Living with an alcoholic and caring for an alcoholic

Helping them

The sad fact is you cannot help someone who does not admit a problem or want to be helped. However, if someone does acknowledge they have a problem there are options available. We would suggest you see our alcohol abuse treatment page for more information on this.


Putting your partner/loved one before yourself, caring for them and providing a ‘safety net’ can help cushion them and may end up helping the habit and hindering their recovery.  It can be a hard concept, after all we want to love and care and help those closest to us, but making an alcoholic or drug addicted person’s life and habit easier for them can have the opposite affect to that desired.

Helping yourself

Living with an alcoholic can become extremely difficult.  Very often the drinker is the nicest person you could ever hope to meet when sober but can become unpredictable, embarrassing and even aggressive when drunk.  Even the ‘happiest’ drunk person can be very hard to live with.

As the partner of an alcoholic, you may feel in some part responsible for their habit.  Sometimes it is the partner who is the primary bread-winner due to the alcoholic’s inability to maintain a stable job.  Often the families of alcoholics feel isolated, scared and ashamed. 

The uncertainty of whether or not the drinker will be sober or drunk, whether their mood will be that of an affable drunk or angry and violent makes families tense and unhappy. You may feel misplaced guilt or responsible for their behaviour. You yourself may need counselling or support for what you are going through.

Remember you have the right to lead a peaceful and fulfilling life and that you don’t have to feel shame for another’s actions or take on their responsibilities.  If you find that you are unhappy with a partner or family member who you think may be an alcoholic there is help available for you.  The contacts listed in the resources for families (below) are trained specialists who are there to help you.


As a carer you are entitled to help and support. Speak to your GP or local Carers’ Centre, council or social services department to see what help is available locally, also speak to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or job centre about benefit entitlements that may help you through the tougher times.

Resources for families

Find a relationship or alcohol counsellor

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