My Partner Is an Alcoholic: How Can I Help Them?

The decision to start recovery is exclusive to the addicted person. Therefore, you can be by their side, support them, and help them understand they have a problem, but the decision is always theirs.
My Partner Is an Alcoholic: How Can I Help Them?
Bernardo Peña

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Bernardo Peña.

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Alcoholism is a serious disorder that affects many people. In addition to serious health problems, it usually also involves problems in other areas of the alcoholic’s life, such as work, personal life, family, etc. Therefore, once an alcoholic has recognized their problem and decided to start therapy, they need the help of the people around them, all their support, empathy, understanding and patience. If your partner is an alcoholic, how can you help them?


An alcoholic drinking with several bottles on the table in the foreground.
This condition is characterized by a strong dependence, both physical and psychological, on the consumption of alcohol.

Alcoholism is a disorder that causes dependence on alcohol. In this sense, it’s not the same as alcohol abuse, which can occur at a specific point in time.

In effect, doctors consider alcoholism a disease, since it causes a strong physical dependence, that is, a person can’t stop drinking because withdrawal syndrome prevents it. The alcoholic needs to drink more and more to be able to feel the same effect, as their body adapts to the intake of alcohol.

On the other hand, alcoholism also causes psychological dependence, so that leaving this addiction becomes really difficult to achieve without the help of qualified professionals.

Like any addiction, alcoholism can cause serious health problems, and also problems in the life of the alcoholic. In effect, alcoholism has physical, but also psychological, repercussions and not only on the addicted person, but also on those around them.

For this reason, it’s extremely important you recognize the problem, seek help, and start therapy. However, what can you do if your partner is an alcoholic? How can you help them? We’ll give you some tips below.

Help the alcoholic to realize

Only the addicted person can make the decision to start therapy and recovery. For this reason, the people around you can warn you, but they can’t force you to do anything.

Therefore, always in an empathetic way, you can help them realize that alcohol is a problem. This approach must always be from a place of help and support, and never as an attack or with the aim of blaming the addict.

For example, you should avoid saying things like, “when you drink you’re unbearable or make a fool of yourself.” On the contrary, you should approach them with empathy and delicacy, without direct attacks. Thus, it’s better to say something like, “I know it’s hard …”, “I understand you, but …”.

Man drinking with person's hand on his shoulder.
The first step is realizing there’s a problem, something you can talk about from a place of empathy to understand the addict.

Additionally, you should keep in mind that this approach to talk about addiction should always be done in a moment of sobriety. It’s useless to do it when they’re under the influence of alcohol.

However, you should be aware that many addicts strongly deny their addiction. In this sense, helping them to realize can cause them to turn against you, thinking that you’re accusing or attacking them.

Therefore, always keep in mind that you can’t force anyone to heal themselves if they don’t want to. If your partner is an alcoholic, your role is to help raise awareness of a problem, but nothing more. If the other person insists on not wanting to recover or not understanding that there’s a problem, you shouldn’t blame yourself for it.

Never help an alcoholic to drink

Your partner may ask you to purchase alcohol. Maybe because they feel embarrassed if people see them purchase more than one bottle, maybe because they’re drunk, or for other reasons, so they ask you to be the one to go.

However, you have to flatly refuse. In fact, you have to make it clear that you don’t agree with their addiction and that you consider it a problem. Therefore, if they want to drink, they’ll have to buy the alcohol themselves. You shouldn’t help maintain their addiction.

Similarly, your partner may be looking for excuses to go out and have a drink. If you sense that their intention is to drink, you must be clear and assertive and refuse. We insist: you can’t help them maintain their addiction.

We recommend you read: The Effects of Alcohol on the Heart

Seek professional help

A couple with a therapist, seeking help for alcoholism.
With therapy and professional help, the alcoholic will be able to enjoy a full life again.

The rate of chronic alcoholics who have managed to recover from addiction without professional help is very low. So, if your partner is an alcoholic, and has become aware that they have a problem, and they try to seek help, then support them.
There are addiction therapists who can guide you through this big step and difficult journey. There are also organizations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, that provide support to people with this type of addiction.

For your part, you can get involved, looking for a specialist, accompanying your partner, learning more, and talking to the therapist about what you should do for their recovery to be successful.

In addition, you can look for activities to do together that don’t involve drinking. For example, going to class together, to the gym, for a walk. Remember that the addict must re-educate themselves, that is, they have to learn to have fun without alcohol.

Avoid stressful situations or ones that trigger a need to drink

This is always advisable, but much more when the addict is in therapy, in order to avoid relapses. You have to be able to recognize the situations that stress the addict and try to avoid them. In effect, stress will lead them to want to drink, complicating their recovery.

Therefore, you should be vigilant and proactive in order to avoid such situations or moments for the alcoholic. It’s not easy. However, your partner needs all your support and patience. Don’t blame them, they’re sick. Don’t attack them, they have problems. What you need to do is understand and support them, be there and collaborate in their recovery.

Also, always remember that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t succeed, you’ve done all you could do.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.