In the UK, we have a drinking culture that often portrays alcohol as a bit of harmless fun – even when used in excess.

In most cases, drinking in moderation is relatively harmless, but alcohol misuse can have serious consequences. In England, alcohol is the leading cause of ill-health, disability, and death among people aged 15 to 49 years and across the UK, it is a significant public health problem.

It has huge health, social and economic consequences, estimated to cost between £21 and £52 billion a year.

People dealing with alcohol addiction are not just statistics, though; there can be very personal consequences. Every year, alcohol misuse wrecks families and destroys relationships. There are many ways alcohol can strain relationships–whether with a partner, family members, friends or even work colleagues and bosses.

Below we discuss the 5 key reasons why alcohol addiction destroys relationships.


Alcohol Changes your Personality

Alcohol is an intoxicant and a depressant. At lower levels, it depresses parts of the brain involved in inhibition, making the drinker more social and confident. It can have a calming or relaxing effect, but alcohol also depresses the ability to regulate emotion, which is why drunk people can become emotional or aggressive.

Additionally, intoxication affects things like coordination, memory and judgement. You may be more likely to make bad decisions, engage in risky behaviour and even become violent towards your loved ones.

Chronic or dependent drinkers’ personalities can be changed for the worse even when they are not currently drinking. Addiction essentially rewires the brain and can affect areas that deal with things like pleasure and reward.

This can lead to the person losing interest in other things that they used to enjoy–whether these are hobbies and social activities or just spending time with partners, family and loved ones. Alcohol becomes the central focus of their life, and they may become a different person.


Alcohol Can Cause Trust Issues

Honesty and communication are essential for any relationship, and alcohol can damage this aspect. People with a drinking problem will often be in denial about the extent or even the fact that they have one in the first place. At the same time, they may become secretive, drinking secretly or hiding evidence of their drinking.

In some cases, they may realise on some level that they have a problem but don’t want to face it. Others may justify secretive behaviour because they feel they are being unjustifiably nagged at or criticised for drinking.

It is very common for alcoholics to feel victimised as this can help them to avoid accountability and create what they tell themselves are valid reasons to drink. Their own actions can be put down entirely to external forces. When challenged, they can become overly defensive and lash out.

Another aspect of dishonesty may occur when the drinker hides the consequences of their drinking. This could include drink-fuelled infidelity or other unacceptable behaviour, drink-related problems at work or the amount of money spent on alcohol.


Your Priorities Change

As already mentioned, alcohol addiction can take the joy out of everything in life that doesn’t involve drinking. When an alcoholic is not drinking, they might think of the next time they are or feel anxious about securing their next drink. This can lead to a lack of motivation and enthusiasm for other things, such as work, school and social activities.

People struggling with a drinking problem will often let their responsibilities slide, which can put another huge strain on relationships. This is especially the case when children are involved but can apply in any relationship. It can seem like taking on the person’s responsibilities is doing them a favour in the short term, but this can just serve to enable their drinking in the long run.


It Can Cause Distance

All the things already mentioned can cause an emotional distance to start forming. This can be made even worse as the drinker is often unavailable emotionally and literally because they may be physically absent or unfit to participate.

Being frequently intoxicated or hungover can prevent the person from participating in activities, fulfilling their responsibilities or spending quality time together.

Alcohol can also cause sexual problems, including erectile dysfunction. This can be a temporary issue when the person is intoxicated but can become a more permanent problem with long-term drinking. The other partner might also be affected; this combined lack of emotional and physical intimacy can help widen the relationship’s cracks.


Alcohol Addiction Causes a Spiral

Any kind of heavy or problem drinking can cause problems in a relationship, but if it develops into an addiction, the person can enter a downward spiral. Problems and issues can pile up, and the drinker might lack the motivation or capability to stop them.

Alcoholism can lead to physical and mental health issues, problems at work and an increasing sense of isolation and powerlessness. All of this can be hard on even the most robust relationships. It can be very difficult to watch someone you care about damaging themselves and others around them with alcohol misuse.

Alcohol addiction can be successfully treated, though, and it is often a partner, family or other loved one who is instrumental in getting the addict to see that they need help. It can be challenging to know what to say, and some approaches can be counterproductive. In general terms, it is best to be supportive without enabling harmful drinking, which can be a difficult balance to find.

If you are worried about your own drinking or that of a loved one, get in touch today for confidential help and advice. Alternatively, you can call us on 0800 880 7596. 

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: March 15, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.