Emotionally Unavailable Alcoholic: Why This Happens and What To Do?

The loved one of an alcoholic faces the harsh truth that addiction severely challenges the best of relationships. Compounding the challenge is alcohol’s chemical effect on the brain and its ability to control a person’s emotions. Continue reading to learn more about the emotionally unavailable alcoholic: why this happens and what to do to help them.

If you or a loved one could benefit from 12 Steps to Recovery, contact Myrtle Beach Recovery to learn about our comfortable residential setting.

How Alcohol Affects the Brain

Alcohol affects your body quickly and thoroughly once it enters your stomach. Here it gets absorbed into the bloodstream and spreads into tissues throughout your body. Within five minutes, alcohol reaches your brain, and the effects begin within a few minutes. Alcohol has many effects that cause various short-term and long-term problems, such as:

  • Depression due to lower levels of serotonin.
  • Inhibition of new brain cell formation.
  • Damaged nerve and vascular tissues.
  • Balance and coordination difficulties.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Anxiety and depression.

How Alcohol Affects Emotions

Alcohol affects the chemicals that help transmit signals between your brain’s nerve cells. This interference in the communication within your brain causes you to feel the competing emotions of stimulation and sedation, which often leads to further drinking. Alcohol also significantly impacts a vital part of the brain known as the amygdala, which regulates your emotions. When you drink, you suppress the activity in your amygdala and experience emotional difficulty, especially in social interactions leading to emotionally unavailable alcoholic behavior.

What Is Emotional Availability?

Psychologists describe emotional availability as being emotionally connected with another person. This connection creates a healthy connection and enables a non-hostile, non-restrictive, sensitive, and intimate relationship marked by open and honest communication. This quality of emotional availability, which sustains the emotional bonds between two people, is considered an essential ingredient for a happy and successful relationship.

How Alcohol Causes Emotional Unavailability

You can see alcohol’s most severe effects in two of life’s most important relationships, between spouses and parents and children. Both depend heavily on emotional availability to sustain the relationship through the many challenges faced during life. Unfortunately, addiction causes the alcoholic to withdraw, becoming distant and unable to talk about their feelings. As a result, the spouse or family member finds their loved one avoiding anything that requires an expression of emotions. Signs of an emotionally unavailable alcoholic are:

  • Avoids intimacy. You notice that fear of vulnerability expresses itself in lack of physical contact or even eye contact.
  • Avoids commitment. Alcohol deprives the addict of the emotions necessary to make or remain committed.
  • Reacts defensively. Instead of discussing their feelings about a situation, the alcoholic responds defensively and often shifts blame to others.
  • Lacks empathy. Since emotions get turned off, the emotionally unavailable person cannot understand the feelings of others.
  • Sends mixed messages. Confusion is often a hallmark of relating to the emotionally unavailable alcoholic. They may express a desire for an emotional relationship and quickly pull away without explanation.

What To Do About Emotional Unavailability

You cannot make another person emotionally available, especially when alcohol plays a primary role in their detachment from you. However, here are some tips to help you cope with your loved one:

  • Don’t take responsibility for their emotions.
  • Recognize the signs of an emotionally unavailable person.
  • Take steps to ensure your emotional health.
  • Reflect on how their behavior affects you.
  • Avoid enabling their behavior. 
  • Consider counseling.

Consider Myrtle Beach Recovery

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you or your spouse recover from addiction and return to a life of happiness and fulfilling relationships.