Alcohol support

Realising you have a problem with alcohol is the first step to getting better, but it is often the hardest one.

You may need help if:

  • You always feel the need to have a drink. 
  • You get into trouble because of your drinking.
  • Other people warn you about how much you’re drinking.

A good place to start is with your GP. Be honest with them about how much you drink.

If your body has become dependent on booze, stopping drinking overnight can be life-threatening, so get advice about cutting down gradually.

Your GP may refer you to a local community alcohol service. Ask about free local support groups, day-centre counselling and one-to-one counselling.

You may be prescribed medication such as chlordiazepoxide, a sedative, to help with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from not sleeping, agitation, anxiety, sweating and tremors, right through to vomiting, diarrhoea, hallucinations and seizures.

Staying sober

Cutting down and stopping drinking is often just the beginning, and most people will need some degree of help to stay alcohol-free in the long term.

Getting support – beyond family, friends or carers – is crucial to understanding and overcoming the issues that make you drink.

Ask your GP or alcohol support group about one-to-one counselling or group support in your area.

You can attend NHS and voluntary-agency day centres for up to a year, as well as groups where ex-alcoholics help each other stay sober.

Useful contacts for alcohol problems:

  • Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. If you're worried about your own or someone else's drinking, you can call this free helpline, in complete confidence. Call 0800 917 8282 (weekdays 9am – 8pm, weekends 11am – 4pm).
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free self-help group. Its "12-step" programme involves getting sober with the help of regular support groups. AA's belief is that people with drink problems need to give up alcohol permanently. 
  • Al-Anon Family Groups offer support and understanding to the families and friends of problem drinkers, whether they're still drinking or not. Alateen is part of Al-Anon and can be attended by 12- to 17-year-olds who are affected by another person's drinking, usually a parent.
  • Addaction is a UK-wide treatment agency that helps individuals, families and communities to manage the effects of drug and alcohol misuse.
  • Adfam is a national charity working with families affected by drugs and alcohol. Adfam operates an online message board and database of local support groups.
  • The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) provides a free, confidential telephone and email helpline for children of alcohol-dependent parents and others concerned with their welfare. Call 0800 358 3456 for the Nacoa helpline.

Caring for an alcoholic? Find out where you can get support

Residential rehabilitation

Most people receive their support to stop drinking in the community. Some need a short stay in a unit with access to 24-hour medical care so they can receive adequate assistance with their withdrawal symptoms or other problems.

This may be an NHS hospital ward or medical unit, or a residential rehabilitation service, depending on the situation.

The best results from residential rehab are achieved when participants stay for at least 12 weeks. Residential rehab is usually reserved for people with medium or high levels of alcohol dependence, particularly those who have received other forms of help that have not been successful.

Days are usually structured, with a combination of one-to-one counselling and group therapy, as well as some chosen activities, such as art therapy, sport, life skills, cooking, financial management and family/couples therapy for relatives.

You may be referred to residential rehab through the NHS. It’s also possible to pay to go privately. Medical insurance companies may fund this for a certain period.

There are several websites that provide information on residential rehabilitation units. It's not possible to give advice on which sites are the most useful or balanced in their approach. Use the NHS Choices Find Services directory, to find support for alcohol addiction in your area for you or someone you know.

    Page last reviewed: 24/10/2014

    Next review due: 24/10/2016

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    The 32 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

    Bunny65 said on 08 January 2014

    Boutye - This is really a great first step that you know something is wrong and you want to do something about it. I also come from a family of alcoholics - both my father and sister died of alcoholic liver disease. The state of them in the hospital beds before the end was horrific.
    My drinking sounded a lot like yours. So t went to the doctor. I had 10 times the amount of alcohol in my liver than I should have and luckily there was no damage yet. He gave me some pills to take for a week to curb any withdrawal symptoms, and I have never looked back. I feel so much better emotionally, I am doing a much better job at work now, and with the huge amount of money I have saved, I have joined a gym. And people are commenting on how amazing I look now!
    There's so much to give up for, and the life beyond alcohol is a life I will now never give up. I feel human and worthy again.

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    boutye said on 28 December 2013

    Hello. I've come across this page and been sober enough to register. I worry from time to time about my drinking. I am 32 and have never had a time longer than a week without alcohol probably sinve the age of 17. I have made resolutions for health reasons in the past to cutr out drinking, get fit, etc, but have never been able to stick to it. My concern though is that I am increasingly finding that one drink leads to many, many more. this is not intentional and not often even noticed until I count the cans the next morning. My drinking is done at home. I come from a family where there is a history of alcoholism. My father is a reformed alcoholic - an amazing man who has struggled, battled and combatted an addiction (as well as depression) for many years.. I know that I am not an 'angry drunk' but my drinking has gotten me into trouble - falling, injury, embarrassing rambling posts on facebook, arguments with my wife (a very moderate drinker).
    I regularly feel awful after drinking - to the point of all-day sickness. I have a son and on the mornings that I should be spending with him at the weekends, I am nursing a hangover which I am keeping from my wife - she knows i like a drink but i dont think she understands just how badly it affects me.
    i make resolutions wit myself that i will quit for a while, focusd on other interestes, etc; but I always give in on friday night - this leads to drinking on saturday, sunday, thursday, etc. While I did drink most nights, including weeknights a few years back, I have cut this to fri, sat, sun. howvere, i rarely drink moderatley. I genuinely dont think i could go without drink for a week. I guess i dont know whether i am a man who just likes a drink or a man who has a problem. Maybe it is telling that rather than try an alcohol free preiod I am writing this - I can't honelstly say I have really tried to quit temporarily but I do feel that it's an all or nothing thing.

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    Time2change said on 18 October 2013

    Hi

    I am not an alcoholic but I do have a drinking problem. It doesn't happen every time but some times ( every 5-6 months)when I drink I drink so much or the drink affects me so much I am aggressive and nasty to partner, I usually can't remember anything about it so I am mortified when my wife tells me. I get scared about the
    Black outs but more scared that I am a different person. I think I need counselling and probably to stop drinking. I want to have children and I would be the one to carry them as my wife doesn't want to, if I don't change I will not be able to have the future I want. I haven't really talked about it it's like a horrible secret, so I that's why I am posting here to start to get out into the open . Thank you.

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    mrchrees said on 05 August 2013

    I have a truely awful problem with my wife..
    We moved over to our house in Spain a few months ago, we're still resident officially in the UK.
    My wife who is 52 has been a heavy drinker for 20 odd years, long before I met her. We moved because her drinking in the UK was so out of control (up to 20 cans of beer and pain killers galore), she was killing herself. She promised things would change when we moved.. They didn't...
    About 4 months ago she suddenly lost her memory, We managed to get her treated using her E1 11 at the emergency room with the result that she had to stop drinking or face death or dimentia.
    we're now 5 months down the line and she has started drinking again. She doesn't care if she kills herself and has no care for her son who is at university and me..
    I take her to a rehab clinic once a month which is a challenge as we don't speak good Spanish, however with a translator we manage somehow.
    Faced with a chronic alcoholic with brain damage and ataxia with a very strong dose of deep depression I don't know what to do..
    I'm convinced she needs some kind of residential treatment but we have no money and I'm not convinced the Spanish healthcare system, good as it is, will stretch to that with our E1 11's..
    Is it possible she could get into some residential program in west sussex through her GP if I bought her back. It could be her only chance to reverse the seemingly inevitable decline...

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    Luckyx said on 26 July 2013

    I'm 28, started socially drinking at 18. Then about 3 years ago I was drinking upto half a litre (or more) of spirits per day. I managed to get in touch with Aquarius, a substance abuse counselling service who referred me for a detox. I think Aquarius is only available in the midlands, however prior to seeing them I also saw my GP who helped me get in touch with them. If they don't listen or don't want to help see another GP. There is help out there.

    My detox is taking place at home and a nurse has been to see me each day. I am currently on day 4 of a 7 day detox. The first day was the most horrible experience ever and having been through that I never want to drink again. Though having said that its after the detox which will be the hardest part and I am anxious about, so I am hoping there are some support groups out there to help me stay sober.

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    NeilWW said on 20 June 2013

    Hi everyone, right here goes. I am 47 years of age, been married for nearly 22 years and have 2 teenage sons. I have always drunk (only socially) and I have maintained a wide circle of friends over the years who also drink. My father was a publican and my mother drinks regularly. Both are now in their 80's. My wife has never drunk (apart from at the odd party or occasionally when friends are over for a meal). I am a fairly succesful professional and have never been out of work in all the years we have been married and have only very occasionally thrown a sicky due to a hangover. I have made steady progress in my chosen profession and have always maintained a professional attitude to my working life wherever possible. Throughout all these years, however, I have regularly got proper drunk with friends maybe once or twice a month on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays and it is a regular thing for me. In recent years my circle of friends has expanded to include a slightly younger crowd who have become very good friends
    and consider me one of the 'gang', along with several of my older friends, however in the last 2 years the level of drinking has gone up to include some all dayers and some trips abroad (3/4 days of drinking at a time for stag weekends etc., although these are rare). I have also had a tendency to meet up with various friends on odd occasions and just keep drinking until the bars/clubs shut then stagger/taxi home at 3am in the morning. Being a married man with 2 teenage sons I realise that not only is this not the right thing to be doing but I have also embarked on a fitness regime and lost 3 stone in the last 2 years. I run, do circuit training and visit the gym 3 times a week which has hugely improved my health and general outlook, however despite this things have come to a head with my wife several times over the years as she has had enough of my late nights and all dayers and her concern is not just for my health, but also for our sons. Any help please?

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    lb12 said on 01 June 2013

    Hi all, and re Nick your comment, completely relate to what you are saying.

    Also got very habitual for me too, for the last 10/12 years I've been drinking every day but thinking I have it under control. Don't really see it as addiction as think I could stop at any time but somehow havent managed? Only wine really but in last week drinking a bottle n bit each night and not really enjoying it and going through the motions. Marriage ended 2 years ago so think it's been a crutch.

    Fact I've come onto this site is my next step and if any organisations in Glasgow can help please post a reply. Thanks.

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    k2012 said on 07 May 2013

    Hi, this is not something in which I would usually do but I have realised I have a major problem with alcohol and need some help and advice ....for me this isnt the best thing because I am trying to recover from episodes of depressions and I do do stupid things when im drunk and dont recall what I am doing .
    I drink every night until i feel as though ive had enough to make me sleep and then at weekends also, I dont keep up with what im drinking but most of the time I dont remember anything and can get into a lot of trouble or cause it. The amount of times I have ended up hurting myself and ending up in hospital is unbelievable. My doctor has just refered me to the crisis team at my nearest hospital, is this going to help?

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    Bunny65 said on 29 April 2013

    A lot of these problems sound so very familiar. My Dad died aged 60 because of drink, and my sister, who is 48 is literally on her death bed in hospital through drink.

    I noticed my drink was increasing too, to the point where I'd have a couple of slugs of alcohol before even getting to work.

    But here's the key - I recognised it and got help. People must admit they have a problem otherwise they're simply one of the lads who likes a drink.

    Go to your GP - mine was incredibly sympathetic and put me on a course of detox tablets for a week, That was shortly before Christmas 2012 - perhaps the most difficult time to give up - and I cannot stress what a change this had made in my life. I was slowly losing my work, my partner for being verbally abusive, and never had any spare cash.

    In only a better of months this has all been reversed.

    As I say, you really must recognise you have a problem and not sweep it under the carpet or all the counselling and pills in the world won't help. I know it's a bit ropey, but honestly, if I can do it, so can you

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    Mcvie said on 26 April 2013

    i have just lost my jon because of drink and im about to lose my gf because of drink. And i find it to hard to stop and i feel that there isny much out there to help!

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    mmarshall380 said on 16 April 2013

    I cannot believe there is a picture of loads of booze at the top of this page. The last thing I need to see when I'm seeking help for being alcohol dependent is a nice collection of alcoholic beverages on my computer screen

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    dandan9 said on 15 November 2012

    i had a terrible problem with alcohol i drank around 2 bottles of whisky per day at the end, the alcohol and drugs nearly destroyed my life i tried all the local services and could not get help anywhere eventually i trawled the internet and found an organisation called addictionhelper.com they where really nice and helped me find a rehab as they where all so expensive when i tried them. Now i go to Alcoholics Anonymous after going to rehab and i have not drunk for 2 years.

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    brocken_angel said on 05 August 2012

    Hi every-one. I'm so sorry to read all your comments.
    I feel so alone as i know i have a problem with drink, and i also have BPD. There just doesn't seem to be any help out there. It's really tough, but i drink to hide my pain,don't know who i am...don't think i ever did!.

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    BillW said on 02 August 2012

    To contact Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) ring 0845 769 7555 - 24 hrs, seven days a week, for help, advice and hope. www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk

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    njs1968 said on 12 July 2012

    Alcohol addition is an awful afliction - my wife is in a very bad way, I've had to move out with the kids and am trying to juggle caring for her and the kids. Social services are involved, but there seems to be no help for her. She has threatened suicide and is incapable of looking after herself. I am at my wits end. But does the NHS care - no. Does anyone know of any NHS funded residential rehab centres in the north of England? I fear she will continue to deteriorate until she dies if no one can help.

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    bigad said on 09 July 2012

    I have been alcohol free for 9 months. I did not get any help from the NHS and had to go private. I was in hospital for just one week and have not had a drink since.
    I am going on a stag do this week and i would like to have a few drinks with my friends as i am best man. does anyone think that this is possible or am i just been silly thinking i can have a couple?

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    Mid Lifer said on 03 May 2012

    I was a heavy drinker too. I decided to change 8 months ago and it has been well worthwhile.

    Most middle aged heavy drinker don't consider themselves alcohlics, well at least not openly, and therefore don't consider cutting down serious.

    One thing that shocked me was the following question;

    How many times have you got drunk in your life? Answer this question yourself with the following link!

    http://themoderatedrinker.blogspot.com/2011/10/alcohol-scare-yourself-with-numbers.html

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    User644811 said on 13 February 2012

    I have lost both my parents to drink and now I find I cant just have one or two I have to keep going till I pass out. I'm going to get help tomorrow as it's affecting my job and my family life it needs to stop now.

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    TrevorTwoSheds said on 01 February 2012

    I was alcohol dependent, meaning that a lack of alcohol would have been life threatening for me (the DT's).

    I'd struggled through the DT's a few times before alone and was lucky to make it out alive. I knew that without assistance on this particular occasion my body would not be able to cope with it and if I had to go through withdrawal I wouldn't make it out alive. Over the course of about a week I visited my GP and hospital several times to ask for help and every time I was sent home with the advice - "Drink more alcohol". Seriously, doctors told me to drink more.

    In the end I went to a private clinic, I was very fortunate that my family could afford it or it would have been a very unpleasant death.

    The NHS care for alcohol dependence is awful.

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    KHPinn said on 03 January 2012

    My wife has gradually started to drink more and more. It has just crept up on her over the last 2-3 years, and seems to be getting out of control. She now drinks heavily (1-2 bottles of wine) every night. I worry about her safety when she is on nights out with her girlfriends, as I can imagine her getting into an unlicensed cab, or falling on to train tracks etc. She has also started to become verbally abusive towards me (sometimes) when she is very drunk. This is quite new behaviour, and I've been on the receiving end of drunken rants on 4-5 occasions now. She does not remember them the next day, and it is totally out of character, but it is still very hurtful to hear the one you love speak to you like that. I also worry (a great deal) about the example she is setting for our kids. When the time comes, how are we going to be able to tell them off for drinking heavily if their mother is a drunk? There are times when it's like dealing with someone with dementia, especially trying to get her to bed.
    When I have tried to speak with her, she is dismissive and changes the subject quickly. She did try some form of hypno therapy (she was very vague on the details) a few months ago, which led to a temporary improvement, but we are now back to square one.
    I love her very much, our relationship is generally healthy, and she is a good wife and mum in most other respects.
    Sorry I've unloaded so much here, but any suggestions as to how to tackle this would be gratefully received. Thanks very much.

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    KHPinn said on 03 January 2012

    My wife has gradually started to drink more and more. It has just crept up on her over the last 2-3 years. I worry about her safety when she goes out with her girlfriends, and she has started to become verbally abusive towards me sometimes when she is very drunk. I also worry about the example she is setting to our kids. She is dismissive and changes the subject when I try to raise it with her. She did try some sort of hypno therapy a while back, but she was very vague on the details; it seemed to improve matters for a short time, but we were then back to square 1. I love her very much. Can anyone suggest a good way to improve things? Thanks very much.

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    Nickw127 said on 13 September 2011

    I drink every night around 10-12 units. Beer & wine only. I never drink during the day. I've done this for around 20 years and my current partner doesn't like me doing it in her home when her children are around.
    Generally I start around 7.30pm listening to music, have dinner around 9.30pm followed by wine and then to bed 11.30 ish, this during the working week. I don't drin that much more Friday / Saturday night.
    I feel it is now affecting my health and want to cut down to maybe just the weekend and say 1 day midweek. It's become a habit as I don't believe I'm an alcoholic although my partner does. Any comments / advice gratefully received. Thanks, Nick.

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    leedsbob223 said on 04 September 2011

    i had a problem and my gp refrered me to alcoholhelp charity ADS not in every city in the uk. www.adsolutions.org.uk/ they are free and help you understand your problem. They got me back on the straight and narrow. Alcohol if given a chance will take over you and take any pleasure you used to get apart from drinking! Good luck

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    Richiep1986 said on 06 August 2011

    Hello there. I'm new to all this and has took me a while to even think about trying to look for help. I'm a 24 year old that finds it really hard to ask for help. So I just want advice if anyone wants to help me.

    I'm 24 with 2 kids and a great finacee. I drink roughly 8 - 10 pints a night of 5% + of cider. Every night. I've piled on ALOT of weight and is slowly feeling un happy with things quicker. And have a temper more offten than ever before. I feel agitated a lot, I always want to drink at night. And always do, if I don't I get really really bad tempered about it.

    Can anyone help me with the first step that they would recommend for me as I always feel that I would b wasting peoples times if I see people about it, and that people would tell me to stop being stupid!! All i want is to see my kids get older before it's to late ya know. I just got that gut feeling that sumThing bad is going to happen if I keep on drinking so much, but i can't stop myself from drinking.

    I dont feel aa meetings is the thing for me as dont like big groups I'd rather one person tried helping me!

    PLEASE HELP ME AS IWANT TO SORT MY DRINKING OUT AS QUICK AS POSS!!

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    vegas999 said on 02 June 2011

    Im a binge drinker and want to change my drinking behaviours as I drink to much and at inopportune times - does anybody have an alternative to AA as Im not into the US style religious aspect

    PS I feel for all the family member that have to put up with our crap as drinkers

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    Nacoa said on 05 November 2010

    Nacoa provides support, information and advice to children of alcohol-dependent parents and others concerned with their welfare. This includes children of all ages, many of whose problems only become apparent in adulthood. Please visit www.nacoa.org.uk or call 0800 358 3456.

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    DawnOfTheMoon said on 31 August 2010

    I really need some help coping with my dad. He's been drinking for years ever since my mum died, and for the first couple of years I never realised how bad it actually was. It's now got to the stage where he's drinking a 70cl bottle of whisky a day, and a few beers as well. He's still driving when he's drinking and it terrifies me, although to look at him you wouldn't think he's had anything to drink at all. I've noticed his hands shaking - not a fast shake, almost a wobble - and he hardly sleeps at all. Some nights I can go through to find him with things cooking and he's sound asleep at the table, oblivious to everything around him. When I wake him, he's often angry with me for trying to help. He's often verbally abusive for no reason, and I find myself going through to my room and sobbing because I feel so low. I suffer from depression, but I have it under control.

    His drinking is only getting worse, and it's got to the point where I don't know what to do. I'm too scared to confront him about it, because he's never sober and I'm scared of him. For years, it was only me and him in the house so I avoided him, which probably didn't help, but as a young teenager living with someone who didn't think twice about throwing something at you if you decided to make a cup of tea, I thought it wise to avoid him. Now, my other half is living with us, and I feel safe when he's here because my dad won't actually lift a finger against me while he's here.

    I really need some advice on how to tackle the issue of his drinking, because my other half lost his father to alcohol abuse, and I can see my dad going the same way.

    Please help,

    Thanks

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    jag0 said on 07 March 2010

    My husband would regularly drink, be verbally abusive (occasionally physically), and ever remorseful. When I plucked up the courage to suggest he try to drink less, he would say me and my nagging were the reason he drank, and that actually he didn't have a problem with how much he was drinking, and what's more he liked to drink.

    For years (15 or more) I was torn between being there to support him, and escaping the situation. I went to al anon, only once, feeling every other wife/partner was in a worse situation than me, and perhaps I was fussing about nothing?

    His work was affected, and he ended up on long term sick due to depression, which meant there were more hours in the day that he could drink - and less money to spend on alcohol, theoretically. In reality that's how the money was spent anyway, and the mortgage didn't get paid. He regularly was on home detox, and delighted in his 'success' celebrating with a drink or several . . .

    Eventually I left. He went to hospital for a residential detox, and discharged himself after 4 days. Being on his own meant he could finally do exactly what he wanted without the nagging wife on at him. He died aged 50. The wake took place in his favourite pub. He left two amazing teenage children without a father.

    I don't want to scare you. My husband's story perhaps is extreme, but it does demonstrate how easy it is to lose control. Take advice from one of the support groups available and try to encourage your husband to relax in other ways.

    Good luck x

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    janda said on 22 February 2010

    Is there anything constructive I can do to help my partner with his drinking problem? I wouldn't say he is an alcoholic as he does not need a drink every day. When he does drink (maybe 4/5 days out of 7, more in school holidays - he's a teacher!) He doesn't seem to be able to stop before the point of no return and he changes personality; he has hurt me on three occasions now and had a near miss with one of the children. He is mortified when he decides to face up to his behaviour, and promises to take control and not let it happen again. But, when a few days have passed, he becomes more and more scornful towards me and says that I am the one with the problem and that he doesn't have one. He has many great qualities and, when sober, is a kind,loving and entertaining father. On the other hand, he thinks that it is acceptable to be innebriated whilst in charge of children, and is in complete and utter denial of everything ugly, dangerous and unaccepteble to do with alcohol. I want to help if I can as I can't deal with this any more and will not have ny son growing up in this environment, as I think it will only cause problems for his own future. Something awful is going to happen one day and I am not prepared for it to be anything to do with my child. I don't want to give up on him, as it will break my son's heart, but I can't go on indefinitely. Please help if you can. Thanak you.

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    janda said on 22 February 2010

    Please can I get advice on how to help my partner with his problem drinking. I wouldn't say that he is an alcoholic as he does not drink every day. What he does do is drink excessively and has hurt me on three occasions, and had a near miss with one of the children. He is mortified when he is aware what he has done and vows not to drink so much that his judgment is affected again. But, as the days after an incident pass, he becomes more and more scornful of me and says that I am the one who is sick and the one with a problem. Every promise has been broken and he lies and manipulates. He thinks it's ok to be innebriated when he is in charge of his children, and his denial is palpable.
    He is a lovely person apart from this and I want to see if there is anything I could be doing to help the situation, as I am at my wits' end and cannot stand much more of this. I want to know if there is anything I can do before I end our relationship, as it would break my son's heart.
    We have just spoken again about it, and he has promised to get help; but I am just waiting for the axe to fall, like every other time. Please help. Thank you.

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    Bill W said on 14 December 2009

    To contact Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) ring 0845 769 7555 - helpline open 365 days/year, or visit http://alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk.

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    Alan Non said on 23 June 2009

    To find your nearest Al Anon meeting, please visit http://www.al-anonuk.org.uk/ or call the helpline on 020 7403 0888 (Helpline 10am - 10pm, 365 days a year).

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