Living with Alcoholics
Self-Therapy For People Who ENJOY Learning About Themselves
Alcoholism is still the scourge of this country. Earlier identification of the problem and better treatment programs have improved things, but the number of lives damaged by the problem and all of the costs involved remain immense. Much of what will be said here applies to other types of chemical addiction as well.
IN THE FAMILY
Alcoholism is a family disease. In its typical form, alcoholism requires a family which is as united in its denial as it is in its chaos.
IS IT REALLY ALCOHOLISM?
Most spouses of alcoholics care too much if their partner is "really" alcoholic or not. This question is best left to the experts, and even they cannot always be sure. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if your partner is an alcoholic. What matters is how you and the rest of your family are treated.
HOW YOU ARE TREATED
If you are being badly treated by someone, focus on that behavior and tell them it must stop. Don't be too concerned about whether they are alcoholic, whether they need treatment, etc. If you've been taking this mistreatment for some time, do be concerned about your problem of tolerating the mistreatment, and about the treatment you need to overcome your problem.
DON'T ACCEPT APOLOGIES
If you are dealing with a "true alcoholic personality", you will notice that they always apologize at some point after they have mistreated you - usually the next morning. NEVER accept these apologies. Tell them directly that you will not accept their apologies no matter how sincerely or pitifully they are offered to you. Tell them that the ONLY thing that matters is that the mistreatment itself must stop.
"BUT SOMETIMES THEY CAN BE SO NICE"
Unfortunately, alcoholics often have two sides to their personalities. They can be very abusive and they can be very caring. If you want the caring too much, you will get the abuse too.
NOTE: Some people who consider themselves alcoholics are not directly abusive to others - but people who are considered to have the typical "alcoholic personality" definitely are! [.. You can be an "alcoholic" by one definition and not by another... AA tends to define alcoholics by their alcohol usage; therapists, of course, tend to think of typical personality traits.. ]
Since alcoholics almost universally deny that they have a problem, a treatment strategy called "interventions" is often necessary. A professional alcohol counselor calls a surprise meeting which the alcoholic, their family, their closest friends, and sometimes even coworkers attend. This group then "confronts" the alcoholic with their behavior. If you know someone who you believe has a serious alcohol problem, call a treatment program to discuss an intervention. They don't always work, but they are your best and often your ONLY hope short of simply getting away from the alcoholic.
TO THE ALCOHOLIC
If you are an alcoholic in denial, this is what I want to say to you. Is this the way you WANT to treat the the people you LOVE?
IS THIS A TRUE REFLECTION OF WHO YOU ARE?
If not, you definitely need professional help, whether it is about drinking or not. Think also about your priorities: Is your life organized around your drinking? If so, you need alcohol treatment. You owe it to yourself TO REDISCOVER WHO YOU ARE without drinking. You can't do it on your own. You have tried. Don't be concerned about whether it is a disease or not right now. If it's a disease, it's a curable one. If it's not a disease, it's a bunch of changeable behaviors. Be concerned about what is happening to your life and to the lives of those you love. Be concerned about what has become of you. Remember who you once were, and who you have always wanted to be.
TO THE ALCOHOLIC'S PARTNER
You may feel insulted when you hear that you have a problem too. But if you keep taking the alcoholic's abuse, there can be no doubt about it. You probably either feel you "deserve" the abuse (a guilt problem) or you need someone to vent your anger on (an anger problem). You can't reasonably ask your partner to get help if you don't.
DO YOU "WONDER"?
People who think they "might" be in an alcoholic family usually are. If you've read this far with interest, you probably need to talk to someone about how alcohol is hurting you and your family.
Staff, H. (2008, November 1). Living with Alcoholics, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, March 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/self-help/inter-dependence/living-with-alcoholics