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‘I think my husband has a problem with alcohol, but he says he’s just managing his stress’

Ask the Expert: Even if someone does not identify their alcohol use as a problem, it can be a serious issue for their family


My husband has always been fond of a drink but in the past year it has got worse and I am worried. Every weekend, he will drink so much that he is comatose and really hungover the next day.

He might get drunk at home in front of the TV with me or he will go out with the lads and come home drunk and then continue drinking on the couch. Most of the time he just passes out, but other times he can be obnoxious; he will try to have sex with me and when I object he will get shouty and rude. He has never hit me or anything. The next day he can’t remember much and apologises and seems to think I am exaggerating when I tell him.

Last week, I was out and he got drunk by himself and I came home to find the front door open and the dog out. Our two sons (six and eight) were up in bed. I have told him I don’t like him drinking and I hate the person he becomes when he is drunk, but he says he needs to have a “blowout” like this at the weekend to manage his stress in work. After a confrontation, he reduces his drinking for a while and will drink less or only one night at the weekend rather than two, but it invariably creeps up again.

Most of the time he is a great father and husband. He works hard for his family and I do love him. It is just the weekends that can be difficult when he’s drinking and the kids are noticing their dad is hungover and grumpy. I am not sure what to do.


Do you think he is an alcoholic? How can I get him to get help?


Dealing with a partner’s alcohol problem can be very challenging. While a person may not be at the stage of identifying their alcohol use as an issue, it could very much be a serious problem for their family. Getting shouty and rude, not remembering things and being hungover and unavailable for children are all red flags indicating problem alcohol use.

It could be that your husband knows he has a problem, but is finding it hard to change his behaviour. The fact that he tries to make changes when you confront him is a good sign, though most people with alcohol problems do need support to make sustained changes to their lifestyle. The key to helping him (and yourself) is to be both supportive and encouraging as well as being clear about the problem and what needs to change.

Pick a good time to talk

It is important to pick a good time to talk about alcohol problems. This is usually when you are both relaxed and have time and space to talk. It is certainly not a good time to raise things when he is drunk, in the middle of a row, or when you are annoyed about something. It also helps to plan what you might say so you don’t get too angry or say something you regret.

Start positive

Start by saying what you love about him and what is going well. You might say, “I really appreciate that you have been trying to cut down on your drinking. Things are much better at the weekends when this happens.” You might go on to explore getting help: “I know it is hard to keep these changes going. Would it be a good idea to get some help and to talk to someone?”

Explain your concerns clearly and directly

If he is dismissive or says he does not have a problem, explain your concerns directly and specifically. You might say, “I am worried about your drinking. I was scared when you shouted at me and when you did not remember” or “The kids were upset when you did not take them out because of your hangover.”

Don’t expect immediate agreement on your concerns and it can help to give him time and space: “Please have a think about what I am saying. We need to make sure this does not happen again.”

Be encouraging

Try to be encouraging as you problem solve with him about ways forward: “I know it’s hard that you are stressed in work, but are there other ways you can blow off steam at the weekends?” or “What would help keep the drinking in check longer? What do you think would work? How can I help you?”

Explore options for support

The HSE runs a confidential Alcohol and Drugs freephone helpline on 1800 459 459 from Monday to Friday between 9.30am and 5.30pm or email They will be able to give you an overview of what services might help your husband. Even if your husband is not immediately interested in getting help, you can contact as a partner for your own support. There is also self-help group support via and for partners via al-anon Ireland.

Keep the lines of communication open

Try to keep the lines of communication open between you and your husband. It will help if you can build your relationship with him and do relaxing and fun things together that don’t involve alcohol.

This can be going on formal dates together or simply prioritising daily shared activities such as watching a favourite movie or cooking a meal together or going out for a daily walk to debrief about the stresses of the day.

  • John Sharry is clinical director of the Parents Plus Charity and an adjunct professor at the UCD School of Psychology. He is author of several parenting books including Positive Parenting and Parenting Teenagers. See