Tuesday February 9th 2016

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How can I help my husband stop drinking?

How can I help my husband stop drinking?

Why do people stop drinking?

Any person stops drinking because that person realizes that the costs of drinking now exceed the benefits. Drinking must have been fun at first or the person would have stopped soon after starting. With enough drinking the costs grow, even if awareness of those costs lags behind.

Fortunately, the closer you are to someone the more influence you can have on the actual costs and benefits, and on helping that individual to realize that the experience of drinking has changed (and it’s time to get motivated to stop drinking!).

8 tips for communicating with a husband who drinks

The suggestions below could be used for helping anyone you are close with to stop (or cut back) any substance or activity addiction. To keep it simple, we’ll talk about helping your husband stop drinking. In this article we’ll focus on communication. In future articles we’ll focus on how to shift the cost-benefit analysis by increasing the costs of drinking, increasing the benefits of not drinking, and supporting new behaviors that replace drinking.

1. Converse when he is sober and in a good mood.  How long alcohol takes to leave the system varies by drinker, so be sure that your husband is in the clear.

2. Don’t give up! Stay in the conversation as long as you can.

3. Acknowledge that you have (perhaps) given him a hard time in the past.

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4. Compliment him when you can.

5. Break bigger questions into smaller ones. If he can’t answer the big question (what do you like about drinking) perhaps he can answer the smaller question (what did you like about drinking Friday night?).

6. Acknowledge his point of view, and accept it or ask about it (Does it seem like I’m trying to psychoanalyze you?). You are here to understand, not disagree.

7. Make mental notes during the conversation, and perhaps written ones as soon as possible thereafter, about the benefits of drinking he has described. He is opening up his world to you. This information will be the foundation for what you do next.

8. End the conversation by thanking him and promising to think about what he has said.

How can you start taking?

When your husband is NOT drinking, ask him what he likes about drinking. Perhaps the conversation might go as follows:

Wife: I’ve been thinking that maybe I don’t understand your drinking well enough. I know we have fought about it. We both know that much! But I wonder if I have pushed too hard without understanding enough first.

Husband: Are you looking for ANOTHER fight?

Wife: No, I’m not. What I’m curious about is, what do you like about drinking? I realize I may not understand your drinking very much. Would you tell me what you like about drinking?

Husband: Why would you want to know that?

Wife: Obviously you like to drink. You wouldn’t do something unless you thought it benefited you. You are a smart person, that’s one of the reasons I married you. I know I have focused on all the things I think are bad about drinking, but only you could tell me what the benefits are. I’d like to know.

Husband: So what are you going to do with that information?

Wife: At first I just want to think about it. Your drinking has a history. The benefits associated with it are probably complex. I want to start by understanding it better. I think it will also help me understand you better. I know I have given you a hard time about drinking. I’d like to make a fresh start. So, what do you like about drinking?

Husband: That’s a hard question to answer.

Wife: OK, let’s take Saturday night for instance. It was a moderate night for you. You seemed to enjoy yourself. What was enjoyable?

Husband: I just had a few glasses of wine that night. I wouldn’t call that drinking! You know that when people are around I don’t drink very much.

Wife: Well, OK, why don’t you pick I time where you were drinking more? How about one of the nights last week?

Husband: You mean like a night when I start drinking as soon as I get home from work and then stay up late drinking after all of you go to bed?

Wife: Yes, a night like that.

Husband: I don’t know.

Wife: OK, that’s interesting. Are you sure you don’t know or would you just prefer not to tell me?

Husband: I never really thought about why I like to drink, I just like to drink!

Wife: So maybe we can both learn something. Aren’t you curious about your own behavior?

Husband: Not really. I just like to drink. It seems to me a lot of people like to drink, and they don’t need to be psychoanalyzed about it!

Wife: OK, you’ve stayed with me this far in this conversation. I’d like you to keep going with me a bit more. Does it seem like I’m trying to psychoanalyze you?

Husband: All right, I guess not. But that doesn’t mean I can answer your question, or even want to.

Wife: I understand. Would you answer a few basic questions?

Husband: I’ll try, but I’m not promising anything.

Wife: Thanks. I appreciate the effort you are making. How about this? Let’s pick last Friday night, because it’s the last night you drank by yourself. OK?

Husband: OK

Wife: That night, you waited a bit longer than you sometimes do. You had got home about 5:30, but you didn’t start drinking until 6:30. Why did you wait?

Husband: I had promised [their son] that I would play catch with him for awhile. I knew I could still throw the ball even with a beer or two. But I wanted to be completely free when I began drinking. I was dying to drink, but thought I better wait.

Wife: I remember he was happy you played with him. That was sweet of you.

Husband: I should spend more time with him, but work is so stressful I need to unwind somehow, and playing catch doesn’t cut it.

Wife: I think you just gave us one benefit of drinking. Work is stressful. Drinking helps you unwind, and perhaps especially on Friday.

Husband: I could have told you THAT!

Wife: (laughing) Not two minutes ago!

Husband: OK, do you feel better now? I drink because it helps me unwind. Isn’t it obvious?

Wife: I have often thought that you drink to unwind, its true. But I’ve never heard you say it. I feel better knowing you also think that. But maybe there are some other reasons?

Husband: Well, you know how bad work has been….

How can you start the conversation about drinking?

In the example above, the husband is is now more engaged in the conversation about alcohol use. You can do the same. When are you planning to start a similar conversation with your husband? Are you nervous about approaching the subject of alcohol use in your couple? Please share your questions, comments, or feedback below.

Want to learn more?  Next, we’ll focus on how to shift the cost-benefit analysis by increasing the costs of drinking, increasing the benefits of not drinking, and supporting new behaviors that replace drinking.

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30 Responses to “How can I help my husband stop drinking?
10:59 pm January 15th, 2012

I found the sample conversation to be very helpful. It’s so hard sometimes to get a Loved One talking. This sample offered a great example of how to handle the typical conversation stoppers we so often encounter.

I’m looking forward to more tips for family & friends.

7:03 pm September 9th, 2013

I’d like to use this conversation to encourage my wife to cut back on her drinking (she drinks only wine – but ” a lot “). Then evolve into perhaps having her quit. The problem is, she likes drinking, she “can’t wait” till its 5pm. And some days, its 5 somewhere.
How can I get this conversation started, and then kept up. Our children are grown, and worry very much about her, and I worry enough that it makes vacations and get togethers challenging.
I’d appreciate a suggestion or two… is it possible to go down the “cut back” path. She certainly see’s no reason to quit at this time.

3:34 am January 12th, 2014

My husband is in the hospital. He has the first stages of cerosis ( I know it’s not spelled right) of the liver. He had the flu so he was taking Theraflu and took Tylenol also. This gave him acetamenaphine poisoning. This also affects his liver. I would like to know how to talk to him about quitting drinking. He is currently on a ventilator for a little while because he was having a hard time breathing. His kidneys also shut down. When he found out about the cerosis the doc said he had to be alcohol free for six months before he could get treatment. He lasted about 2 months then he fell off the wagon. I don’t want to watch him kill himself, but I don’t want him to leave me if I force him to make a choice. How do I start that conversation?

2:08 pm January 13th, 2014

Hello Carol. Sometimes the best thing to do is to sit down and have the conversation after you practice with a professional. I’d suggest that you schedule an appointment with a family counselor who specializes in substance abuse issues and get a feel for what to do and what level or enabling is present. You’ll be able to make a more informed decision with professional help from a psychologist.

5:07 pm May 28th, 2014

My husband of 23 years recently passed because of liver cancer. He was only 55. He was also a heavy drinker. I begged him to slow down but I loved him so much I never really pushed it because I was afraid that he would chose the alcohol over me. Now I am dating a man that is a heavy drinker and I have asked him to slow down but it is not working too good, it seems like the more I ask the more he drinks. I know he loves me but TRUST me when I tell you that it is not pretty or fun watching someone you love dying from drinking. My advise to all of you reading this is push it as far as you have too. I regret not pushing it more because I miss him more then anyone will ever know and I have to live with it for the rest of my life. I love my boyfriend now but I know it will not last because of the drinking but if they love you they will change, if not don’t let them destroy your happiness.

8:26 am May 29th, 2014

Hi Lori. I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. Have you looked into support groups like Al-Anon or even group therapy? It might help you to understand alcoholism better, and to set boundaries for yourself now and in the future. All my best to you.

11:26 pm June 6th, 2014

My husband has a drinking problem since before I met him but I never knew it was that bad. We have been married for seven years now n been together for about thirteen. Im currently expecting our third child. More than ever I try to help him change his ways with out being the nagging wife.. but it hurts me so much to see that his killing himself slowly every time he open a beer my stomach hurts n my heartaches I feel like I’m llettings our family down by not telling him to just stop an not letting him but more alcohol.

6:01 am June 13th, 2014

Hello Patty. You are not alone! Get help immediately by seeking out a family addictions counselor or a support group like Al-Anon. You need to talk with someone and work out your next steps: an intervention or leaving?

jodi savard
9:36 pm June 17th, 2014

My husband refuses to stop drinking…he says I need to change the way I feel about it NOT him quitting cause that will never happen,even though the only time we fight is when he is drunk. I f say I will leave him if he doesn’t stop he said leave then…no big deal to him. He knows he will be fine without me but I would struggle in life without him. So Im stuck and have no say!! Im a fff fool and feel like giving up on life.I have no family or friends to turn too and he knows it. I don’t feel he loves me like I love him and its been proven time and time again. I hate my life!!!!!

1:37 pm June 19th, 2014

Hello Patti. It sounds like you could really benefit from some talk therapy. Have you reached out to certified psychotherapists in your area? Do you know where to get a referral?

2:05 pm June 27th, 2014

I am 26, married 5 years to a man I’ve been with for 11 years. He is 27. We have been fighting over his alcohol consumption our entire relationship. While we used to fight over one beer he would sneak from his parent’s fridge, it has evolved into him drinking I’d say 6-8 (on average) every single day starting when he gets home from work until he goes to bed. On weekends when he doesn’t work, it’s easily a 12 pack and can (rarely) get as high has 20-30 beers in a single day. His behavior while drinking is completely obnoxious and sloppy, and his attitude is so much different than when he is sober. Drinking alcohol severely impacts his judgment (short story: We didn’t live together until we were married and I had a curfew from my parents to be home and he did not. He spent our engagement staying out after work, getting drunk and sleeping with 4 of his coworkers behind my back and I didn’t find out until 3 years after we were married. Horrific!) No matter how much I express how negatively his alcohol abuse is hurting me and our marriage, he claims he “just likes to drink” and that “if I have a problem with it, then it’s just that – MY problem.” I’ve been reading books about alcoholism and trying to educate myself and understand how to deal with it. We are currently in counseling, but he still sticks to his claim that he doesn’t have a drinking problem, I have an acceptance problem. I am coming to the end of the line. I’m doing everything I can think of and know how to do to help our situation. He is making absolutely no effort to resolve anything and he doesn’t believe I will leave him, or says if I want to walk out on my marriage vows over something ‘so silly’ then he’ll show me the door. I want us to progress in a positive direction and I really want to help him, but I am SO tired of being the only one making an effort to change anything. You know it’s bad when your counselor says “your spouse obviously isn’t interested in changing yet, so why don’t you come alone to our sessions since you’re the only one willing to work on things.” Ouch. I’m doing everything I think I’m supposed to, trying everything I can think of, and nothing is getting through to him.

1:03 pm November 8th, 2014

firstly, Alcoholic dosen’t want to talk about this issue. Then after become irritate and get angry. the situation become tense and he avoid to talk with me.

9:56 pm March 19th, 2015

I’ve been married to my husband for almost 2 years and we have been together for 3. Before we started dating he drank but I didn’t think much about it then after we got together he stopped for almost a year then went back to it but this its worse then it was when we first got together. I have seen him so drunk that he was falling down and tripping over stuff. He’s mean when he drinks he calls hateful names accuses me of stuff I haven’t done. He has almost gotten us in a wreck from drinking and driving BC he won’t let me drive. I love him so much that I don’t want to leave him but I don’t know what else to do anymore. When I try to talk to him about it all he says is I was drinking when u met me and I’ll drink now. His dad is dying of cancer and that has really set his drinking way up. What can I do to help him if he gets another DWI he will go to prison.

6:57 am March 23rd, 2015

Hello April. You can help by seeking therapy with an addiction family specialist like a psychotherapist. The CRAFT model for intervention can also help. Support groups like Al-Anon will open you up to addressing possible tendencies you have to be codependent. The issue isn’t about helping your husband stop, it’s how you can learn to deal with his unhealthy behavior.

10:32 pm June 16th, 2015

My husband never ever wil go for help or listen to conversations about drinking ….. Very good person and hardworking person always there for his family when his not drinking …… So what can I do

4:36 pm July 24th, 2015

My Husband drinks a lot.. when he drinks he hurts me and also hurt himself by hitting the door, breaking his head and blame me for no reason.. I thought of giving divorce but cant as I love him so much.. right now he dont have job too.. he is addicted and says will not stop.. Pls help me how to make him stop..

1:21 am July 25th, 2015

I’ve tried all of these and nothing has worked in nineteen years. Divorce to me is the only answer but my kids are so angry over the thought of it. I bought a breathalyzer at his request and he’ll swear he didn’t drink but refuse to take the test (he failed it all three times he took it after swearing to God he didn’t). I think Al-Anon is the way to go so I don’t give up the second half of my life to this hell I’ve been in.

2:24 am August 19th, 2015

It was a good idea for the sample conversation but I’ve tried it before and its like going in a big circle over and over and over again I love him with all my heart we’ve known each other since middle school and been together for years I’m tring to be patient with him because he asked me to he admitts he has a drinking problem but says it’s just to hard to stop that he wants me to help him slow down his drinking and to stop threatening to leave if he doesn’t stop but its not working and I don’t know what else to do when he drinks its never a little if he drinks one SIP of something with alcohol he just has to have more until he passes out sloppy drunk to the point where he pees on himself and if he tries to quit cold turkey the longest that will last is a week and then he will be drunk for two or three days straight and he always has an excuse for his drinking of why he drank so much or what he drank or how fast he drank it but never relizes the problem is him drinking period we never argue unless he’s drunk he never has disrespected me only when he drinks I’m tired of seeing him drunk but I love him to much to leave and I know its not healthy and I know the consequences of drinking to much and the long term damage it can cause to your body weather its alcohol poisoning, kidney failure, all the way to cancer I tell him he’s killing himself slowly even one of his family members drank themselves to death not to long ago and he says that’s not going to be him but won’t stop drinking I urge him to stop before he even picks up the bottle I even pour bottles and bears out or hide them but nothing is working and I’m tired of my drunk husband I want the sober one I fell in love with and I don’t want to be a widow or watch him drink himself to death anymore I feel like I’m out of options and I don’t know what to do

12:45 am September 1st, 2015

He’s not my husband but my fiancé and he drinks a lot. I don’t know what should I do plz I need some idea

11:42 am September 14th, 2015

My hubbys ‘s problem is initial he drinks .he is very serious personality he doesn’t’ talk to any one not with me also. He is not in good mood aways.I was talkative but not know with him.I don’t know he loves me or now .we have two kids .how to improve him.he always remain quiet.whenever they want they sleep.

5:54 pm October 11th, 2015

I have been married to my husband for last 8 years.I tried everything to stop even treatment but every thing is effortless now I don t know how to handle him further I can t leave him because I love him so much.

5:39 am October 14th, 2015

Plz help me my husband drinks every day and picks up fights with me,he has become abusive both physically and mentally.is there any medications which I could give him without his knowledge and he would quit this habit.my marriage is on the verge of a divorce,plz help..

8:27 pm November 23rd, 2015

My big brother is drinking wine very much i want solve this problem
My all family members were in a tention.

9:52 pm November 25th, 2015

Hello Prajapati. I suggest you talk with your brother about his drinking, and try both to find solution. I hope you’ll menage to help him. Also, here are several articles that you may find useful: http://addictionblog.org/FAQ/interventions/professional-drug-and-alcohol-interventionist-when-to-call-in-help/ , http://alcohol.addictionblog.org/how-to-help-an-alcoholic-or-drug-addict-get-help/ , and http://alcohol.addictionblog.org/how-to-help-an-alcohol-addict/

3:57 am December 22nd, 2015

My husband has long since served in the Army and we are expecting our first child. He is always completely sober at work because he values his career, but chooses to drink at home and is verbally abusive to me. He is a wonderful man when sober, but has this Jekyll/Hyde issue going and doesn’t remember a lot of what he says when he wakes up in the morning. If the Army finds out about his problem he won’t be promoted, and that will hurt us greatly. He can’t go to rehab because we don’t have the money, our insurance would not cover the cost and the Army would wash their hands of him. What should I do?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
11:04 am December 24th, 2015

Hi, Lost. You could check out Allies in Recovery, an NGO that works with families to intervene with problem addicts using CRAFT intervention model: http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/.
Here’s another helpful reading: http://addictionblog.org/author/dominique-simon-levine/
Hope this will help!

7:00 pm December 30th, 2015

I’m 23 and my fiance’s 25, it’s just14 days since he came at my place to spend his vacation and he’s been drinking almost everyday.. Doesn’t cause much trouble when he’s drunk but I want him to stop and yes talked to him about it when he’s sober..all I want is him to realise his mistakes and stop drinking before he gets addicted. I’ve spoken and told him his mistakes,prayed while he’s with me and I know that makes him happy and secure but he still drinks the next day. Im always soft and gentle no matter what . What can I do to make him realise his mistakes and keep himself away from alcohol.
As you know I’ve tried almost everything.would be glad if I could get any better suggestion from your side..

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:46 pm January 4th, 2016

Hi, Zamngaih. I totally understand you. I suggest you to check out Allies in Recovery: http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/. They are an NGO that works with families to intervene with problem addicts using the CRAFT intervention model. You’ll have to do some reading and get yourself familiar with the style. Also, here’s another helpful reading: http://addictionblog.org/author/dominique-simon-levine/ Good luck!

7:54 am January 8th, 2016

I grew up with my father drinking. He would hit my
Mother behind closed doors when he was drunk. I hate alcohol with a passion. As I got older I vowed that I would always protect my children from seeing people drinking even having alcohol in my home. I met my husband when I was only in middle school. 16 years this year. He picked up drinking when he started a roofing job and began to drinking heavily. Tequila. Mixed drinks you name it. A few years after the began popping pills and mixing it with alcohol. To the point where we separated. He wasn’t himself he was mean to me verbally and violent to hitting walls and breaking something. Told me he didn’t care and that I could have it all. That he wasn’t coming back. Emotionally it killed me inside that I couldn’t do anything to help him stop. We got back together after he committed himself to seeking help with god. We’re going to a wonderful church. But now I feel like he’s starting down that same path. He doesn’t even see it. He’s taking in so much (work wise) and doesn’t know how to say no to people. Phone always ringing and can even sit down to eat. So he’s under a lot of pressure. He would drink 2 or 3 drinks while we’re out having dinner. And pick up more after. Then says he’s alright after drinking. But deep down I know he’s not. He’s becoming very short tempered and lashes out at any little thing. I’m at ease when he’s not home and as soon as he walks through the door I feel like I’m walking on egg shells. And need to be careful in what I say and do so he doesn’t go off. I can’t do this anymore I don’t have the strength to fight in me. I don’t want to go back to that same lifestyle. I don’t want my children to grow up in this sickening environment. I want better for them. Sad to say but at this very moment I’m sitting on the floor making sure he doesn’t come in the house tonight. And it’s almost 1am. GOD HELP ME!!!! I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried to talk to him letting him know that he’s first off hurting himself, me, our children, and our marriage but nothing is going through. Please please please help me. I feel so lost and alone.

9:57 pm February 2nd, 2016

My husband drinks whole day and night. When I am sleeping he wakes me and beats me for no reasons. He talks by himself. He’s a policeman and it’s been one month he is not going to work.

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