Living with an Alcoholic
Treatment Options for Alcoholism

Living under the same roof as someone who is battling alcoholism is certainly no walk in the park. Because alcohol addiction completely hijacks every aspect of a person’s life, you likely feel as if you have been living with a complete stranger for quite some time. The person you used to know and love has vacated the premises, and you are stuck sharing space with an angry, selfish and self-destructive imposter.

What is it like to live with an alcoholic?

It’s hard. It’s hard, and over time it will wear on you. The good news is, you don’t have to sit back and patiently wait for your friend or family member to come around. While you can’t force a person to want to get sober, there are certain steps you can take to help facilitate the recovery process.

At Guardian IOP we understand how difficult it can be to watch someone you love struggle with alcoholism. You likely feel frustrated, helpless and at the end of your rope. We have developed a comprehensive and individualized program of recovery geared towards helping our clients overcome alcoholism and helping their loved ones heal simultaneously. Living with an alcoholic can do quite a number on your mental and emotional health. This is why it is so important you are involved in the addiction recovery process; either directly or indirectly. To learn more about our intensive treatment program or to learn more about helping someone you love receive the treatment they need and deserve, contact us today.

Scope of Alcohol Misuse and Dependence in the U.S.

Alcohol misuse has long since been one of the most serious and prevalent health-related threats faced by individuals, families and communities across the country. The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 85.6 percent of people over the age of 18 have used alcohol at least once during their lives, and 25.8 percent of people engaged in binge drinking at least once over the course of the past month. An estimated 14.5 million Americans suffered from a diagnosable alcohol use disorder in 2019, and only 7.2 percent of these people received any kind of professional addiction treatment. Why do so few people end up receiving the professional help they need to successfully overcome alcohol use disorders? In most cases, it is either because they believe they can handle their drinking problems on their own or because they are unaware of the resources readily available to them.

If you are currently living with someone who has been abusing alcohol, you might have become well-versed in the ins and outs of denial. Many people who struggle with addiction also struggle to admit the reality of their problem to themselves and to others. For this reason, it is often necessary to take additional measures like staging a professionally orchestrated intervention. To learn more about helping your loved one break through a place of denial, contact us today.

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How Do You Know if Your Partner or Loved One is An Alcoholic?

If you think your parent might be struggling with an alcohol use disorder, there are several telltale signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for.

Physical Warning Signs of Alcohol Misuse

The physical warning signs of alcohol misuse include:

  • Significant weight loss or weight gain.
  • Appearing disheveled/less attention paid to personal appearance.
  • Redness of the cheeks and nose.
  • Frequently experiencing nausea and vomiting.
  • Appearing uncoordinated.
  • Commonly falling/unexplained bruising and injury.
  • Yellowing of the skin, common with advanced alcoholism (jaundice).
  • Health-related issues like cirrhosis and liver disease.
  • Frequent and severe hangovers.
  • Dehydration.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is abruptly stopped.

Psychological Warning Signs of Alcohol Misuse

The psychological warning signs of alcohol misuse include:

  • Increased anxiety and frequent panic attacks.
  • Depressed mood and suicidal ideation.
  • Mood swings, often characterized by increased agitation and irritability.
  • Significant memory loss (long and short-term).
  • Difficulty focusing and paying attention.
  • Psychological dependence on alcohol.

Behavioral Warning Signs of Alcohol Misuse

The behavioral warning signs of alcohol misuse include:

  • Isolating from friends and family members.
  • Requiring more privacy/acting more secretive.
  • Spending more time out/coming home at strange times.
  • Acting defensive whenever drinking is brought up in conversation.
  • Hiding alcohol and empty alcohol bottles throughout the house.
  • Engaging in more risk-taking activities, like driving while intoxicated.
  • Prioritizing drinking over everything else.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) outlines a list of diagnostic criteria that must be present in order for an alcohol use disorder to be professionally diagnosed. These criteria are:

  • Attempting to cut back on the amount of alcohol you consume but being unable to do so for any significant length of time.
  • Having a difficult time stopping once you start/drinking more frequently and drinking a greater amount than intended.
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining alcohol, drinking and recovering from the effects of alcohol consumption.
  • Continuing to drink despite negative consequences directly related to drinking.
  • Experiencing intense cravings for alcohol.
  • Failing to fulfill personal obligations and responsibilities because of excessive alcohol consumption.
  • An increase in risk-taking behaviors, like driving while intoxicated.
  • Developing a physical tolerance, meaning that a greater amount of alcohol is needed in order for the desired effects to be produced.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is stopped suddenly.

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Consequences of Alcohol Use Disorder for Family Members & Friends

When it comes to the consequences of an active alcohol use disorder, the consequences are not limited to the person who is struggling to control their drinking. The loved ones of the alcoholic are also deeply affected.

What it's like to live with an alcoholic or someone in recovery

Common consequences of living with an alcoholic include:

  • Consistently high stress levels.
  • Decreased performance at work, at school or in other areas of life.
  • A lack of self-care, which can lead to emotional dysregulation.
  • Increased agitation and irritability/other changes to mood.
  • A disrupted sleep cycle.
  • The development of psychiatric issues like anxiety or depression.

The impact of alcoholism is always significant, and the only way to ensure a return to a healthy state of familial functioning is if every member of the family seeks some degree of outside help. At Guardian IOP we offer family therapy sessions facilitated by licensed and highly experienced therapists. We understand the impact active addiction has on the family members and close friends of our clients, and we are dedicated to helping everyone heal simultaneously.

Caring for Your Family & Yourself

It is important for you to take the necessary steps to care for yourself and adequately tend to your own mental and emotional needs. Caring for yourself and your family can be difficult while you are trying to care for someone who is actively battling active addiction. However, putting the needs of your loved one before your own can lead to immense (and avoidable) conflict and inner turmoil.

  • Helping VS Enabling – It is important to thoroughly understand the distinction between helping and enabling. When you enable your loved one, you unintentionally exacerbate the symptoms of their alcohol use disorder by helping them avoid any personal consequences. When you help a loved one, it might look like setting boundaries and upholding these boundaries, or refusing to allow any alcohol consumption in the house. Enabling a loved one will undoubtedly wear on your mental health, while doing what you can to help (and nothing more) will allow you to tend to your own needs as well.
  • Setting & Maintaining Boundaries – When it comes to living with an alcoholic, it is a good idea to set and maintain certain personal boundaries. For example, you might set a boundary like, “If I catch you coming home drunk again, you will have to find somewhere else to spend the night.” This might seem like cruel and unusual punishment — how can you turn your loved one away when they are intoxicated, confused and have nowhere else to go? Maintaining the boundaries you set will help your loved one seek treatment sooner rather than later.
  • Educating Yourself – One of the most beneficial steps you can take is thoroughly educating yourself on alcoholism. How does the condition develop? How is it best treated? There are several steps you can take when it comes to self-educating. First of all, it is always a good idea to join a peer support group for the loved ones of alcoholics. Al-Anon is a great place to start. Listening to the experiences of other people who have been where you are now will help you feel seen, heard and less alone. We also recommend finding an individual therapist with a personal background in substance use disorder recovery. Not only will you be able to process and work through the impact the alcoholism has had on you personally, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the condition from a professional standpoint.

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How to Help an Alcoholic Loved One

How can you help a loved one who has been struggling with alcoholism? The answer to this question depends heavily on your personal circumstances. Ask yourself the following questions to help you determine which course of action is the most appropriate:

  • Has my loved one been experiencing severe symptoms of alcoholism, rendering them incapable of making healthy, self-serving decisions?
  • Has my loved one attempted to quit on their own accord, finding themselves incapable of staying sober for any significant period of time?
  • Has my loved one started engaging in behaviors that could be dangerous to themselves or others like driving while intoxicated?
  • Have I approached the situation in conversation previously, only to be met with anger and defensiveness?
  • Has my loved one completed some level of clinical beforehand, only to return to drinking after leaving treatment and returning home?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above-listed questions, staging a professional intervention might be a good idea. During an intervention, a licensed and experienced interventionist will guide a conversation which ends in the presentation of a treatment option, which is to be taken advantage of immediately. To learn more about the process of staging an intervention or to be put in touch with an interventionist in your area, contact us today.

Treatment Options for Alcoholism

At Guardian IOP we recommend taking the following steps to effectively treat alcoholism, regardless of how severe the alcohol use disorder has become:

  • Medically Monitored Detox – In medical detox your loved one will undergo a safe and pain-free alcohol withdrawal under the close supervision of a team of medical professionals. While in medical detox, a designated case manager works with the clinical and medical team to devise a personalized aftercare plan, which almost always includes a transition into the next appropriate level of clinical care.
  • Residential Inpatient RehabResidential rehab typically lasts for between 30 and 90 days, and includes intensive individual and group therapy, holistic treatment methods, and in some cases, a thorough introduction to the 12 Step model of recovery.
  • Partial Hospitalization (PHP)PHP is one small step down from residential rehab in the sense that clients are able to return home every evening. Partial hospitalization programs usually meet between 5 and 7 days a week for around 8 hours every day and are a good option for those who are looking for a more cost-effective treatment option.
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP)Intensive outpatient rehab is one more step down from residential rehab and allows for a higher level of personal freedom. Clients meet for between 3 and 4 days a week for several hours each day, allowing them to fulfill personal obligations outside of treatment.
  • Sober Living and Aftercare – Many people opt to transition from residential rehab directly into a sober living home, where they live for several months. Sober living provides increased structure and accountability to those who are in early recovery. If your loved one does make the decision to move into a sober living house, they will focus on reintegrating into society as they stick to their personalized aftercare plan. Aftercare might include individual therapy and continued involvement in a recovery-based peer support group.

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At Guardian IOP we believe that effective alcohol addiction treatment options should be readily available to those in need. Our intensive outpatient program combines medication assisted treatment with behavioral therapies, holistic approaches to recovery and intensive relapse prevention training, ultimately providing clients with the tools they need to stay sober for years to come. We understand how overwhelming this time has been for everyone, and we know adding excessive alcohol consumption to the mix only exacerbates existing challenges.

The good news is, with a solid recovery program in place you or your loved one will be able to overcome all symptoms associated with alcoholism and go on to lead a healthy, happy and productive life. All you have to do is make the decision to embrace positive change and make initial contact. Once you contact us through our website or over the phone we set to work developing an admissions plan. During our initial conversation we conduct a brief pre-assessment to confirm our IOP program is the best fit for you and your unique set of clinical requirements. If we believe our program is an ideal match we offer a free, no obligation insurance benefit check and smooth out the remainder of the fine details. Contact us today to get started.


Reviewed for accuracy by:

Anna earned her Masters of Social Work at Barry University in Miami, FL in 2017 and completed her internship in co-occurring disorders. Anna has a Bachelors of Art in Religious Studies from Naropa University and is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Anna has received specialized training in somatic counseling with an emphasis on body-centered psychotherapy.

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