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Leaving An Alcoholic Spouse: The Warning Signs

Leaving An Alcoholic Spouse: The Warning Signs

Making the decision to leave an alcoholic spouse can seem harsh or impossible at times. It is an internal instinct to want to help the people we love when they are struggling. However, when does it become too much? When does helping your spouse or loved one begin negatively affecting your personal life? 

From the outside looking in, leaving an alcoholic spouse can seem easy. Although, a long-term relationship or marriage often comes with logistical, emotional, and financial barriers that make it difficult to up and leave. It is natural to hold on to the hope that your loved one can change. However, these are some of the warning signs to look out for to know when it may be time to say no more. 

Their Drinking Habits Have a Negative Impact on You

Research from the NIH (National Institute for Health) states, “often the family members of alcoholics suffer intense psychological, physical and social trauma due to the core drinking problem of the family member. Most deeply affected are the wives of alcoholics.” Living with an alcoholic spouse, husband or wife, can affect your physical and emotional well-being. 

Some of the stressors and negative side effects may experience are:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Neglecting work
  • Neglecting personal or family obligations
  • Difficulty/ poor sleeping habits
  • Trauma or PTSD
  • Financial stress
  • Misdirecting your anger onto others 
  • Neglecting self-care

Again, getting up and leaving someone you love, alcoholic or not, can be a tough task. However, if you are experiencing emotional, financial, or health issues because of the relationship, it may be time to re-evaluate your situation. 

Showing No Signs of Stopping 

Oftentimes, people struggling with alcohol addiction, or any addiction, are unaware they have a problem. Even when bad behavior and mistreatment come only when drinking, some ignore or refuse to believe they have a problem. This is because alcohol addiction is a disease of the brain. When your loved one has an addiction, quitting or stopping is not easy without proper assistance from a treatment center, like the Harm Reduction Center.   

Bringing up potential solutions and treatment options to a spouse who is not ready to quit, can result in anger and violent outbursts. This is not a healthy position you should stay in. 

On the other hand, some alcoholic spouses try to stop and choose to go to rehab and treatment. However, you notice a pattern of them showing signs that they want to change, and then relapsing time and time again. This is not only discouraging but disappointing for all of the efforts you have put into trying to get them the help they need. They are choosing to take treatment half-heartedly which is not fair to you or your relationship. 

Unpredictable and Dangerous Behaviors 

The behavior of any person who is abusing alcohol is unpredictable. Some people are happy drinkers who love to have a good time and make sure everyone around them is. And then you have the mean and angry drinkers who can be extremely irritable when under the influence.

Alcohol also clouds people’s judgments which can put themselves, as well as others in danger with their unpredictable and irrational actions. You may notice that your spouse takes dangerous risks when drinking such as:

  • Drunk driving
  • Getting into physical altercations 
  • Spending large amounts of money  
  • Getting angry and causing a scene 
  • Becoming physically or emotionally abusive

Living with someone who is an unpredictable drinker can cause anxiety and fear from what they might do when under the influence. These are signs of trauma that can damage your physical and mental health. If your, as well as your loved ones, health and safety are put into jeopardy by your spouse’s addiction, it may be time to leave the relationship. 

They Become Physically Or Emotionally Abusive

Although alcohol abuse doesn’t create a domestic abuse relationship, it can bring out the worst in many and worsen the existing physical or emotional abuse. Adding alcohol to an already violent and abusive relationship only escalates the situation further. Needless to say, alcohol abuse frequently has a big role to play in intimate partner violence. 

Again, from an outsider looking in, it is much easier to say, “why don’t they just leave?” However, abusive relationships are all about control, and leaving is the most dangerous part. When you leave an abusive spouse, you are taking away their control which triggers anger and rage. If you are scared to leave because of your safety, reach out to a professional to help you through the process.

Staying Out Of Fear

There are countless reasons why people stay with an alcoholic spouse, but the main reason is fear. Fear of losing your children in a custody battle. Fear of instability and financial support. Worrying about how your children may react when breaking the news. Fear of not knowing if your spouse will end up hurting themselves or someone because you’re not there to protect them or clean up their mess. 

These are all valid concerns, however, it is time to take your own happiness and well-being into consideration. Speak with a mental health professional, like the councilors at the Harm Reduction Center, who offer resources and help for times like these. There are support groups that are made up of individuals in the same situation you are in. You are not alone and these fears will be dealt with whether you choose to leave or stay.

Not Taking Care Of Yourself Or Your Family

When in a relationship with a spouse who has an addiction, your life is now consumed with their problems. You quite literally are playing damage control and cleaning up the messes they have created. You are also taking care of their health first, and this is all a full-time job. 

Living with an addict constantly takes a toll on your own mental and physical health. You find yourself so focused on picking up the pieces of your loved one, however, end up neglecting yourself and other loved ones around you. 

People who have a spouse suffering from addiction are more at risk of mental health disorders such as:

  • Their own substance abuse disorder
  • PTSD
  • Anger issues
  • Anxiety disorders 
  • Behavioral health problems 

If you find that your and your children’s quality of life has decreased drastically since the substance abuse began, it may be time to say goodbye. 

Efforts to Get Them Help isn’t Working 

Making the arrangements and necessary steps to get your loved one help is all you can do. It is now only up to them to want to get better. The hard part of living with someone you love who has an addiction is seeing them struggle every day and not being able to do anything. 

Yes, you can keep alcohol or other substances out of the house, but there are always other ways to obtain these substances. If you find your spouse refusing to get help or not taking treatment seriously, it isn’t your fault. You have tried to put in the work as best as you can and you shouldn’t have to stay in a relationship that is only hurting you and the others around you.

There is Hope for Your Alcoholic Spouse

If you are desperate to get your alcoholic spouse the help they need contact the Harm Reduction Center in Boynton Beach, Florida. At HARC, we offer different options of treatment services, from Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) to Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), as well as support for the family. We know how hard it is for individuals living with addiction to make the first step towards recovery, but we are here to support each client and their family every step of the way.