How to have a relationship with an alcoholic

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  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

    Also visit the online treatment locator.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.

The service is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

English and Spanish are available if you select the option to speak with a national representative. Currently, the 435748 (HELP4U) text messaging service is only available in English.

In 2020, the Helpline received 833,598 calls. This is a 27 percent increase from 2019, when the Helpline received a total of 656,953 calls for the year.

The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, we will refer you to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.

The service is confidential. We will not ask you for any personal information. We may ask for your zip code or other pertinent geographic information in order to track calls being routed to other offices or to accurately identify the local resources appropriate to your needs.

No, we do not provide counseling. Trained information specialists answer calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate intake centers in their states, and connect them with local assistance and support.

  • Suggested Resources

    What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families
    Created for family members of people with alcohol abuse or drug abuse problems. Answers questions about substance abuse, its symptoms, different types of treatment, and recovery. Addresses concerns of children of parents with substance use/abuse problems.

    It's Not Your Fault (NACoA) (PDF | 12 KB)
    Assures teens with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs that, "It's not your fault!" and that they are not alone. Encourages teens to seek emotional support from other adults, school counselors, and youth support groups such as Alateen, and provides a resource list.

    After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department
    Aids family members in coping with the aftermath of a relative's suicide attempt. Describes the emergency department treatment process, lists questions to ask about follow-up treatment, and describes how to reduce risk and ensure safety at home.

    Family Therapy Can Help: For People in Recovery From Mental Illness or Addiction
    Explores the role of family therapy in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse. Explains how family therapy sessions are run and who conducts them, describes a typical session, and provides information on its effectiveness in recovery.

    For additional resources, please visit the SAMHSA Store.

Last Updated: 08/30/2022

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90,000 Marriages with alcoholics are the strongest. Psychologist on codependency and healthy relationships

Many families have dependent relatives, alcoholics or drug addicts. Their spouses endure this all their lives and do not leave. Some call it love, but experts know it's codependency.

Psychologist Anastasia Kim told Omsk Here what to do if your family has a codependent relative and what factors can affect the development of this pathological condition in a person.

- What is codependency? How widespread is this phenomenon in our country and in the world as a whole?

- Let's look at the word itself - codependency. It has a prefix - co-, which means "attachment". If we take the word literally, then it will be interpreted as "attached dependency". In general, codependence is a pathological desire for another person who has an addiction: alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, etc. Based on my work experience, I can say that codependence is the progenitor of all addictions.

If you answer the question, what are the most common requests that come to a psychologist, then about 95% are addiction and codependence. This is due, among other things, to the situation in the country. There are many people in Russia who suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction.

I also want to note such an interesting point that workaholism is a socially acceptable form of addiction. But at the same time, children who are brought up in families of workaholics suffer from an attention deficit no less than children who are brought up in families of alcoholics and drug addicts.

If we talk about other countries, then in the USA, for example, much attention is paid to codependency. There are groups in which people work on themselves and get rid of this disease, this is very common. I can say with confidence that codependency is progressing in those countries where dysfunctional families are common. If people have to survive, then children in such situations fade into the background, the number of divorces increases, and the level of codependency, of course, increases. I can safely assume that in those countries where there is a clear family structure and the distribution of roles between men and women, this phenomenon is less common. We are talking about Eastern countries.

If we talk about our country and why codependency flourishes in our country, modern culture and media make a big contribution here. Take movies, songs, music videos - many of them promote illegal substances, alcohol, unhealthy relationships. There are few places in culture where works about healthy love are found, mostly toxic, unhealthy relationships are cultivated. This is all deposited in the subconscious of children, and over time it seems that this is the norm, that love and pain are closely related, although this is absolutely not the case.

- How is codependency formed? What are the risk factors for its development?

- Codependency is formed from birth, and if nothing is done about it, it progresses throughout life. If we talk about factors, then the first is a genetic predisposition. If once in your family there were people with addictions along the line of mom or dad, then the risk that one of the offspring will also have addiction or codependency increases. The second factor is single-parent families and families with relatives who suffer from addiction. The third is low self-esteem. The fourth factor is indifference to the upbringing of the child. This happens for various reasons, but the main one is that people get tired at work, they worry that they may be left without income, and in this case there is practically no time left to raise their own children.

I would like to note the historical "component" that exists in our country: during the war years, men were at the front, and women carried all the burden of everyday worries, and this "gene of strong women" lives in us, and when it will degenerate, it is difficult to say.

And, of course, the formation of codependency is influenced by the fact that people often marry emotionally immature. A person must be able to take care of himself in order to be ready to take responsibility for others. It is worth noting that women are more prone to codependency.

- Why women? Does it happen that men fall into codependency?

- If we take men and women as 100%, then, as a rule, women suffer from codependence in 97% of cases. In men, this phenomenon happens, but it is extremely rare. In practice, there are cases when husbands, fathers, brothers send their relatives for rehabilitation, go to groups for co-dependents. It is connected, first of all, with male psychology. Men are less emotional, rational. Since the dependence is emotional, it is more difficult for them to fall into codependence. They say in society that men don’t cry, so many of them are afraid to express their feelings, they don’t show what’s on their minds, and they go into addictions - use alcohol, illegal substances, start gambling or they develop sexaholism.

- How to independently understand that you are a co-dependent? What are the stages of codependency?

- Doing it yourself is hard, almost impossible. Usually, understanding begins to come when a person is faced with some painful circumstances: he begins to lose his health, he begins to experience depression, panic attacks, suicide attempts and enormous problems with a partner.

One of the sure signs is when your loved ones, family and friends start saying, "What are you doing? You're in the wrong relationship, think about yourself." This is a very important call. But most girls, after watching movies and TV shows, think like this: "Me and him, we are against the whole world, we can handle it, I will help him, with my love I will create a miracle." But everything continues all over again.

There are three main stages of codependence. Early - partners are just starting to get to know each other, and everyone is trying to put themselves in the best light. It is much easier to immediately show who you are, and not to "stand on tiptoe", because it is very difficult to do this for a long time. In the end, a person will still have to reveal himself. At the first stage, a girl should listen to herself and her feelings: in addition to euphoria and love for a partner, a feeling of pity may arise. This is the first step - the desire to help, save. But one must distinguish between pity and sympathy. The last thing is when you and your partner are on an equal footing, you sympathize with him, you say that he will cope with everything and sometimes unpleasant things happen, but there is no desire to compensate for this situation. And with pity, the partner becomes, as it were, lower than you, and you no longer show him partner, but motherly love.

Gradually, a codependent person gives up his interests, because he needs to constantly help his partner. That is, the girl communicates less often with her friends, stops going to the gym, to some courses, forgets about everything she used to do, and shifts all focus to her partner. The mood is often synchronized - if it is spoiled in a man, then the woman will be sad.

What happens next? At the middle stage , the codependent partner begins to deny. This mechanism is characteristic of any addiction and codependency as well. The problem is downplayed. The partner can steal the money, and the codependent starts saying, "Well, the amount isn't that big, he'll pay it back."

The girl begins to rationalize everything, to explain to herself the motives of her partner's behavior. There may be a situation when a guy gets into a fight at some holiday, and the girl tries to justify him for herself: "He mixed alcohol and drugs, so this situation turned out." And that doesn't scare her at all. This is how denial works.

Another girl can start comparing her relationships with strangers and thinks: "Here, a friend's husband uses drugs every day, and mine only on weekends, there is nothing supernatural in this." The following phenomenon arises: maintaining the facade of a "happy couple". The girl, being in a co-dependent relationship, wants to show with her whole appearance that everything is fine in their family, and, as a result, she begins to hide some facts of her partner’s negative behavior. An important signal: the emergence of feelings of guilt. It begins to seem that a man uses, behaves this way because of my behavior. The co-dependent begins to build a relationship: "If I had been more patient, he would have behaved differently. If I had prepared the meal on time, the partner would have been more accommodating."

At the third stage , a codependent person develops a depressive state, panic attacks. The whole life of the co-dependent begins to revolve around the addict, because he needs to be helped and controlled.

- Often relatives do not understand why their girlfriend/acquaintance/sister lives with an addict, and does not leave him or save herself. How does the psyche of a codependent person begin to work? Why can't a person realize what he is doing wrong? What mechanisms are involved?

- A codependent person has a predisposition to this. In the soul of a codependent person, there is initially a void that needs to be filled. And he, like a hungry person who eats everything indiscriminately, just to get enough, begins to communicate and easily enters into difficult, toxic relationships. And then the following happens. I will give as an example my favorite parable about a frog: if you throw it into boiling water, it will jump out, and if you gradually heat the water, the frog will not notice the temperature increase and will boil in boiling water. The same thing happens with a codependent person: gradually tolerance grows. In co-dependent relationships, there is obsession: the co-dependent sees only his partner.

- Can this be considered a mental disorder?

- According to the international classifier of diseases, codependency is classified as a mental disorder, but for this you need to contact a psychiatrist so that he can accurately diagnose and prescribe therapy. But codependents usually do not go anywhere. They are not aware of the actions they are doing.

- What should you do if you see that your loved one is in a co-dependent relationship? Can he get out of them on his own?

- If a person has started therapy, he can be cured. It is almost impossible to pull yourself out of co-dependent relationships and such a state on your own. Relatives may try to talk to the co-addict, it is important not to put pressure on the person and try to carefully provide information about code-dependence: throw a link to an article, to a site about code-dependence, recommend the help of a psychologist or work in groups. Awareness of the disease does not come to everyone. Women who live in families with alcoholics often do not listen to the recommendations of specialists, doctors and continue, most likely, unconsciously to stay in these relationships. They don't take in information. No wonder they say that marriages with alcoholics are the strongest.

- What is the difference between healthy and codependent relationships?

- It is quite logical that both partners must be healthy to build them. In a healthy relationship, a constructive conversation can be built, while in a codependent relationship, exclusively manipulative communication prevails. In healthy relationships, there is joy, love, respect, trust, understanding, in toxic relationships - pain, fear, resentment, guilt, and so on. In co-dependent relationships, partners are not equal, such a vertical is built: someone is a victim, someone is a rescuer, and in adequate relationships, partners push each other to development.

A couple in a toxic relationship has three outcomes: either they break up, or they stay at the same level of development, or they both recover. It can take about three years to get rid of codependency.

- If a person left such a relationship, is there a risk of getting into it again? What should not be allowed in order not to slide into codependency?

- There is a risk, and a very big one. Paradox: a woman who has been in a difficult relationship should not make mistakes. But if she does not work on herself, she unconsciously finds herself a partner who will be the same as the previous one. In order not to slip into codependency, you need to monitor your condition, if possible - go to a psychologist, read literature in order to understand what is happening to you. It is necessary to keep the focus on yourself, to develop different areas of your life, to make it complete. You need to love yourself.

psychologist's advice and how to behave

Alcoholism has become one of the most important problems of modern society. A person who cannot stop drinking spoils the life of not only himself, but also his loved ones, family members. This article offers advice from a psychologist on how to talk with an alcoholic, whether it be a husband, father or son.

How to deal with an alcoholic: advice for wives

If a woman has a problem with her husband's alcoholism, she will have to learn to live by different rules. It is strongly not recommended to become a nanny for an adult, because it is precisely this behavior that is observed in families where a man often drinks alcohol.

The main mistakes of the wives of alcoholics are:

  • increased guardianship of the drinker;
  • avoiding conversations about the problem of alcoholism;
  • removal from the husband of responsibility for the family, children, work, life;
  • lack of men's household chores.

If the head of the family is addicted to alcohol, a woman, sometimes unwittingly, herself begins to fulfill men's duties , carrying all the problems on her fragile shoulders. Feeling embarrassed to admit to others that her husband suffers from alcoholism, the wife hides this fact, which further aggravates the situation. The wives of alcoholics, due to constant stress and problems in the family, often suffer from protracted depression chronic fatigue.

A drinking husband under such conditions does not change his behavior at all. On the contrary, he demands alcohol more and more, he is not at all interested in family life. Similar mistakes are made by women if a son in the family suffers from alcoholism.

Psychologists give clear advice on how to deal with an alcoholic. First of all, it is necessary to change your attitude towards the drinker , once and for all realizing that it is strictly forbidden to indulge a drunkard. It is important to act unconditionally, and sometimes harshly. Only in this way is there a chance to correct the situation, help a person to fully understand the problem and get rid of alcohol addiction.

How to behave if there is an alcoholic in the family?

In order for a person who drinks in the family to understand that his addiction is a big problem, it is recommended to heed the advice of psychologists :

  • Stop solving their problems for alcoholics. Let the husband or son fully understand the consequences of alcoholism. Do not justify or shield a person in front of others, invent reasons for inappropriate behavior.
  • Don't give a hangover. Often a hangover becomes the cause of prolonged repeated binges. Therefore, it is worth to stop attempts to get drunk , let the drinker feel all the symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Do not make empty promises or threats . Many wives, in an attempt to influence their husband's behavior, make promises that they fail to keep, such as divorce or forcibly taking a drinker to the hospital. If threats are regular, but they only remain in words, the man stops responding to them, continuing to get drunk and ruin the lives of others.
  • Do not react aggressively . In no case should you throw tantrums with a drunken husband, beat the dishes, insult, throw with your fists. It is important to remember that a person under the influence of alcohol can at any moment turn into a cruel, uncontrollable person, which sometimes ends in sad consequences.
  • Refuse alcohol yourself . If there is an alcoholic in the family, a woman should forget about alcohol, otherwise drunkards will no longer perceive her as an authority.

How to talk to an alcoholic: advice from a psychologist

Don't show emotion when talking to a drinking family member. It is necessary to be based only on logic and arguments. Psychologist's advice on how to talk to an alcoholic is as follows:

Stop hiding the fact of drunkenness

Do not justify or cover up the drinker in front of relatives, friends, management. Sometimes it effectively affects the human mind. Because of shame, he stops drinking so often, tries to behave culturally during festive feasts, agrees to treatment and even coding.

Prevent idleness

In order for a family member suffering from alcoholism to think about drinking less often, one should deprive him of free time, because idleness often becomes the reason for entering a new binge. Therefore, it is important for a woman to interest her husband or son in something new or to make them remember forgotten interests and hobbies. Do not be shy to ask for help from relatives, neighbors, colleagues. On the contrary, it is important that the alcoholic is often in the circle of non-drinkers who have different interests and hobbies. Being constantly in such an environment, a person sometimes independently decides to get rid of addiction.

Make them think

How can I talk to my alcoholic son or drinking husband to make them think about the problem? Psychologists advise explaining to an alcoholic that sooner or later a woman will get tired of his behavior. She no longer wants to live with him under the same roof, preferring another man who does not drink. The spouse must realize that a sober lifestyle will help to achieve great success at work, diversify life with new, pleasant events.

An alcoholic son must understand that if his mother turns away from him, he will be left completely alone with his problems. And if he refuses to be treated for alcoholism, he will never find a family, happiness, joy in life.

How to behave properly during sobriety

Any, even the longest and hardest binges come to an end. When a person is absolutely sober and able to think adequately, you should talk to him about the problem. To make the conversation productive, psychologists advise following these rules:

  • speak calmly, openly;
  • try to listen to the interlocutor without interrupting;
  • do not show violent emotions, speak to the point, arguing one's arguments;
  • do not praise or admire the fact that in a particular period a person does not drink.

During such conversations, a woman should make every effort to explain the magnitude and tragedy of the problem. If the drinker understands and is aware of his illness, there is every chance that he will agree to deal with the problem, including with the help of specialists.

In order not to lose the confidence of the drinker and remain an authority for him, it is recommended to adhere to the following rules:

  • Completely refrain from drinking alcohol , preferring a healthy, sober lifestyle.
  • Try not to attend holidays and celebrations where there is plenty of alcohol. This can provoke another binge.
  • Do not constantly monitor the drinker, ask in detail where he was, with whom he talked. Otherwise, he will begin to hide, tell a lie, or even get angry and move away from the conversation.
  • Not remembering past events that occurred during a binge, even if the behavior of the drinker went beyond all the limits of decency.

Other Helpful Advice on Dealing with an Alcoholic

It is important to remember that dealing with alcohol addiction in a husband or other family member is very difficult on your own. Therefore, it is better to acquire the understanding and support of relatives, friends, familiar colleagues.

An alcoholic must understand that sobriety is not an achievement that requires admiration and praise, but a normal, ordinary state. Otherwise, the drinker during the period of remission will demand special treatment and admiration for himself, which is unacceptable.

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