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Is My Spouse an Alcoholic?

Sometimes it might feel like you haven’t looked at your spouse in a while. I mean really looked. You might have been in denial or busy and maybe you just have not been paying much attention. But, now that you are paying attention, you might not like what you see. Are you looking at an alcoholic when you look at your husband or wife?

Maybe your denial is still strong and you are certain that your spouse just enjoys drinking, but the love of your life certainly can’t be an alcoholic–right?

They don’t look like alcoholics on TV or in moves. Well, those are dramatic interpretations of alcoholics.

They won’t all look that way.

In fact, many of them will be “functioning alcoholics,” a type of alcoholic that can hold down a job and maintain their responsibilities. If your spouse is like that, you might really doubt your instincts. Don’t.

You deserve the best from your marriage and your spouse deserves to enjoy their life and their health. For these reasons, you need to urge him or her into a treatment program.

In addition to rehab, your spouse will need to undergo detox. And in the same ways that your spouse’s alcohol use has affected your life, it will also affect the detox process. In fact, alcohol detox is just as complicated (if not more so) that opiate detox. It can literally kill a person if done outside of the care of a professional.

As you come to terms with your spouse’s possible alcoholism, you will want to do research and find out what types of treatment and detox feel like they would work best in your particular circumstances. That can feel a little overwhelming, but you can get help. can help you find treatment and detox help. Call 800-256-3490 to speak to an expert.

Levels of Drinking

Alcoholism has different levels, like mild, moderate, and heavy. Levels of drinking are similarly labelled.

Spouse an Alcoholic

Personality fluctuations are an indicator of alcoholism.

For example, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans considers up to 1 drink a day for females and up to 2 drinks a day for males to be moderate drinking. These numbers are meant to be daily measurements and not an average. Moderate drinking may be part of a larger pattern and is worth examining.

Heavy drinking, however, is the sign of a real problem. On the other hand, heavy drinking is a problem. Heavy drinking is defined as “drinking 5 or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days” by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHSA).

A spouse who is regularly engaging in a pattern of heavy drinking likely has an alcohol use disorder and you may both have been explaining it away through denial or justifications.


Heavy drinking alone isn’t really conclusive. You need to consider other signs of alcoholism.

This is a good opportunity for the pair of you to sit down and have an honest conversation. Try fairly discussing the situation without blame or argument.

Try asking the following:

  • Are you drinking alcohol as a reward and/or defend drinking to relieve stress?
  • Do you get a craving after a single alcoholic beverage?
  • Are you ever preoccupied by the next drinking opportunity?

Ask yourself:

  • Does your spouse repeat negative drinking patterns and behaviors?
  • Does your spouse have personality fluctuations and/or compromise their values when they drink?
  • Does your spouse drink even after they have experienced the negative consequences of drinking?

If you are able to get your spouse to have this conversation, that’s excellent. If they aren’t willing, you may have to wait for them to be ready. Be sure to remain patient and to not fall victim to nagging or bullying behavior.


A structured, professional treatment facility will engage your spouse through detox and subsequent treatment. It will likely involve some therapy (family, individual, group), some medical assessments and testing, some training to help your spouse abstain, some guidance about transitioning back into everyday life.

There will be a vital role for you to play throughout treatment. Your support will give your spouse hope and help them to manage difficult moments. Additionally, your marriage should benefit from family therapy that delves into the structure of your family unit and the ways that it is currently dysfunctional.

When you and your spouse have decided it is time to seek treatment, let our specialists help you. Call 800-256-3490 and speak to an expert.

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Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: Rehab Media Group, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.

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