Living with a drinker

When someone you know drinks alcohol heavily

I speak to many people who either grew up with a drinker or who are living with a drinker now. This blog will focus on what it is like to live with a drinker and what support is available to you as a relative or friend. Names have been changed and permission given for sharing aspects of the story.

Someone might need help if: They are unable to control the amount they drink; Their behaviour changes because of their drinking; Their drinking is causing problems in everyday life.

Growing up with a parent who drank

Children usually know that their parent is dependent on alcohol from an early age. Clients have told me that they started looking for signs and responding accordingly

1. Whether mum / dad was having a good or bad day

2. Whether mum / dad was emotionally available and could meet their needs

3. Whether mum / dad was under the influence of alcohol / hungover

From an early age, the child will adapt their behaviour accordingly and learn to be self sufficient. Fran realised by 12 that her mum had a drinking problem and started to look for signs like empty bottles or the smell of wine.

She found herself checking her mum’s water bottle or glass for the smell of alcohol. If her mum had been drinking in the day time, then Fran recognised that the atmosphere would be far more volatile with arguments between her parents.

Fran commented that she started trying to stay out of the house as much as possible. Hooking up with a group of new friends who hung out at the park until it was dark, which then had an impact on this normally A grade student.

The emotional toll of having an alcoholic parent may carry into adulthood, impacting on relationships, self esteem and your own choices around alcohol.

Therapy can help you recognise how these triggers have affected you and help you feel more balanced now. Fran came to see me when she started to feel anxious on nights out and saying no to more invitations.

As she talked, she linked it back to her teenage experiences. She realised that when she was with people who were becoming loud / drunk / less predictable, then she felt unsafe.

With her antenna on the look out for arguments and volatility, it triggered her ‘flight’ response which made her feel on edge all evening.

When your partner drinks

Are you worried about a person in your life who drinks heavily but won’t change or stop when you ask?

Perhaps you are living with someone who seems to want to always continue the party long after everyone else has stopped? It can impact on everything from social relationships to lifestyle choices to carrying feelings of fear / anxiety / worry / anger / shame to feeling isolated and alone.

Perhaps you are worried about how the drinking is affecting your children. Being the family member of someone who drinks harmfully can leave you feeling stigmatised or isolated as it can be difficult to talk to family and friends about your concerns.

The first point is ….

You are not responsible for your partners drinking. Therapy can help you examine how it makes you feel, and look at how alcohol is impacting on your life.

Where to go for support if you are worried about someone who drinks

  1. Speak to your GP if you are concerned about yourself or a family member as there will be local community based services in your area
  3. Drinkline – free advice helpline for those worried about how you or a loved one are using alcohol – 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am – 8pm, weekends 11am – 4pm)
  4.– support groups for family members affected by alcohol and Alateen for teenagers affected by those using alcohol.

I hope you have found this blog useful.

I am a counsellor, hypnotherapist and Alcohol Coach, based in Essex and work also online. I work with many people who are either wish to change their personal relationship with alcohol or who have been affected by alcohol via other people. Sessions are confidential and non judgemental. You can explore how you feel and be confident to move forward in a way that is right for you.

Get in touch for a free, no obligation consultation.

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