Signs You’re Married to a Functional Alcoholic (and What to Do About it)

Living With a Functional Alcoholic

Functional or high-functioning alcoholics do not always meet the stereotypical image of alcohol addiction and are not always easy to spot. They tend to be competent in most aspects of their lives, having a job, being successful, and taking care of their family despite their substance abuse. It can be difficult for anyone, even for the person married to them, to recognize there is alcohol addiction.

From the outside, your relationship and your partner seem just fine. Alcohol addiction affects much more than just that one person, it affects everyone around them. But that stress from alcohol abuse will eventually rupture and break into the relationship. Living with an alcoholic can cause rifts in even the strongest marriages. Arguments over alcohol abuse may start, and if the alcoholic’s spouse loses control of their drinking habits, there is a risk of domestic violence. It can be emotionally taxing on the alcoholic spouse to deal with the alcoholic’s mood swings, lies, or excuses, while also covering for them and picking up their slack at taking care of the home. The alcoholic’s spouse may hesitate to seek treatment for addiction recovery because the person with substance abuse appears “normal.” This can lead to the spouse feeling hopeless and isolated while living with an alcoholic.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today at 877.969.1993 to learn how we can help.

What Is a High Functional or High Functioning Alcoholic?

Usually, when you picture alcohol abuse and alcoholism, you think of someone whose life is in shambles because of their heavy drinking. Functional or high-functioning alcoholics do not fit this stereotype but often seem to have everything going for them. Their excessive drinking does not affect their ability to do well at work, and has good relationships with friends and family. They often think their heavy drinking is under control because it doesn’t affect their ability to thrive in life.

Signs of Functional Alcoholism

Functional or high-functioning alcoholics do not show signs of a problem in obvious ways. The signs may be more subtle, but the longer their alcohol addiction goes untreated, the more pronounced these symptoms will be. Signs to look out for include:

  • Fluctuating moods and behavior based on excessive drinking
  • Secretive behavior or lying
  • Having a drink in the morning
  • Excessive drinking (even if not every day)
  • High tolerance for alcohol
  • Finding excuses or justifications for their heavy drinking
  • Pre-drinking before work or social events
  • Joking about their heavy drinking
  • Physical signs of alcohol withdrawal
  • They get defensive when confronted about alcohol abuse
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Decreased productivity, especially when not drinking

Functional Alcoholics and Codependent Spouses

Codependency in relationships is when one person, such as an alcoholic husband or wife, has ongoing needs, and their partner finds purpose and self-worth in fulfilling their needs. The alcoholic’s spouse ends up neglecting their own needs. Sometimes the codependent spouse may enable their alcohol use disorder to continue the dysfunctional caregiving because it gives them purpose. They tend to protect the alcoholic husband or wife from the consequences of their alcohol use disorder and maintain a façade of normalcy in the relationship. The codependent alcoholic’s spouse may inadvertently be helping the alcoholic to continue drinking to maintain the status quo.

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How to Approach Your Spouse About Their Drinking

When left untreated, alcohol use disorder can get much worse—getting alcoholism treatment as soon as possible increases a person’s chances of successful addiction recovery in Florida. Have an honest, compassionate, and direct approach when they are sober about your concern about their heavy drinking. Please encourage them to seek alcohol abuse help from a qualified treatment center. This could help them see how far-reaching their heavy drinking has become. However, they may not be ready or willing to get addiction treatment. You can also plan an intervention to let them know the consequences if they continue to drink and do not seek treatment.

You cannot force your spouse to go to substance abuse treatment, but you can change your actions that may be enabling them. Don’t bring alcohol into the house, and do not drink with your spouse. If present, you must break away from codependency behaviors and talk to a counselor or therapist who can guide you or even help you plan an intervention.

If you or your spouse is struggling with alcohol abuse and want addiction recovery help, please call WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab. Our substance abuse specialists can help guide you on the best alcohol use disorder treatment and levels of care for you or your loved one.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.