8 Ways to Cope With an Alcoholic Husband

These tips for coping with an alcoholic husband – or a spouse who drinks too much – are inspired by my work in a residential recovery program for men who are alcoholics and drug addicts.

how to cope with alcoholic husbandRead Reclaim Your Life: You and the Alcoholic/Addict by Carole Bennett for specific communication tools that empower you to implement confident boundaries in your marriage. I can’t tell you everything you need to know about coping with an alcoholic man in this blog post. You need to work through this process — and know that reclaiming your respect, dignity, and peace of mind are achievable goals.

Below, my tips on how to cope with – and help – an alcoholic husband are based on information from Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as my experience working with men in the residential recovery program for alcoholics and drug addicts.

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These tips range from educating yourself about Al-Anon to letting your husband suffer the consequences of his choice to drink. I hope they help you face the reality of alcoholism and get the support you need.

Remember that you can’t help your husband cope with alcoholism by yourself. In fact, there is nothing you can do to reform or change him…you can only change how you respond to his drinking problem.

The more you read and learn about alcoholism, the better able you’ll be to help the man you love, save your marriage, and pull your family back together. But remember that stopping him from drinking is not YOUR responsibility. You can support and walk alongside your husband, but you can’t make him change unless he is ready.

8 Ways to Cope With an Alcoholic Husband

Have you contacted Al-Anon yet? It’s is an organisation for the relatives and friends of alcoholics, who share their experience, strength and hope with each other in order to solve their common problems. Al-Anon has one purpose: to help the families and friends of alcoholics. Anonymity is an important principle of the Al-Anon program.

Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease – and the proponents of Al-Anon believe it is a family disease. They also believe a wife can help an alcoholic husband stop drinking.

1. Remember that he is not choosing to drink

As an alcoholic, your husband no longer has the power to choose not to drink, so he needs spiritual power to quit drinking. He can’t overcome the disease of alcoholism by himself or through willpower. The only thing he can do is turn to God, admit how powerless he is, and turn his life over to a Higher Power who can save him.

2. Think about having an intervention

Here’s some important information from Alcoholic.org’s article How to Help an Alcoholic Husband:

If you think he drinks too much – or if you even find yourself thinking but not saying “My husband is an alcoholic” out loud – then you need to think about the best way to help your husband stop drinking. Remember that an alcoholic husband must have a desire to change before he accepts treatment, and he should believe that stopping his dependency on alcohol will benefit his life. Treatment centers and interventions can help an alcoholic recover. Admitting that there is a problem is the first step to recovery, so it may be important to have an intervention.

During an intervention, a special interventionist can help you work with your husband and talk out the problem. You will be able to express how the alcoholism affects you, and with the interventionist’s help you may be able to get your husband to admit that he has a drinking problem.

3. Do what you can to protect your relationships with others

Be determined that your husband’s alcoholism won’t spoil your relationship with your children, your family, or your friends. You can still have a full, interesting, and good life even if you can’t learn how to help an alcoholic husband stop drinking. Don’t set your heart on reforming him, or helping him stop drinking. You may be unable to do so, not matter how hard you try.

4. Don’t tell him what to do about his drinking

In the “For Wives” chapter on how to help an alcoholic husband, it advises women never to tell their husbands to stop drinking or what to do about his drinking. If he sees you as a nag or killjoy, your chance of helping him may be zero. He will feel misunderstood and criticized, which won’t help him stop drinking.

5. Let your husband explain his life to people

Whenever possible, let him make his own excuses to his employer, coworkers, family members, neighbors, church community, etc. Don’t protect him, don’t lie to people to cover up his drinking problem. If you are serious about helping your husband with his alcoholism, you won’t lie to people who have a right to know where he is and what he is doing. Talk about this with him when he is sober and in good spirits.

Remember that there is a difference between learning how to help your husband deal with alcoholism, and falling into a codependent relationship.

6. Never be angry

I’m not sure about this tip on how to cope with an alcoholic husband, but I’m sharing it anyway! The Alcoholics Anonymous book says that the first principle of success is to never be angry with your husband for his drinking problem (disease). Even though he may become unbearable and you have to leave him temporarily, they advise you to go in peace, patience, and a good temper.

4 Ways to Create Love and Peace in an Unhappy Marriage might help you learn how to rein in your anger and frustration.

7. Get support for wives of alcoholic husbands

This is the most important tip for coping alcoholic husbands: Get help.

Alcoholic HusbandFind the closest Alcoholics Anonymous group, or the nearest Al-Anon group. Trying to deal with your husband’s alcoholism on your own is futile, and will set you up for disappointment and despair. Join forces with other women who need help with their alcoholic husbands.

Get support, give support. Help yourself, and you’ll learn how to help an alcoholic husband help himself.

8. Hold on to your own spirituality

The foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous is spirituality. The alcoholic is powerless to stop drinking because alcoholism is a disease. A drinker can’t summon the willpower to stop drinking – when he is an alcoholic, he has no choice. He needs to turn his life and body over to God (whatever he understands God to be)…and I believe that to help an alcoholic husband, you need to do the same thing.

To learn more, read How to Live With and Love an Alcoholic Boyfriend.

I welcome your thoughts on coping with an alcoholic husband. I can’t offer advice, but you may find it helpful to share your experience. I know I haven’t offered any brilliant insights or ways to help him overcome his drinking problem, but I hope you see you’re not alone.

I especially hope you reach out to other women whose husbands are struggling with alcoholism, so you can gain strength, comfort, and solidarity.


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12 thoughts on “8 Ways to Cope With an Alcoholic Husband

  • Elizabeth Kuhn

    I don’t believe in God. Neither does my husband, who is an alcoholic. We have both come to this belief through years of honest introspection. Alcoholics Anonymous and Al Anon depend on a person having a belief in a higher power. Since that is the case, my husband doesn’t feel that AA can help him. I’m not too interested in Al Anon, either. Do you have any advice for people who are living with alcoholism but do not believe in God or religion? I’m really afraid I will just be judged and looked down on if I try to join Al Anon.

    • Cathy Maloney

      Dear Elizabeth, I found this article helpful but also understand your concern. I found a resource that might make sense for you. Check out this book on Amazon: How to Change Your Drinking, A Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol. I just found it while searching and I’m intrigued. Be good!

  • Laurie Post author

    Dear Teresa,

    It sounds like you love your husband so much, and your kids love and need their daddy! But his alcoholism is ruining your marriage and family life, and is causing you pain and suffering. He is addicting to drinking, and his problem won’t be healed overnight. It also sounds like you have firsthand experience with drug and alcohol addictions in your childhood…and you don’t want your own children to have the same experience as they grow up.

    Since you can’t help an alcoholic husband stop drinking, all you can do is focus on getting yourself emotionally and spiritually healthy.

    Go to Al Anon. Talk to other women who are living with – or have left – alcoholic husbands. Get counseling, to help you work through your own issues and obstacles so you can make the best decision for you and your children.

    Here’s another article that may help:

    How to Love and Live With an Alcoholic Boyfriend

    But the biggest thing you need to do is seek advice in person! There are no easy tips or ways to help an alcoholic husband, and I can’t give you the support you need. You have to reach out in person and start taking steps towards healing.

    Stay in touch by signing up for my SheBlossoms newsletter! I send weekly articles and encouragement to women, to help them Blossom into who God created them to be.


  • Teresa Mullins

    I am praying that I can find help for myself. I know I can’t make my husband stop but it is causing me so much anxiety that I am nauseous every day now. My stress levels sky rocket when I know he is coming home. It makes me sad because I am excited to see him and then I realize that he will come home with beer in hand. We have an 11 year Iold daughter who is daddy’s girl and a 7 year old boy. They would be devastated if I left their daddy but it is killing me! I have no joy because every time I have it, he steals it away within an hour or so. Please help meknow what to do? He is wwonderful in very other way but since I grew up in an abusive alcohol and drug house, the moment his eyes turn strange becaus he is drinking…I start to panic.

  • Laurie Post author

    Sometimes the best and only way to cope with an alcoholic husband is to leave. He has to want to change; you can’t change him or force him to quit drinking.

    Take care of yourself. Love yourself, respect yourself, and know that the hardest choices are the ones that will be best for you in the long run.

    Hold on to your faith. Believe that your life will be better and brighter than before!

  • kim

    It is really hard to cope with an alcoholic husband, and i am leaving. this road will never get easier so for my sanity i have made this difficult decision

  • chantel Iris

    Thanks for the ideas on how to help an alcoholic husband. i love them. i think one needs to exercise patience in dealing with a spouse who has drinking issues. the love,support, and devotion help them to get out of the addiction.

  • armida

    When i met my husband he was in bad shape and i accepted it because i love him he was a heroine addict and i told him i didn’t want that in my life because im a recovering addict my self so he cleaned up and still clean but he started drinking now. Its becoming a real problem im afraid he will go back to using

  • Dr.preeti Rawat

    Actually when I talk to anybody about my husband’s drinking he became annoyed with me. He said that I made his insult in front of others so I have to lie to his colleagues and friends about his drinking.

  • Laurie Post author

    Thanks, Nini, I’m glad these ideas were helpful. Alcoholism is so difficult to kick! My heart goes out to wives whose husbands are addicted to the bottle.

  • Nini

    I really like your ideas about how to help an alcoholic husband. My friend had a hard time with her husband’s drinking problem, and the 12 step program helped him quit alcohol. Addiction is hard but it can be overcome!