For someone who has been struggling with drinking, it can be difficult to quit when their partner continues drinking. This can put a strain on the relationship, and while many relationships do break down in this situation, this may not be the case for you. We will discuss some ways that could help you stay sober when your partner still drinks.
Alcohol abuse is common across the UK. Census data from 2005 to 2016 show that over half the population (29 million people) reported drinking alcohol, with nearly eight million people binge drinking on their heaviest drinking day.
Alcohol addiction can cause a lot of harm including deaths by traffic accidents, overdose, falls, and violence. It also leads to an increased risk of long-term health problems including worsening mental health conditions and liver and heart diseases.
Understand Your Triggers
One of the first things you should do when you quit drinking is to get to know your triggers. These can include people, places, objects, or emotions that cause you to want to drink. It may not be possible to change external factors, for example, you may still need to drive past a venue that makes you crave alcohol, but you can learn how to manage triggers and avoid them where possible.
Your triggers may include eating crisps and sitting down to relax in front of the TV, smoking with friends, or spending time with someone you used to drink with. The first step to working out what you need from your partner is to understand what your triggers are and how you can manage them.
Questions to consider:
- Do certain places make me want to drink?
- Do I find it difficult not to drink with certain people?
- Do I drink when I experience certain emotions?
Set Healthy Boundaries
When you have worked out triggers and understand what you need, you can set boundaries. Clear boundaries are essential for sober living particularly when you are living and socializing with people who still drink. You may have discovered that you struggle when your spouse drinks in the house, so a boundary for you might be that they limit or stop drinking in the house when you are there.
There may be certain mutual friends that you need to spend less or no time with at least at the beginning of your sobriety. If your partner continues to see them you may ask them not to bring them to the house when you are there. While these can be difficult decisions to take, you should not feel guilty for protecting your recovery.
Identifying and setting strong boundaries can take time so be patient with yourself and your loved ones as you navigate them. You may also find that your triggers change with time, some situations which were difficult at first may be easier later. It is important to keep communicating your boundaries as things change.
Questions to consider:
- Do you need drinks to be kept in a special place in the house where you will not see them regularly?
- Are there particular drinks that you cannot have in the house, or do you need all drinks to be kept out of the house?
Open and Honest Communication
When communicating your own needs and feelings it is important to engage in open and honest conversation. When you speak with your partner be clear about how you feel and what you need from them both in terms of practical and emotional support. Be patient at first as it may be difficult for them to accept that you are quitting if you have spent a lot of time drinking together in the past. It may also be hard if you want to talk about your partner’s drinking and how it affects you.
Some questions to consider asking:
- Are you interested in stopping or reducing drinking?
- Are there things you would like to do together sober?
- Are you happy to not have alcohol in the house?
- Can you limit alcohol use or stop entirely around me?
Separate Yourself from Alcohol when Needed
You may have decided that you need to have alcohol-free areas of the house or that your partner can drink in the house, but they should drink from a cup that is not see-through so that you cannot see the alcohol. Social situations can also be triggering. You may need contingency plans when you go to social events together.
If you are going to a social event that you know will involve alcohol, you may want to make sure that you can leave early if needed. This could include taking separate cars, knowing how to get home by bus, or ordering a taxi. You should also not feel pressured to go to events. If you need to turn down social invitations, friends that care about your recovery should understand this.
Replacing unhealthy habits with new healthy ones is a way to make staying sober easier. Some things to consider include journaling, exercise, painting, and hiking. Think about activities that you enjoy which do not involve drinking. These activities may particularly help when your partner is going out and drinking as it may be difficult to resist if you do not have alternative activities to do. Spending time with supportive friends and family members can help so you can also socialize when they go out.
It can also be important to do healthy activities with your partner. When you speak with them about what you need, discuss whether there are activities that you would enjoy doing together. It could be something as simple as having a morning coffee on the porch, cooking dinner together, or going for evening walks. It is important to continue spending quality time together.
Evaluating Your Relationship
Ultimately you need to put yourself first. If you have communicated clearly and your partner either does not want to or cannot support you, you may need to evaluate your relationship and whether it is good for you. Your partner may want to help you, but they are unable to due to their own drinking problems. You cannot control whether your partner drinks, they also need to make their own decisions, but you can decide which actions to take if they are unwilling to respect healthy boundaries.
For many people, at least some of their relationships when they were drinking are based around the common interest of drinking. When you stop, it may be difficult to realize that you either do not want to or cannot spend time with people who have been important to you. It could be that you have never lived a sober life with your partner, and you see your relationship differently when you are sober.
For some, this can be a very difficult process, and may not be the case for you. But the most important thing is that you put your recovery first. It is important that you have support as it can be very difficult to stay sober, particularly in the early stages. If your partner does not want you to change and does not support your decision you should think about whether you can do this together.
Questions to consider:
- Do they support my decision to stop drinking?
- Are they supportive of your self-development?
- Can you be yourself when you are sober around them?
Getting Professional Help
Quitting alcohol can be difficult and even dangerous if you have developed a dependency. If you experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit drinking, you should speak to a professional for advice. Early sobriety is especially difficult and inpatient treatment can help you stabilize your sobriety in an environment that is safe and in which you cannot relapse.
This may also help your relationship since you will learn new tools and techniques to help you stay sober. Therapists and support groups can help you learn techniques to stay sober with a partner who drinks. Inpatient treatment is also helpful for those who suffer from co-occurring mental health issues as they can complicate the recovery process.
Contact Us Today
If you have an alcohol addiction or other problematic drinking, we are here to help at Crossroads Antigua. We understand that recovery is a very difficult process and provide a safe environment to make sure you are as comfortable as possible.
We offer a range of treatment options including:
- Individual and group therapy including family therapy
- Trauma therapy
- Yoga and fitness
- Nutritional counseling
Please visit our website or call us at 1-888-452-0091 from the US, 1-800-783-9631 from the UK, or 1-268-562-0035 from all other countries. We look forward to welcoming you to our community.