How can I stop my husband/wife/partner drinking?
I know you are feeling tired frustrated and at the end of your tether and that is why you are here, looking for answers. While this might not be the answer you want, I have to tell you that you can’t stop your partner drinking. Why not? Because it is their decision to make.
So why the hell aren’t they stopping then?
When somebody starts using drugs or alcohol, they have a choice when they start using and probably believe that they are fully in control of whatever they are taking. There are many factors involved as to why someone becomes an “addict” or has problems with alcohol or drugs. This can include having a genetic disposition if there is a history of addiction in the family. Environmental factors, such as where somebody was brought up, friendships and attitudes to alcohol within the family. This means that your partner may be more likely to develop problems with drinking than others.
What happens when we drink or use drugs is that it affects the dopamine in our brain which regulates how we feel and think and respond to pleasure. Drinking can increase to a point where the tolerance is increased, so they need more alcohol to produce the same effect. They then begin to experience withdrawals and may pick up a drink to ease the discomfort of this and this pattern of behaviour over a period of time, actually changes the way our brain works.
All they want to do is drink!
Dopamine affects decision making and impulsivity and eventually, it is difficult for a drinker to enjoy anything except drinking. Their brain adapts to the dopamine experienced from drinking so much that they struggle to get pleasure from anything else. Life becomes an obsession with drinking, planning activities around it, withdrawing from it and then drinking again.
This means that the person you love is still that person, but alcohol has taken over them. Alcohol is making their decisions for them. The promises your loved one makes and doesn’t keep have been overtaken by the need to drink.
An important note is that a problematic drinker should never stop drinking without medical support. This is because when they are dependent on alcohol, it is very dangerous to stop without supervision if they are physically dependent. Please always ask your loved one to seek advice from their GP or substance misuse service.
What can I do?
So, you can’t stop them drinking as I have said it is their choice, but, what you can do, is focus on your quality of life and that of the rest of your family while learning strategies to influence your loved one’s alcohol use. You can live a better life without alcohol deciding how your day is going to go and encourage your loved one to access treatment. You can make your loved one realise that they are missing out on brilliant things with you, your family and friends.
Here is something you can put in place right now. Think about 3 ways that you tried to stop your loved one drinking. Write them down. Then, think about how effective each strategy was is stopping or reducing their drinking.
Did your strategies work?
Now, think about how much effort you put into each strategy. Was it easy/hard?
So, what has worked? What hasn’t?
If there is anything that has worked well, keep doing it. If they haven’t, stop doing them. Right now! Give yourself a break because in order to change things, we need the energy to be able to make those changes.
Doing the same thing over and over again with no effect is not working and is draining your precious energy. Don’t worry if none of your strategies work as this is often the case.
The Vesta Approach teaches you new methods of managing your loved one’s drinking. Sign up to the mailing list or take a look at the website for more information (shameful plug but take a look!) www.thevestaapproach.co.uk/services-2
In the meantime, give yourself a break, do something good for you. In fact, plan one thing now that you can do for you this week. It can be anything from catching up with an old friend to getting an early night. Do it!
I’ll see you next week.