Bottled Up

Help and Support for people living with an alcoholicProfessional therapists bringing you their 
unique experience of both sides of the problem.

Public Blog

In this Blog we hope to be able to discuss some issues that are relevant to living with an alcoholic.  We invite you to make a contribution to the discussion through the comments facility on the Blog.  However we must make it clear that, much as we might like to, we cannot provide detailed answers to personal questions through this Blog.  So please do not leave personal questions in the comments section.

This is a website for people dealing with serious life issues.  Please be respectful and do not post spam or adverts for unrelated services.  If you do they will be deleted immediately!

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  • 24 Nov 2015 10:55 AM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    In this article we discuss two methods to help make living with an alcoholic less harmful.

    In the two previous articles in this mini-series we discussed the Dilemma of living with an alcoholic and Changes that you can make to improve your life. In this final article we will introduce you to ways that you can influence your alcoholic.

    The first issue that we need to address is the widely held belief that you are powerless, we have discussed previously and you might want to look at what we said about this issue (Powerlessness article). It is true that many alcoholics are resistant to change, but this is very different from saying that we are powerless to influence them. In Bottled Up we provide workbooks to show you two ways of influencing a drinker, depending on how established the drinking pattern is.

    The first method of influence we call SHARE, which is an acronym for Safety, Health, Ambition, Relationships and Environment, which are five distinct areas of your life that may be affected by his drinking. If the drinking pattern is a long established one then we suggest that SHARE is the method you use first. The main reason to use this approach is to reduce the negative effect of drinking on you and your household, rather than trying to get him to stop drinking altogether.

    If you live with an alcoholic who has a long established pattern of drinking, then you already know how difficult it is to get him to change. You have no doubt tried every trick, method and technique there is to get him to stop. And, if you are reading this, the likely result is that nothing has worked, in fact each new attempt to get him to change probably starts another big fight and maybe even another drinking binge. For that reason instead of saying “I want you to stop drinking” this approach says “I know you are going to drink, I’m just asking that you do it in a safer or less harmful way”.

    The way you go about this method is to examine each of the areas of your life that SHARE represents. You then write down a list of all the problems that his drinking causes in these areas. When you have your list then you score the problems out of 10. Finally you select the three problems that cause the biggest disruptions in your life, if there are more than three with high scores then pick the ones related to your, or your children’s, safety first. Now you are ready to have a conversation with your drinker.

    Choose a time when there are no distractions and he has not been drinking or, if that never happens, then he is at least sober. Start by telling him that although you would love him to stop drinking you realise that would be difficult for him, so you are not asking him to do that. Instead you want to explore how to minimise the impact of his drinking. For example if he disrupts the household when he drinks as he wants attention, you could ask him to drink in another room and leave the lounge for you and the kids. If he refuses then you could say that he can have the lounge and you and the kids will use another room. The point is that you are trying to minimise any negative consequences of his drinking.

    Work your way through the three problems trying to find some compromise that reduces the harm of his drinking. However you should never compromise when there is an abuse issue that leaves you or your children in danger and should make arrangements to go elsewhere on either a temporary or permanent basis. If agreeing these boundaries help to make living with the alcoholic more bearable then you can revisit your list at another time and negotiate other boundaries for the other problem areas.

    The other strategy we call LOVE, which stands for Letting the negative consequences happen; Optimising your time with him when he is sober; Valuing the drinker; Encouraging change. People change for two reasons or a mixture of them. The first is to escape or stop the negative consequences happening and the second is to get something good.

    This is another strategy where you need to carry out some preparatory work, looking at the negative consequences, the things that you like to do as a couple and the characteristics of your alcoholic that you value and love. During the meeting you then inform your drinker that the negative consequences of alcohol are his responsibility and not yours, you will no longer be rescuing him or clearing up after him. By doing this you allow him to experience the negative consequences that may motivate change.

    Second you tell him that you value him and tell him the reasons why. Then you inform him that you would like to do things together that you both enjoy, things that do not involve alcohol. You are doing this for two reasons. First is to change the negative feelings that naturally build up when you live with an alcoholic (ie anger and resentment). Second you want to provide a positive reason for your drinker to change. He may be more likely to change if there is a reward waiting rather than being subjected to anger and accusations (regardless of how much you think he deserves it).

    If you want your drinker to change his drinking behaviour then you need to change the way that you approach him. We know that might not seem fair. However at Bottled Up we believe in trying to be pragmatic and do what is necessary rather than what you might think is the right and fair thing to do. Lets face it, if the right and fair approach worked you would not need to read this article, you would already have solved the problem. Try this approach, many others have tried it and been pleasantly surprised.

  • 10 Nov 2015 11:18 AM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    In the previous article (Living with an alcoholic - The Dilemma) we discussed the dilemma that living with an alcoholic is like living with two people, the one that you chose as your partner and the drinker that brings problems to the household. In this article we will start to look at things that you can do to make your life better and deal with this dilemma.

    Probably at this stage your thoughts are, there is only one thing needed for my life to be better and that is for him to stop drinking. In fact it would be surprising if you did not think this as this is the most common response from partners of drinkers. However we are going to deal with things that you can change about your own life in this article and then look at things that you might do about the drinking in the next article. We will concentrate on three areas, isolation, secrecy and having a life.

    Don't isolate yourself

    We briefly touched on the topic of isolation in the previous article. We explained that the shame of living with an alcoholic, and the fact that everyone seemed to be suggesting that you leave him, made it more likely that you did not discuss your life and the dilemma you have with your drinker. Many partners of drinkers take refuge in secrecy as it saves them having to reveal their shame and to be confronted with the ‘advice’ to leave. Of course the advice is usually well meant but it does not take into account the fact that you actually love him.

    Find Support

    While it is understandable that you withdraw from telling others, living life never mind living with a drinker is difficult without support. The first thing that you can do to change your circumstances is to find support. Some people go to Alanon (the family groups of AA. More recently Bottled Up has been available online. While both of these organisations are very useful in helping you to cope it is a good idea to look to your family and friends for support. They already love you and accept you as you are, so try to spend more time with them. Rekindle old relationships and let people back into your life. We discussed this at more length in another article.

    You may think that the problem with meeting up with family and/or friends is that you would then be forced to talk about your life with the drinker and that is exactly why you have kept to yourself. However maybe you need to rethink that logic. By keeping your circumstances secret who or what are you protecting? Yourself – no, you are denying yourself support; your drinker – if he had a physical illness, eg cancer, would you keep it a secret and deny him support. Not only that but the secrecy could collude with the drinking behaviour as there are less voices confronting it or offering advice or support. In most cases the apparent secrecy is more denial than genuine secrecy as the drinkers problem is often already well known to close friends and family. Breaking out of the secrecy restraints often brings sighs of relief all round as everyone can now talk about a subject that has been concerning them. Often having agonised after opening up they are very pleasantly surprised by the reaction they get from friends and family and how warm and supportive it is.

    Get back to having a life.

    Too often the partners of drinkers find that almost all of their time is spent looking after the drinker or worrying about him. The result is that they do not have any time to have a life themselves. Sports they used to play, hobbies and pastimes that they used to enjoy have vanished into this endless round of looking after the alcoholic. This is a cycle that needs to be broken so that you get a life back. Ask yourself, when was the last time you did something just for you? Make a decision that you will do something that you like this week and that you will continue to do something for YOU at least once a week. What should you do? Well that depends what you like doing, a walk on the beach/park/countryside, lunch or coffee with a friend, a massage or pampering session at a local spa, a night at the cinema. The point is that it should be something that you do for you, because you enjoy it!

    These three changes are probably the most important and effective measures you can take to improve your life with a drinker.

    1. Stop isolating yourself and re-acquaint yourself with family and friends,
    2. Allow yourself to talk about your circumstances and
    3. Do something for you this week and every week.

    Next time we will talk about measures that you could take to address the drinking behaviour.

  • 03 Nov 2015 10:15 AM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    Love and the alcoholic– 1 The dilemma

    What most people do not understand is that living with an alcoholic is like living with two people.

    Living with, and loving, an alcoholic is never an easy position to be in. There is little or no support for your choice to stay with him (or her). In fact if you let people into what is happening in your life the overwhelming response is almost certainly suggestions to get out, run, dump him. Probably this is advice that is unwelcome and most certainly not what you want to hear.

    What most people who have never been in the situation that you are in don’t, in fact can’t, appreciate is that you are still there because you love him. You are not blind to the problems, you live with them every day but you love him. You still see that intelligent, funny, fun to be with, thoughtful, kind and gentle man that attracted you. Yes you know that when he drinks that man goes away and this other, thoughtless, selfish, boring imposter appears. Yes you know that, you know it only too well. But that does not stop you loving him.

    True there are times when you don’t like him. There may even be times when you hate him. But you continue to love, and to hope and may even pray that one day this drinking persona will disappear and your lover will return forever.

    People who advise you that you need to get out don’t understand that, they can’t understand that. They look and see what this man’s drinking is doing to you and they dial up the ‘head’ solution, not realising that it is a ‘heart’ problem.

    So you stop telling people about your situation, for fear that they tell you to leave him. Deep down you fear that they may be right, that the only way is to separate. You feel ashamed that your friends or family might know and you avoid them and you become increasing isolated. You are hoping that one day there will be a huge change and that everything will be back to normal, if it ever was.

    You scour the internet for answers, thinking if only we knew why he drinks like he does, maybe we could solve it. If I was a better wife, mother, lover, companion, whatever then he might stay at home and be more content. And this is the dilemma, that you are living with two people, the one you know and love and the drinker who takes him over. You are desperate to spend time with one of them but are having to spend too much time with the other
  • 26 Oct 2015 10:44 AM | John McMahon (Administrator)
    Why Do Alcoholics Lie?

    It's frustrating, you can smell the booze, see the effect but when you mention drinking he denies it

    You come home to find your partner unsteady on her feet. The smell of alcohol is overpowering. Every time she opens her mouth another wave of boozy smell washes over you and her eyes are glazed. However when you say “You have been drinking!” quick as a flash back comes the reply “No I haven’t”.

    It is frustrating, its infuriating, its insulting, its stupid. No wonder there is a saying in AA, how do you know an alcoholic is lying - his lips are moving. So why do they lie so often, so badly, at all?

    You know that he stopped at the pub on the way home - he denied it.
    You can smell the booze and it is strong - she says she has had one drink.
    (You probably have many other examples of your own that you could add here.)

    The unfortunate outcome of the continual lies may be that you stop believing everything that he says. Your trust may start to die, in fact it may even become contempt. However, let’s look a bit more at the kind of lies and why she lies.

    If you look at the type of lies that drinkers tell, you find that they are all (or nearly all) associated with alcohol. Did they drink and how much. Also they are mostly in response to a question, or an accusation, about their drinking. If you ask them about other, non-booze related things, most drinkers don’t lie.

    So, for drinkers, lying seems to be quite selective. That is drinkers tend to lie to protect their drinking and escape the possibility of having to admit that alcohol is a problem.

    Some people suggest that lying is part of a disease of alcoholism. However the notion that the lies could be so specific is fairly implausible. It would be a fairly strange disease that would make a person lie only when he talks about one subject and be truthful when talking about anything else. Instead it would seem to be functional, what that means is that lying is used, consciously or unconsciously to protect the drinking.

    Remember that the drinker gets some benefit from drinking. Mostly the benefits are found in how it makes the drinker feel. Research on what drinkers expected when they drank alcohol have found that they expected to be more sociable, that it would be easier to talk to people, they would be sexier, more powerful, more relaxed, be able to say what they want, generally feel better and the world would be a better and less boring place. That is only part of the list but, if these are their expectations, it is easy to see why people would want to drink.

    Alcohol is a powerful drug. It can change how we feel about ourselves and the world. The same research found that the more positive things that people expected to get from alcohol then the more they tended to drink. More importantly research found that the more people valued these positive things, the more likely they were to drink heavily. In other words, if she believes that drinking alcohol can help her talk to people and be more popular at a party then it is easy to see why she might drink to excess. Or if a young man believed that alcohol made him sexier and more attractive to females then he might drink more to help him pull.

    An important fact found by the research was that the expectation does not need to be true, as long as he believes it is true he will still drink more heavily. Indeed most of the beliefs we have about alcohol are untrue. Alcohol is not actually capable of producing these effects. For example do you think that alcohol makes you sexier, or a better driver?

    The danger is to treat the drinker as a pathological liar in all areas of life and distrust anything he says. In actual fact he may be extremely honest, and, ironically, may even pride himself on that honesty. However when it comes to alcohol, the truth may be in short supply. Why should that be?

    As we suggested above, the lies are less about misleading and more about avoiding having to answer, or face, tough questions. Alcohol is a valuable ally and it needs to be defended. The lies tend to be the kinds that are aimed at closing down a conversation rather than opening one up. The subtext of the lie is "Go away and stop asking me difficult questions, I don't want to answer these questions"

    He may not even realise that he is doing it sometimes, although other times clearly he does. You may want him to admit that he has been lying, but emotionally it may cost you more than you gain. If the drinker is lying and has been drinking, then to pursue the "truth" is pointless. They will become more entrenched and stubborn and you could end up in an argument. Besides, if you can smell it, see him stagger, slur her speech or his eyes are glazed, you probably know all that you need to know already. Their words may lie but all these other signs are telling you the truth.

    Do you identify with this?  Leave a comment below.

  • 07 Oct 2015 1:52 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    You suspect he has a drinking problem but he denies it. Here are some signs that he has a problem.

    You think that your partner has a drinking problem. You have tried to discuss his drinking with him but every time you bring up the issue you end up in a screaming match where he denies it and you end up feeling guilty. Firstly let us say that if you are asking the question and are arguing about the issue then there is a problem about alcohol affecting your relationship and you do not need to look any further for an answer.

    However if you do still need some answers and signs then below we have provided some simple straightforward pointers to answer your question. If he is doing some or all of these then probably he has an alcohol problem.  Read more
  • 28 Sep 2015 12:53 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    Best Advice For The Partners' of Alcoholics [EXPERTS]

    Living with an alcoholic often brings emotional overload, anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness and betrayal and many more. Some of these emotions are responses to the events happening at that moment or recently and they can pass. However there are other emotions that are often rooted very deep in the partners of drinkers in particular guilt and shame.

    Alcoholics have an amazing capacity to make others feel responsible for them, both for their welfare and as a cause of their behavior. Drinkers look for somebody or something to blame for their drinking and unfortunately, only too often, their partners will take on that role. They start asking themselves questions such as could I be more caring, do more to avoid arguments, be more attractive, more interesting, more exciting, more …? The truth is that it would not matter. The drinker drinks regardless of what their partners are or are not doing. It is not their fault.

    Read more

  • 22 Sep 2015 9:50 AM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    A central pillar of Alanon is the belief that you are powerless, in Bottled up we don't believe that

    One of the central pillars of Alanon is the belief that you are powerless over the drinker. For many who join Alanon this comes as a relief, as they are told – “you didn't cause it, can't cure it, and can't control it”. Anything that removes the guilt and shame that people living with an alcoholic feels is a good thing in our book.

    In Alanon they suggest that you to detach with love from your drinker. Alanon also suggests that you look after yourself and make a life that is separate and non dependent on the drinker. Again these are good survival strategies and we welcome them. Indeed we would like to stress that we have a lot of respect for the Alanon fellowship and are thankful for the people that it has helped over the decades. We also spent a lot of time studying Alanon when we wrote and created Bottled Up.

    So if we are in favour of Alanon’s program, is Bottled Up just a kind of Alanon group? The answer to that is no! While we like some of their program, the fellowship and support that they provide, we do however fundamentally disagree with the central tenet of powerlessness. We not only believe that you can influence your drinker but we show you how that may be achieved through the Bottled-up programTo read more click here

  • 17 Sep 2015 3:25 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    Does he have a problem with alcohol?

    This is a question we are often asked, we look at the issue in a different way, a way that is more useful.

    The scene is all too familiar. He has come home, late – again! And he is smelling strongly of alcohol, something that has been happening more and more often. You feel angry, disappointed, frustrated and powerless. You have tried to discuss his drinking with him but he won’t talk about it. In fact any time you raise the issue he just gets more and more angry and you end up in a fight. You suggest (strongly) that he might have a drink problem he denies it, so who is right? Does he have a drink problem? (Please note we do recognize that women can have an alcohol problem also, but it tends to be more common in men.)

    To continue reading click here

  • 24 Aug 2015 12:52 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    Recently we have been doing a bit of writing for YourTango, a large relationship website.  Our current approach is that Lou writes about her life with her alcoholic one week and John comments on it from the point of view of the expert and/or the alcoholic.  The intention is to gather all this material into a book with the provisional title of “The diary of an alcoholic’s partner”.


    Here are the links to the articles.

    If only someone had told me [The diary of a drinker’s partner]

    How A Woman's Tears Brought Hope To Families Of Alcoholics

    What It's Like To Be Married To An Addict Who Loves Me Completely

    How Alcohol Addiction Ended My Marriage

    Face The Addiction — Handling An Alcoholic Partner

    Denying That There's An Alcohol Issue DOESN'T HELP—Learn Why

    How I'm Overcoming Living With My Husbands Addiction

    Live with an alcoholic – don’t run you are NOT powerless!

    The way the articles are listed here reflects the order in which we published them.  Some of the titles have been changed by the YourTango editorial staff.  I'm not convinced that their titles are always better than the ones that we submitted.  Anyway it would be really great if you shared these articles as someone may be looking for help today or it would also be great if you commented and started a converation.

  • 16 Dec 2014 11:50 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    We have been considering writing another book, but the time just never seemed to be right. Well we have decided that this is not the right time either and it probably never will be! So having recognised that nothing ever gets done by waiting or wishing we have decided that we will start work on it now anyway.

    This book will be different from our previous ones as we want to include more real life experiences in it. We are particularly interested in the experiences of men who live with a drinking partner because, as far as we can tell, their issues have never been documented.

    Yes you guessed it, this is where we start asking for your input. We would really appreciate your input, however don’t worry, we are not asking any of you to write anything. What we are looking for is to interview you, preferably via Skype or telephone. Everything that we hear, see will be treated with complete confidentiality and we will not include anything in the book that could identify you.

    One thing that we do know is that privacy and confidentiality is very important to Bottled Up members. However we do ask that you agree to be interviewed anyway. We will not ask you to reveal anything that would make you uncomfortable and you will be free to end the interview at any time.

    If you are interested/willing then please email us at and tell us where you live (what time zone you live in), the best means of carrying out an interview (Skype, Telephone or what) and a good time to get in touch. We will then arrange to contact you at a mutually convenient time. We are aware that the Christmas period is very busy for everyone and will not be arranging any interviews until January.

    Please get in touch, the more people we can talk to, especially men, the more representative our book will be and the more help it will be to more people. That is our desire to bring some help to as many people in your position as possible; to tell them that “You are not alone”.

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All photographs by Cassia Lewis
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