How Can I Explain My Alcohol Addiction To My Spouse?

Are you looking for ways to come clean to your spouse about your alcohol problem? Check out our advice on how to break the news to your significant other without discomfort and embarrassment.

minute read

It’s Not About Morals or Willpower

Alcohol dependence and addiction are difficult to describe, especially to close family members who don’t struggle with cravings. It is highly likely that your spouse is aware of the issue…after all, who’s been living with a problem drinker for weeks, months, or years on end? Expect first that your spouse will feel hurt and wonder why you simply do not have a strong enough will to quit drinking.

One thing’s for sure: Having a drinking problem does not mean you are lacking the moral principles or willpower to quit.

But how can you communicate about alcohol use problems with your spouse? What can you say to prevent doing more damage to the relationship? This article outlines the key points of the conversation you need to have about you alcohol problem with your spouse. We welcome your questions and personal experiences in the section at the end, and we try to make sure we answer ASAP.

What Is Addiction, Really?

What better way to explain alcoholism to your significant other than by first understanding it yourself? And, NO…it doesn’t mean you understand the “how’s” and “why’s” just because you are the one who drinks. But, you can start to understand alcohol addiction by doing research and educating yourself about the problem, the underlying causes, and all the challenges alcoholism brings to you and your loved ones.

Addiction has been defined in many ways. One way of looking at it is as a physical and/or psychological need to consume alcohol up to the point where it harms you. And the key sign is that you continue drinking, despite these harms. Why?

Mainly, because over time alcohol triggers:

  • Changes in brain function.
  • Changes in brain structure.
  • Physical dependence (making it dangerous to quit abruptly).
  • Psychological dependence.

The majority of people find it difficult to understand that addiction is a disease like many others. If you don’t get the needed professional help, your physical and mental health, financial condition, relationships, and social connections at high risk. In reality, quitting alcohol takes much more than just good intentions or a strong will. It requires professional, medical interventions.

Talking About Alcohol Use Problems

Whoa, Nelly! Stop jumping straight into the discussion. The first conversation you need to have is actually with yourself.

Many people who drink alcohol chronically and long term are not even aware that this behavior is a problem. So, you need to shed the denial. Once you admit you have an alcohol addiction you can express the desire and readiness for recovery.

In case you feel a discomfort or simply lack the knowledge to talk about a drinking problem with your spouse, think about speaking with an addictions counselor first. These individuals have education and experience in the field of addiction, and might share some useful piece of advice. Another option is to go to couples therapy or family counselling to resolve interrelationship problems that have occurred as a result of drinking.

Once you get a good feel for HOW and WHY you drink…and how alcoholism is a brain disease, go on and have the actual conversation with your spouse. Addiction is usually accompanied by a multitude of lies, and like your drinking the lies will need to stop too. So, speak honestly and truthfully…this can actually help rebuild trust in your relationship with your loved one. Having open communication can also help your husband or your wife to better understand the causes of your behavior and give him/her ideas about showing support for your recovery.

7 Possible Ways Forward

Here are some steps that might come in handy when explaining addiction to your spouse:

  1. Develop an action plan before you speak with your spouse.
  2. Discuss your recovery strategy. It’s important that your spouse is introduced with the further steps and your future recovery plans.
  3. Your close family members should be informed about your specific alcohol triggers. Let them know what types of actions, attitudes, and situations remind you of drinking or are somehow associated to your alcohol addiction. This will help your spouse and other family members to NOT become “enablers”.
  4. Ask for forgiveness and apologize for any negative behaviors you have engaged in that influenced the safety of your mutual life together.
  5. Be honest. Never try to justify or neglect a drinking problem.
  6. Ask for emotional support to help you get and remain on the path to permanent recovery.

Your Questions

In this article, we hope to have given you some ideas about how to talk with your spouse about your alcohol use problem. But perhaps you have more questions.

In case you are left with any question, you are welcome to post them in the comments section below. We always make sure to answer to all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly. And, in case we do not know the answer to your question, we will refer you to a relevant professional who can help.

Reference Sources: HealthDirect: What is addiction?
DrugAbuse: Addiction Science
MentalHelp: Biological Causes Of Addiction
Quora: What are the social factors that contribute to substance abuse?
LifeLine Connections: How Does Someone Become an Alcoholic?
HAMS: What Is Alcohol Tolerance?
A Forever Recovery: How to Explain Your Addiction to Loved Ones
How Stuff Works: How Alcoholism Works
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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