When I stopped drinking over five years ago, there was not much in the blogs and books that I was reading that addressed how to stop drinking if your partner continued to drink. There was mention of living sober with a normy, meaning someone who could drink moderately. But, I could not find any points of reference for my situation, going sober in an outwardly high-functioning marriage where we both drank with the same intensity that we did everything else. Neither of us was anything close to a moderate drinker but the depressing and somewhat hopeless literature written for partners of alcoholics did not fit our relationship either. We were unique as individuals and our marriage was unique as well.
It was an online community of peers that eventually answered my questions about how to stay sober when your partner continues to drink. Talking deeply about the issues in my marriage that were caused by the drinking, in a safe, anonymous, supportive space, with other people who could relate, people in the same situation who had overcome it or were working it through, helped me stay sober and saved my relationship. It saved my sanity.
The only consistent truth on this topic of relationships and sobriety, is that drinking will not improve your relationship. Start by stopping even if you do it alone. A partnership that requires you to drink, is a partnership built on faulty ground. But time and again I have also seen, that when you remove the alcohol from your own head space, you may find that your partnership is built on more stable ground than you thought it was. And from years of talking to people in an online community, I know that sometimes the changes that occur in their relationships after the first months of sobriety are the opposite of what they expect.
The best thing that you can do for your relationship is evolve your best self
Staying immersed in drinking culture, rather than going sober when you know that you need to stop drinking, will not save a marriage that seems dependant on maintaining the status quo. My own self-abuse when I was drinking dangerously, created an environment in my marriage where I did not ask for what I needed. I felt like a doormat not because that was the way my husband was treating me but because that was the way I was treating myself. Sobriety will change your relationships. It will most likely change them for the better but it will be a long slow process.
The most important relationship that changes when you divorce from alcohol is your relationship with you.
The following questions and answers about relationships and sobriety, about how to stay sober when your partner continues to drink, are taken from our private online community BOOM Rethink the Drink. If you are looking for a safe space with a diverse peer group to help you work through early sobriety or stay sober long term, come talk to us.
I’d like to know how some of you managed sobriety when your partner still drinks and how it affected your marriage esp since it was a shared activity?
Like many, my husband and I drank loads together. Alcohol took its toll. I knew I had a drinking problem long before I did anything about it. I was jeopardising our relationship. I never thought about his drinking. He was a fairly moderate drinker. It was all about me. He’s so relieved now that I don’t drink !! It was always me insisting on opening the second bottle 😮 He can take it or leave it now 🚶🏻♂️ He barely drinks now and when he does it doesn’t bother me. Red wine near me smells repulsive. Your sense of smell is definitely heightened sober.
from the author of Precious Freedom
Last night I was at a dinner party – my better half got up to get his third glass of wine at the bar and we really settled in for a good long chat with our table I just started feeling like I was walking on crushed glass.
I wanted a glass of wine so bad. I could smell my spouses wine. Everyone around me was sipping wine All I wanted to do was TO DRINK WINE!!!
It was hard. And I told my better half it was hard. And he shrugged and said ‘you weren’t really ever that heavy of a drinker, I don’t know why you insist on doing this.’ And that was so NOT what I needed to hear as he opened another bottle of red wine.
Last night made me wonder if I am ever going to be free of these evenings where the only thing keeping me away from drinking a glass of wine again is the mental equivalent of chewing my arm off.
This can be so hard. You did it though! And the next time will be that much easier. Your brain will say, ‘yep, we’ve done this before and we handled it like a BOSS’ 😉
from the author of One Year Sober – Connecting with Myself
Oh gosh, the “you weren’t that bad” thing, think about it….what the hell is that really ?
I just wanted to say that you are my hero ! Not just because you stuck to your guns but because you articulated exactly what it feels like. My husband challenges me in different ways. He can accept that my drinking was indeed that bad but he doesn’t remember his drinking as being that bad which boggles the mind. Wouldn’t it be luverly if we could be on the same page with our mates, but I guess that the thing that has kept me from killing mine on occasion is staying absolutely focused on the my thing / his thing differential, which is easier said then done sometimes.
Does it get easier ? Yes…. it gets easier because after a year or a year and a half sober, I am able to sit at a table full of people celebrating the fabulosity of the grape and not want/need/crave/drool. I can throw parties and serve wine and clean up the bottles and glasses after and feel only mildly repulsed at the vinegary residue on the bottom of the wine glasses the morning after the party.
But it now annoys me a bit how focused people are on the drink.
We live in a bizarre culture….it is normal for people to get drunk most nights….it’s not normal for people to abstain….but you are not ordinary you are extraordinary ! And you are my hero !
Wow! I was feeling sorry for myself tonight at my husband’s business dinner when I went to the loo and read your post. You rocked it!!!! Very helpful to me in that moment. Here there were two bottles of wine on the table, one red and one white. One person had a glass of the red and that was it. No one else was drinking. That didn’t make my craving any less tonight. I felt pretty mad at myself that I can’t even have one stinking glass of wine….but I can’t.
BUT! Yes! I did choose health.
In fact, I kept looking down at my Apple Watch at my pulse. It was 67!!! At 8 pm! When I was drinking my bp and heart rate were elevated and I knew if I kept on drinking that I was on a path to heart disease which runs in my family. Since my GP took me off both bp meds two weeks ago I am constantly looking at my pulse. It helps during a craving.
How do you cope with a someone close to you (living in the same house) with you, drinking alcohol and some days getting quite drunk? I’m not looking to make excuses for drinking. I just need to get some tips for coping. I’m finding the situation a bit confronting and know there are others here coping with this too. Thank you for your input. 🌼🌴😘
Oh boy, confronting is a good word for that. There are many of us who are in or were in that situation. My husband was a very heavy, high -functioning. but heavy drinker. I had to steer clear of him in the evening I’m afraid. I could enjoy him in the morning and during the day but in the evening we went our separate ways which was necessary really. When you’re not drunk, someone who is drinking heavily becomes very not interesting, kind of stupid, if not downright confrontational.
So I would go off and read in the evening and leave him to his liquid companion. In the long run that really helped drive home that the drinking was not a social thing in our relationship anymore but a decidedly anti-social thing.
I found it very tough when I quit drinking and my partner still drank daily. I created a safe space for me, which is my very comfortable chair. I’d have my AF drinks on the table beside it. I matched him drink for drink with AF versions. I never bought booze or enabled him. I also disappeared for 2 months after a year, during which time he got the message. He cut back.
Finally, I threatened divorce, because his drinking was out of control again. I left for 5 days. He got the message.
Having lived with a non-drinking family for 2 months, life is FAR more fun and joyful without booze in it. It is YOUR choice how you handle it. Stick with us.
I am a stay at home mom, sober 11 weeks + and my husband still drinks every-night. Usually I’m fine but sometimes like this evening it triggered me. Thoughts ?
Clean up your side of the street and concentrate on your whys. Consider looking at it as building your sober muscle. My husband drank for the first 3 months after my final sobriety date, he has now quit. It was totally his own choice to stop drinking but I now would really hate for him to start again. Have you read The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober ? It might inspire you. Remember its easier to keep hold of the rope than catch it again xx
related reading Holding onto the Sober Rope
I think you should make sure you are not hungry? And make yourself some tea. Do a little meditating or take a walk? Stay strong. Remember, your body doesn’t need that poison.
related reading Filling the Empty Space in Early Sobriety
Starved for nearness but can’t seem to be close due to partner is drinking (moderately) but is keeping a respectful distance…again. My partner has been hiding the bottles for my sake and is very supportive of my sobriety. I guess I am just wanting to be close but not get triggered. Is anyone else struggling with closeness with their partners because of this?
This is interesting for me to think about. My ex and I kind of “took turns” drinking a lot in our relationship. Every time he’d get really bad, I would unconsciously slow down or stop drinking- trying to show/encourage him to slow down too. When he’d finally slow down or stop for a while it was a sigh of relief and I felt I could relax and drink again… then, we’d reverse rolls at some point. It’s almost as if we were showing each other what we both needed to see in any given moment- just stop drinking.
When I would stop and watch him drinking I’d be disgusted and worried, sad and angry- it fueled my desire to not drink anymore but then I’d give in to all the anxiety and stress of staying sober, drink again and then it was me showing him not to drink… because alcohol is much more ugly when watching with sober eyes. Anyways, IDK if what I’m trying to say makes sense haha but yeah, even though he and I aren’t together anymore (reasons not due to alcohol in any way) I’m happy to say that we are both sober and very grateful and solid in living alcohol-free now.
I can understand the wanting to be close and not be triggered… I think time will be healing for both of you. ❤️
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More reading on our Boozemusings Blog
Three posts from inside our BOOM community Asserting Yourself , The Relationship Thing and Relationships Art and Deciding Which Way You’ll Grow,
This Bubble Hour podcast on Relationships really spoke to me. It profiles three diferente couples.