Is my Husband an Alcoholic?

My husband drinks hard liquor every evening, and often on the weekend he’ll start in the late afternoon. This has been going on for more than 10 years. He never appears as though he is drunk, but I have noticed lately that he smells of old liquor when he wakes up in the morning, and by mid-afternoon, his hands are often trembling. He goes to work every day and is seldom ill. Is he an alcoholic?


It sounds like you have been having some concerns about him, and they have been growing. This doesn’t seem like something you feel you can ignore any longer. It can be painful to watch in silence as a loved one slowly hurts themselves as long-term drinking can do.

First off, let me say that it is hard to tell if he has an addiction based off of something written. Actually diagnosing an addiction takes time, and requires someone with the education, experience, and training in the field to talk with them, likely for a couple of hours before any diagnosis can be made. I don’t mean to make this more complicated, but I want you to know the limits of what can be done in a brief framework, like a question and answer column.

What I can see, however, is that you are worried about him, and the things you are seeing are leading you to the conclusion that he has a drinking problem. What you are seeing, his continual drinking, the odor of liquor on him, trembling in his hands, leaves you wondering if he has an alcohol addiction.

The facts that he works every day and that he is not sick are confusing, I agree. However, many people with a drinking problem can go to work every day and function. They will likely hold on to get through the day so they can get home and drink. Or others will sneak drinks at work, going out at lunch for something, or sneaking liquor onto the worksite. While health is often something thought about in the assessment and treatment of alcohol addiction, it’s not the only criteria. He could be gifted with good health, or it just could be that the drinking has not caught up with him yet.

Your concerns do have some merit. One thing that happens with people who abuse alcohol, especially those who have been doing it for a long time, is that they begin to smell like liquor. Their bodies are not able to process alcohol completely anymore. It stays in their bodies until it finds another way out, which is through sweating. Longer-term alcohol abuse will often leave people smelling like it.

The trembling in the hands is a more concerning sign. Again, this is more typical of long-term alcohol abuse. People who are addicted will reach a certain level where their bodies will need alcohol to function at a normal level. If they aren’t drinking, then they may experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms, one of which is tremors. You described this happening when he wasn’t drinking, which makes me wonder if that was what you were seeing. If it was, this could be a very serious issue.

What I often encourage people to do is to reach out for help in their area. There are often addiction treatment facilities nearby that can offer ongoing treatment if this is a problem he wants to address, or at least provide a good assessment so that you and he can both feel at ease with what you are seeing. Call around in your area to find your local resources, and then it is time to have an honest talk about what you are seeing, and how worried you are about his health. I want to encourage you to do this so that we can all get to the bottom of what is going on for your husband. I hope this helps.

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