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What NOT to Do if You Live With an Alcoholic:

6 Tips From a Codependent

April 1, 2017 | Kimberly Dewberry

Living with an alcoholic is unbearable most days. The unpredictable moods, harsh words, lies, and risky behavior of the alcoholic can make for a chaotic life. If you are in the middle of the mess and are seeking help through counseling or a 12 step program, good for you! If not, I urge you to check out my post on the Top 5 Tips for Living with an Alcoholic so you can learn how to deal with the tornado of emotions.


I'm sure you have tried everything to get your alcoholic loved one to stop drinking. Maybe you have done some of the things I am about to share with you, in hopes you could get some help or even "cure" the alcoholic. I have learned through attending recovery meetings three important things: I didn't cause the alcoholic to drink, I can't cure the alcoholic, and I am not in control. These are true statements, but easier said than to believe sometimes. I get it, but let me tell you, there are 6 things that you should NOT do if you live with an alcoholic.


1. DON'T Seek the opinions of family or friends


This is a grave mistake to make when living in a home with an alcoholic. Family and friends have a natural instinct of protection. Although they may mean well, they are not the best source to seek advice from. They are biased toward you. They want the best for you, so naturally, they are going to say things like, "Just leave the bum" or "You can do so much better than that".  These are all natural responses, but in my experience, they only further confuse the already confused mind and heart. Instead of asking family and friends for opinions, talk to your pastor, Christian counselor, or 12-step sponsor. If you are not in a 12-step recovery group yet, find one near you. If you are but don't have a sponsor yet, get one. Seeking advice from trusted third-parties is the way to receive unbiased advice.


2. DON'T Ignore there is a problem


If there is a problem, it is not going to go away on its own. Ignoring there is a problem will only lead to further resentment and anger down the road. Suppressing your feelings is not a healthy way to live. Seek God and take His lead to get some help. I've said it before, but it is worth repeating. Find a 12-step recovery group near you. Being in fellowship with others who feel like you is a wonderful way to know you are not alone and there is validity in your feelings. Living with alcoholism is hurtful and damaging, don't ignore it.


3. DON'T Withdraw and isolate yourself


The more I am alone, the more lonely I feel. The more lonely I feel, the more depressed I become. Being in isolation is also a detriment to your health and well-being. Being with others who share the commonality of having an alcoholic loved one is some of the best medicine for the heart. Surround yourself with fellow believers in Christ, others who understand what you are going through, and with people who will build you up.


4. DON'T Turn to other things to fill the emptiness


During the time my husband was an active alcoholic, I turned to shopping to fill my emptiness. In turn, my debt spun out of control. I had constant stress because of the money I knew I owed, yet I continued to shop hoping the new things would fill the needs my husband no longer filled due to his excessive drinking. I quickly learned, once I began recovery, material things could not fill the hole in my soul. Only God can fill my emptiness. Making the mistake of turning to other things when my heart hurt only added to the stress. At the end of the day no matter how much I shopped, my husband still drank. It didn't solve the core problem.


5. DON'T Make major life changing decisions


Listen, I know you are reading this right now because you are tired, angry, or just plain fed-up with living with an alcoholic. I completely understand, but, please, listen when I tell you. "Don't make any major life changing decisions right now." Making a decision based on hurt or anger is never a good idea. Our roller-coaster emotions sometimes get in the way of our rational thinking. If you are considering a life changing decision, I urge you to seek advice or wisdom from your pastor or a Christian therapist. You don't want to make a decision today that you may regret later.


6. DON'T Yell, Argue, or Fight about the Drinking 


This absolutely doesn't work. Most people, alcoholics or not, do not respond well to angry confrontation. In fact, doing this will likely evoke the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish. So what do you do? First, seek God's guidance, then, go read my post-Top 5 Tips for Living with an Alcoholic. There I share the best ways to find peace in the chaos.


I have to tell you, I have been right where you are right now. I have lived with alcoholism in varying degrees for the last 25 years. I know it is painful and confusing. These are some of the mistakes I have made and learned from. Take these lessons of mine and apply them to your situation in addition to seeking help from your pastor, Christian therapist, or trusted mentor. You will thank me later.


Are you an adult child of an alcoholic that keeps repeating the same patterns? Learn if you are an ACOA and how to overcome your past. Take the quiz to find out.


Take me to Am I a Codependent-And What Does That Even Mean?

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