Arguing and Anger and Alcohol (Oh My…)

angry lions


Let me ask you a relationship question. Do you think catastrophic arguments, the kind with smashed plates and screeched tires and the bulged vein shouting of epithets in public like,”I have NEVER loved you!!” – happen if they are not fueled by alcohol? I suppose it is a leading question, because I believe they do not. Let’s put it this way: I believe that many unresolved relationship issues can be made worse under the influence of alcohol.


Alcohol and Anger

Oftentimes, people with anger issues turn to alcohol to relax, or anaesthetize their feelings of rage. Alcohol is a welcome escape, but the reason an angry person may turn to alcohol, is the very reason they might find themselves winging an ashtray at an “unreasonable” significant other.  If you are easily angered or have trouble controlling your anger when sober, it is highly likely you are going to be a mean drunk. And anyone (like me) who hates conflict and confrontation, may sublimate anger until a shot of tequila or a warming glass of brandy fans the fire on a topic heretofore avoided. All that pent up frustration


Alcohol lowers inhibitions. It also slows down thought processes and causes you to misread social cues and intentionality. For example, when sober, your partner glancing meaningfully at the wait person on a date-night, probably means they are trying to signal for the salt sifter. With alcohol involved, you are more likely to view the look as a negative action: it might seem like a flirtation or a personal slight and become the catalyst for a horrible scene…


Alcohol lulls the forebrain. With alcohol on board, you are far less able to resist impulsive behavior. It’s why you make those late night (“Love me…”) phone calls to your ex, drive a car drunk or yell something regretful at a loved one.


Alcohol reduces concern about the consequences. Research from a team at the University of Missouri has shown that drunk people are still aware they’re making a mistake, but the alcohol reduces brain signals telling us to worry. Professor Bruce Bartholow (who led the study) said, ‘When we make mistakes, activity in a part of the brain responsible for monitoring behavior increases. This sends an alarm signal to other parts of the brain indicating that something went wrong. Our study shows that alcohol doesn’t reduce your awareness of mistakes – it reduces how much you care about making those mistakes.” In other words, boozing doesn’t necessarily make us behave badly, but when we do embarrass ourselves, we just don’t care.

Nipping Alcohol Arguments in the Bud (Pun Intended)


According to the national Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence  (NCADD), alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crime today. A third of all violent crime is associated with domestic violence. Those alcohol fueled fights with your significant other can turn ugly or deadly in an instant.


If you find yourself in a situation where anger and argument and alcohol are involved:

1. Do not ever have a serious discussion or altercation with someone who is under the influence.

2. If you are goaded to argue, do not respond. Stay silent until you can walk away safely.

3. Learn the triggers of the angry alcoholic and avoid being around them when those triggers are present.

4. If you must respond say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Then politely tell them, “I do not want to discuss this matter now. When you are sober we’ll talk about it.”

5. If the above good advice sounds impossible, perhaps you are with the wrong person in a dead end relationship. Obviously, if things get physical or if you feel like you are in danger, call 911.

Contrary to the old song, “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” relationships are supposed to be nurturing and affectionate and well, fun. If anger and arguing and alcohol defines your partnership, get some professional help. Or get gone…


Marilyn Spiller is a writer, sober coach, recovery advocate, and student of the world. (She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Creative Writing). Seven years sober herself, she penned one of the first sobriety blogs, "Waking Up the Ghost" in 2013. The blog garnered an international following, allowing Marilyn to communicate with thousands of folks in all stages of recovery. Marilyn is Sanford's Director of Marketing and serves as Editor-In-Chief for the Sanford online magazine, "Excursions". She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction.