Dealing With an Alcoholic Spouse in Denial

Helping a Loved One Seek Appropriate Alcohol Treatment

By a sizable margin, alcohol use disorder is the most common substance problem in the U.S. People affected by this disorder may be addicted to alcohol. They may also have serious issues related to nonaddicted alcohol abuse. Many people with alcohol problems seek treatment on their own. However, many do not. In some cases, an affected person may acknowledge the presence of alcoholism or serious alcohol abuse. But in other cases, they may be in denial about what is happening to them.

If your spouse is in denial about the effects of alcohol use disorder, what can you do? Experts recommend that you use a number of techniques to encourage entry into needed treatment. These techniques will not work in all cases. However, when you take advantage of them, your chances of reaching your desired outcome tend to go up.

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Living Alongside an Alcohol Use Disorder

How can you tell if you are living alongside a spouse with alcohol use disorder? There are 11 possible symptoms of this condition. Some of these symptoms are related to alcohol addiction, i.e., alcoholism. Others are related to nonaddicted alcohol abuse. From the point of view of addiction specialists, both kinds of symptoms are equally serious. Things to look for in your spouse include:

  • Regularly drinking in larger amounts or more often than they meant to
  • Trying to halt their alcohol use multiple times without success
  • Maintaining a level of drinking that harms their relationship with you or others
  • Creating a daily routine focused obtaining alcohol, drinking and recovering from drinking
  • Experiencing strong cravings for alcohol when they are not actively drinking
  • Consuming alcohol at a level that they know is harming their health
  • Rising levels of alcohol use over time (which reflect rising alcohol tolerance)
  • Recurring use of alcohol while driving or doing other risky things
  • Going into withdrawal if they stop drinking or make significant cutbacks
  • Giving up once-favored activities so they have more time to drink
  • Having problems at work, at home or in school as a result of alcohol use

Only two of these symptoms within a year’s time are required for an alcohol use disorder diagnosis. However, your spouse may need help for even one of them.

What Is the Treatment Process for Alcoholism

Treatment Process for Alcoholism

An effective treatment process for alcoholism takes place in stages. The first goal for anyone with this condition is quitting drinking. If your spouse is addicted to alcohol, this is no small achievement. That is true, in part, because people affected by alcoholism typically go through withdrawal when alcohol use ends. Even in a best-case scenario, alcohol withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and distressing. In a worst-case scenario, it can be dangerous.

For these reasons, medically supervised detox is universally recommended for people withdrawing from alcohol. Detox provides two essential forms of support:

  • Medication to help your spouse cope with their withdrawal symptoms
  • General medical oversight that helps safeguard their health

Successful detox is followed by enrollment in primary alcohol treatment. The overall goal of this treatment is helping your spouse create a lasting pattern of sobriety. The typical, modern recovery plan for alcoholism includes medication for relapse prevention. It also includes behavioral psychotherapy. In addition, your spouse may benefit from joining a mutual self-help group.

How to Get Help for an Alcoholic Loved One

You have several options for getting help for an alcoholic loved one. Many people start by encouraging a spouse to talk to their primary doctor. Today, most general practitioners know how to look for alcohol use disorder. They also have some knowledge of available treatment resources.

You may also want to talk to addiction specialists working at an alcohol treatment center. These specialists are alcoholism experts. They understand the factors that support the development of addiction. They also know how to give detailed advice on the best options for an effective alcohol recovery.

There are also other potential sources of useful information on addiction treatment. For example, you may want to consult specialists not working at a recovery center. You may also inquire about available resources with your insurance provider.

Ways to Present Rehab to a Loved One in Denial

Denial is not an uncommon issue in people affected by alcoholism. This is true for a number of reasons. First, many people feel stigmatized by their condition and fear being labeled as an alcoholic. Others may be truly unaware that they are exhibiting signs of addiction. In addition, some people are suffering from addiction-related brain dysfunction that triggers denial as an involuntary response.

Dealing with an alcoholic spouse in denial can be a very delicate process. If you say the wrong thing, you could easily make them more defensive than they were before. To increase the likelihood that a conversation about rehab will go well, experts recommend that you:

  • Approach the conversation from a place of love and support
  • Clearly explain why you are concerned
  • Talk truthfully about how your spouse’s alcoholism is affecting you
  • Rely on “I” statements when discussing these effects
  • Make factual statements about the alcoholism signs you have observed
  • Steer clear of describing your spouse as an alcoholic or otherwise labeling them
  • Avoid a preachy or lecturing tone
  • Stay away from threats, bribes and guilt trips
  • Make it clear that you will help your loved one get better

You should also go into the conversation with the awareness your loved one’s denial may continue. Even the most well-considered efforts do not always succeed. You may need to try multiple times. Ultimately, you may also need to consider getting professional advice on staging an alcohol intervention.

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How to Help Even a High-Functioning Alcoholic Get Treatment

Some people in denial about their drinking problems have what is known as high-functioning alcoholism. There is not a set definition for this term. However, it implies that someone is not experiencing the significant dysfunction that comes with alcoholism. In reality, no such person truly exists. By definition, alcoholism causes life disruption. Just because you cannot see it does not mean it is not there.

Talking to someone with high-functioning alcoholism about treatment can be especially challenging. There is no surefire way to meet this challenge. As with anyone else affected by alcoholism, your efforts to encourage treatment may fail. If this happens, a properly organized intervention may be needed.

Avoiding Codependency and Setting Boundaries

When dealing with an alcoholic spouse in denial, it is crucial to avoid creating conditions for codependency. Codependency occurs when you allow your loved one to take advantage of your efforts to accommodate them. In essence, you become their ally in reinforcing negative behavior. Codependent actions within a relationship affected by addiction are common.

It is essential that you set boundaries to prevent codependency. The establishment of these kinds of healthy boundaries can be difficult. As a rule, it takes willingness on the part of each spouse. You may have to start by setting your own boundaries and encouraging your spouse to do the same.

When to Get Help for Yourself With a Drinking Spouse

Get Help for Yourself With a Drinking Spouse

When helping a spouse in denial about alcoholism, you must also remember to help yourself. Living with someone who has serious alcohol problems can be draining. How can you support your own health and welfare in these kinds of difficult circumstances? Doctors and addiction specialists recommend doing things such as:

  • Prioritizing the overall wellness of your family unit, not just your spouse
  • Seeking support from other loved ones, whether they are friends or family
  • Joining a support group for the spouses or families of people with alcoholism
  • Turning to a professional therapist or counselor for help and advice

Only you can say for sure when such steps are needed. Just make sure you do not wait until your ability to cope is pushed beyond its limits.

Help Is Available, Even for an Alcoholic in Denial

Ideally, your loved one in denial will eventually consent to alcohol treatment. But be aware that complete willingness is not essential for treatment to produce positive results. Many people who start rehab are resistant to it in one way or another. That includes people not in denial about their addiction symptoms.

Some addiction treatments are designed to help people with alcoholism overcome this resistance. Examples of such treatments include:

  • Motivational enhancement therapy
  • Contingency management
  • Community reinforcement

These options can be incorporated into a larger overall recovery plan.

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Seek More Advice on Helping a Spouse in Denial at Emerald Isle

Need more information on helping a spouse in denial about alcoholism? Talk to the addiction specialists at Emerald Isle. We are standing by to provide you with useful tips and advice. We can also help you determine if treatment for alcohol use disorder is indicated.

In addition, Emerald Isle is your source for top-quality alcoholism treatment. We feature customized recovery plans for all people affected by alcohol use disorder. With our help, your spouse can take the steps needed to establish lasting sobriety. To get started, call us today or fill out our online form.