When you suspect your partner may have a problem drinking, it can be tempting to read something into every little sign or to explain away behaviour you normally wouldn’t stand for. While every relationship is different and there is a broad range of what is considered acceptable behaviour between couples, there are three big warning signs that should never be ignored.
Increased Sensitivity and Mood Swings
Everyone experiences times when they feel moody and agitated but for someone with a drinking problem, these mood swings and bouts of acute depression become normal. If your partner has begun to snap at you and their moods can turn on a dime, it’s a sign that something definitely isn’t right. For those who are known to be drinkers this is often one of the earliest signs of a blossoming drinking problem. As the addict becomes increasingly dependent on alcohol to help keep their mood level, a decrease in how much or how often they can drink can bring about intense mood swings.
An increase in minor physical ailments, sudden weight gain and trouble sleeping are all early physical warning signs that your partner may be struggling with their drinking. The physical effects of alcoholism come in waves. At first there is an increase of weight as well as minor injuries from coordination problems while drunk. As time goes on, the alcoholic’s skin and general appearance will begin to suffer. While there are plenty of alcoholics who appear healthy they go to great lengths to hide their splotchy skin, circles under their eyes and other physical effects. Alcohol dehydrates the body and this leads to a host of problems beginning with making the skin and hair appear duller. These early physical symptoms can be a warning that bigger problems await. Prolonged alcohol abuse can result in diabetes, problems with the liver, stroke, sexual dysfunction, insomnia and heart disease to name just a few.
An Inability to Stop
Finally there is the real litmus test when it comes to whether or not someone has a problem with drinking: Can they stop? Many alcoholics claim they can quit anytime they want to but refuse to try when pressured by family or friends. Others do try to stop drinking for a certain amount of time but either they fall off the wagon publicly or they begin drinking in secret. This final test – simply seeing if they really CAN stop drinking – is often the one warning sign that even an addict can’t escape.
While there are many other warning signs when it comes to someone’s drinking, these three milestones are the markers of a real problem with drink. A partner struggling with a drinking problem may become agitated or angry when confronted so if you think your partner may be at risk, be sure you speak with a qualified professional or trusted friend before confronting your partner. While it’s important for your partner to get help, be sure you are helping yourself as well. There are many support groups for families of alcoholics who can help not only with the initial confrontation but also can provide the support you’ll need throughout your partner’s recovery.