How Do I Know if My Partner Has an Alcohol Problem?


One of the most common questions I am asked is “Does my partner have an alcohol problem?”.  This is not only a very common question it is also a very common problem.  It is estimated that, in the Western world, at least 1 in 10 drink in a way that could be harmful.

Furthermore between 3 and 5% drink in a way that could be extremely harmful and about 1% would be classified as alcoholic.  So do these statistics help, probably not.  We will return to the question, and more importantly why people ask it, shortly but first of all let’s look at this question in a slightly different way.

Yes, Houston, There Is A Problem!

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About two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to take possession of a brand-new holiday lodge in the beautiful Devon countryside.  This was a lifestyle choice to get out of the city more often, spend quality time as a family, to walk and get fit and to provide a wonderful environment to work and write.  The lodge is great.  It has everything you would ever need, washing machine, dishwasher and even wireless broadband.

So as you see it is not exactly back to nature or at least not in a primitive way anyway.  However last week we were the victims of the UK summer, which seems to be getting progressively wetter.  It has been raining a lot recently but one day last week we had rain that was absolutely torrential, it just poured down.

I love storms especially when I am cozy and dry and looking out at them, makes me feel as if I’m in a little cocoon.  An hour or so into this storm we became aware of a pool of water under the central heating boiler, so was the boiler leaking?  Further investigation showed us that the rain was coming in the flue in the roof, landing on the boiler and running off it onto the floor.

Next-day the repair man arrived.  After an inspection he told us that that the leak was caused by the wrong type of rain (not sure what the right type is).  When we looked at him completely incredulous he started into a technical explanation about the angle of the tiles and wind direction, almost certainly designed to baffle and make sure ignorant laypeople like us to stop us from asking any more awkward questions.

Finally I said to him I’m not really that interested in long explanations about what is wrong, I already know what is wrong, there’s a leak, what I need to know is can you fix it?  All I want is that we do not have any more water coming through the roof.

And The Point Is?

All very nice I hear you say, but what has that got to do with whether or not my partner has an alcohol problem.  Well the same principles apply.  If you are asking whether your partner has an alcohol problem, then there is probably a problem and it probably concerns alcohol.  Your partner’s drinking is causing a problem between you, or at least there is a problem for you.  We did not need anyone to tell us that a pool of water on the floor was a problem.

Do you really need someone to tell you that your relationship is suffering because of your partner’s drinking, that you are anxious any time your partner is late home, or when you go to a party.  If these types of things are happening then YOU have a problem, that is, your partner’s drinking is causing you difficulty and that is a problem for your relationship.

Would knowing your partner had a the medical diagnosis, alcoholic, dependent, binge drinker, alcohol abuser, make you feel better or help solve your problem?  Just like the statistics quoted at the beginning of this article, this is information that is probably not very helpful, so why would you want it?  Why do so many people ask this question?

But He Doesn’t Drink Every Day!

The main reason is almost certainly because your partner and you disagree about whether they have a drinking problem.  They probably point to the fact that, they don’t drink every day, they don’t get drunk every time they drink and therefore they are not an alcoholic.  This may or may not be true but it is a different question altogether.

Even in England it does not rain every day, but when it did the rain came through my roof; problem!  If he or she is not drinking or getting drunk every day that is great, but when they do, problem!  That is the main criteria – is the drinking causing a problem in your marriage?

Most people with an alcohol problem do not face up to it immediately, but then neither do most people with a weight problem, exercise problem or any other kind of problem.  You have probably discussed the issue, maybe angrily, maybe tearfully, in the past.

You are probably feeling fearful, angry, frustrated and insecure.  You probably feel that if you just had that little piece of information that would prove s/he has a problem.  You want a lever (diagnosis) to make you feel supported and to convince your partner that you are right and that change is required.  Well you have the information.  You don’t need a doctor to tell you that there is a problem.  However what you do about it we will address in another article.

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