Detaching From An Alcoholic

What are the ways of detaching from someone who drinks too much? Why would we want to detach form an alcoholic? How can I do this in love when I am so angry at them for being this way? Is loving them still possible after all they have done to me?

This particular subject unfolds into many various roads. I will shed some light and share suggestions on how to separate our emotions from being enmeshed with a problem drinker. Separating ourselves from the way they affect us takes time. It is a process of learning how to do things differently. We don’t really realize it at the time, but our entire lives get all interconnected with everything they are doing and it really affects our behaviors in damaging and negative ways.

Don’t Allow Them to Rent Space in Your Head

You may be thinking; “what does HE mean by that?” Obsessing over an alcoholic is our biggest problem in this situation. The constant looming thoughts in our heads are taking up precious space in our minds. With that being said, don’t allow them to rent space in your head. Find things to do which will change your focus. Read books, exercise, go to the movies or talk to a friend on the phone. Find things that will help your mind DETACH from thinking about them.

Learn to Take Care of Yourself

In the midst of your extremely busy life, learn how to take “out time” for yourself. The alcoholic may not like it that you are doing something to make your SELF happy. That’s OK… do it anyway! When they approach you afterward, just say; “I’m sorry you fell that way” and go into another room.

Understand that alcoholics keep us angry and anxious. We must do things for ourselves in the detachment process regardless of what they think about us. If you are a woman, get your hair and nails done. If you are a man go golfing, fishing or go for a walk. Taking time out to get a massage works really well for relieving stress. You can count on meeting resistance from them, but you have to start taking care of yourself regardless of what they think.

Detaching From What They Think

Because an alcoholic uses anger to try and control us, we must not get upset when they voice their disapproval of when we take care of ourselves. If you get involved with alcoholism support group meetings, the alcoholic will try to goof up your plans. They might say something like; “why are you going to those stupid meetings?” It’s possible they will try to create an argument with you just prior to you leaving for a meeting. It doesn’t matter what they say. Take care of yourself and make your support group meetings and recovery literature the most important part of your life.

Detaching From The Phone

You have a choice…you can either answer the phone or not answer it. You also have another choice. You can either listen to a message they have left you or delete it without listening. YOU DON’T HAVE TO LET THEM UPSET YOU ON THE PHONE. If they are getting out of hand, kindly say; “I’m going to hang up now. I’ll talk to you later.” Then gently hang up the phone. If they leave you nasty messages, don’t listen to them. If the start calling you repeatedly, don’t answer the phone. This is how we detach form the negative influences that an alcoholic has on our lives.

In a sense we are protecting our own emotional self.

How to Stop Arguing With an Alcoholic
Detaching from the old behaviors of arguing with them takes a while. You will have to learn how to keep your mouth shut. When you sense an argument is starting, tell them that you love them or really care about them and then say; “I don’t care to discuss this right now.” You can then go into a different room, close the door and read a book or watch TV. It doesn’t matter what you do…just find something to do other than to argue with them. Learning how to not fight with an alcoholic takes time. This is why it’s important to get involved in support-group meetings for friends and family of alcoholics.

Detaching from the way we have been doing things is a huge subject. We must learn how to separate ourselves from feelings of guilt and shame.

How To Enjoy More Peace and Serenity

  • We learn how to avoid getting into arguments.
  •  We stop getting into the car and driving around to try and find them.
  •  We quit snooping around in their stuff trying to find their stash.
  • We stop obsessing over the alcoholic’s behaviors.
  • We learn how to just get in bed and go to sleep when they aren’t home late at night.
  • We detach from confronting the lies.
  • We learn how to let go and let God deal with them.
  • We stop calling them to check up on them.

There are so many things effecting your life right now from the alcoholic’s behaviors that it’s going to take a while to learn how to do things differently. Little by little, “one day at a time” things will get better as you learn more about how to detach from an alcoholic.

When dealing with an alcoholic, learning loving detachment techniques is vitally important. As we grow in knowledge about alcoholism and how to handle dysfunctional situations better, we start understanding that enabling and detaching are very closely related.

As you continue reading you will learn various methods of separating yourself in a loving way from the destructive behaviors of someone else who is close in your life. These lessons can be applied to many different types of relationships.

The more co-dependent we are and enmeshed with someone, the harder it is to distinguish where we begin and they end. When they are happy, we also are happy. When they are angry our emotions are affected in a negative way as well. We can learn how to not flow with the mood swings of an alcoholic. It’s just going to take making a few changes and doing that “one day at a time.” Remember to go easy on yourself. These changes are all about making progress and not necessarily about doing everything perfectly. If you mess up, just start over.

Let me just trow out a few…

Suggestions That Will Help You Detach from an Alcoholic:

  • Get involved in Al-anon support group meetings. Al-anon is a great organization to try.
  • Read literature on the subject
  • Start developing friendships with people from your support-group meetings
  • Take notes during meetings
  • Start keeping a journal
  • Make this new lifestyle the number one priority in your life

Now here are a few…

Methods of Detaching From A Problem Drinker:

  • Kindly say, ” goodbye” and hang up the phone
  • Refuse to listen to phone messages after you hang up and they frantically call you over and-over again.
  • Quit investigating what they are doing
  • Read books or go visit with friends
  • Shut your mouth when you are angry at them and go into another room
  • Don’t look at them trying to figure out if they’ve been drinking
  • Get your own life by doing things you enjoy doing without them
  • Don’t allow them to rent space in your head,. Stop thinking about them all the time
  • Arguing with an alcoholic accomplishes nothing. Refuse to partake in the chaos
  • Let go of them completely and stop trying to control their behaviors
  • Go for walks
  • Talk on the phone to friends or relatives
  • Take up hobbies again

When We Start Detaching-We Stop Enabling.

This new way of acting will allow the alcoholic to suffer the consequences of their actions and also help them to reach their bottom. In separating ourselves from all of their drama, we in turn,  experience more peace and serenity in our own personal lives. Loving the alcoholic by letting go is the goal of this detachment process that we are learning about.

Separating ourselves as an individual in a co-dependent relationship takes time. As we continue attending alcoholism support group meetings and set goals to better our personal lives, it becomes easier to lovingly remove ourselves from the alcoholic’s behaviors. Being kind to an alcoholic will become easier as we learn how to love them differently. Again, this is not something that will happen overnight.

Avoiding The Sting
As time goes on, we begin to recognize the times in which associating with them would not be a good idea. As we continue to learn detachment methods, the sting of alcoholism occurs less frequently.  This works very much like hanging out around a bee hive. As long as you don’t stick your nose in the hive and keep a safe distance, you won’t get stung.

The hard part of detachment from an alcoholic is breaking habitual patterns that we have been doing for a long time. This “just takes time.”  I’ve heard it said:  “if you walk a hundred miles in the woods,  don’t expect to walk out in an hour.”  The same applies to being obsessed with an alcoholic. It takes time and effort to break free from our destructive behavior patterns that we have become accustomed to.

As we begin to detach more from all of their drama, we quit enabling them to depend upon us. It’s hard to do at first because we are so used to rescuing them from everything. When we quit rescuing them and let them suffer the consequences of their actions, we are less affected by their behaviors.

Detaching from an alcoholic means that we let go of them. It doesn’t mean that we quit loving or caring about them. We just learn how to mind our own business and start living our own lives as they continue to drink. Even though we may still get frustrated with an alcoholic, we will react differently  so that WE will remain more calm and experience greater levels of peace within ourselves.

Consider making a list of things that you enjoy doing and start doing them. This can help tremendously in the process of changing our focus.

The alcoholic may not like our changes in behavior, OH WELL! We have to be strong as we start doing things differently. This is why we need the support  of  support group meetings and of friends who know how to help us change.

Loving detachment from alcoholism means that we don’t make decisions based upon the alcoholic’s opinions, moods  or advice in relation to our life. We eventually begin to be hardly affected by their destructive behaviors, views and attitudes toward us.

Now …I know I’ve shared a lot in this session, but just remember to do the best that you can “one day at a time.”

Written By: JC



522 comments to Detaching From An Alcoholic

  • Mary

    Hi Tyron

    Everything everyone has said is SPOT on – but at the end of the day, it is YOU who has to decide what you want and what you will accept in life. What does it say when many of the responses are exactly the same scenario (just different house, people, lives – but still the same pattern) I was in a bad bad marriage and didn’t realize it was the disease until I realized that who I had become and what I was doing was not “normal” and certainly could not be all my fault.
    I have no words of wisdom or advice, but all i can say is, life is short and living in the disease of alcoholism is something I wish on no-one and you can’t change anyone (even if they aren’t alcoholics) people have to want to change themselves for whatever their reason, sadly with this disease it’s a vicious cycle because blame and no accountability and so much more seems to be the factor of someone with this disease. i wish you luck and hope that you determine what is happiness for you –

  • Zita

    Take the emotion out of the situation. Look at it with open eyes. My husband is a recovering alcoholic. He got sober at 62. During his drinking years, he was highly functional until his health gave out. My daughter is a non-functioning alcoholic. She has anger issues and is very volatile. Her 11 year old son lives with his father who could no longer tolerate the abuse heaped upon him. She has had several relationships since then. The last one ended 2 weeks ago. She ended up being beaten by the man she was living with on and off. He says she physically attacked him and the only way he could get off of him was to punch her. Now isn’t this all lovely. She doesn’t way more than 95 pounds. She is presently renting a room and the landlady wants her out of the house as she is has come home drunk and barely able to make it up the stairs to her room. This landlady’s husband is a recovering alcoholic. It is all so very sad. So much drama. Of course she blames me, her father, her ex-husband and anyone else she can throw under the bus. For heaven’s sake, leave….don’t look back in 20 years and wish you had done so. Just take the feelings out and make a clear decision.

  • Carmen

    Hi Tyrone,
    Al-Anon might be helpful to you. If you can’t go to meetings, you can read about it on-line. I think you can even YouTube information about it. I learned in Al-Anon that I must take care of myself. Your concern that you would drive her to drink, however noble, is not in your best interest or hers. When you take the step you believe you must take, then you are doing the best you can for both of you. I also enjoy Pinterest where I look up the Al-Anon slogans. One day at a time is for you too. Let go and let God is a really big deal even if you don’t believe in God. The 3 C’s are; I didn’t cause it, I can’t change it, and I can’t cure it. The only person you can change is you. There are tons of simple slogans that you can bring to your own assistance without ever uttering them aloud. My alcoholic (my husband) was very charming at first but after several years when things didn’t go his way, his tiny verbal abuses turned into controlling and demeaning verbal abuses. Then they morphed into glares and silences. He told me I should know what he was thinking and he withdrew financial support as a means to control me. My home was mine before our marriage. I inherited it when my first husband died from a brain tumor. I could not leave my home and did not have the skills to kick him out. I was hoping for a divorce. I found a therapist and she told me to join Al-Anon and I did. The changes that happened to me were slow but they were welcome. I learned that I was not responsible for his behavior. I practiced the slogans and read the information provided. When he finally told me he was leaving, I was relieved. Two months after he left me, he committed suicide. Thanks to my therapy and Al-Anon, I knew it wasn’t my fault. His health was poor, mostly due to his drinking but he seemed unwilling to get medical treatment in a timely manner. He was in such bad physical shape that it would have been far easier for him to kill himself in my basement and he did not do that. I came to see that as an act of love. In Al-Anon, we’ve all suffered from an alcoholic in our lives whether it be a friend or family. There is no way to “reason out” why they do what they do, but no matter what, what they do now or in the future is NOT your fault. It is common when one partner frequents Al-Anon, that the other partner will make a major decision to change due to the first person changing. I’ve heard many stories where the alcoholic stops drinking and gets help especially when they truly love you. There is an underlying reason for the person to drink like they do but it’s up to them to find the connection, not you. Real change only happens when a person sets out to do so and then practices their new perspective. I wish you the best.

  • Laura

    Hi my name is Laura I’ve been reading articles from the site for quite a few months my first time posting I thank God that I am not alone. I have been with my husband for 5 years married for really did not understand what an alcoholic was I knew he was a heavy drinker but before we got serious in the relationship I told him he drank too much and I couldn’t be with him and he quit for almost a year. Of course I fell in love with the real person the sweet loving kind quiet gentle person got married within a couple years the disease had picked up right where it left off, it’s been a struggle the last 2 years 2 times in rehab first time to shut me up I’m sure the second time was just this June for him he says things were really bad. Two days home from rehab July 10th he told me he wanted to move out wants a divorce needs to find himself and grow up I was devastated blindsided professing his love all through rehab and then this. All the loving and waiting and hoping and praying to be tossed out like a dirty mop. He’s now roommates with a man he met in rehab who is an alcoholic and getting a divorce as well I’m putting two and two together. He finally got honest with me and told me he’s been drinking ever since he moved out I now know in my heart this did not have anything to do with me he’s just not done drinking so very sad that this disease holds the trump card he chose his alcohol over his very loving good life. I’m in pain I do know it’s a blessing no more hurt for me but very hard to accept. I am an Al-Anon and have a sponsor thank God for Al-Anon I guess I’m looking for answers how common is this for an alcoholic to abandon no notice no morning no prior talk of divorce to continue his drinking?

  • Zita

    Deanna…find a friend who can share the rent. Or rent a room. I would live in a tent before I’d put up with the nonsense you are putting up with. It takes courage to change….you can’t change him so change you. Do what you have to. Get out of your current situation…it will not improve. Life is so short…you have nothing to fear but fear itself. It’s fear of the unknown and you are paralyzed by it. Get out NOW. Please.

  • Laura Doane

    Hi my name is Laura I’m new to this chat site thank you all for so much good information I’ve been married to my ah for five years he’s been to rehab twice in the last year just got home June 10th and told me he wants to move out grow up and do it on his own. Completely blindsided no previous talk of divorce looking forward to possibly recovery and healing or marriage from the disease of alcoholism finally he got honest and told me he’s been drinking ever since he’s left the house and now is a roommate with a man he met in rehab also alcoholic and going through a divorce also very sad. Why would someone abandoned their home love Security Financial Security they only for this disease I will never understand any help would be appreciated I’m trying to move on Anna just it’s just all so very sorry sad

  • Laura Doane

    Hi my name is Laura could use some help understanding wine alcoholic what abandoned everything they have for continuing their drinking. My alcoholic husband pretty much blindsided me with wanting to move out do it on his own two days home from rehab to find out he still drinking I do know now I lost my marriage to the diseases of alcoholism just all so hard to understand any similar stories?

  • c

    I feel like everyone here has written about my experience with an alcoholic father (who was sober for 23 years before he died) and a 9 year whatever with an A boyfriend. It only
    gets worse. Even if the A becomes sober, the one they live with has no real relationship -just like the posts above have stated. It is exhausting to get up each day and face the unknown – it will take your personality and health.

    I wish everyone here a safe and Happy 4th!

  • Deanna, I know what you are going through. I am in a relationship with my partner. He works, but he drinks every night. On his days off, he gets totally drunk. I asked him the other day about his stopping drinking, and his response was “I don’t want to stop.” I am in the same boat you are in. I am trying to find a way to leave him. He keeps telling me that he can’t do anything without me, but I am tired of the abuse. You just need to do something for you. I will pray that you will have the strength to do what you need to do.

  • John

    Friendly reminder to make sure to say you love him too! I pulled away from an alcoholic recently, but then she passed away suddenly…

  • Sue here

    Hi All, there is great therapy for all us here to be able to read and respond to other people’s struggles. I was married to an AH for 22 years – I left him for a day, a weekend, a week, a month, and finally a year and a half. BUT I went back each and every time – that was when I knew I was a sick as he was. He has been to rebar 3 times, with the last one being 5 weeks after I left – for what is the last time for me. It’s been 4 months, and it’s hard to not go back – mostly because he’s sober, but I also know that just because he’s not drinking, doesn’t mean he has become a nicer person – he hasn’t. And that’s how I know I have made the right decision and now stick to it. It’s not easy – we have 4 children, 2 grandchildren, and had everything and nothing, all at the same time. I am keeping a “rap sheet” of all the things that have happened – that I can remember – over the last 22 years. That alone helps me stay away – sober or not, there has been too much water under the bridge. It takes planning – I planned for over a year, and when the opportunity presented itself, I took the door. I am living a much simpler life, a more peaceful life, and when I open the door to my home, there is NO STRESS. I used to have memory problems, now I am able to think much more clearly. For those of you who want to leave, be strong, be gentle with yourselves, reach out to others (something I sucked at) and you willl get through it

  • Hi there I was reading through you’re message and I can relate. I have been with my partner for quite some time and his behaviour is only just beginning to change now. This is the third time I have let him but this time it is different. He has been an absent father due to his drinking life. Previously I didn’t give him any responsibilities with the children when we were on a break. Now he has to look after the kids will three days a week, party cause he doesn’t want to pay child support but this time I see change. Make sure she does her own things, don’t pick up her pieces. Its important for you to not be in the house with her if she is in a bad mood. There are plenty of people out there who care. Make you’re life happy and let her sink in her own pool. Take care.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you! This was so helpful. I started back with Alanon this week – working on step 1. Thank you!

  • Lauren

    Thank you to all, for your sharing. Reading your posts give me strength and hope. After many threats, I finally kicked my AH out of our home. On the day he decided to drop out of his outpatient rehab he decided that it was a good idea to pick up our 2 year old son, drive him drunk and then take him to the pool. He told me in his drunken stupor that because he had to take a piss, he turned his back on our son and our 2 year old jumped in the pool with no life jacket. It was in this moment that I realized how blind I was being. My son could be dead right now. I truly believe that an angel was watching over him that day. My AH proceeded to go on a 6 day bender after this incident. Because he is out of our home I am at peace. This disease has no reason and no logic. My AH needs to figure this out on his own. I realize that we cannot go down the drain with him. I joined Al-Anon about 7 weeks ago and I believe that without this program and those meetings, I would still be enabling my AH and believing his lies. I remind myself of the three C’s every day. I want to start focusing on me and doing what is best for my son and I. I pray for my husband every night but now that he’s not in our house I feel like I can finally breathe.

  • Linda

    I love my husbankd. he is a recovering alcoholic.He has been 10 months off alcohol; however, while talking to him on the phone recently, I could tell he had been drinking. I questioned him, as usual he denied and after my losing my temper because I knew he was lying to me he said yes he had been drinking. I was once again so hurt not so much he slipped and drank but he lied. I do know that denial, and lying go hand in hand with alcoholics. I was so made, I refuse to go anywhere with him, wont fix his dinner and sent him packing to sleep in spare bedroom. I know I can’t stop him from drinking thats his responsibility and I feel my actions admmittedly out of anger and hurt are consequences for his behavor. Now the sad part because I do love him and except for his slipping occasionally bak to alcohol he is an outstanding husband and I sincerely believe he loves me so I begin to feel my consequences are mean spirited and I begin t feel gluilty for treating him this way. Ive been told leave him drink, don’t ask him if hes been drinking just let him go. I know from personaly experience with him that when I confront him, and I get so upset he’s promises me he will tru harder and he does again for anothr 8-10 months. But if I don’t confront him, I,m sure if he thinks he is getting away with this slip he will continue to drink and not make an effort to stop. Somy question is since he only slips occassinally an stops immediately after he is confronted should i be grat3ful for this occassional slip and nkot place consequences on him . I feel so lost as to how to handle these reoccurrences Any suggestions

  • Laura

    I agree with this article. About the only way I will ever help my daughter is to let her live her life with her decisions. Everyone has to do that. I cannot save her, but she can save herself. She is the ONLY one that can. As much as I would love to wave a magic wand and take it all away. It doesn’t work that way. I tried and tried and tried for nearly 7 years. Basically all I can do is love her and make sure she isn’t hungry. For the last six months she has been living on her own. I don’t know how she does it because she can’t hold a job. This I have to accept and not wonder or obsess about.
    I know who my daughter is. She is a great person when sober. I love her very much. Alcohol has such a hold on her. It doesn’t seem like there is much out there to really help addicts as far as treatments. And that is sad for our country. I do believe though that each addict has it in their power to overcome through some means. I will not enable my daughter any longer and try to make it better. I had to and have to set boundaries. For her and me. I believe the more I interfere the longer her road to recovery. If I make a suggestion it is my idea and not hers. I believe her answers lie within her like mine are within me.
    I believe it will never be healthy for her, or me, to live in the same house. I wish we could because it is nice to have a daughter to chum with. But it definitely won’t work and isn’t healthy. Errrg. This is very hard.

  • Turnip

    The last straw with one friend whom I’ve cut off was when he threatened my ability to make a living.

    I had been distancing myself from him for 10 years, and had seem only once in that time. He called regularly, and his phone calls were really long.

    They became increasingly annoying. I listened (not sure why) as he described his extramarital affairs on one long call, for example.

    Then he exploded at me in another call.

    Three days later, he left a message on my home email with a derogatory comment about my one employee. I work from home, and fortunately erased it before she heard it.

    Those last two events were it. He’s also a gossip, so I knew that I had to cut him off, or anything I said to him would be repeated to my employee, and vice versa.

    He kept calling and leaving long messages. Finally, after a few weeks, I picked up and told him I was extremely upset with the way he had blown up at me, and also about the message he had left about Nan, my employee.

    He was surprised, and said, “What did I say? I was drinking that night, for pain management purposes.” He had been blackout drunk. I didn’t know he was drunk at all, although I knew he had a drinking problem.

    Being blackout drunk isn’t an excuse. He poured the booze down his throat while he was on the phone with me, and no doctor would recommend alcohol for pain management purposes.

    He apologized, I got him off the phone, but wasn’t going to go through this any more with him. He kept calling (I guess not enough others were taking his calls). Finally, I picked up again, and told him I had only a few minutes. He asked me how Nan was doing, and I told him not to ask me about Nan any more. He stopped calling for 6 months, and then started again. I haven’t picked up the phone when he’s called since.

  • Cy

    My married best friend of 44 years is an alcoholic. We embarked on a physical relationship but ended it then moved into an emotional affair. We talk three or more times a day. He has become angry lately. Begs me not leave him one minute and 10 minutes later, he doesn’t want to talk. He is lying, he is having black outs, our whole relationship is on his terms. I obsess not knowing if he is talking to me or not. He never ignored my messages or post until the last few months. He is unreliable because he doesn’t remember even saying or committing to anything. His wife is now calling me because he is drunk constantly and having accidents. Throwing his soiled garments on the back lawn. It is time I leave but do I just do it and get help with my obsession of the relationship or do I explain I can’t do it anymore because of his drinking. I love him but this is driving me crazy.

  • May I simply say what a comfort to uncover somebody who genuinely understands what they are discussing over the internet. You definitely realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people ought to look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you’re not more popular given that you most certainly possess the gift.

  • Anna Richardson

    My partner and I have a four year relationship. We met each other after my divorce after 30 years of marriage. Originally from my hometown, He had told me that he had had a “problem with alcohol” but realized he had to get it under control and did just that. Blew it off. Short side of a long story, he did and does not have it under control. Four years and five rehabs later, still lying, abusing and denying. I have never lived a life like this before. I attend Al Anon meetings. This group consists of alcoholics that attend AA as well. The same people “share” over and over again not allowing others to speak. I want out of this dysfunctional relationship. I’m tired, 67 years old, have spent thousands on this guy to try to help him. I realize that I am co dependent. Thanks for sharing this information with me as it gives me some hope.

  • What i don’t realize is if truth be told how you are no longer actually a lot more neatly-appreciated than you may be now. You are so intelligent. You recognize therefore significantly with regards to this topic, made me for my part imagine it from so many varied angles. Its like men and women don’t seem to be interested except it’s something to do with Lady gaga! Your personal stuffs great. All the time care for it up!

  • Denise

    Hate corrodes the container it comes out of. A profound statement. After hearing it I realized that was me. I have become extra- ordinarily quiet. Alcoholism kills not only it’s host but kills the hopes and dreams that this marriage was supposedly built on. I ask God every day to see me through another day. You learn to hide the sadness. My wonderful golden retrievers know and they stay close. That unconditional love. It’s hard to watch someone slowly die. He’s a high functioning alcoholic. The disease that kills one and leaves the living with the heart-wrenching memories of good and bad.

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