Drugs, Alcohol and Abuse

drugs-alcohol-abuseBeing in an abusive relationship is already a difficult and dangerous situation. Alcohol and/or drug abuse only make matters worse. When a partner is under the influence, the risk of all types of abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, financial, and sexual) increases, leading to a very troubling situation.

Blaming the Booze

“It wasn’t me, it was the beer talking!”
“I would never do that if I was sober.”
“I’m not really that person. That’s who I am when I’m high.”

An abusive partner who is also using alcohol or drugs might make statements like these. They may blame drugs or alcohol instead of accepting responsibility for their behavior or actions. It can be all too easy to just accept what they say and move on without addressing the real underlying issue of abuse. We often hear from survivors who say, “If I could just get them to go to rehab, everything would get better.” But because drugs and alcohol aren’t the root issues of abuse (abuse is about power and control), achieving sobriety doesn’t necessarily end the abuse. There are plenty of people who use drugs and alcohol and don’t become abusive. Drugs and alcohol can affect a person’s judgment and behavior, but using them doesn’t excuse violence or abuse.

In this article about domestic violence myths, Claudia Garcia-Rojas, co-director of the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women, explains: “In partner abuse situations, drugs and/or alcohol certainly play a role but they are not the root cause of the violence. Assuming so perpetuates the idea that partner abuse is caused by a single issue, when in fact, there are multiple factors that contribute to the dynamics of why a partner chooses to be either emotionally, physically, financially, and/or psychologically abusive, though it is very common that an abuser will use alcohol/drugs as an excuse for why they are abusive. While these problems overlap, they are independent of one another.”

The Cycle of (Substance) Abuse

When one partner has a drinking or drug problem, a vicious cycle can occur. The issues created by their habit — like financial stress, neglect of responsibilities, or legal problems — may lead to fighting with their partner, and then to take the stress off, they may drink or use more drugs. While this cycle continues, abusive behaviors might get worse. Additionally, the stress of the abuse might cause victims to turn to drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms.

Treatment is available to help with drug addiction and abusive behavior, including counseling, self-help meetings and support groups. However, an abusive partner who is using drugs must decide for themselves to seek help for both their abusive behavior and their substance abuse.

If you or someone you know is in a relationship with a person who is abusive while using drugs and/or alcohol, we are here for you. Call us anytime at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat online from 7AM-2AM CT.

Additional resources:

18 replies
  1. Megan says:

    Thank you for this info. I was in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic for 7 years(physical, sexual, emotional). He blamed alcohol, then made me feel bad for him by playing the victim/but I’m an alcoholic feel bad for me role. It took a very long time for me to leave because of this. I have been free for a year and it’s taken this long to accept he is not just an alcoholic, but an abuser. Of course he denies being abusive and still manipulates others into enabling him. I’m just very thankful I got out and that resources like this exist, although I didn’t think he was an abuser therefore I didn’t think I was a victim until after I left and got help.

    • HotlineAdmin_CC says:


      Thanks so much for commenting. It’s so hopeful to hear you have been able to be free of that abuse, and you definitely deserve to not be in an unsafe situation like that. Finding closure and healing from such terrible abuse can be a process, so if you ever need to reach out for support, we are here. You can reach us 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, or 7am-2am CST online through our chat service at http://www.thehotline.org.


      Hotline Advocate CC

  2. Mary says:

    I had been in a very abusive relationship with 3 children. he did not want divorce but asked me to take the children with me and leave him the house and the business. not only that, I caught him with his mistress in the bedroom, and he filed order of protection against me so he could have privacy with his mistress in the house. not content, him and his male friend hid my eldest son from me during order of protection, i called the school but I was told my son was absent, I called house but man said my son was at school, I called school again, school told me my son had been absent for 2 days, I went crazy crying what my hubby did to my son, did he kill him already, where could I locate my son? I called police only to find out that my son was in the house with fever, and police even blamed me for not being grateful that my son was taken cared of. How can I be grateful when the man lied and hid my son from me, it’s a mental, emotional torture they did me! too much to handle, hubby got his wishes left him house money and business with mistress. I’m back to my native Philippines with children, hubby did not support more than 5 years. I suffer dying, with children, hubby denied to answer phone for years, told me Philippines is where me and children belong! miraculously hubby sent little money for 6 months now, children are bigger now and he asked me to give children, I said no problem but I want everything done in court. he disagree, he doesnt want court,he only wants me to sign divorce.

    • HotlineAdmin_LC says:

      Hello Mary,

      Thank you for reaching out to our blog community. For your husband to kick you out is very painful and his behavior was very emotional abusive. Regardless of what your ex might say or try to make you think, his abusive behavior is not your fault. It is normal to want to go through the courts in order to protect your rights and your children. From what you have shared, it sounds like you have had to overcome a great deal to try to create a healthy environment for you and your children. I want to let you know about the legal resource Womenslaw.org. They have information to help you explore your legal options for custody and divorce. If your children are US citizens, the US Embassy in the Philippines may be able to assist you in finding resources. Contacting a local resource in the area you were living in the United States may help you learn the local laws that would apply to the divorce. Currently we are unable to offer our phone or chat service to individuals out of the United States however the resource 211.org can help you locate the resources in the United States. There may be resources in the Philippines for survivors of domestic abuse as well.

      Take care,

      Hotline Advocate LC

  3. Casie says:

    I’m not sure if this is the right place to post this or not. I’ve never really got onto a site like this or looked/asked for help before. My mom is in an abusive relationship and both of them abuse alcohol, even before they got together. When they first got together it wasn’t as noticeable but the further along it got the worse the drinking got and the arguing. Then the bruises started showing up and she was having to explain why things in the house were broken. Saying she was just bumping into things. But with how close we used to be I knew she was lying. The fighting only get worse and he breaks things of hers around their house because he knows it’s all she has left. Him and I have even gotten into a physical altercation before and even though he approached me and started the confrontation, she took his side and told me I was in the wrong. A few months ago they got into it so bad that he did end up getting arrested for domestic violence. She of course said he was gonna get help and it would never happen again. She even tried to hide it from me and tried to have our family hide it from me. Well tonight I got a text from my mom that was very out of the ordinary so I called to talk to talk to her and I could hear him in the background breaking things, yet again. So I called the cops. When I talked to my mom she said they were all just talking that I should go help her move out tomorrow. But I know she will just go back and it kills me that I have no way to help her or make her see that this is only going to get worse. I don’t want to walk away from her knowing she needs help but I cant sit back and watch her go through this knowing she isn’t doing anything to stop it herself. I’m just really, stuck.

    • HotlineAdmin_ND says:

      Hello, Casie:

      Yes, you are in the right place. Here at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, we provide support to anyone affected by domestic violence. It sounds like you are understandably frustrated and feeling stuck right now due the dangerous and terrifying situation that your mother is currently in. While alcohol abuse certainly is not helping matters, it is not the cause of the domestic violence your mother is experiencing. Domestic violence is caused the abuser’s need to get and keep power and control over his partner.

      Based on what you’ve shared, your mother is experiencing multiple forms of abuse, including but not limited to physical violence and use of intimidation (destruction of property). Your mother is asking for your help and support right now. She is so fortunate to have a concerned daughter like you. Presently, she is seeking to leave this abusive relationship. Having a safety plan can be useful, because abuse can escalate when victims try to leave. Please see our Leaving a Relationship Safety Planning webpage at http://www.thehotline.org/help/path-to-safety/#tab-id-5 for precautions your mom can consider taking. This can seem like confusing time right now, because you sense that she will reenter the abusive relationship. The average abused woman leaves 7-8 times before the leave becomes permanent.

      I can imagine that it is difficult to witness your mother going through abuse. People stay in abusive relationships for many reasons, including love and believing that their partner will stop abusing them. From what is known about domestic violence, generally the abuse does not stop and only gets worse as you’ve expressed. It would be helpful for you to continue supporting your mom regardless of what she decides to do. The abuse is not her fault.

      For ideas on ways to support your mom, I encourage you to visit our Help for Friends and Family webpage at http://www.thehotline.org/help/help-for-friends-and-family/. We would be happy to discuss other ways that you can support your mom through this difficult time. You can reach us by phone 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or through our online chat service at http://www.thehotline.org from 7am-2am (CST) every day. We hope to hear from you soon.

      Take care,

      Hotline Advocate ND

  4. Sherqia says:

    My best friend was recently killed by her abusive boyfriend. I just want people to know that you can leave and usually things escalate. My best friend was 24 and a mother to two young children (ages 2 and 3) she was violently taken from us on March 24, 2015. Of course as her best friend I had tried numerous times to “rescue” her but it truly has to be your choice to leave. You are strong enough! http://wkrn.com/2015/03/24/man-wanted-for-questioning-after-girlfriend-found-dead-in-east-nashville/

    • HotlineAdmin_MT says:

      This post has been modified to remove any personal information per our community guidelines.

    • HotlineAdmin_MT says:


      I’m so sorry for your tragic loss. There are no words for our sorrow for you and for the rest of her friends and family. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding us all that leaving an abusive relationship really can be a life or death decision.

      Best wishes,
      Advocate MT

  5. Patty says:

    This is my first time posting on a website like this. Perhaps, I should have posted a long time ago but I guess there is always the final straw that makes you try to seek help.

    I believe my father is a functioning alcoholic. Growing up, he didn’t drink every day but he did binge drink almost every weekend with friends or family. While drunk, we never felt like he was a danger to himself or us. In a way, we enabled his drinking by making sure he got home safely and didn’t drive. Even though we never felt threatened while he was drunk, it was scary to see him in that state. As the years have passed he has reduced his amount of binge drinking quite a bit. He still drinks, but now it is more occasionally and doesn’t get drunk to the extent that he used too. We have always known that he has a problem but always reasoned that everyone has some sort of character flaw. He has always been supportive of us and because of this we would think, “Let him have fun and distress. It is not healthy but he is an adult and it is his choice.”

    My mother does not drink, use drugs, or smoke. I would consider both of my parents to have exhibited emotionally and verbally abusive behavior towards each other and their children throughout the years. They have never been physically abusive towards each other or towards us. My siblings and I have been very understanding of it all and have accepted and loved them regardless. We acknowledge that growing up in this type of home has absolutely negatively impacted us, but we pray and try to be resilient for them. Our parents have never talked about their upbringing or personal lives very much. They both grew up in very large and poor families in rural villages and have no formal education. Furthermore, we don’t believe that our parents have fully developed the skill of self-reflection and meditation because sometimes that can be very painful process because it forces you to confront and cope with deep-rooted issues. All of these factors have made my siblings and I very protective of our parent’s spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. I guess you could say that in some ways the roles have been reversed in our household with the children trying to be protect the parents.

    Recently, my grandmother (maternal) passed away and we had to travel to attend burial services. It is customary in our country for liquor, food, and live music to be present during the vigil and burial. The vigil lasts all night before the actual burial takes place. My father drank during the vigil but didn’t over do it. The next morning the burial took place. He was drinking again and decided not to enter the graveyard or see my grandmother in the coffin to say his last goodbyes. My siblings and I are all full-time students. As a family, we had decided that our trip would be fairly short because we all had commitments. We wanted my dad to sober up and get some rest before driving back home the next day. When we approached my dad and suggested he eat and get some rest he resisted. My siblings and I decided that we would just leave whenever our parents felt ready. However, my mom kept insisting that he get some food and rest because he would have to drive us back to the city where we would rest and than head back home. I was going to drive all of us to get food but my father began to say that if we wanted to leave so soon it would have to be at that very moment. He began to ask us for the car keys. Naturally, we were not going to allow him to drive while drunk. He kept saying that he wasn’t that drunk. He was clearly very agitated and everything about his tone of voice and body language was aggressive. As we continued to deny him the car keys he became increasingly upset. We suggested that he let us drive all of us to a place to get food but he kept resisting. We all started to feel intimidated, scared, and threatened by his behavior. As you can imagine, during the entire argument we were trying to reason with him but nothing worked. In that moment our uncle came and suggested that one of our other relatives drive us back to the city. Everyone seemed to agree on that and so we waited while he went to go find someone. Then my dad began asking for the keys again and insisted that we leave. He was still being very aggressive so my mom told him she had given the keys to our uncle (she hadn’t) and we began to walk away from him to wait somewhere else. He came towards us and began to ask for his wallet, which he had given to my mom earlier so he wouldn’t lose it.

    **At this point I am very very upset. Although drinking is customary during burials it is not customary to get completely drunk. I felt that my mom was not able to properly grieve the death of her mother because she had to watch over my dad and his drinking during the entire trip. She had to make sure he didn’t over do it and got enough sleep and food. I felt that my dad was being completely disrespectful by not controlling himself and that this wasn’t fair for my mother or for us. **

    He stood in front of my mother as she searched in her purse and in that moment he repeated again “give me my wallet” and shoved my mom. She didn’t fall to the ground or move a great amount but a shove is a shove. The fury inside me took over as soon as I saw that. I grabbed my father by the neck and pushed him against a railing repeatedly while screaming at him to never in his life touch my mother again. I felt like in that moment, as I was physically attacking my father, I was releasing 22 years of resentment. I felt an incredible amount of anger and pain. I saw genuine shock and hurt in my father’s eyes. I let him go and told him that if he wanted to leave he would be leaving by himself and gave him his wallet and keys.

    My father left the keys to the car with a family member and got a ride to the city with another relative. I knew I had deeply hurt my father and felt that he would take a bus somewhere and never come home or want to see us again.

    We all met up in the city and had a conversation. My dad was still drunk but was able to express his hurt (something he never does). I apologized; we all hugged, and prayed. Now we are trying to recover from what I consider a traumatic event. Once we got home, I told my father we would have to have a serious conversation about what happened. He kept saying that everything was okay and that it wasn’t necessary. I gave us a few days before approaching him. He is in his own way grieving the loss of my grandmother and on top of that dealing with the shock of having a daughter physically attack him. I too am grieving and trying to cope with everything and that is way I am posting on this thread. I talked to him last night with my mother. We used a remote control to take turns talking. I asked him to share what his perspective and memory was of the event and then I asked my mom to do the same. I then shared my perspective on everything. I tried to use productive words and avoided placing blame on anyone. I admitted that my reaction was not acceptable but encouraged him to try to step in my shoes. Again, I played the role of the family mediator and therapist. But I am need of some words of advice myself. I am praying a lot, reading about coping mechanisms and trying to move forward and have faith that our relationship will be remedied. My father and I have always had a special connection. We are both internal and don’t verbally express emotions. I have always been the listening ear for the members of my family and don’t feel comfortably turning to them with my own emotional problems because I don’t want to burden them. I want to support them and be strong for them so we can all get through this, grow from this as people, and become more united. Writing this has already been therapeutic and I feel some relief. I understand this will be a process and I am open to all words of wisdom and tips to help me get through this.

    • HotlineAdmin_RG says:

      Hello Patty,

      Thank you for sharing your story and being part of our online community. I’m glad that you found writing out that trauamtic experience to be theraputic and that you have been exploring different coping mechanisms. That sounds like it was a very upsetting event. Funerals are already dificult and it seems like your Father’s behavior was disrespectful, frightening, and that it brought up years of hurt and anger. Physical violence is really scary and takes time to process. Violence is never a healthy way to deal with conflict. I can hear how much energy and compassion you have invested into facilitting communication in your family with the goal of collective healing.

      Dynaimcs of abuse can be really confusing. From what we know, abuse is about power and control. Whereas both people in a relationship can treat each other in unhealthy ways, abuse is one sided. I encourage you to reach out to us directly. Our advocates can talk with you about your situation, strategies for healing and can connect you to local resources. If you would like to reach out to an advocate we are here 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and on chat from 7am to 2am CST.

      Take care,
      Hotline Advocate RG

  6. Lucy says:

    Hi, my husband is an abuser every time he got drunk. In the first month of our marriage, he got drunk and destroyed our apartment by breaking stuffs and pushing me on the floor. I was so scared that I was hiding in the bathroom for the rest of the night. After that, he always said sorry and regret about what he did, promised to quit drinking. But everything just repeats when he started to drink again. He always called me names, hurt me, breaking stuffs and offended me, then he blame alcohol as usual. Last night, he got so drunk, kept calling me names, being rude and kept throw stuffs on the floor. I think I had enough, I told him I’ll leave him. He got crazy, took my saving money, threatened to destroy my passport, ssc, etc. Then he threw the laptop in my head…my head is swollen and hurt now. I have a conditional green card, he’s the one sponsored me, he said if I leave him I’ll get deported so I have to stay with him!!! I just had enough of that. I have no family here, I don’t know where to look for help. He’s my husband and I love him, but when he got drunk he’s a different person. I really don’t know what to do…I’m from Asia, where woman isn’t respected as man. Everyone I’ve ever talked about this issue always told me I should try to stay in the marriage. Even my mom said that, that’s so upset. I really need some help or advice, please. Thank you so much for reading.

    • HotlineAdmin_CC says:

      Hi Lucy,

      This certainly sounds like a difficult situation, and you are very brave to reach out for help. Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol is never an excuse for abusive behavior, and your husband is choosing to hurt you, physically and emotionally, even when he is drinking. He also has no right to take your money or threaten to destroy your passport or have you deported. I’m sorry to hear that your support networks are also encouraging you to stay with him. Unfortunately, many people in nearly every society and culture do not understand the dynamics of abusive relationships. There are a lot of misconceptions and false information that is circulated surrounding domestic violence, but no one deserves to be in an unsafe and emotionally abusive marriage. There are resources out there specifically geared towards people who are experiencing domestic violence as immigrants. We can help you find resources and more information in order for you to be able to find the support you need to make the best decision for yourself.

      Please call us 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat online at http://www.thehotline.org 7am-2am CST. We would be happy to discuss your concerns and offer some resources that might help your situation.

      Stay safe,

      Hotline Advocate CC

  7. Mary says:

    My I knew boyfriend drank when we first met. I found out he smoked weed a month or so later. He told me he would quit when we met, all because he was in love with me. Stupid me, I believed him. Of course, he never did quit and that has caused many arguments. He also always ditches me for hi pot smoking drinking buddies, leaving me alone 95% of the time.
    Our first year together, he seemed like a dream come true: He would make me breakfast in bed, told me how beautiful I was. He was very affectionate,caring and attentive. I would cook and he made a point to do the dishes. He treated me like a queen.
    Too make a long story short. prince charming turned into a toad. We now live together and have a house together. He stopped being affectionate, wanted me to “serve” him, he called me a c*nt and a Sl*t, ugly, stupid. I kept trying to get the “old loving” him back, trying to show him I am not those things – I blamed myself and kept trying to get the love back. It never happened. I wasted so many years. He still drinks, he neglects me to always be with his drinking buddies in the garage drinking and smoking weed at least 95% o his free time. He doesn’t do anything around the house, doesn’t fix anything. When I ask for him to do his share of the chores, he says it’s all my fault why things are not getting done, that they are easy and I should do it, how hard is it to take out the trash – when all he does is drink and smoke weed in the garage. When I tell him to stop drinking so much and stop smoking weed and spend more quality time with me, he says he drinks, smokes weed and doesn’t spend time with me because it’s all my fault, I yell at him (even though he always did these things). We get into a lot of fights about his drinking, not spending time with me, not doing chores or fixing things (we both work full time)
    Well, today was a real eye opener and I hope I have the guts and the courage to finally leave him for good, which brings me to this website. I hope I finally realized he is dangerous and this is the real him. Prince charming will probably never return.
    He spent Friday night hanging out with his buddies in the garage as usual, while I was in the house taking care of business (paying bills, cooking dinner, taking care of the cats) and getting annoyed – I do everything while all he does drink,and smoke weed, or do what benefits him (like fix his bike).
    He came in around 9pm drunk and smelling of weed. I was so angry, I said I was calling the police.
    He attacked me like never before – I feared for my life. He threw me to the floor, I hit my head slightly, he clenched my head with his hand (which later I worried I needed to go to the ER, my temple is swollen and I felt slightly dizzy, my head and face still slightly hurts), he yelled in my ear (my ear is ringing) and then threw me against the wall and choked me twice, he grabbed my cell phone and said he was going to break it to pieces.
    The neighbor across the steet I think saw the whole thing, It happened right in front of an open front door. I made my way to the door to leave and run for my life and saw my neighbor looking out the window. I don’t know for sure if he saw, but I told him he saw everything. I think that calmed him down.
    I told him we are done, this is it, you physically assaulted me. you have a week to get your things. He was outside sleeping in his van, but he just came in and told me to f-off when I told him to leave and he has a week to get out.
    I am not sure what to do now. We both have our names on the house (we are engaged – yah (sarcastic). I make more than him, they wouldn’t give him a loan but they would me. However, do I really want this house? Maybe I should get something smaller I can more easily afford and put savings away.
    I sometimes wonder if I deserved him attacking me for threatening to call the police on him (but, they say there is never a reason to lay a hand on a woman).
    Anyhow, that along with all the neglect and everything else, I see no reason to continue.
    I went for a drive around town a little after that and I felt free. I realized how much happiness he was zapping from me. I used to go out and do things and feel alive. With him , I feel dead and drained of energy.
    I have a feeling he won’t just go. Now what? Am I safe with him in the house? I already feel scared. He has no respect for me nor is he taking me seriously.
    I think my saving grace was that a neighbor saw – there are witnesses, I think that is the only reason why he is sort of normal now (not attacking me).

    Well, that’s my story and I am not sure what to do about the house we both share and “live” in.

    • Mary says:

      Also, the way he grabbed my temple and pushed in, I do think he would have killed me or maybe the thought crossed his mind and he got hold of himself and stopped.

      • HotlineAdmin_AC says:


        Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with our blog community. What you went through is very scary, and you’re exactly right that there is never an excuse for abuse–emotional, physical, or otherwise. It sounds like you have been doing a lot of thinking and have a lot to consider as you weigh your options; our advocates would be more than happy to speak with you to safety plan around staying as safe as possible in your home, discuss logistics and options for leaving the relationship if that is what you’d like to do, find resources near where you are that may be able to provide the support you deserve while you go through this, or even just to talk and listen. We are here 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or available on chat from 7 AM – 2 AM CST every day at — please do feel free to get in touch with us whenever you can.

        Thank you again for your time and for sharing your story with us.

        Take care,
        Hotline Advocate AC

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