How to Cope With a Boyfriend Who Has an Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction can bring chaos, pain, and injury to the people involved. Statistics reveal that men are more likely than women to have a drinking problem, have alcohol use disorder—the medical term for addiction—and participate in binge drinking.1 According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, some of the statistics concerning men and alcohol include:2,3
- Almost 33.5 million men reported binge drinking alcohol within the past month of the 2020 survey, compared to just over 28 million women.
- Nearly twice as many men than women reported heavy drinking (defined as consuming 4 or more drinks a day or over 14 drinks a week) in the month prior to the survey—11.1 million men compared to 6.6 million women.
- In 2020, 15.7 million men aged 12 and older had an alcohol use disorder in the past year, compared to 12.6 million women.
Furthermore, with men, alcohol is more likely associated with violence and injury.1
- Over three-quarters of the more than 140,000 excessive-drinking deaths each year are men.
- Men involved in fatal car accidents are 50% more likely than women to have been intoxicated (with a blood alcohol concentration greater than 0.08%) at the time of the crash.
- Studies indicate that heavy drinking may lead to aggression and increase the risk of physically or sexually assaulting another person.
Signs of a Boyfriend with an Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition defined by the inability to control drinking despite the negative consequences.4 Some of the signs of alcohol use disorder include:4
- Drinking more than they intend.
- Attempting to reduce their consumption of alcohol or stop drinking altogether has proven unsuccessful each time.
- Spending a lot of time dealing with alcohol—either drinking it or managing its aftereffects.
- Craving alcohol.
- Unable to fulfill responsibilities at work or home due to alcohol consumption.
- Experiencing problems with family or friends because of alcohol use and continues to drink despite these issues.
- Avoiding once enjoyable activities to drink.
- Participating in risky activities at times while under the influence of alcohol.
- Continuing to drink even though it harms their health or emotional well-being (experiencing blackouts, for instance).
- Increasing the amount of drinking to get the same effects as before, which means they have built a tolerance to alcohol.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they don’t drink.
It’s not uncommon for people with alcohol use disorder to be in denial over their drinking problem.5 In fact, one study of mostly male (74%) respondents with alcohol use disorder found that most reported being light to moderate social drinkers despite consuming averages of up to 12 drinks during each social occasion.5
Furthermore, the relationship between alcohol consumption and aggressive behavior is well documented.6 In fact, acute alcohol intoxication plays a role in nearly half of all violent crimes and sexual assaults.6 Research indicates that alcohol may contribute to violent behavior by reducing an individual’s self-control and their judgement.7 Some studies suggest that the association between alcohol and violence becomes stronger with increased alcohol consumption.7 Therefore, if your boyfriend drinks excessively, he may engage in angry outbursts and abusiveness, which may be atypical behavior for him.
Besides domestic abuse, alcohol-related aggression is involved in other crimes, inluding:6
- Violent assaults. Each year in the United States, approximately 3 million victims report that their offender was under the influence of alcohol.
- Murder. In the United States, alcohol is a key factor in 32% of murders.
- Other criminal and domestic violence. A meta-analysis between chronic alcohol consumption and violent crimes showed that individuals who become heavily intoxicated at least once per year are 2 times as likely to be involved in violence than those who drink low or moderate amounts of alcohol.
Ways to Get in Contact With Us
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How Alcohol Addiction Affects Relationships
Beyond violence, alcohol can affect relationships negatively in a variety of ways, including:8,9
- Financial problems. Money needed to pay rent, medical bills, or for treatment may be used to buy alcohol, for instance, causing strain on the relationship as the partner not misusing alcohol assumes the provider role.
- Psychological consequences. Studies indicate that partners of people who engage in problem drinking have higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression compared to individuals in relationships with partners without alcohol misuse problems. Other psychological consequences partners may feel include denial, anger, hopelessness, shame, and isolation.
- Codependency. Codependency refers to an individual becoming so overly concerned with the problems of another person that they ignore their own wants and needs.
How to Help a Boyfriend Addicted to Alcohol
If you have a boyfriend or partner with an alcohol use disorder, you probably wish there was something you could do to help him. With the appropriate treatment, your boyfriend can make changes in his life to live alcohol free. You can make a difference by being a supportive partner and helping your boyfriend seek treatment.
Here are some of the things to consider:10,11,12
- Getting a loved one to agree to accept help and finding support services for him—and you—are the first steps toward helping everyone heal. You might consider getting assistance from a substance use professional, medical or mental healthcare provider, or employee assistance professional, who can refer you to resources and treatment plans that can help.
- It’s also equally important to take care of yourself. It might help to seek support from family, friends, or mutual-help groups. If you’re experiencing mental health symptoms associated with anxiety or depression, talk to a professional who can help you.
- When confronting your boyfriend about his alcohol misuse, ensure you do it when he’s sober and has plenty of time to talk. It’s important to enter the discussion showing support, compassion, and avoiding judgement and confrontation.
- If he’s receptive, start looking into treatment options and offer to visit his primary care (or other medical professional) with him to explore the therapies and services that might be best suited to his needs and help craft a treatment plan.
- From there, research facilities (the doctor will likely provide referrals) that offer programs and services tailored to his unique needs, which may include detoxification, inpatient alcohol rehab, outpatient services, behavioral therapies, medications, aftercare programming, mutual-help groups, and more.
When Is It Time to Leave?
Relapse is part of the recovery process for some and can be especially common in individuals with alcohol use disorder.12 Think of the relapse as a temporary setback in recovery and not a failure. Professional treatment can help reduce the risk of relapse by teaching individuals the skills to help them avoid and overcome triggers that might lead to drinking.12
If, on the other hand, your boyfriend refuses treatment or denies he has a problem, you have to think about yourself and what’s best for you. Ask yourself some difficult questions and be honest when answering them. Questions may include:
- Are you safe with your partner, or are you being physically assaulted?
- If you have children, are they protected from violence?
- Do you have a co-dependent relationship?
- Are you enabling your partner’s behavior?
- Will your boyfriend go to a treatment facility?
The answers to these questions can help you determine if and when it is time to leave a relationship with a boyfriend who has an alcohol use disorder.