Alcoholism has far-reaching ramifications, not only for the person who is drinking too much, but also for the people in their life, including family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbours. But, by far, the person who has to experience the worst effects of alcoholism is the person who’s dating an alcoholic. Yet, alcoholism is not always easy to identify, especially in the early stages.
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the tell-tale signs you’re dating an alcoholic. We’ll also discuss should you date an alcoholic in the first place, and what to do when dating an alcoholic.
What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism, also called alcohol addiction, alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a condition characterised by excessive and repetitive consumption of alcohol to the extent that a person harms themselves and others, including the person who is dating them.
What are the signs you’re dating an alcoholic?
It can be difficult to know for sure if you’re dating an alcoholic woman or man. This is especially true if you are dating a functional alcoholic or a closet alcoholic. But there are some warning signs that can give you a clue.
They are preoccupied with alcohol
People who are struggling with alcoholism tend to become preoccupied with drinking. They will often plan dates and activities that involve drinking, such as going to a bar on Friday night.
Moreover, if you’re dating an alcoholic man or woman, they may show a complete lack of interest in hobbies and activities that don’t involve drinking or where drinking would be frowned upon, such as visiting a museum or going to a dance lesson together.
If you note a recurring pattern and all your time spent together involves drinking, it could be a sign that you’re dating an alcoholic.
They are drinking alone or drinking regularly and heavily
Many alcoholics find themselves drinking alone because they have strong cravings for alcohol and cannot control the urge to drink. If the person you’re dating regularly drinks alone, this could be a potential sign that you’re dating an alcoholic.
Also, heavy drinking or binge drinking are red flags that a person has a drinking problem. Heavy drinking is defined as more than 3 drinks per day or more than 7 drinks per week in women and more than 4 drinks per day or more than 14 drinks per week in men. Binge drinking is consuming large amounts of alcohol, usually more than 5 drinks, in a short amount of time.
They show physical and behavioral signs of alcohol abuse
If you’re dating an alcoholic woman or man, they may show physical and behavioral signs of alcohol abuse.
This can include physical signs such as breath smelling of alcohol or bloodshot eyes. It can also include behavioral changes like sleeping a lot, being secretive about where they’ve been, or going out alone a lot.
Their personality changes after drinking
If you find that the person you’re dating is usually calm, loving, and kind but they become cruel, irritable, angry, upset, or easily aggravated after drinking, these mood changes could be a sign that you’re dating someone who drinks too much.
On the other hand, if a person shows no signs of intoxication after consuming large amounts of alcohol, this is also a potential red flag for alcoholism. This is because, over time, alcohol consumption leads to tolerance, meaning, you need larger amounts of alcohol to become intoxicated.
They’re having problems in different areas of their life
If you’re dating an alcoholic, you might learn about problems they’re having in different areas of their life, such as at work or in other relationships.
For example, the person might mention not finishing a work assignment on time, or forgetting to take their mother out for lunch, or not keeping up with child-care payments to a previous partner. These are all potential signs that alcohol may be affecting important parts of their life.
They’re getting into trouble with the law
If you get a call from the person you’re dating, on more than one occasion, asking you to bail them out of jail on a DUI (driving under the influence) charge, then it’s a warning sign that you could be dating someone with a drinking problem.
While a single arrest for DUI could be a one-time mistake, if it happens more than once, it could signal a dangerous alcohol abuse problem.
They become agitated when confronted about their drinking habits
Some people are in denial about their drinking problem. If you suspect you’re dating an alcoholic and confront them about it, the person may become agitated.
This is especially true if you’re dating a functional alcoholic or closet alcoholic. Such individuals are able to maintain high productivity at work and manage their life and relationships well despite their alcohol addiction.
In fact, some high-functioning alcoholics even use alcohol to gain confidence and perform better. It can be challenging, and even dangerous, to confront such an individual alone if they are prone to violence. You should also consider involving professional intervention specialists if this is the case.
They have a family history of alcohol abuse
A person who has a parent or close family member with a history of alcohol abuse is at higher risk of developing a drinking problem themselves.
Some studies have shown that children of alcoholics are at 4 times higher risk of developing alcohol addiction compared to children of parents who did not drink excessively.
If you’re dating an alcoholic who has a family history of alcohol abuse, you might learn about it from stories they tell about their family or from interactions with their family members. You might even see it for yourself at family get-togethers.
Should I date an alcoholic?
There is no right or wrong way to deal with a romantic partner who is an alcoholic. You should know that alcoholism is a disease and there are effective treatments available to help a person overcome it.
If a person is dealing with an alcohol addiction, that by itself should not be a reason to break up with them. With that said, alcohol can destroy a relationship. Ultimately, you have to make a call and decide how much time and energy you want to invest in a relationship with an alcoholic person.
Why you shouldn’t date an alcoholic
It is quite common for people who are dating someone who drinks too much to experience strong emotions like frustration, anger, and anxiety.
Dating an alcoholic can also put you at physical risk of violence, injuries, and accidents. An alcoholic person may indulge in unsafe sexual practices under the influence and put you at risk too.
Another risk of a romantic involvement with an alcoholic person is codependency. This is an unbalanced relationship where you are constantly making excuses for the other person, cleaning up their messes, or taking on greater responsibilities than your fair share.
Also, caring for an alcoholic person can lead to low self-esteem, social isolation, sleep difficulties, depression, and poor health in yourself.
How to date an alcoholic?
If you suspect you’re dating an alcoholic, the most important thing is to get that person professional help. Addiction treatment programs can help a person overcome their dependence on alcohol and lead a sober, happy, healthy life with you.
If the person is already getting help and you are dating an alcoholic in recovery, here are some tips to help you cope:
- Support their sobriety. For example, suggest going for a walk instead of to a bar for drinks where they’ll have to watch you and other people drinking.
- Set clear boundaries. Communicate to your romantic partner what you need to ensure their and your safety. Be consistent in enforcing these boundaries.
- Don’t blame yourself. Alcoholism is a challenging problem and it’s easy to get caught up in managing it. Remember, it’s not your fault, and some things are out of your control.
- Dating an alcoholic can be hard. Take care of yourself. Practice self-care and stick to a healthy routine so that your mental and physical health does not suffer.
- It can be overwhelming to deal with all the ramifications of alcoholism in a romantic partner. Involve other family members or trusted friends, talk about the situation, and make a plan on what you’ll do if the situation worsens.
Go to group therapy or support groups. This can help you feel less alone and validate your emotions. You might also learn effective ways to cope.
Dating an alcoholic is not easy, but effective treatments are available
It can be difficult to know if you’re dating an alcoholic, and to cope if you’re dating someone who drinks too much. No two alcoholics are alike and it’s impossible to predict how long a person will take to go from social drinking to alcohol dependence.
The best thing you can do for a loved one who is battling alcoholism is to get them to see a mental health professional, who can refer them to an effective alcohol addiction treatment program, if needed.
RosGlas Recovery offers an individualised alcohol addiction therapy retreat through a team of more than 10 experts in the field of addiction medicine. The alcoholism therapy program at this luxury facility is designed to address the underlying psychological, social, and biochemical issues that led to alcohol addiction in the first place.
Contact RosGlas Recovery for a completely private and confidential consultation and give yourself or a loved one the best chance of long-term recovery from alcoholism.