Supporting an Alcoholic Spouse in Outpatient Treatment

When a person has a spouse recovering from alcohol addiction and is in an out treatment program, they will have a strong desire to help. A good way to start is by learning as much as possible about the spouse’s alcohol disorder. This helps to get a better understanding of what the spouse is dealing with in terms of the disease and the addiction. Alcoholism is a disorder that involves more than just excessive drinking. It is a disease that gradually develops over time, and is common to run in families.


It is important to be open and honest with a spouse who is involved in an outpatient program. Sharing concerns about their drinking is important. It is expected for the addicted spouse to be defensive. Dealing with this will require compassion and a dedication to providing support. It’s important to not interrupt them when they’re speaking. This will build trust and honesty.

Relapse Signs

A person engaged in outpatient treatment for alcoholism is dealing with a long and challenging process. A relapse may occur no matter how dedicated a person is to their sobriety. An alcoholic spouse needs to be monitored for certain signs of relapse. If any of the following warning signs appear, they must be addressed immediately. If necessary, concerns should be discussed with doctors at the treatment facilities.

  • Reflecting on their alcohol abuse in a positive way. Spending time with friends they had when they were abusing alcohol.
  • Noticeable changes in their behavior. This could involve lapses in personal hygiene or self-care, disrupted sleep, irrational or impulsive behavior, failing to follow a routine, manipulation as well as lying.
  • They engage in self-isolation and withdrawal from family and friends. They lose interest in hobbies that used to be important to them.
  • Attitude changes involving their treatment program and their goal of recovering from alcohol addiction. They may doubt they can obtain sobriety. They may also start to complain about their doctors as well as the program and more.


The non-addicted spouse needs to avoid codependency. This happens when an individual is in a relationship with an alcoholic and is manipulated as well as controlled by them. They try to rescue their spouse. It is a dysfunctional imbalance and the non-alcoholic spouse may try to take responsibility for things they can’t control. They become overwhelmed. There are certain signs of codependency

  • Feeling responsible or an alcoholic spouse’s behavior
  • Needing a spouse to behave a certain way to feel everything is okay.
  • Trying to control an alcoholic spouse
  • Trying to fix themselves rather than focusing on their alcoholic spouse.

Be an Example

It’s important to be an example to an alcoholic spouse by living healthy. The non-alcoholic spouse should be willing to give up their alcohol use if necessary. Setting healthy boundaries is a good way to be a positive example for a spouse who is in an outpatient treatment program. There are also support groups made up of spouses having the same experience.

Identify and Eliminate Triggers

One of the challenges of outpatient treatment for alcoholism is how the person receiving the treatment can return home at the end of the day. This means a regular routine can be maintained. It could be a challenge as the alcoholic spouse is not in a protected environment. Problems can be avoided when potential triggers are identified and all types of alcohol are removed from the home. A common example would be to avoid friends and family who regularly drink alcohol.

Avoid Judgmental Language

The communication between a married couple is important. The feelings of the non-alcoholic spouse are valid. They should still avoid using any language that would come across as harsh or judgmental. Doing this will discourage the recovering alcoholic spouse. It’s important to be positive and help them toward their sobriety. The recovering alcoholic spouse should also be encouraged to express their feelings about how they feel concerning the outpatient treatment program.

Alcohol-Free Activities

Recovery from alcohol addiction can be a time of exploring a world of fun that doesn’t require consuming alcohol. Figuring out activities that both spouses can do together will strengthen their relationship. Discovering enjoyable activities without alcohol will help avoid a possible relapse.


Work on developing a plan for regular exercise and healthy eating. Families with alcoholics usually have little experience with healthy living. Going on walks, getting involved with a mutual hobby, working together to prepare meals and more can strengthen the bonds between spouses. This will be a big help during the recovery process.

Overcoming alcohol addiction is not easy, but we can help. Call us today at 844-639-8371. Our counselors are ready to help you 24 hours a day.

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