Living With An Alcoholic

Libby Shively McAvoy
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Do you have experience living with an alcoholic? It may be a parent, a child, a sibling, or a spouse, but the result is the same painful experience.

It is heartbreaking watching your loved one spiral downhill when one beer turns into four, and four beers suddenly turn into mixed drinks, and the next thing you know, they are drinking straight from the liquor bottle.

Living with an alcoholic is detrimental to our mental well-being. Not only is it hard to watch when they become ill or have withdrawal seizures, but they are also moody, unpredictable, and can be mean. Some become irresponsible financially. Others are downright embarrassing.

The first step for you as a loved one is to recognize when their drinking has become problematic and addicting.

Red Flags of An Alcoholic

  • Hiding their drinking
  • Only attending events that include alcohol
  • Using alcohol to cope with stress
  • Increased consumption
  • Personality changes when they drink
  • Family history of alcoholism
  • Memory loss
  • Denial
  • Job loss
  • Insomnia
  • Neglect of physical appearance and self-care
  • Irritable and moody

Drinking has become a social norm, and there are many functional alcoholics. Hey, it is not against the law; they feel it is their right to drink when and where they want. The problem is they are not concerned about its impact and effects on family members. They are oblivious to their bahavior.

Having an Alcoholic Parent
An alcoholic’s home is chaotic and unpredictable. If you were a child of an addict, your needs were undoubtedly unmet, and therefore you developed an insecure attachment style. This lack of security will likely make it difficult to trust and form lasting relationships as an adult. Some people become codependent due to being the caretaker at a young age and trying to please their parent.

If you grew up in the home of an alcoholic, chances are it had a lasting impact that now permeates every aspect of your life. You may have anxiety and difficulty coping with stress.

You may have resentment toward your parent. You may even feel they drank because of you. Let go of these heavy feelings. Their choices were not your fault. In fact, drinking is not a choice for an alcoholic. It is a disease.

Reciprocal Drinking
Being in a relationship with someone who drinks excessively can negatively impact your habits. Drinking regularly may become so normalized in the home you do not realize how much you are consuming.

It is okay to drink with your partner, adult child, or parent occasionally, but be aware of your own consumption. Avoid drinking around them if they choose to try the path of recovery.

What To Do When You Suspect An Addiction

The harsh reality is that no matter how much you love and want to help this person, they will only succeed in recovery if they want to on a deep level. I watched someone near to my heart fail in several long-term recovery programs. He never intended to quit permanently. Instead, he did so to appease others. As soon as he returned home, he hit the bottle, sometimes multiple handles a day.

What you can do is learn as much as possible about alcoholism. I read the “Big Book” and attended Alanon meetings. It was nice to know other families go through similar experiences. I left the sessions feeling empowered. Unfortunately, it did not change the situation with my loved one.

Be kind. Your loved one started drinking to cope with stress or numb out emotions. They are a deeply unhappy person. Be patient with them and yet set firm boundaries to protect your emotional well-being. If you are critical of them, they may consume even more. It may become necessary to remove yourself from the situation.

If you are lucky enough they choose a path of recovery, please understand it is a difficult journey with many ups and downs. Few people can get sober on their first try. The addict’s brain gets hijacked, and they cannot see the problems they create.

Sometimes the alcoholic is emotionally or physically abusive. You may consider a professional intervention and have to separate yourself from this person until they are sober. In some instances, the alcoholic chooses the bottle over their loved ones, and you have no choice but to let them go.


For a true alcoholic to quit “cold turkey” can be very dangerous. They may have seizures, a stroke, or become very ill. The result of quitting makes them so physically uncomfortable many times, and they give up. It is best to seek medical help to aid in detox.

Raising emotional intelligence can be helpful as an aid in recovery after the detox. Raising EI will boost confidence and help the addict learn to connect to their higher self.

Practice good self-care and worry most about yourself. Your loved one may quit showering and practicing good hygiene. If this person is your spouse, you may need to sleep in separate beds to ensure a clean and comfortable sleep environment.

Finally, do not blame yourself. Quiet your inner critic. Surround yourself with loving, supportive family and friends. Realize that you cannot rescue your loved one but can salvage your own life. Do not be an enabler.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I wish you the best.
Peace & Light,

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Libby is a Personal Development and Relationship coach specializing in emotional intelligence. By blending motivational speaking, leading yoga and wellness retreats, and writing, she has mastered the art of living her best life while helping others.

Cincinnati, OH

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