How to Help an Alcoholic Boyfriend

If you are dating someone who drinks too much, you may be worried that he's an alcoholic. Learn more on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of an alcoholic partner, as well as how to talk to them about getting help.

While most adults in the United States consume alcohol at some point in their lives, for nearly 16 million American adults and about 623,000 adolescents, alcohol abuse leads to addiction, called alcohol use disorder (AUD). According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, AUD is the inability to control your alcohol intake even in the face of dangerous consequences. Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition that affects brain function. People can have mild or severe AUD, just like any other disorder. AUD is a chronic condition, which means relapse can occur and ongoing treatment is usually best. 1

If you need information on how to get help for your alcoholic partner, our admissions navigators are just a phone call away. Available 24/7, our representatives can discuss possible treatment options and get you the information you need to start a journey towards recovery. Please call our hotline at 1-888-685-5770 or get a text or fill out the form below to see if your loved one’s insurance may cover substance abuse treatment.

Signs You Are Dating Someone Who Drinks Too Much

Have you ever thought to yourself “my boyfriend is an alcoholic”? There are symptoms and signs you can look for in your partner that may be indicators of AUD. Some common signs of an alcoholic partner include:1

  • Spending a lot of time drinking and drinking more.
  • Getting sick regularly from drinking.
  • Focusing on or expresses the need to have a drink.
  • Saying they will cut down or stop drinking, but don’t.
  • Difficulty keeping up with family responsibilities because of drinking.
  • Struggling to maintain family relationships or friendships due to drinking.
  • Stopping or cutting down on doing activities they once enjoyed because they want to have more time for drinking.
  • Continuing drinking even if physical or mental health starts to decline.
  • Drinking more now than in the past due to an increased tolerence.
  • Trying to stop drinking but having withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, the shakes, nausea, restlessness, sweating, and a rapid heart rate.

Even if you are noticing just a few of the signs from the list, there are ways you can provide support for your loved one and point them in the right direction to find help.

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How to Talk to Your Alcoholic Boyfriend

A person watching their alcoholic partner struggle with behavioral problems because of alcohol will naturally want to help. But what is the best approach? Generally, showing care and concern helps, but what if there is a serious problem? How should it be discussed?

Here are some suggestions that can help to start the conversation:

  • “I’m concerned about how you behave when you drink because [example].”
  • “I’ve noticed that you seem to feel bad about yourself/life/your job/etc. when you drink too much.”
  • “You seem to get sick a lot after you drink and I don’t want you to feel bad.”
  • “I wonder if you may feel better if you drink less/stop drinking.”
  • “Maybe we can do something without alcohol this weekend.”

Talking to him alone may be a good start to encouraging him to seek treatment or make healthier choices, like quitting use of alcohol. However, denial is one sign that a person struggles with AUD or problem drinking, so he may refuse help, deny that he has a problem, become angry, or lie about the problem. 

This kind of one-on-one intervention only works if a person feels safe with their boyfriend. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse is a major contributor to intimate partner violence.

Intimate Partner Abuse as a Result of Problem Drinking

Intimate partner violence is a term encompassing abuse of many loved ones, including domestic violence against spouses or romantic partners. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these abusive behaviors of an alcoholic in a relationship can cause physical, sexual, or psychological harm within the relationship.

Signs of an Abusive Alcoholic Boyfriend

Common signs of an abusive alcoholic boyfriend can include:

  • Physical aggression like hitting, kicking, or slapping
  • Psychological intimidation, belittling, or humiliation
  • Forced sexual intercourse or activities
  • Controlling behaviors like isolating the person from friends and family
  • Restricting access to certain activities
  • Monitoring their movements or conversations

Worldwide, problem drinking is linked to an increased risk of intimate partner abuse. The reduction in self-control, the more intense mood swings, and the potential for an underlying mental illness make people who drink excessively more likely to abuse their romantic partners and more likely to become the victims of this abuse. WHO found that, in the United States, 55 percent of victims of intimate partner violence believed that their partner drank too much before physically assaulting them. While men are victims of intimate partner abuse from both male and female partners, women are at much higher risk from male partners than other demographic groups (three in 10 women, or 29 percent, compared to one in 10 men, or about 10 percent).

If a woman does not feel safe because of her boyfriend’s drinking, she should find help from a trusted friend, family member, or law enforcement.

Alcohol Consumption for Men

Standards of problem drinking are different for men and women. This is largely because men have more water weight and more muscle while women have more body fat; hormonal differences change how alcohol is processed; and women are more likely to have a diagnosed mental health condition, especially a mood disorder like anxiety or depression, compared to men, which increases the risk of self-medicating with alcohol. For men, excessive drinking levels are different than they are for women.

  • Heavy drinking is 15 or more drinks per week, or about two drinks per day, for men.
  • Binge drinking is five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men.

How to Help a Boyfriend Stop Drinking

A one-on-one intervention can help men decide to seek treatment, especially if a spouse or girlfriend expresses concern. If she feels safe doing so, a woman should follow these steps to approach her boyfriend about his problem drinking:

  • Learn about alcohol use disorder to talk knowledgably about the issues; this may include going to a physician or therapist to discuss symptoms.
  • Practice what she will say to him.
  • Pick the right time and place while he is sober.
  • Listen to him with honesty and compassion.
  • Do not enable his drinking. It is important for her to set clear boundaries on how she will help and when she will not support problem behaviors like drinking too much.
  • Express love and concern.
  • Find some treatment options that may be a good fit for his needs.

Discuss Health Effects of Drinking Too Much

Discussing the acute and chronic consequences of excessive drinking may help. Men are socialized to be more independent and rational, and to view emotions as weaknesses; adding data to a discussion of treatment can help men feel more in control and understand that they have a problem.

Short-term, or acute, health consequences from drinking too much may include:

  • Increased risk of physical injury from accidents like falling or car crashes
  • Risk of becoming a victim of violence, including robbery or assault
  • Risk of suicide due to associated mood and behavioral changes
  • Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex and infidelity, which could lead to contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

Long-term, or chronic, health damage can include:

What if He Doesn’t Accept Help?

If expressing love, concern, support, and setting boundaries do not convince him to seek treatment, it is important to follow through on consequences. Maintain boundaries; for example, do not give him money when he spends too much on alcohol; don’t make excuses for his behavior to coworkers or other loved ones; and leave the house if he is unsafe to be around.

It may be time to enlist more help. If he does not respond to one person, he may respond to more loved ones. Gather trusted friends and family members who have also noticed that he has problems with alcohol. Stage an intervention, or hire a professional interventionist to plan and lead the meeting. Consider bringing a therapist or physician to the intervention to talk about the physical and mental consequences of drinking too much.

Getting Alcoholism Treatment

If you are finding yourself overwhelmed with where and how to help your alcoholic partner, call us 24/7 to discuss treatment options. We understand that many are affected by one person’s alcoholism and we’re here to help.

You can also complete the free and confidential form below to see if your loved one’s insurance may cover substance abuse treatment.

Knowing the warning signs of alcohol abuse, expressing your concerns, and encouraging your partner to reach out for treatment are ways you can help them on a path toward recovery.

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How to Help Others Struggling with Alcohol

Sources

  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Understanding alcohol use disorder.
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Treatment for alcohol problems: finding and getting help.