter how severe the problem may seem, most people with an alcohol use disorder can benefit from some form of treatment. Let us help you with private options available in Alberta that can set your spouse up for long term recovery. 

4. Is Your Spouse an Alcoholic? Broaching the Subject

Is your spouse an alcoholic? Well … have you asked him or her? That may seem like a dumb question, but it’s a relevant one. Many times, alcoholism is the elephant in the living room, and because it’s such a touchy, uncomfortable, awkward, painful or explosive subject, no one wants to bring it up. However, if it’s having an impact on you, opening a dialogue about it is crucial if your marriage is going to survive.

It’s important, however, to frame the conversation around a genuine desire to help rather than using it as an opportunity to vent. Use empathy as the launching pad for any conversation you have with a spouse about his or her drinking. Unfortunately, many of us don’t understand the disease of addiction and we blame ourselves. We feel so much shame that we are unwilling to talk. If your loved one is willing to talk, be sincere in your desire to understand just for the sake of understanding rather than for the sake of forcing them to make the change you desire.

If you’re consumed with anger, find an outlet to which you can direct it before you approach your spouse about his or her drinking. Anger is understandable given your situation. After all, it becomes tiring to cope with the stress, and at times, it may even become unbearable. Even so, maintain a sense of peace and patience. It may help to find a friend you can vent to about your anger but avoid targeting your spouse with those feelings. It may help to continually remind yourself that what you’re really angry at is the disease, not your spouse.

It may seem impossible, of course, to maintain a Zen-like level of peace, empathy and understanding when you’re dealing with a problem that at the very least is pushing your marriage into uncharted waters, and maybe in the process of slamming it against the rocks. By this point, repairing your relationship may seem hopeless or even pointless. However, you can’t even begin the process of putting things back together until you start to talk about it. A discussion can simply be that.  A conversation that brings up the elephant in the room to acknowledge its presence. In doing so, can you gauge where your spouse stands? Denial? Acceptance? Pushback? Requesting help? Any and all are possibilities, but you can’t begin to deal with what he or she wants, much less help them if that’s the choice they make, until you talk about it.

5. Set Boundaries and Stop Enabling

If your loved one’s drinking has yet to cause problems, then a concerned conversation may be exactly what he or she needs to course correct. However, if it’s past the point of being a problem and is threatening your marriage, you need to determine ahead of time what your boundaries are.

A problem with alcohol can be devastating to a marriage. Researchers followed 634 couples from the time of their weddings through the first nine years of marriage and found that couples, where only one spouse was a heavy drinker, had a much higher divorce rate than other couples. That information may seem demoralizing, but there is hope. Research has also shown that couples therapy with a focus on the alcoholic spouse results in greater marital happiness after treatment, fewer incidents of marital separation, and fewer incidents of domestic violence.

Requiring that your spouse seek alcoholism treatment, or at the very least attend family therapy sessions, maybe one of your boundaries. Boundaries can take many forms but it’s important to remember that boundaries aren’t about trying to control someone or make them change. Boundaries are about establishing how you want to be treated, self-preservation in a chaotic or dangerous environment, and a path to healthy relationships.

By the same token, keeping those boundary lines firm and not redrawing them because you face criticism, pleading or withering scorn is vital. By moving those boundaries, you’re allowing your spouse to manipulate the situation, which is the exact opposite of what you hope to accomplish a solution to a drinking problem.

Flimsy boundaries can also lead to enabling. Anything that you do that does protect the alcoholic or addict from the consequences of his or her actions, could be enabling him/her to delay a decision to get help for their problem. Are you working and paying some of the bills that the alcoholic would be paying if he hadn’t lost his job or missed time from work due to drinking? Or are you providing alcoholic food and shelter? If so, you could be enabling. You are providing him with a ‘safety net’ that allows him to lose or skip his job with no real consequences. You’re only adding to your own stress, because you’ve ceased to be an equal partner in a marriage, and you’ve become a caretaker. 

Accessing Help

So how do you go about finding the right treatment? At Canada Drug Rehab we work with only the best accredited private drug and alcohol detox and treatment centres in Alberta and across Canada. We will connect you with a private drug and alcohol detox and rehab centre that best suits your families and your spouse’s needs. Understand that not all programs and centres work for everyone and recovery is not a one size fits all scenario. We will work closely with you and your loved ones to ensure they are at the right centre for their individual needs. 

We can also help direct you to an interventionist who will organize an intervention aimed at directing your spouse to treatment. 

That may not be an option you’re ready to undertake just yet; after all, some alcoholics recognize they have a problem long before the subject is broached, and in many cases, they’re more than ready to do something about it.

In other cases, an intervention may be necessary, and there are certain guidelines that you, as a spouse, should keep in mind before organizing one. Ideally, an intervention should end with your spouse agreeing to get help but before that can be presented as an option, you should gather the resources that determine what that help may entail. Call us today in Alberta at 1-888-245-6887.

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