Become a member of Allies in Recovery and we’ll teach you how to intervene, communicate and guide your loved one toward treatment.Become a member of Allies in Recovery today.

He’s Drinking at Home…What About The Children?

Allies in Recovery, AiR, Dominique Simon Levine, dsl, CRAFT, addiction, addictin recovery, alcohol, alcoholic, drinking, children, moderation, abstinence, drink, alcoholism, counselor

An Allies member examines options for handling her loved one’s alcoholism. His drinking continues to be round the clock when he is not at work, but he still tries to hide it from the family. With children involved, she wonders about the best time and place to confront her husband without including them.

*This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. To take advantage of our current special offer and get full access to the Allies in Recovery eLearning program for families, click here.

“My husband is a teacher and finishes work at 2:30. I don’t get home till 5 so that eliminates any opportunity during the week because I don’t want to include my older adolescent in the solutions. She usually finds a way to get another ride to events and doesn’t let him drive if she sees him drinking. But I do worry about the other times when she pretends he is fine. I will try this during this weekend.

Recently I found my spouse drinking on the toilet with the door locked (I was going outside to check on a pet and saw him through the window). I feel like he is so out of control. He gets paid again Wednesday so he will have money again for alcohol…”

Dominique Simon-Levine suggests including the children in her plans to help her husband

You have children. Can you get yourself and them in to see a counselor? They may benefit from a safe space to air what is going on with their father. Your husband is ill. Addiction happens to have a large behavioral component that is responsible for so much shame and stigma. Like heart disease, addiction is a disease: your husband’s brain has been hijacked by alcohol. Unfortunately, people with addiction do dangerous, hurtful, and illegal things. People with heart disease don’t typically go through the neighbor’s window looking for jewelry. The stigma and shame makes addiction doubly hard on the family. Children often know more than we credit them for knowing; they also can carry shame and stigma.

Let’s be honest, he’s not fooling anyone

What would a counselor think of asking your husband to stop sneaking alcohol at home, and start drinking openly? What do you think of this idea? Knowing you have children doesn’t eliminate this option, but it would have to be orchestrated with care for their sake. They would need to first have the opportunity to speak with a counselor, feel heard, and have the situation and new plan explained to them. The suggestion of having your husband drink openly could be presented following this type of session with a counselor.

Since your husband drinks all the time at home and he’s not fooling anyone, bringing it into the open could make for a huge change in his drinking. You could frame the discussion something like this:

“Darling. I see you walking a tightrope. It seems you need to drink whenever you’re not at work. I am thankful you are still able to manage teaching. We depend on your income as a family. I want you to know I am scared. Today I announce a war on the beer. I love you. I hate the beer. The drinking threatens our family. The children are aware of all this (I took them to a counselor – they’ve known for some time that you drink in secret); I’d like you to consider drinking openly in the home. No more sneaking please. It’s not working anyway.”

I strongly suspect this will reduce the drinking for a while. It will give you the opportunity to try some of the many things we suggest on the site.

Moderation or Abstinence? An experiment

At this point it is hard to know if your husband can moderate his drinking or not. He will be nudged to try, though, when you suggest drinking openly in the house. It is likely your husband has crossed that line where he can’t control his drinking and he will need to abstain. Shifting to having him drink openly in the house is an experiment – give it 6-8 weeks. If he seems to be sipping/cutting back and not showing signs of inebriation, then it’s time to reward (view an excerpt from Learning Module 5 on rewards). If he fails to moderate, you’ll remove rewards, allow natural consequences, and remove yourself and the kids (view Learning Module 6, for access to all of our Learning Modules, join today).

I hate “using” kids in this, but they are already involved in it. Bring them along with an appropriate counselor. You are going to have to be the judge of how you all are able to manage these interactions with your husband going forward.

Softening the relationship so he’ll listen

The Learning Modules are full of examples of small steps a family can take. They are intended to soften the communication and the relationship, and to remind your husband that he has a loving family. For instance, you get home after him during the work week, and there is no getting in front of his drinking at this point. What if you got the afternoon off and met him at his car at school? …Here you might bring a bag of cookies, hot coffee, and simply take a beautiful walk. The point here is to make a space for some softening in the relationship – no hard conversations, just a moment without alcohol, with each other.

The ultimate goal is to get things softened sufficiently so that he listens to you when you bring up the need for treatment. You and your husband will have figured out by observation whether he can moderate. If not, you’ll need to have treatment options ready, including options that don’t involve getting time off from work (a barrier he is likely to bring up), so intensive outpatient therapy, a long weekend detox, self-help in the evenings/weekends… We can help you with this script when that time comes.

You’ll need support and a plan moving forward

Psychology Today has a good directory of therapists. It’s a place to start. (It’s listed in Our Treatment Resources: Ask people you know if they can recommend someone good. Your husband’s drinking is serious and needs to be addressed. You’ve taken the steps and reached out to AiR. We are so glad you are here. You are going to need support and a plan moving forward. I imagine you’re exhausted. You will need to take fortification wherever you can find it to keep moving forward toward the goal of getting your husband the help he needs. Your husband has a lot to lose but much to gain by addressing his drinking. Addressing the drinking will bring him back to you and the children.

Thank you for being willing to share all of this with us. We are here to support you and hold space for you throughout every step of this process. You can lean on us.

Yes, the family DOES have a role to play. Your stance, behavior, and choices DO make a difference. At Allies in Recovery we are absolutely convinced of this. “Tough love” is not a successful technique. Our learning platform is set up to help family members learn the techniques that will reduce conflict, build that bridge of communication, and be effective in guiding your loved one into treatment. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery. Learn more here.

Illustration © Eleanor Davis


Related Posts from "Connection"

“What We All Require Is To Be Heard”: Kayla Solomon On Effective Communication and Connection

In March 2023, Allies in Recovery’s very own Kayla Solomon led a 90-minute ZOOM conversation with leaders of the East Bay chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) based in Sacramento, California. The result was a dynamic primer on the use of CRAFT, the Allies approach to building trust and connection with Loved Ones, and the vital role of listening and affirming when supporting a Loved One with mental health and/or substance use challenges. Click above to watch the recording.

How CRAFT Can Help: Supporting Your Partner to Successfully Moderate Opiate Use

His partner is trying to moderate her use of heroin and methamphetamine with no formal support. Her use consumes so much of his partner’s life that it’s hard to see her “moderation” as progress. But his loved one wants him to acknowledge how “well” she’s doing, and there hasn’t been room for more discussion. Read on for suggested strategies from to engage his partner into treatment, using the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) approach.

Real Allies in Recovery Success Stories: Families Share How CRAFT Helped Their Loved Ones with SUD

Read real success stories from families who used the CRAFT approach to help their loved ones with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Learn how CRAFT helped them engage their loved ones into treatment, and how it improved their relationships and reduced stress levels. Discover how you can use the CRAFT method to help your loved ones find recovery, and visit for more stories and resources.

I Meant Well. Did My Words Make Him Start Drinking Again?

A recurrence never occurs for one reason alone. It’s rare that words of love are to blame. Yet as linsachacko31 recently discovered, even words meant to celebrate a Loved One’s accomplishments can be taken in a way we don’t intend. Laurie MacDougall reflects how easily this can happen, and some simple ways we can change our approach to those vital, if challenging, moments of connection.

My Son is Using Again. Should I Confront Him?

When you are trying your best to work with a family member in recovery from Substance Use Disorder (SUD), it can be frightening and disappointing to discover they are using again. What to do? One of our members wrote in about her son having a recurrence of use, and she wonders whether she should confront him or not. She feels she can’t bear the emotional rollercoaster of her son’s recovery journey. We weigh in with some reminders from the CRAFT approach about how to manage her own thoughts, feelings, and reactions. We suggest she stay the course and not confront him – at least not yet.

In-Person & Virtual Recovery Resources for Your Loved One

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (AA World Services, Inc.) Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other, that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. This is an informational website for anyone interested in learning more about their organization, 12-step program of recovery, and how to find local meetings. PHONE: 212.870.3400 Click here for Online AA Meetings What is AA? What to Expect in an AA Meeting  What is Anonymity in AA?  AA INTERGROUP ONLINE MEETING FINDER IN THE ROOMS In The Rooms offers over 150+ weekly live online meetings, a variety 12-Step and Non-12- Step Fellowships, and Specialty meetings. Some of our most popular meetings are AA, NA, ACA, Al-Anon, and Nar-Anon meetings, and much more. In The Rooms has 69 live online AA meetings weekly, so there’s bound to be one that fits your schedule! We have specialty AA meetings too, like AA Pride (LGBTQ). We also have an Agnostic AA meeting, if you’re seeking a meeting without a secular approach to recovery. We have 30 NA meetings on ITR weekly. Like AA, there’s also an NA Pride meeting (LGBTQ) and an Agnostic NA meeting. For support for the family, friends, and allies of those in recovery, In The Rooms has both Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings, which each meeting, 1-3 times a week. We also have many other 12-step fellowship groups, like Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and Sex Addicts Anonymous, CODA, Dual Diagnosis, and much more. If you can think of a Recovery fellowship, we probably have it.  FULL LISTING of LIVE VIRTUAL/ONLINE MEETINGS  12Step.Org We strive to provide information, tools, and resources for working a 12 Step program (or any program using 12 step principles for recovery) in as simple and effective way as possible. Online Meeting Calendar Online Video Meetings Phone Meetings Forums, Text Chats, and Email Meetings List RECOVERY DHARMA Recovery Dharma is a peer-led movement and community that is unified by our trust in the potential of each of us to recover and find freedom from the suffering of addiction. We believe that the traditional Buddhist teachings, often referred to as…

Giving Your Loved One Trust and Agency

Kayla and Laurie discuss short-term vs. long-term change — start by working on one change in yourself rather than in your loved one, like focusing on your thought process, choosing to trust and step back, giving your loved one the chance to make decisions. This gives both of you the tools for slower, but more effective long-term change — think of erosion, not a tsunami.

Giving Your Loved One Trust and Agency

Kayla and Laurie discuss short-term vs. long-term change — start by working on one change in yourself rather than in your loved one, like focusing on your thought process, choosing to trust and step back, giving your loved one the chance to make decisions. This gives both of you the tools for slower, but more effective long-term change — think of erosion, not a tsunami.