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When Is It Time to Leave an Alcoholic?

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Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances in the United States, with over 85 percent of individuals reporting that they have engaged in drinking during some point of their lives. (1) Being dependent on alcohol affects many different aspects in one’s life. Relational satisfaction and relationships are often strained when alcohol use consumes a partner. A study showed that those who engage in more alcohol use reported lower relationship satisfaction. (2) Watching someone you love experience addiction can be difficult and make them unrecognizable. The partner of someone with alcohol dependence may consider leaving the relationship, but may not know if this is the right decision. In this article, we explore the signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder, and when it may be time to leave an alcoholic.

If you or a loved one are experiencing relationship problems due to alcohol use, it may be time to seek treatment. Here at Guardian Recovery, wellness and sobriety become attainable. With a combination of holistic treatment methods, medical detox, and intervention services, we provide treatment options to aid you in developing adaptive coping strategies to maintain sobriety. Contact us to start your recovery journey today.

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When Should I Leave an Alcoholic?

Knowing when it is time to leave an alcoholic can be difficult and confusing. Those with a spouse or partner experiencing alcohol use disorder may have feelings of guilt or blame, engage in enabling behaviors, and attempt to control their partner’s drinking. Those in a relationship with someone who is addicted to alcohol may have to become sole household provider or caretaker depending on the severity of their partner’s drinking. This can be overwhelming and one may question whether or not their relationship can get through this stressful time. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to leaving a relationship with someone experiencing alcohol use. Understanding the signs, symptoms, potential problems, and treatment options may aid you in making an informed decision.

What Are the Warning Signs of Alcohol Addiction?

It can be difficult for someone to admit that they are experiencing addiction. It may take a loved one being able to spot the signs objectively in order for someone to know that they have a problem. Knowing the warning signs of alcohol use disorder can bring some understanding to the negative effects that it elicits. The warning signs of alcohol use disorder include: (3)

  • Spending a lot of time drinking or drinking every day.
  • Constantly engaging in excessive or binge drinking.
  • Being consumed by thoughts of engaging in drinking.
  • Trying to cut back or completely stop drinking, but not being successful.
  • Continuing to engage in alcohol use even though it has caused problems with family, friends, or other important relationships.
  • Having an interference in school, occupational, or home obligations due to alcohol use.
  • Needing to drink more than you did in the past to experience the same effect.
  • Continuing to drink even if it causes emotional or physical impairments (i.e. depressionanxiety, liver disease).
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, such as insomnia, perspiration, agitation, fast heartbeat, or seizures.
  • Drinking to the point of blacking out.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are several risk factors that increase the chances of one developing alcohol use disorder. (4) These risk factors include:

  • Biological and heredity factors such as having a family history of alcohol use disorder. Research has found that approximately 50 percent of genes account for developing alcohol use disorder. (5)
  • Having a mental health diagnosis such as post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and depressive disorders. These disorders often co-occur with alcohol use disorder.
  • Having your first alcoholic beverage at a young age. A study found that 40 percent of individuals who engaged in drinking before age 15, had symptoms consistent with alcohol use disorder. (6)

Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition. It requires a diagnosis by a medical or licensed professional in order for treatment to be individualized and successful.

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What Problems Come With Dating or Being Married to an Alcoholic?

There are various problems that may arise when dating or being married to someone with alcohol dependency. These can include: (7)

  • Emotional problems such as anxiousness or frustration.
  • FInancial problems due to the partner experiencing alcohol use, using money to fund their habit, not paying bills, or not attending work obligations.
  • Engaging in social interaction less due to experiencing negative feelings when out in public.
  • Your partner neglecting relationships with you, family members, or your children.
  • Engaging in verbal arguments and disagreements related to your partner’s alcohol use.
  • Physical or domestic violence. This can be against oneself, a spouse, or children. Research shows that having a spouse engaging in heavy drinking can increase the chances of physical violence and aggression. (8)

Can Alcoholics Change?

Luckily, treatment for alcohol use disorder is completely attainable. Setbacks and relapse may occur, however, enrolling in treatment specifically for substance use can help individuals maintain their sobriety. Approximately 59 percent of those with alcohol use disorder recover after one year of treatment. (9) Approximately 18 percent completely abstain from alcohol. (10)

Below are some factors that encourage long-term sobriety: (11)

  • Spending adequate time in treatment.
  • Attending 12-step programs.
  • Being committed to staying sober.
  • Having important aspects in life that one doesn’t want to lose, such as family, occupational, or financial obligations.

How Can I Encourage an Alcoholic Partner to Seek Help?

Being open and honest with your partner about their alcohol use, and its effects on your relationship, is an effective way to encourage them to seek help. Performing an intervention to share your concerns may be helpful and provide professionalism from a medical provider.

Denial is common amongst those experiencing alcohol use disorder, since it can be hard to admit when one has a problem. This is especially true for those with high-functioning alcohol use. Those in denial may describe past success in order to deflect from their current problems. (12) Demonstrating compassion and patience can help the alcohol dependent individual reach acceptance.

Do I Need to Stop Drinking if My Partner is an Alcoholic?

Depending on the severity of your partner’s addiction, they may be tempted to continue to engage in alcohol use if they see you doing it. Those dealing with alcohol use disorder have difficulties controlling their intake. Being near someone close to them who engages in alcohol use may trigger their addiction. Having accessibility and access to alcohol nearby may not be helpful for their recovery. Discussing with your partner the restrictions that you may enforce once they begin abstaining from alcohol will help mitigate any potential future issues that may arise.

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When Is It Time to Leave a Relationship or Marriage?

Deciding whether or not it is time to leave a relationship with someone experiencing alcohol use disorder can be tough. Many factors may influence your decision, such as children, total years together, and your relationship overall. You may choose to stay with your partner if they agree to seek help. Couples counseling could help you and your partner work through any past conflicts that may have occurred.

If your partner is experiencing alcohol use disorder, Guardian Recovery is here to provide you with support. With family counseling and workshops available, we can provide you and your partner with the tools to recover from the effects of alcohol addiction. Contact us for a free, no obligation insurance benefits check to start your recovery journey today.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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