Drinking Alcohol to Deal with Stress: How Can I Stop Enabling My Partner?

A silhouette photo of a person holding a glass with alcohol in it

My husband and I are both drinking a lot more because of COVID. It helps calm us down, but I feel like we are enabling really bad behavior in each other. We can’t afford therapy and frankly, would rather figure it out ourselves. We have good intentions every morning, but by evening, we cave. Do you know any strategies that would help us deal with our increased drinking without intervention from a professional?


Recognizing what you want to change is an important step. Making the change can be hard. There are lots of resources available to assist with treatment and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration has a website to find local resources https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline. Some of these resources are low or no cost. Since you are asking about what you can do on your own, some tips that may be helpful include:

• Find a partner to work on it with you. It sounds like you have this already, so you are ahead of the game if you both want to work together to reduce drinking.

• Set specific achievable goals to reduce how much and/or how often you are drinking. Write the goals down and share them with your partner if you have one. Then find a small but meaningful reward you can give yourself each time to reach the goal.

• Delay your first drink. When you want to have a drink, do not pour it but instead look at the clock and say to yourself if you want a drink 30 minutes from now, you will pour a drink then. DO not set a timer, but if you look find yourself wanting a drink and look at the clock and you are 30 minutes past the time you set, pour the drink.

• Alternate a drink with alcohol and a drink you enjoy without alcohol. 

• Find an alternate relaxing behavior that you and your partner may want to do to substitute for drinking. A meditation or breathing app, walking around the block, or a few minutes of yoga or exercise can be good alternatives that bring about a sense of relaxation and calm.

If you find that these are not working then reaching out for help may be warranted.

Posted on BrainLine August 31, 2021. Reviewed August 31, 2021.

About the author: Sheila A.M. Rauch, PhD, ABPP

Sheila A.M. Rauch, PhD, ABPP, is the Deputy Director of the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program and Director of Mental Health Research and Program Evaluation at the VA Atlanta Healthcare System. Dr. Rauch has been developing programs, conducting research and providing PTSD and Anxiety Disorders treatment for over 20 years. Her research focuses on examination of mechanisms involved in the development and treatment of PTSD and improving access to effective interventions.

Professional headshot of Dr. Sheila Rauch smiling at the camera, wearing glasses in a royal blue top