Alcohol addiction is often a hidden struggle that can take over a person’s life, similar to the way an abusive relationship controls and harms. Like a bad partner, alcohol can isolate people from their friends and family, lie to them, and hurt their health and work lives.

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a medical condition where someone has a difficult time controlling how much alcohol they drink or is unable to stop drinking alcohol despite a negative impact on their life. It can be challenging to determine if you or someone you know has AUD, but there are characteristics you can look for to see if there is a concern about alcohol consumption. 

Someone with AUD may:

  • Frequently drink more or longer than they intended to
  • Try to cut back or stop drinking but is unsuccessful 
  • Spend a lot of time consuming alcohol or become sick from drinking too much alcohol 
  • Thinking about wanting to drink and nothing else
  • Have their daily routine impacted by the effects of drinking alcohol
  • Continue drinking alcohol even though it negatively impacts personal relationships, school or work
  • Stop participating in activities they used to enjoy and drinks instead
  • Get into legal trouble due to drinking alcohol
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking alcohol 
  • Feel depressed or anxious due to their alcohol consumption 

If someone experiences two or more of the above symptoms in a twelve-month period, they may be diagnosed with AUD. There can often be a negative perception of people who have AUD, but it is a chronic health condition and should be treated as such with proper medical care. 

The Toxic Cycle of Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol Use Disorder has a cycle of dependence that can make someone who has AUD feel like they have no control over their alcohol use and can’t live without alcohol. This cycle of dependency mimics the pattern of an abusive relationship where there feels like no escape from alcohol, even though it is damaging to someone’s life. Isolation, manipulation, issues in work and home life and health issues are all commonalities shared between AUD and abusive relationships. 

Alcohol and Abusive Partners Create Isolation

Both alcoholism and abusive partnerships can lead to social isolation. In an abusive relationship, an abuser may control their partner and insist that they do not see friends or family. An abuser may control someone’s finances so they do not have any resources to get away from a bad situation. Someone in an abusive relationship may feel ashamed of their situation and isolate themselves from friends or family so they don’t have to answer any questions about their relationship. 

Alcoholism acts like an abusive partner and can create isolation for someone with AUD. Someone who abuses alcohol may choose to drink instead of spending time with loved ones or spend all of their money on alcohol instead of paying bills or buying food. Due to withdrawal or the effects of drinking alcohol, someone with AUD may miss work or school and further isolate themselves. 

The Manipulative Nature of Alcohol

Alcohol can be manipulative over someone with AUD. Someone who abuses alcohol may have negative feelings after drinking alcohol but feel they cannot stop or function without alcohol. The desire to drink alcohol may cause someone with AUD to lie about their drinking habits to loved ones or manipulate someone they care about to get more alcohol. 

Someone in an abusive relationship is often manipulated by their abuser in the same way. An abuser may threaten their partner or someone they love to control them. They may emotionally abuse their partner and say mean things to make them feel worthless or unloved, so they only depend on the abuser. Alcohol and abusive partners make someone feel as if they can only rely on them, so they do not get help or find a way out of the relationship.

Alcohol’s Effects on Health

Alcoholism can have many negative adverse health effects if untreated. While some symptoms of alcoholism show up quickly, others may take time to show up. The same can be said for the negative consequences of an abusive relationship. A relationship may seem fine and not harmful in the beginning, but with time, the mental and physical effects of abuse will begin to affect someone. 

Alcoholism can increase the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, liver disease and strokes. Alcohol misuse can also cause changes in someone’s mood and behavior. Alcoholism may lead to increased feelings of depression or anxiety. Someone in an abusive relationship may also suffer from physical and emotional damage. Abusive relationships can cause someone to develop anxiety or depression over time due to the unhealthy relationship. Physical damage such as bruising, poor sleep, change in appetite and even more severe damage can occur if someone stays in an abusive relationship. 

Alcohol’s Stranglehold on Career and Work

Alcoholism can harm someone’s career and work life in the same way that an abusive relationship may interfere with work. Someone who misuses alcohol may choose to drink alcohol instead of completing work tasks. They may not be able to do their job if they are drunk, hungover or unable to focus because they’re thinking about drinking more alcohol. 

Someone in an abusive relationship may also not have the mental capacity to do their job or might not show up to work if their partner does not allow them to. The mental and physical effects of alcoholism and abusive relationships both take away from someone having the ability to focus all of their attention on their job. 

Alcohol Can Shatter Family Bonds

Alcoholism can create a very isolating and stressful family environment, similar to the way an abusive relationship can cause tension between someone and their family. Someone who has AUD may choose to drink alcohol instead of spending time with their family or use finances to get more alcohol instead of taking care of their family’s needs. There can be an emotional disconnect between someone who misuses alcohol and their family because they are preoccupied with drinking alcohol and the negative after effects. 

Someone in an abusive relationship may also be consumed with their relationship, even though it is harmful to them. An abusive partner may keep someone away from their family to continue controlling them. The families of alcoholics or someone in an abusive relationship often feel helpless, angry or afraid for their loved one. 

Breaking Free: Ending the Relationship

If you or a loved one is suffering from AUD, there are steps you can take to get help. Recognizing that you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol is an essential first step to getting help with your alcohol addiction. 

It is important to know what kind of treatment is available for alcohol addiction. You can start by speaking with your primary care doctor about your worries surrounding your alcohol consumption. Every individual will require a different level of care and can speak with a medical professional to determine what is best for them. Entering professional addiction treatment and coming up with a long-term support plan are essential steps in working toward treatment and recovery from alcohol addiction. 

The Role of Professional Addiction Treatment

Alcohol addiction, like an abusive relationship, can feel impossible to escape on your own. Professional treatment can help guide and support you to a life without alcohol and no longer be trapped by the cycle of alcohol addiction. 

Treatment can include residential or inpatient stays, detox, step-down programs and outpatient care. Addiction treatment provides the necessary medical and emotional care needed to work towards sobriety. It is critical to meet with a medical professional team to determine what treatment is best for you. 

Begin Your Recovery Today

If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Reach out to us today to begin living a substance-free life.

It’s ok to want to try again. You deserve relief. Find it at an addiction treatment center today.

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Editor – Brennan Valeski
Brennan Valeski graduated from The University of Central Florida in 2020 with a Bachelor's in Entertainment Management. He has edited and been a content manager for websites and digital media. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Danielle Boland
Danielle is licensed clinical social worker, currently living and practicing in central Connecticut. Read more

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.“>Understa[…]Use Disorder.” April 2023. Accessed October 19, 2023.  “What Is Domestic Violence?“>What Is […]tic Violence?” October 4, 2023. Accessed October 19, 2023. 

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol’s Effects On The Body.“>Alcohol�[…] On The Body.” 2023. Accessed October 20, 2023. 

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.