written by
Lucinda Koza

Life With an Alcoholic: Are You an Unaware Caregiver?

caregiver 4 min read , December 29, 2022

You just realized what’s been happening for the last nine months. First they were hiding the booze, but now you’re the one stowing bottles behind the towels in the hall closet. They were lying to you about how much they were drinking, and now you’re lying to him about how you’re feeling. Alcohol has become more important to them than both physical and emotional intimacy, and you know what?

Same for you.

Your life revolves around the anxiety over what state your partner is going to be in when you get home, and dealing with it when it inevitably goes badly. The hours in the day boil down to getting ahead of the problems and managing all the details in both your lives. You’ve tried to engage, you tolerate what you can…

…but you’re starting to withdraw. And it hurts. It hurts a lot. But life isn’t waiting around. One way or another things have to get done, and it’s all on you.

And that’s what finally hit you: this is life with an alcoholic, and you’re a caregiver.

Alcoholism By The Numbers

From a caregiving standpoint, alcoholism is one of the most common situations that affects younger people. 25.8% of people over 18 report engaging in binge drinking, and 6.3% indicate heavy alcohol use within the last month. There are 14.5 million people in the United States over the age of 12 who suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), but only 7.3% receive any kind of treatment.

63.8% of alcoholics also suffer from depression, which can have enormous consequences on their own lives and the lives of the people around them. This includes an increased risk of depression for their partner, social trauma, and a higher incidence of domestic violence.

Caregivers and caregiving services ultimately end up bearing the burden of alcoholism, particularly later in life. Alcoholics tend to have more health problems as they age and become more frail than their sober counterparts. They therefore require more caregiving assistance, which comes with the additional challenge of managing excessive drinking and impairment.

Understanding Alcoholism Through the Lens of Caregiving

Dealing with an alcoholic spouse can consume an extraordinary amount of energy and resources. Even though younger alcoholics may not yet suffer from the health complications associated with alcoholism later in life, family members are no less immune to the caregiving challenges alcohol abuse entails.

Spouses of alcoholics are not just “coping”. When they are managing someone else’s personal life or physical impairment because that person is unable to do it themselves, they are providing quantifiable caregiving services. They also suffer from similar emotional and physical stresses as caregivers, and for similar reasons.

The reality for the caregiving community is, well, sobering: alcoholism is an existential caregiving problem at all stages of adult life, and the effects on a spouse of losing a partner to alcohol are no less painful and serious than other illnesses and injuries that require caregiving services.

My Name is [Your Name], and I’m a Caregiver for an Alcoholic

The paradigm shift from being a beleaguered spouse managing a bad home situation to identifying yourself as a caregiver is both empowering and provocative of reflection. Once you understand that the role you’re truly filling is one of asymmetrical service, not just partnership, you can begin to find ways to manage it.

You may feel like you’re alone, but what you’re going through is well understood in the caregiving community. Your home situation is atypical, but how you’re feeling about it is not. There are more than 43 million in-home caregivers in the United States today who are responsible for children, spouses, relatives, and loved ones in need of in-home support. They know what to watch out for, and how to take care of yourself while you care for a loved one.

Don’t Get Isolated

The last thing most people want to do when they’re dealing with an alcoholic is talk about it. Spouses of alcoholics tend to avoid social interactions that might expose the problem, and they tend to have less time on their hands in general because they have to manage all the household tasks.

But that’s when you need your friends the most! Give yourself permission to keep living your life, and stay in touch. The less emotional support you get from your spouse, the more you will need it from your support circle.

Set Your Boundaries

Life with an alcoholic can quickly become all about them. Unfortunately, it’s unhealthy for both of you to divest yourself of meaningful experiences simply because you’re shouldering a care burden for an alcoholic partner. Lurching from one disaster to the next is no life at all. Set your boundaries, and stick to them. It’s not selfish, it’s self-care.

Engage Online

The people who can make a difference in your life are out there. Connect! Online organizations and services for treatment, management, and wellbeing are all available and easy to engage with from nearly any screen. Plus, there are many support groups and caregiving communities that can provide you with the emotional support, professional guidance, and resources to manage your situation.

I-Ally Can Help You Turn the Corner

Most Millennials are running a thousand miles an hour chasing careers, relationships, and exploring life. With an alcoholic family member in the picture, your dreams can seem a million miles away. We understand how painful and challenging it can be.

Join the I-Ally community of caregiving professionals and in-home caregivers just like you. Get the support and resources you need to meet the challenges head-on, while experiencing the fulfilling and vibrant life you deserve.

Reduce stress, make informed decisions, get empowered: I-Ally.