• Reframe Content Team

The Impact of Living with a Heavy Drinker

Updated: Aug 31




Many of us would like to believe that our alcohol habit does not affect those around us, but many studies show that heavy drinking can negatively impact our partners and our children. As our drinking progresses, our loved ones will likely experience a range of negative emotions. Promises to stop drinking are repeatedly broken and consequences of alcohol use escalate over time.


Partners of heavy drinkers tend to suffer with their own issues as well, like codependency, which can lead them to blame themselves for the situation. They may wonder what they did wrong or failed to do right. They may also stay in the unhealthy relationship out of comfort or a desire to “fix” the heavy drinker. They may push the heavy drinker to seek help, to the point where the relationship becomes fraught with conflict, or they may cope by retreating into denial, enabling irresponsible behavior despite its devastating effects on the happiness of the family unit. Although our partners have the best intentions, it is solely up to us to decide when and if we wish to seek help for our alcohol abuse. Recognizing it is our responsibility to seek help is the first step in not only saving our relationships, but ourselves.


Our heavy drinking not only impacts our romantic relationships, but the lives of our children as well, regardless of age. In the United States, 1 in 10 children grow up with an “alcoholic” parent. This is so detrimental because these children do not have access to the needed safety and stability to thrive. In a home where alcohol abuse prevails, the chaos can cause anxiety that may stay with them for the rest of their lives. If the parent with the drinking problem becomes physically or emotionally abusive while under the influence of alcohol, the stressors the child and partner faces will be magnified many times over and can cause damage that will take years of therapy to heal.


If you are currently living with someone you believe to be a heavy drinker, or someone who is suffering from an Alcohol Use Disorder, there are support resources and techniques for you. Try reaching out to any of the below resources and see which one works best for you. Remember that you are not alone, and Reframe is here to help.

  • SAMHSA Free Brochures - Alcohol and Drug Addiction Happens in the Best of Families

  • In Person/Online 12-Step Support Meetings through Al-Anon (Anonymous)

  • Practice self-care. Whether caring for yourself emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually, this is key to your ability to cope. It might involve activities like meditation, exercise, or new hobbies to pursue during this stressful time. Making time for, and even prioritizing, these activities is beneficial.

  • Educate yourself on what your partner is going through, what treatments may be available to them, and what resources they may be able to access when they’re ready to get help. Being prepared for when they are ready to talk about their problem may make you feel more at ease.

  • Therapy can be helpful for you to learn how to cope with a spouse suffering from AUD. Research studies have shown that even when the spouse refuses to get help, family therapy can help the non-drinking spouse reduce stress and learn coping methods.

  • Online Courses run by professionals by We The Village



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