Living With An Alcoholic: Advice On Dealing With This Nightmare
Living with an alcoholic or drug addict is one of the most difficult things imaginable. You’re on a never-ending emotional rollercoaster that ranges from anger, guilt, frustration, resentment and fear when the alcoholic is drunk or has been drinking – to intermittent moments of hope and joy in times of their sobriety when they’re more like the person you know they can be.
It’s easy to feel – often even subconsciously - that you should be doing more to help or maybe you’re responsible in some way. That’s not the case at all. Addiction and Alcoholism is a Disease. You play no role in that persons drinking or using.
Addiction and alcoholism are also largely misunderstood. Many people think being addicted to alcohol or drugs is a sign of weakness and something to be ashamed of because they don’t understand the addiction disease concept.
So it’s easy to fall into the trap, especially if you’re living with an alcoholic, to not want to talk about the idea of alcoholism because it carries a certain social stigma – and so you end up denying the extent of the problem, which just prolongs it and makes it worse.
The person you’re living with who has the problem – is often also living with their own denial and so will tell you they’ve got everything under control, can stop anytime they want, and will rationalise in every way imaginable that things are not nearly as bad as you think or things seem - even when it’s obvious that their life is beginning to unravel. And of course it’s easy to want to believe them.
So if you’re not sure about the extent of the problem – take a look at these Signs of Alcoholism and take this Alcoholism Test – because they provide pretty accurate indicators as to whether the person you’re living with is indeed an alcoholic.
There is unfortunately no quick fix to the alcoholic recovering from their addiction. The best thing you can do if you’re living with an alcoholic is ensure that person accepts responsibility for their drinking and experiences all the consequences for their drinking. What does that mean?
It’s highly likely that if you live with an alcoholic that you’ll be asked, or even feel obliged, to cover up for their drinking and the mess they invariably get themselves into. You’ll keep secrets and cover up for them, lie for them if needed to help them get out of a jam – e.g. phoning work for them to tell them they’re too sick to come in - and before you know it you’re totally enabling their behaviour.
So if you’re living with an alcoholic – by ensuring that person bears the FULL consequences of their behaviour, they begin to experience the damage their drinking is causing and have to take responsibility for it.
That means no more lying or covering up on their behalf. If they get themselves in a mess – they must get themselves out of it. It’s that simple. By doing this that person is likely to hit rock bottom far sooner – and be ready to receive help – than if you continue to enable their drinking or using. By showing tough love you may actually end up saving their life.
It’s easy to fall into a Codependent relationship with an alcoholic or drug addict – where you see your role as to support them and be there for them, which ultimately just makes the situation worse.
That’s especially the case when violence and abuse is present in any form in an alcoholic relationship. If you find yourself in that situation – you need to get yourself out of there immediately. Nothing will change until that person has gotten proper treatment and help, and has been sober for a significant period of time.
Al Anon is a fantastic support group for friends and family of alcoholics. Try get yourself to one of their meetings – because you’ll find loads of people there going through exactly what you are and who can provide helpful insights into how to deal with the situation you find yourself in.
The Alcoholism Marriage article also provides useful ideas of what to do if you find yourself married to or in a relationship with an alcoholic. Don’t make the mistake our family made by trying to manage the problem rather than getting informed and taking a stand against it. You may not think so – but in the end it’s the most loving thing you can do.
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