How to Help an Alcoholic Partner

Have you ever thought to yourself "my partner is alcoholic"? Read on to learn about the common signs of an alcoholic partner, how to help them, and some of the support and resources available for partners of alcoholics.

Is My Partner an Alcoholic?

When you’re close to someone, it’s not always easy to see the progression from casual drinking to alcoholism. 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

Symptoms and signs you can look for in your partner that may be indicators of AUD, 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.

Treatment Programs

Learn about how we approach addiction treatment:

How to Help My Alcoholic Partner

The first step can be reaching out and calling an alcohol hotline for advice. Your information will be kept confidential, and you can get the necessary resources to move forward.

You can also encourage your partner to schedule an appointment to see their primary care physician.2 Talk openly about your concerns and let them know a medical professional can guide them toward proper treatment at an alcohol recovery center.

For alcohol rehab treatment to be effective, it’s best for the person to be in a supervised setting so that alcohol use can be monitored or prevented. This is especially important in the beginning stages of recovery. Also, since patients may be taking medication and going through the detox process, experts recommend at least three months of inpatient rehab and then continuing to outpatient and group therapies.4

Alcohol Rehab and Recovery Process

Going through the rehabilitation and recovery process involves several steps and therapies. There are various types of therapies to aid in the recovery from AUD.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people recover from alcohol use by finding ways to cope with triggers and modify behavior.4 Your partner may begin with a regimen of one-on-one therapy and at the same time, attend group meetings provided by AA and Al-Anon to get support from their peers. Attending family therapy is a way you can support your partner through the process and offer encouragement on their recovery journey.

Support for Partners of Alcoholics

The need for support for partners of alcoholics is extremely common due to the mental and emotional strain of having an alcoholic partner. You can take advantage of a support system such as Al-Alon. This program consists of people who have been affected by someone else’s drinking, and it allows them a space to uplift, encourage, and support one another.

In addition to attending Al-Anon, it’s important to practice plenty of self-care. It might be easy to forget about your own life and health when caring for someone with an alcohol use disorder. However, if you don’t take care of yourself, you may not be in shape to help your partner. You can do this by eating healthy, exercising, meditating, spending time with friends and family, and attending therapy.

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.


  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.
  3. Macdonald G, Livingstone N, Hanratty J, et al. The effectiveness, acceptability and cost-effectiveness of psychosocial interventions for maltreated children and adolescents: an evidence synthesis. Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; 2016 Sep. (Health Technology Assessment, No. 20.69.) Appendix 5, Types of interventions.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, September 18). Principles of Effective Treatment.