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Married to an Alcoholic, Common Situations, How To Handle It, Alcoholism Statistics, Causes, Effects & Treatment

When you’re married to an alcoholic, it can be scary and stressful. You can start to internalize a lot of your feelings about what’s happening as a result of your partner’s alcoholism, and you may find yourself becoming depressed or feeling hopeless. You may not have realized you were marrying an alcoholic at the time, or your spouse may not have been an alcoholic when you married, and it may have been a situation that developed over time.

When you’re married to an alcoholic, you may find yourself frequently wondering whether divorce is inevitable, and how it can be avoided. You may also wonder how you can live your daily life when something like this is like a cloud hanging over you at all times.

People who are alcoholics may behave recklessly or dangerously, they may be irrational, they may have financial and work trouble, they often lie or cheat, and that’s just the beginning of watching this disease progress.

No matter how many times you have begged or pleaded, when you’re married to an alcoholic you probably feel like your words are falling on deaf ears, and ultimately they are. So what can you do when you’re married to an alcoholic? Is divorce the only option? There’s no denying that addiction and alcoholism are big reasons that millions of couples divorce, but below are some things to know about coping with life when you’re married to an alcoholic.

Married to An Alcoholic
When you’re married to an alcoholic, it can be scary and stressful. You can start to internalize a lot of your feelings about what’s happening as a result of your partner’s alcoholism.

What Happens When You’re Married to An Alcoholic

Some of the things commonly experienced when you’re married to an alcoholic were touched on above, and below are more details of these situations:

  • When you’re married to an alcoholic, you may blame yourself for the problems of your spouse. It can be easy to start developing a co-dependency with the alcoholic or enabling them in order to make them happy or avoid conflicts. These situations can also contribute to a spouse blaming themselves when they’re married to an alcoholic.
  • Often people married to alcoholics and other kinds of addicts will take the situation personally. They will feel like the alcoholic is treating them a certain way because of something they’ve done or can control. It’s essential for people married to an alcoholic to know that an addicted person can’t completely control their behavior, and it’s not their fault as the spouse.
  • One of the most common scenarios, when you’re married to an alcoholic, is that you’ll try to cure the person or make them better. This could manifest in trying to promote them drinking at home rather than at a bar to prevent danger, or they may try to shame the person into not drinking, or issue ultimatums. More often than not this is not going to do anything to help the problem, and it may lead to further problems.
  • As an enabler, you may be trying to cover the issues of the alcoholic and make excuses or conceal what’s really
Married to An Alcoholic
When you’re married to an alcoholic, you may blame yourself for the problems of your spouse.

What Can You Do When You’re Married to An Alcoholic?

One of the defining characteristics of alcoholism is the denial there’s a problem, or blaming others. It’s important first and foremost to avoid letting an alcoholic place blame on you for anything. It’s also important that you avoid letting them make excuses. When you’re married to an alcoholic first and foremost, take care of yourself. Take time out to do things you enjoy, and consider joining a support group for people who love alcoholics. A support group will help you share your feelings, and build a social network which is so important to avoid becoming depressed because of your situation.

When you’re married to an alcoholic and looking for ways to help the problem, one of the best is to have an intervention. When you have an intervention, the closest loved ones of the alcoholic come together to talk to that person about getting help. In this situation you will likely have already selected a treatment center, and prepared everything so that if the addict accepts help, they go almost immediately. You might also talk with a professional therapist who is experienced in issues of addiction.

Seeking professional help is really the only option you have. There’s no way you can talk an alcoholic out of their addiction, or argue or shame them out of it. The more you try to do this, the more frustrated and worn down you’re likely to become. You may ultimately have to consider divorce if nothing else works, but before that think about finding a support group, planning an intervention, and speaking to an addiction therapist or counselor.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the United States

According to the 2019 NSDUH, 14.5 million people ages 12 and older had AUD. This number includes 9.0 million men and 5.5 million women. This problem threatens a big number of young people too, as stated by the same source, an estimated 414,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 to 177 had AUD. This number includes 163,000 males and 251,000 females. 

An estimated 95,000 people, approximately 68,000 men, and 27,000 women die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity.

Causes of Alcoholism

It is common to think this condition arises from a person who simply does not know how to control their alcohol consumption and is trapped in a vicious circle, but according to the scientific piece ‘The many causes of Alcoholism’ Cohen, S. Published on the Drug Abuse & Alcoholism Newsletter,  there are three main causes of alcoholism disease: biological, physiological, and sociocultural.

  • Biological causes may be:
    • Genetic: “inherited susceptibility to alcohol’s acute effects, impaired ability to catabolize ingested alcohol, or difficulty in dealing with anxiety, frustration, and depression”. 
    • Biochemical: sensitivity to insulin, episodes of spontaneous hypoglycemia, or adrenal insufficiency.
    • Or endocrine: persistently low levels of androgenic hormones.
  • Among the psychological causes of Alcoholism are:
    • Need for tension relief and anxiety control
    • Personality disorders
    • Psychodynamic factors 
    • Learning: tension reduction from drinking provides a positive reinforcement to continue drinking
    • Role modeling: peer example or occupational pressures
  • Culture-specific drinking traditions, and those stresses and conflicts experienced by certain subcultures also contribute to overindulgence in alcohol

Alcohol’s Effects on the Body

The effects of a drink of alcohol can vary a lot from one person to the next, but it usually takes about an hour for your body to metabolize one drink. Alcohol stays in the body for different periods depending on how much you drank, your body weight, and your sex. Factors that influence how quickly alcohol leaves the system include your age, height and weight, and amount of food in your stomach at the time you drink.

But Alcoholism can affect multiple organs of the body, including the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and even the immune system.

  • Brain: alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination. 
  • Heart: drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including:
    • Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle
    • Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat
    • Stroke
    • High blood pressure 
  • Liver: Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including:
    • Steatosis, or fatty liver
    • Alcoholic hepatitis
    • Fibrosis
    • Cirrhosis
  • Pancreas: alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
  • Immune System: drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease.  People who drink chronically are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much.  Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.
Married to an alcoholic
No matter how many times you have begged or pleaded, when you’re married to an alcoholic you probably feel like your words are falling on deaf ears, and ultimately they are.

Treatment for alcoholism

When it comes to Alcoholism treatment, it is normal to think of 12-step programs or 28-day inpatient rehab, but it becomes difficult to think of more options of treatment for this condition. There are a variety of treatment methods currently available. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are three types of treatment: 

  • Behavioral Treatments for alcoholism: are aimed at changing drinking behavior through counseling. They are led by health professionals and supported by studies showing they can be beneficial.
  • Medications for alcoholism: Three medications are currently approved in the United States to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. They are prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professional and may be used alone or in combination with counseling.
  • Peer-Support Groups for alcoholism: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. Combined with treatment led by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support. Due to the anonymous nature of mutual-support groups, it
  • is difficult for researchers to determine their success rates compared with those led by health professionals.

Find a Way Out of Alcoholism For Your Spouse

Alcoholism is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide to you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from alcoholism with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.


[1] Appendix 9: Alcohol. Dietary Guidelines for Americans – 2015-2020.

[2] Ballard HS. (1997). The hematological complications of alcoholism.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Fact sheets – alcohol use and your health [Fact sheet].