Should I Abstain Completely When My Loved One is Around?

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An Allies in Recovery member recently wrote in, wondering about her own use of alcohol, and whether the only viable solution is to abstain from drinking, as she prepares to implement CRAFT with her husband. Here is an extract from her comment, then Dominique Simon-Levine responds to her concerns below.

This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. To learn more about membership, see our Membership Benefits.

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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…..Does it matter if I drink around him occasionally when he is drinking? Is there any research around this?…..Thanks for any insight you can share.”

We can’t control another’s drinking, but we do have influence. Modelling 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.


Control what you can. Use the strategies we teach.

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. There is hope.

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