How Drinking Alcohol Regularly and to Excess May Affect Relationships

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Excessive alcohol use can result in adverse effects that wreak havoc on nearly every aspect of a person’s life. People who have become dependent on alcohol cannot control their use and spend considerable time obsessing over how, when, and where they can start drinking again. When alcohol has become a target of obsession and priority, responsibilities to loved ones tend to fall by the wayside. Due to the all-encompassing nature of alcoholism, close relationships with loved ones can be placed under tremendous strain if you are actively struggling with alcohol misuse.

At Guardian Recovery, we offer intensive, individualized treatment programs, including inpatient, partial hospitalization, and outpatient levels of care. If your alcohol misuse has affected your personal relationships and other vital aspects of your life, contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive, evidence-based approach to addiction treatment, mental health, and emotional and spiritual wellness.

There are many ways in which alcohol misuse may be affecting your relationships, including the following:

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You Prioritize Drinking Over Obligations

Alcohol dependence redirects a person’s motivation, compromising their desire—and ability—to cut back or quit. If you’ve been unable to curb your destructive drinking habits, you may continue regarding alcohol as the focal point of your life. For this reason, everything else can suffer in comparison, which will persist as long as you actively feed your alcohol use disorder.

As a result of ongoing excessive, regular drinking, you may eventually begin to neglect personal obligations to your spouse, children, and other loved ones. For example, missing work can lead to a loss of income and unemployment. Combined with the cost of drinking, alcohol-related arrests, and legal fees, these problems could lead to serious financial difficulties and an inability to pay bills. 

You Prioritize Drinking Over the Emotional Needs of Loved Ones

Many people struggling with addiction believe deep down their loved ones are more important than their addiction and may express this. However, actions speak louder than words and pleading your case is unlikely to change minds if you are unwilling to keep promises or seek help for your drinking.

In addition to neglecting obligations, your relationships may have suffered if you haven’t attended to your loved one’s social and emotional needs. This might include being uninterested or unwilling to engage in shared hobbies previously enjoyed or participating in activities that don’t involve drinking. If you regularly miss quality time with your spouse or children due to alcohol use, your actions might imply drinking is more important than they are.

You Have Developed a Codependence

Codependency commonly occurs in dysfunctional families, including those affected by alcoholism. In a codependent relationship, one person takes on a caretaker role, and their loved one has real or imagined needs for which they demand help. Unfortunately, these needs might require the other person to become an enabler. For example, they might be expected to obtain alcohol, make excuses, and pick up the pieces whenever their loved one’s addiction causes unwanted consequences.

Although there may appear to be a clear advantage for the drinker in this situation, the essence of codependency is that there are perceived benefits for both people in the relationship. For example, if your loved one serves as your caretaker, they derive fulfillment from this duty, despite the sacrifices made on your behalf. They have committed to this role to satisfy their own need for love, attachment, and intimacy. The only way to healthily break free of a codependent relationship like this is for both of you to seek professional help.

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Alcohol Has Affected Your Personality

Alcoholism not only changes a person’s priorities and behaviors, but it can also drastically alter their personality. Personality changes commonly seen related to alcohol dependence include the following:

Misguided Motivation

As a person’s motivation to consume alcohol increases, they are less incentivized to attend to the truly critical aspects of their lives, such as work, school, and family. If you’ve ever had a “hair of the dog” first thing after you wake up, you will know how true this is. 

Once drinking recommences, switching gears back to what you would usually accomplish can become much more challenging. That is, alcoholism can dramatically compromise both short- and long-term productivity, and you may find you’re letting it hold you back in life for weeks, months, or even years at a time.

Increased Anger & Reactivity

Many who excessively drink alcohol tend to become highly reactive and easily angered by minor inconveniences or inferred threats. Alcohol intoxication can make it difficult to assess a physical or emotional threat accurately. Consequently, a person under the influence may become unduly upset by something another person says or does—as if they are being attacked. 

Increased aggression is one reason why some drinkers are quick to engage in physical or verbal altercations with others when intoxicated. Although arguing or fighting may be highly unnecessary, drinkers may feel it’s warranted due to alcohol’s ability to affect emotional balance and reduce intellectual functioning.

Decreased Self-Control

Alcohol use tends to lower inhibition and increase risk-taking and impulsivity. For people who drink heavily, this can mean acting in ways that are not true to the person they are when sober. Dangerous behaviors might include engaging in unsafe sex, using illicit drugs, performing risky stunts, or driving drunk, any of which could lead to injuries, arrest, or both. Aside from the inherent risks you face due to these behaviors, they can also affect how others perceive you. Even if you were once considered level-headed and dependable, you might now be perceived as careless, irresponsible, and not safe or enjoyable to be around.

Worsened Mental Health

Alcohol is notorious for exacerbating mental health disorders and contributing to low emotional states. Using alcohol for self-medication, although common, is not an effective coping mechanism and will not contribute to a person’s overall mental wellness. In fact, heavy drinking does precisely the opposite—it directly interferes with mental well-being, making it challenging to disentangle a mood or personality disorder from alcohol dependence.

Drinking can also bring about unpleasant thoughts and feelings not otherwise tied to a mental disorder. Alcohol misuse can trigger acute bouts of depression and anxiety, leading to emotional instability. Over time, a generally positive and well-adjusted individual may develop negative personality traits, accompanied by a sense of apathy, low self-worth, and tremendous loss.

Deception Over Drinking Habits

Alcohol and drug addiction can cause formerly honest, trustworthy individuals to be secretive and deceitful. A person who has never lied about anything in their life can suddenly become deceptive, defensive, and protective over their “right” to drink. If you feel you need to conceal your drinking habits from others, this desire for secrecy may indicate you have alcohol dependence.

Loving partnerships and functional families must be based on honesty and trust. Trying to hide the extent of a severe problem will not be successful forever. Instead, it will likely cause immense harm to your relationships with others.

If you’ve experienced unpleasant personality changes and incurred relationship challenges due to alcohol misuse, you aren’t alone. These are common effects of alcohol dependence, and many people with a substance use disorder experience them. Fortunately, multiple approaches to treating this condition are available to help you positively transform your life and relationships.

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We Provide Professional Help for Alcoholism & Support for Your Loved Ones

If your drinking has negatively affected relationships with loved ones, you still have the opportunity to repair those relationships and prove you are dedicated to transforming your life. At Guardian Recovery, we offer family therapy to help you and your loved ones heal the emotional wounds caused by long-term addiction.

Contact us today for a free, no obligation insurance benefit check and to speak with an experienced Treatment Advisor for a brief assessment. We will help you determine your appropriate level of care and develop a personalized treatment plan unique to your circumstances. If you are ready to start your journey to a healthier, substance-free life, we are here to help guide you through every step of recovery.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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