Are you in a relationship with an alcoholic? Have you tried everything you can think of to make him or her stop drinking and nothing has changed? I tried every trick in the book, thinking it would make the various alcoholics in my life change. I’ve yelled, cried, tried to control the drinking, lived a separate life, and left the situation. Each of my reactions came with a different set of additional problems. With help from a 12-step program, I have learned some keys to my own serenity while living with an alcoholic, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not.
I spent many years thinking I could somehow change or cure the alcoholics in my life. That is a misconception we may have in common. My goal is to help you start to find hope, healing, and freedom by showing the first steps to take. Living with an alcoholic is extremely difficult, but with the proper understanding, we can begin taking steps to free ourselves from our shackles.
1. Start a Recovery Program
I know what you are thinking right now. I used to think the same way. “I don’t have a problem so why do I need recovery?!” I spent the first part of my adult life with this thought process and as a result, those 25 years were spent in misery. It wasn’t until I found a 12-step recovery program that I began to see how I truly did need help. Living with an alcoholic has detrimental effects on our mental state. Over an extended period of time, we begin to feel shame, guilt, and brokenhearted. We lose respect for those we love and hold dear. We become depressed and believe there is no hope for the future. Attending regular group meetings through a recovery program helped me see that I am not alone in this struggle. I have been able to work through the 12 steps to realize there is hope on the other side of addiction. You can find out more about locating the right program for you here.
2. Understand the Problem
Although it is widely debated in medical circles, many believe alcoholism is a disease. According to the Alcoholics Anonymous "Big Book", certain people have an allergy to alcohol, which, when consumed causes the alcoholic’s body to immediately crave and need more. An alcoholic does not intentionally develop into one. In fact, anyone who takes their first drink of alcohol is not likely aware of their allergy to it. As time passes, alcoholism develops and it is a progressive disease. The longer an alcoholic drinks, the more the alcoholic needs to drink. Quitting “cold turkey” will likely make the chronic alcoholic severely ill and cause him or her to give up trying to quit because it is unbearable. It is important for us to keep this information in mind.
3. Educate Yourself
The more information you know about alcoholism, the easier it will be to have empathy and understanding. I’m not saying that being an alcoholic is okay, but it is important for the ones who love them to have an understanding of how the disease affects not just us, but the alcoholic as well. A good place to start is my post on the 10 Signs of an Alcoholic; from there here are some other good resources.
Addiction - Character Defect or Chronic Disease?
Fundamentals of Addiction
Hazelden Betty Ford
4. Stop Arguing, TODAY!
I know this might be a stretch for someone who is completely fed up and in the middle of the chaos that is living with an alcoholic. I don’t say this lightly by any means, but how many days, months, or years have you spent confronting your loved one and demanding he or she stop drinking or else? So let me ask you, in the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” Have these arguments solved the problem? Have the fights made anyone feel better? Has the stress decreased as a result? I would venture to say your answer is no to all of these questions. Arguing, threatening, crying, yelling, kicking, and screaming are likely making the problem worse and causing your stress level to increase and your depression and sadness to become deeper. So what do you do instead? My suggestion is to seek God’s guidance and comfort.
5. Seek God’s Guidance
Listen, friend, I know how difficult it is to live with an active alcoholic. I understand completely what you are feeling. I have been there. I’ve walked in your shoes. I have cried buckets of tears. I have spent many years hurting. I have turned toward shopping and perfectionism to fill my emptiness. But, I can tell you, I am on the other side of that today. I am speaking to you as a friend, a mentor, an equal. I can tell you, by far, the best thing I have done is turned toward God to fill my empty spaces. By praying to God, I have found my serenity. By communing with Jesus, I have been comforted in my darkest hours. Some of you may have been praying for years for God to change your spouse or your friend or your family member and you feel as though He is not hearing your pleas. I can tell you, with confidence, He hears us all. Don’t give up, instead ask God to work on your heart. You will be amazed at the things He has the power to do.
Starting with a recovery program will drastically change your thinking.
I'm sure of it. I know because that is exactly how I started. Understanding the problem of alcoholism will better equip you to empathize with its effects and further ease your mind that the alcoholic is trapped by the disease. Learn all you can about alcoholism and stop the madness of arguing about it. As you've seen in 10 Signs of an Alcoholic, the alcoholic is in denial about the issue. Arguing doesn't do any good. Trust me on that one! Finally, but most importantly, seeking God will help you to cope with the effect alcoholism has on you.
Do you think you may be an adult child of an alcoholic, but want to be sure? Take this quiz to find out.
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