Do you love an alcoholic but are not sure what to do? That’s understandable considering how complex the disease of alcoholism is. You probably didn’t plan or expect for this to happen in your family. Whether it be your spouse, child, parent, or friend, loving an alcoholic can be extremely difficult, on an emotional, spiritual, mental and financial level.
You should know that an alcoholic doesn’t plan to be selfish, or careless, or belligerent. They didn’t wake up one and decide to destroy their life and the lives around them. Alcoholism progresses over time, getting out of control before anyone even realizes what’s going on, especially those closest to them. The loved ones of alcoholics tend to live in denial, ultimately assuming and reassuring themselves that the situation is either not as bad as it actually is or believing they could fix it.
To believe you can fix an alcoholic is your first mistake. Alcoholism cannot be “fixed”, it cannot be cured. With professional alcohol treatment, recovering alcoholics learn to live with the disease and maintain a level of spirituality and abstinence, on a daily basis. That’s all anyone can ask for.
So, you sit here and probably wonder what you can do to help the alcoholic in life. First, you must help yourself! Here are a few things to keep in mind when loving someone who has a drinking problem, whether they be in an active drinker or in recovery.
You Are Not To Blame
Most family members of alcoholics think to themselves at least once during the process, “This is all my fault. Only if I did this different, or that different, they wouldn’t want to drink so much.” This is not the case. Alcoholism is a disease; one that does not discriminate. Alcoholism doesn’t care who you are, how old you are, or how much money you make.
Often times, it is easier for family members to blame themselves rather than hold firm lines. For instance, if it’s your fault, then the alcoholic couldn’t be held accountable for their own actions. If you’re to blame for their drinking, how can you punish them; ask you to leave the house. When this happens, it is difficult for the alcoholic to come to the realization that they need help. Why should they bear the responsibility of getting sober, when you’ve carried it this long?
Boundaries Are Needed In Order To Survive
We understand it may be difficult to establish boundaries with the alcoholic in your life. Nevertheless, keep this in mind…We teach people how to treat us! If you continue to allow unacceptable behavior, the alcoholic will continue to behave that way. The longer the cycle continues, the more difficult it becomes to break that habit. Stop it before it gets out of control.
Enabling vs Tough Love
One of the most difficult challenges for the loved one of an alcoholic is to give the individual tough love. As a parent, spouse and even sometimes a child of an alcoholic, we feel responsible for protecting them. Cleaning up their messes, giving them money, allowing them to stay in our home. These are all examples of enabling behavior. Again, if we don’t set boundaries, it will be easy for the alcoholic to take advantage and continue on the path to destruction. Why get help, when there are no consequences? So, set healthy boundaries before you wind up loving them to death.
You Are Entitled To Your Feelings
No matter if it’s fear, shame, anger, suspicion or sadness, you are entitled to those feelings. Shaming yourself for the way you feel will only make matters worse. Alcoholism leaves a path of destruction in its wake. Feeling angry about that is not only normal, it’s human. Being fearful or afraid for the alcoholic’s well-being and/or future is also understandable.
The best solution for these feelings is not to stuff them but instead seek out the help of either a professional or support group. Now you may be saying to yourself, “I’m not the one with the problem, I don’t need help”, and we understand why you would feel that way. But the reality is, alcoholism is a family disease. Yes, they are sick, but it also does something to you. Alcoholism can cloud your judgment, deter you from making rational decisions, makes you feel helpless, and robs you from sleep and sanity. It is okay to need help; we all do in one form or another.
Never having to deal with alcoholism before, it is understandable that it may not all make sense to you. You may wonder why the person just can’t stop, especially after the issues alcohol has created for them. Any rational person would stop putting themselves in dangerous or unhealthy situations, right? The reality is, alcoholics are not rational people.
The more you know about the disease, the better equipped you will be to handle certain situations surrounding the issue. Understanding what goes into getting your loved one help, as well as yourself, realizing it will be an uphill battle and accepting that you can’t make someone want to get sober, are all important factors to remember. Reaching out to an Addictions Specialist may be the best course of action for educating yourself
As previously stated, alcoholism is a family disease. It is also the only disease that tells us that we are not sick. Accepting the fact that YOU need help for your loved one’s addiction is the first step. Seeking out the help of a therapist may be where you start. Also reaching out to local Al-Anon or Nar-Anon groups in your area will be beneficial. It reinforces the idea that you are not alone in this process; there are many people that have come before you that have experienced what you are going through. The experience of another human being is almost always the most powerful tool to human understanding and connection. Allow others to help you!
Furthermore, with your entire life surrounded by taking care of the alcoholic in your life, it is more than easy to forget to care for yourself. We are no good to anyone if we are sick ourselves. So always remember to make your own mental, physical and spiritual health a priority.
Clearbrook Can Help The Alcoholic In Your Life
For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been helping alcoholics and addicts recover from the disease of addiction. If you love an alcoholic and are not sure what to do about it, give us a call today. From inpatient treatment for the addicted to a Family Education Program for loved ones, Clearbrook helps support everyone affected by this cunning and baffling disease. Our Admissions Specialists are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have. Contact Us today for further information.