“My spouse is an alcoholic.”
Drinking alcohol is a choice, but too much overindulgence for too long can turn a person with choices into an alcoholic with Alcohol Use Disorder and no control over their own addiction. So, if your spouse drinks too much, how do you get them to stop drinking alcohol? How do you save them from themselves?You may have already heard the short answer: you can’t – they have to want to stop drinking. It seems hopeless because they are not going to want to stop drinking. Once the disease has progressed to the point of changing the chemistry in the brain, the alcohol controls their behavior.
Without professional treatment, recovery is not likely. However, there are steps that both of you can take to gain self-control and take your choices away from the bottle.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Maybe you aren’t really even sure if your spouse has a drinking problem. What is Alcohol Use Disorder? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has a clinical definition of Alcohol Use Disorder.
According to the NIAAA, Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.
AUD can range from mild to severe, and recovery is possible regardless of severity. The Mayo Clinic defines alcohol use disorder as a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.
Unhealthy alcohol use includes any alcohol use that puts your health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems. It also includes binge drinking – a pattern of drinking where a male consumes five or more drinks within two hours or a female downs at least four drinks within two hours. Binge drinking causes significant health and safety risks.
If your pattern of drinking results in repeated significant distress and problems functioning in your daily life, you likely have an alcohol use disorder. It can range from mild to severe. However, even a mild disorder can escalate and lead to serious problems, so early treatment is important.
Steps to Help Your Loved One Stop Drinking Alcohol
If your loved one is struggling with alcoholism, you play an important role in the healing process. These are some steps that you can take to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Step One Realize that you cannot make your spouse stop drinking. You have no control over anyone else. Your spouse has made a series of poor choices and you had nothing to do with those choices.
Their addiction has been developing for a long time. Often there is a genetic predisposition toward alcohol dependence. Regardless of how you ended up here, there is hope for a healthy lifestyle for both of you.
Find a Christian counselor that uses biblically based tools to coach you on how to build a strong personal relationship with God. Don’t wait for your spouse to begin alcohol treatment before you seek your own professional help.
Your Christian counselor will have all of the resources that you need to deal with any spiritual or psychological concerns. This is a long journey that can end in an enriched marriage with a healthy family breaking the chains that come with addiction.
Understand that your spouse is in a spiritual battle and you can’t fight the battle for them. You can:
- Put God first
- Eat healthily
- Stop drinking
- Turn them over to God
- Trust God
Step FourEncourage new healthy friendships for both you and your spouse. Depending on the level of alcohol abuse, your spouse may have to seek inpatient treatment. You will be asked to become part of the treatment toward the end of the inpatient or outpatient program.
You both will have a distinct transition phase where old friends that drink will have to be avoided and new healthy friendships need to be established. Prepare for this phase and make sure you have stopped drinking in front of your spouse.
Attend Alcohol Anonymous and Al-Anon meetings. There are many programs available, but sponsors or mentors that are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week are critical.
Showing support by offering to attend AA meetings or planning to attend your Al-Anon meeting during their AA meeting is important to build unity as the marriage heals. You may not feel that you need Al-Anon, but you probably do. AA doesn’t work for everyone so diligently seek out a process that works for both of you.
Change the way you plan for family holidays and celebrations. If your brother or sister-in-law loves to drink with your spouse every time your niece has a birthday party, don’t go! Family support is crucial.
Alcohol Use Disorder runs in families. If you go, be ready for sarcastic remarks concerning alcohol recovery. Family members that are heavy drinkers can feel intimidated when a close family member seeks alcohol counseling because it causes them to reconsider their own poor choices.
Step SevenPlan an intervention if your spouse refuses to seek alcohol treatment. Your counselor will guide and direct you in this. This is difficult and should be planned well in advance with a professional counselor. Often other family members, friends, and coworkers can be effective advocates in persuading an addict to seek alcohol recovery.
If it gets to this point, you have been doing your work for quite some time and are ready to move forward in your healthy life with or without your spouse. If there is ever a time where you feel threatened or physically abused, go to a safe place and seek professional help. Do not engage in unhealthy conversations with a spouse under the influence of alcohol.
Celebrate the recovery process. Take a romantic vacation together and use that time alone to recommit to one another planning for a future full of promise and blessing. You now know the true definition of love because you are living it. Drink in the love that you have recaptured in your wholeness and oneness with God.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-13
The healing process requires the Holy Spirit. Without Him, none of this works. You are the temple of His Holy Spirit which is the primary reason to seek wholeness. Without God and the fruit of His Holy Spirit, you are not capable of fulfilling the great plan that He has for your life. Both of you are completed in His image. Reclaim your choices today.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
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