How to Cope with Your Alcoholic without Leaving


Chaos is the word most used to describe the situation when you live with an alcoholic.

The constant upheaval keeps you on the edge of your seat, never quit able to determine when the next bad thing is going to happen.

One of the things we try to do here at FreeMyAddict is empower you to take charge of your situation.

Even through the storm of your alcoholic’s behavior you need to be able to find a way through to a more predictable, calm place.

In so many ways your alcoholic has controlled the situation with alcohol use and all of the behavior surrounding it.

It’s finally time for you to take charge of the situation and do what you need to do to make it different.

Here are a few ideas that work.

Sort Responsibilities

Most alcoholics I have worked with tend to blame others around them for their drinking problems. They wouldn’t drink if it weren’t for something you did or do.

Wow, isn’t alcohol REALLY clouding their judgment there?

This illustrates why you need to sort out who’s responsible for what in order to be better able to cope.

One of the simplest ways to determine who’s choice resulted in the behavior.

Let me give you an example. Your alcoholic starts drinking in the early afternoon and misses an appointment. He blames you for not calling to reschedule the appointment.

It’s not your responsibility to compensate for the decision to drink and miss an appointment.

It was your alcoholic’s choice to drink, be out of it and miss the appointment.

You realize alcoholic’s don’t very often think through the full consequences of their use. As a result there are unintended consequences.

The more you recognize you’re not responsible for them the better. Leave them to your alcoholic to fix.

Set Boundaries

A key to establish any healthy relationship is to establish clear boundaries.

Imagine you have a neighbor who decides to plan his garden in your yard. When you object to it he blames you for it being there.

Where’s the respect for your property and who gives him the right to use your yard that way?

In our illustration, see how a fence would make a difference. There’s a separation between what’s yours and what’s your neighbor’s.

Life goes so much better when you set boundaries in relationships.

Let me in on a secret…

Anyone who doesn’t respect your boundaries doesn’t respect you.

It’s time for you to get the respect you deserve.

Gate Keep

Let’s use the former illustration again. There may be times you want the neighbor in your yard, once they no longer try to plan a garden there.

You don’t have a fence all around your yard. You have a gate where you can allow people to come in.

The importance here is you learn to gate keep. This means it’s up to you to decide who comes in.

If a person is hostile to you and what you need then they don’t have to be in your yard. You just lock the gate.

Your boundaries must be kept. They need to be communicated clearly and often.

It may be something like this. Your alcoholic want to show me affection and you tell him, “not if you’ve been drinking”.

This is a clear boundary and you can maintain it every time the situation arises.

Be Consistent

It’s one thing to ‘lay down the law’ and it’s a totally other thing to keep firm to what you’ve decided.

When you are steady there is a sense of predictability. Your alcoholic will come to understand what you’ll tolerate.

The best thing about when you remain consistent is you’ve removed much of the stress about the situation.

When the chaos of your alcoholic gets to you it’s time to set a take charge, set a few boundaries and become very consistent.

I’m sure you’ll be able to cope better as you do.

What are some of the boundaries you’ve been able to establish? Share them with us in the comment section below.


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  1. Viki

    I understand what you’re saying, but isn’t there a time when it’s best to leave?

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Leaving is a choice you’re faced with when in a relationship with an alcoholic. Many leave only to go into another relationship with another alcoholic. The issue is often bigger than just the alcoholic in your life. We can’t tell you to leave or stay that’s your decision. However, should you decide to stay we try to give you tools to make life better and ways to influence your alcoholic toward recovery.

      • Viki

        Well, then, how do you enforce a boundary you’ve established? If the boundary is crossed, what do you do? My husband went to a local college drinking area and was arrested for disorderly conduct. It was in the local newspaper last night and I am extremely embarrassed. And, if history repeats itself, he was probably coming on to college girls, pinching them on the butt, etc. This obviously crossed one of my boundaries, but my only recourse appears to be divorce. It’s not like this was the first time this has happened. We’ve been married for 33 years, and he is 59 years old.

      • FreeMyAddict Team

        Viki it’s HIS embarrassment not yours. I hope you let his deal with the consequences of being arrested. It can be a major wake up call. When an alcoholic’s inhibitions are lowered there’s no telling what they’ll do. It doesn’t mean they would do those thing with a sober mind. You have lots of decisions to make and he needs to know how you feel about this whole incident.

  2. Theresa

    It is true. Sometimes leaving do not solve the problem unless there is a lot of abuse from your alcoholic and you are fearing for your safety and the children.

    I have been in worse relationships with people who were not drinking but very irresponsible in looking after the family. My alcoholic drinks a lot but not always but one thing I am grateful for he is not abusive and always make sure I am well looked after. He remembers to do most things he should take care of at home when he is drunk except missing his appointments.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Alcoholics are NOT horrible people they have an illness. I’m glad your husband is functional for the most part. It’s good to look at the glass half full instead of half empty.
      I agree safety is ALWAYS the first concern. Thanks for your comments.

  3. Marina

    I understand about setting boundaries, for the most part. My alcoholic wants to be intimate, but I don’t want to be until he has a job. He gets angry, and very hostile. He keeps saying “I’m doing the best I can.” I do believe he is to a certain point, he is not going to regular meetings, he hasn’t had a drink for a guess about 3 weeks, but in that time he has been very hostile towards me. Yet this weekend has been very nice, he was respectful, thoughtful, and kind—this I appreciate and enjoyed the peace in the house this weekend. Today is another day, I just hope it continues, we will see. I am trying to keep my boundaries set. Thanks for being here for me. I truly appreciate the comments from all.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      AA leaders are willing to sign an attendance sheet. Abstinence is a huge ingredient to recovery. I would hope he will select a home group for his meetings and get a sponsor. Those things tell me a lot about his commitment to recovery. I appreciate your comments too.

  4. starla

    I have been married 10 years on the ninth year he decided to get sober. He changed so much after going to meetings and our life has come so far. But he has slipped once in the last 6 months and I think I smell another one coming. He went golfing in rain and that weird for him. I asked him if he drank beer when he wad out and he had a very quick answer saying his buddy asked him in to a pub. Immediately I was suspicious he’s chewing gum and he’s back smoking so I don’t no if that was an attempt to cover up odor. I’m back in my neurotic mode hes got me on high alert I’m scared an sick and back trying to control. I know the 3 Cs but it’s very hear him and to sit back and watch him throw away his recovery and my families stability. I gave up my alanon meeting so he could go his meeting live in small area not a lot of meetings. So I feel out of control and tonight he says hes goin to AA but he didn’t bring his big book says its not till tomorrow. I’m so sick :'(

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      It’s sounds like a good Al Anon meeting would help right now. Lots of changes happen with an alcoholic. My suggestion is for you to take care of your emotions right now and do what YOU need to do. Let him know you understand the GAME he’s playing. You don’t have to return to where you were ten years ago. It’s YOUR choice too.

  5. Holly

    Don’t really know where to start. Twelve years and two kids later, I am with a man who once was my best friend to a mere figure that sits in the garage and drinks with his friends or himself. As a family we haven’t been doing anything together, it seems like he can not function without having a drink in his hand. He has been without a job, without his license, in jail, on probation, and in counseling…the more counseling and AA classes, the more that he drinks. Sometimes I don’t even see him through the day, then I work at night. I am finding it hard to manage my time for my family, my work, and sleep. I understand he has a problem, but there is no understanding that “his” problem is “our” problem. The kids come first and unfortunately he will lose his own son if it continues, and I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that this is the way life is. I find myself trying to over exert myself with my children just to show them I am there for them and love them. It just feels like I am tangled in a web right now. The more I fight to get out of it, the harder to pulls me in. Here lately I want to throw in the towel, wave the flag…. and yet I know the man he was and the man he could be again. It is very stressful and emotional in be in this state of mind.

    • FreeMyAddict Team


      I hear your pain. It’s extremely difficult to deal with all of this. It does sound like you have a good perspective with your children. They are where your primary attention needs to be.

      Let me put this in the context of the illness of alcoholism. If your husband had any other illness and it wasn’t working what would you do? I’m sure you would look for other competent doctors who would help determine what could be done.

      Not all treatment programs, counselors or support groups are great. Even if your husband goes if he’s not being real and putting effort into recovery he’s not going to have success.

      When your husband is sober, you need to tell him what you’re feeling. At that time be prepared to recommend some choices for him to make to make it better for you and the children.

      Here are three articles that are helpful for your situation:

    • Do Less
    • Assertive Communication
    • What your alcoholic won’t tell you
    • Thanks for your comment

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