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Should I Abstain Completely When My Loved One is Around?

bottle pouring

AiR member Hope wonders about her own use of alcohol, and whether abstinence is the only solution, as she prepares to implement CRAFT with her husband…

"I have a question about my own use of alcohol. My husband uses daily, almost always to excess and where I don't see him. At an earlier point in our lives, I drank wine at home and drank with him at bars regularly. I stopped that about six or seven years ago, as it felt depressing. I also figured that I might as well stop as I knew I wouldn't want to drink around him if he were to stop drinking.

It was a good thing, as I realized I really didn't want to drink habitually. From time to time, I want to have a drink or two with him, at restaurants, and I also bought a bottle of wine and a six-pack when guests were coming to dinner. I feel generally satisfied about my own drinking, with a few exceptions over the last six or so years.

He quit drinking for a few weeks earlier this year, and I abstained completely and would do so if he were to quit drinking. Does it matter if I drink around him occasionally when he is drinking? Is there any research around this?

Part of me thinks that fact I am asking means that I should just not drink, but I also think that it is a little bit of magical thinking, that if I just don't drink, he also will stop. Thanks for any insight you can share."

Dear Hope:  We can’t control another’s drinking, but we do have influence. Modeling the behavior we are looking for in our Loved One is effective, and a key element of CRAFT.

When I speak of our influence, I mean:

– communicating well,

– responding in a way that doesn't enable when they are using,

– supporting their non-using behaviors …

…all of this works. The studies on CRAFT have confirmed it. Changing how you communicate and respond modifies the immediate environment around your Loved One. It becomes an environment that is more conducive to getting them into treatment and stopping the use.

CRAFT is the only approach for families that has been sufficiently studied. The CRAFT studies all had similar results: changing how you interact and behave leads close to 70% of Loved Ones to enter treatment, 50% to reduce their use.

Outcomes like this are unheard of in behavioral health. This is as close to a magic bullet as it gets.

Will it be enough, will it make the difference, for you to abstain from drinking around your husband? By itself, probably not. But it is one small strategy that signals to your husband that you are not participating in, or normalizing, his drinking. Combine this with the many other small strategies we suggest in the modules and you are creating the best environment for your husband to realize he has a problem and to get help. 

You can only control what you do: your part in his environment. There are others, certainly, in his life. But this is what you can do, and what has been shown to work.

The modules are full of useful nuggets for you to try out.  No single thing alone guarantees change, but put as many of these together as you can, and you will see change.

The username you chose for Allies in Recovery is so appropriate: there is indeed hope.  



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Thanks for this reply. It makes a lot of sense, and it feels much better to me not to drink with him. It is also key to realize I don’t have the obligation to be in bars with him.

    Thank you very much for this resource. I had wished for something exactly like this.