Living with an Alcoholic

Living with an alcoholic is a uniquely challenging experience that is extremely prevalent in American households. Alcoholism is classified as an alcohol use disorder, but just as with other addictions, it is generally characterized by an addictive cycle of behavior. Alcoholism not only affects the addict but those living with them and those who care about them.

Signs You Are Living with an Alcoholic

While some people may be well aware that they are living with an alcoholic, many individuals struggle with determining whether or not their loved one is an alcoholic or merely drinks more than is recommended. Nobody wants to accuse someone they love of being an alcoholic, so many will try to lessen the implications of their loved one’s actions in order to avoid confrontation.

This approach may feel like a safe alternative since alcohol abuse is quite common but sometimes this can be a strategy for avoiding the issue. This process of denial can lead to strong emotional responses that are merely repressed and rerouted into other potentially dangerous behaviors.

Before addressing your concerns with your loved one, begin cataloging their behaviors and actions to confirm whether they may potentially be an alcoholic. Keep an eye out for some of the following signs that you may be living with an alcoholic:

  • Alcoholics have a physical reliance and dependency on the consumption of alcohol. They will have cravings for alcohol frequently and will have a difficult time stopping once they begin drinking.
  • Alcoholics will experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to abstain from consuming alcohol. The unpleasant nature of these withdrawal symptoms often pushes alcoholics back towards consuming alcohol.
  • Over time, the continued consumption of alcohol increases the alcohol tolerance of the drinker. Alcoholics will continually have to increase the frequency and volume that they are drinking in order to maintain the same experience.
  • Alcoholics sometimes attempt to conceal their addiction by hiding their alcohol in unsuspecting places around the house and consuming it when they are alone. These hiding places will vary based on the individual, but may be places like laundry closets, under the sink, in drawers beneath clothes, and in the garage hidden in a cabinet. There is no reason alcohol should be hidden around the house, so if this is the case then the individual recognizes there is something wrong with their behavior, and rather than attempting to change their behavior, is merely seeking to hide the severity of their addiction.
  • Alcoholics will become agitated if they are not able to drink when they want to. Generally, they will establish a timeline that allows them to indulge in their addictive behavior at the intervals they deem necessary, and when this schedule is interrupted they will become irritated and angry.
  • Alcoholics often experience trouble in their personal relationships, careers, or with the law.
  • Alcoholics can sometimes experience a loss of pleasure in the things they once enjoyed as they become more addicted to the consumption of alcohol. Their value system may shift so that their highest priority is consuming alcohol.
  • Alcoholics may experience blackouts or lose blocks of time as a repercussion of their extensive abuse.

If some or all of these factors are present, it is possible that you are living with an alcoholic. Individuals cohabitating with alcoholics experience a unique set of challenges.

The Challenges of Living with an Alcoholic

Living with an alcoholic can be an extremely difficult situation that is emotionally trying and may sometimes feel unmanageable. The most difficult aspect of living with an alcoholic is the feeling of helplessness that comes with watching a loved one harm themselves and others and being unable to convince them to change their behaviors. In addition to this, there are a number of other challenges often experienced by those living with alcoholics.

  • Alcoholics may experience mood swings. These mood swings can sometimes be misdirected at those living with the alcoholic. The best tactic for avoiding this is a lack of engagement. By removing yourself from the situation and not reacting, you will save yourself the emotional trauma of dealing with alcohol-fueled mood swings.
  • Timelines may be determined by alcohol consumption. This factor can be especially troubling for young children that are solely at the discretion of their alcoholic parent. One way to deal with this situation is to try to nail down schedules in advance and offer continual prompts for upcoming events to remind your loved one of their responsibilities.
  • Alcoholics may demonstrate a willingness to damage relationships and people when under the influence of alcohol. This can be one of the most difficult aspects of living with an alcoholic. When this situation arises, do your best to remember that you are not to blame for their actions and that you cannot control their behavior.
  • Alcoholics may seek encouragement that what they are doing is acceptable. The best way to deal with this is to either avoid giving an opinion at all or to point out some of the flaws in their logic of why their behavior is warranted. By doing this, you will begin to dismantle the narrative they have constructed that condones their alcoholism.

Things to Remember When Living with an Alcoholic

  1. You are not to blame for their addiction or behavior.
  2. You cannot control what they do.
  3. You do not need to accept their bad behavior. Set boundaries you are comfortable with to maintain your sense of comfort at home.
  4. Do not enable them.
  5. Find support and help. Even if an alcoholic is not ready to seek treatment, that does not mean you should not establish a support system to help you.
  6. Never drink with them.
  7. Do not hesitate to leave if their addiction begins to negatively impact your life.


Alcoholism is an extremely prevalent addiction that affects not only the alcoholic but also each person in his or her life. Perhaps those most affected are the individuals living with the alcoholic and bearing witness to their destructive cycle of addictive behavior. If you suspect that your loved one may be suffering from alcohol abuse, the first step is to seek support from a professional who specializes in substance abuse. The therapist will work with you to establish healthy boundaries and behaviors as well as provide you with the resources you need to get your loved one help. To speak to a professional at Casa Palmera for advice about your loved one struggling with alcohol abuse call the 24/7 helpline at 888-481-4481.