Letting Go of an Alcoholic-Steps to Freedom

Letting Go Of An Alcoholic
Letting go is a choice. An alcoholic wants freedom from being condemned, criticized, examined, controlled, belittlement and the alcohol that keeps them bound. It’s possible to love unconditionally. That’s the key to releasing your grip on them. If we can stop placing conditions and demands upon them, life will become much more serene for all involved.

How To Let Go of An Alcoholic

Mind Your Own Business-It’s an act of your will to stop obsessing over everything that they are doing in your presence and out of your surroundings. Mind your own business. The sooner you can realize that they are going to drink no matter what you do or say the more peaceful your life will become.  The idea of controlling another persons behaviors just doesn’t work.

Stop Confronting Them-It’s no big secret when they have been drinking. We smell it on their breath, we hear it in the tone of their voice and we see the wobble in their walk. They know that they’ve been drinking and so do we. Have they ever quit because you confronted them about being drunk? Has pointing the finger at them made them stop drinking yet? I seriously doubt it. Confronting an alcoholic does little good, possibly more harm than good.

Why get all frustrated about something that you cannot control?

It’s time to do things differently. We cannot continue to do the same things over and over again expecting different results.

Let Them Lie-Has the alcoholic been lying to you? Do they continue to do so no matter what you say or how many times that you confront their false stories? Stop trying to be the private investigator that knows the truth and wants to prove it in the alcoholic court of law. The disease causes them to swear to tell a lie, the whole lie, and nothing but lies. So, accept it as a part of what they do. Have they stopped lying to you because of your confrontations?  My guess would be no.

Make a Decision to Not Look at Them-As soon as you get in their presence, don’t look at them. This works well when you are at home and they come busting through the door. I used to read a lot or get on the computer. This is a great way to keep the focus off of them and on something that I enjoy doing.

Letting go of an alcoholic is difficult. This arena where they constantly twist the truth is ground that you will never win on unless you learn to let them go by not confronting them.

The Al-anon program has something that is called the three Cs.

  • You cannot cure the alcoholic
  • You cannot control the alcoholic
  • You’re not the cause of their drinking

If you can commit these to memory, they will be extremely helpful in the process of letting go of an alcoholic child, husband, wife or friend.  Once we realize that they are going to find a way to drink no matter what, the sooner we can learn how to let go of an alcoholic and start enjoying life. Freedom from the constant obsession over another person can be found through the process of learning how to let go.

Remember, you have no control over another persons mind, will or emotions. Stop trying to be their God and give them into the hands of God. He knows what they need more than you do.

You might also enjoy:
Loving An Alcoholic
Why Am I Powerless Over The Alcoholic
Written By: JC

51 comments to Letting Go of an Alcoholic-Steps to Freedom

  • Robin

    This article made a lot of sense to me. I didn’t cause the problem, I coudn’t control the problem, and I couldn’t cure the problem. My soon to be ex husband is literally a homeless truck driver and will live in his truck. It’s funny though he drove truck for 8 months and quit. Someone told me because he needed to drink. Well now, in my eyes, since he has hit rock bottom maybe it will cure his sickness. I hope and pray for his sake.

  • Jane

    Robin, it’s good that he has reached rock bottom. Hopefully this will be the turning point for him to get well.

    You on the other hand must take care of yourself, because you have no “control” over anything except your own life.

    If you are not already attending meetings to help you cope with alcoholism, try to find a good support group.

    Even tough you are not still with your now ex-husband, the affects of his addiction have caused you to have emotional hurts and pains that need to be healed.

  • Mary

    Recently I had a falling out with a platonic male alcholic friend who I really liked but found very frustrating to deal with – he would humiliate me, lie, raise his voice, speak badly about me behind my back, etc. I was a child to an alcoholic parent up until 26 when I was married but now I’m 46 so being around him made me feel like a child again with the parent drinking again. Anyhow, I decided to end the friendship because I just couldn’t deal with the behavior and wasn’t sure how to handle. This particular person I haven’t seen in months but his friend recently said if the former friend sees me he will be friendly toward me and say hello. However, I would prefer to leave this alone and walk away since I feel very uncomfortable. I attended my first Alanon meeting and will continue to go to see if it helps me. I feel very upset and guilty about not being friends with this person and he agrees as well – I’d rather not be around him – my friends and husband agree with me not to have any contact whatsoever. Has this happened with anyone else? The feelings from when I was a child feeling uncomfortable around alcoholic have come back and I do feel as though I just cannot be around this person at all. What do you do? It does hurt very much.

  • Kelly

    I am so glad I found this article, it makes sense. The things I have been doing for several years are not making the alcoholic stop drinking. I need to let go of the rope! WOW! What a concept. I am going to try a few of your suggestions for letting go this week. This page has been bookmarked!

  • Kathy

    This was the perfect God send today. I just broke up with my alcoholic boyfriend. I was with him for 1 1/2 years and had never dealt with an alcoholic before. I can not believe how mentally exhausted I have let myself become through all of this. But thank God through friends and family and just the grace of God alone, I have finally gotten so tired of the lies, laziness, excuses, and the blaming of everyone else for things he has done, that I decided I have had enough. It still bewilders me how he lost his job, but that is not his fault, he wrecks his car, not his fault. and the list goes on and one. Thank goodness I have a sense of humor or I would have lost my mind. So thank you for posting this article. My God wink for the day. Bless you.

  • Stephanie

    I too recently broke up with my alcoholic boyfriend. Over the two years we have been together drinking has gone from crazy Friday nights to an everyday event. He started mixing in other drugs a few weeks ago. Something he learned from his mom and sister. The last straw was his violent behavior. Dr jekyl mr hyde. I think the best thing that I have read says, you don’t have to be around someone to love them. You don’t have to see them or even talk to someone to love them. So I have let go. I am so tired of feeling worried that he is going to come home and be violent again that I can just release. I have an ulcer now from worrying so much this last year Enough is enough. I hope he gets better one day.

  • admin

    Stephanie, when prescription pills get abused and mixed in with the alcohol it creates an unbelievable situation. The level of anger and mood swings form the alcoholic are intensified greatly. I’ve said it many times on this blog, it’s very possible to live with and love an alcoholic. In some cases it is best to not be with them as well. Such was the case in my situation. The abusive behavior was too intense for the family to continue to endure. We had to let go.

    I have discovered that praying for the alcoholic is a great way of expressing love without being around them.

    I hated having to let go of the alcoholic because I had become so accustomed to holding on to her. After many months of practice, letting go was the best thing I ever learned how to do.

    I truly discovered a freedom and happiness that I had lost for several years prior to detaching.

  • admin

    Kathy, it’s so strange how we loose ourselves slowly over time when we get involved in a relationship with an alcoholic. It sounds like you have a good understanding of what you did not want your life to continue to be like. Thanks for joining in the conversation and may God wink at you too!

  • Chrissy

    I was in a relationship w/ an amazing man for 3 years- it was passionate, explosive, ever changing and Miserable ! I had never been with a man with alcohol issues and thought his “blaming, mood swings, temper, etc. ” were all my fault- or at least that’s what he told me. I made him mad, I was the reason he was moody, it was my fault he lost his temper, my friends pissed him off……
    I loved him so much that I did not want to see his faults. I thought drinking a few beers after work was enjoyable on Friday nights, but he would do shots on Wednesday nights with buddies, on Thursday nights it was a few drinks in front of the TV, on Saturday it was alot of beer hanging with our friends…. The list of social reasons to drink became longer. Since we didn’t live together I don’t think I saw the true extent to how much was consumed. I did however feel his wrath.
    I have since broken it off- after too much pain to recount and too many missed opportunities on his part. I fight the feeling to reconnect with him on a daily basis as we still text and Email. I do believe he is better off by himself- wallowing in his beer filled misery. I just was not content to be his emotional punching bag any longer!
    I feel healthier and believe in my heart that sometimes people come into you life for a reason- Perhaps he was sent to make me realize I AM STRONGER then I ever knew

  • rocky

    a retired alcoholic must be the worse.
    drinking morning noon and night.
    the arguments are over.
    the kids are now gone.
    can’t change someone who doesn’t want to be changed.
    no plans for the future
    enjoying our times together
    sadly-waiting for the end.

  • admin

    Thanks for sharing Rocky. Not sure what the message is that you are trying to convey to us all. Could you expand on what you posted?

  • Robin

    I am struggling to let go of my ex-husband whom I loved dearly for 20 years, but finally could no longer live the life of an alcoholic’s wife. I spent most nights alone, and sad and feeling hopeless. I let my weight baloon up to 260 pounds – I was so miserable. I own my own food issues, but being left alone all the time added to the problem. I have since gotten the divorce, he came to the court house in tears, asking me not to do it. It was so hard to look into his eyes and see the fear and loss, and know I counld not turn back. Since then I have dropped the weight, moved to another state, got a new job, and recently remarried. My heart still hurts for what once was, and to see him struggle and not move past our broken relationship just kills me. I loved your article, because for the last three years since I left, I sound like a broken record when he and I talk. Please go to AA. Please seek counseling…..I even got him the big blue book and had it sent to him. I have begged him to get help, for three years to no avail. I guess I had to learn the hard way that I can’t fix him. My current husand has been very understanding about my feelings over this, but I understand now I need to let him go, and continue on my healing path. I feel so guilty over leaving him, I feel so sad over the loss and for him. He was a great guy until alcohol took him away. I am just heartbroken over what has happend, and don’t know how to move past the guilt of leaving him. He told me once that I was not honoring our wedding vows because I was leaving him in his “sickness.” When we talk I don’t know if he really loves me anymore, I really think he does not know how to let go, and the alcohol seems to keep him stuck there. It’s all just so very sad……

  • JC

    Robin, thanks for sharing. Have you tried attending Al-anon meetings? I believe you will find the healing you need there.

  • Robin

    Thanks for responding JC. No I have not tried Al-anon meetings. I will look for a local meeting. I thought I could “outrun” my feelings by moving away and starting a new life, but that pain and guilt are alive and well in my heart.

  • C

    Robin: You should not feel any guilt – you gave it your all and, in the end, you gave your ex his freedom to drink whenever without any demands. He is on his own, which he really wanted.

    Your current husband deserves your whole attention – can you imagine how he really feels with you being tied to the first husband.

    Go to Al-Anon, make new friends in your community, take college classes, join a gym or a ski club. Get involved in your new life with vigor. The past is over – you are dragging it into your new marriage.

  • Robin

    C: Your words really struck my heart about how I am not giving my current husband the attention he deserves and needs. (in a good way, and in a way I needed to hear) My husband and I had a long talk about it after I read your post. Since my original post in May, I have read Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, and was amazed at how “normal” all of my mixed up emotions are for someone who was married to an alcoholic. That realization alone has really helped me to let go of some of the baggage I have been carrying. I also have since broken off all communicaton with my ex. Hard as it was to let him go fully like that, I feel like I am starting to get “me” back. It is a journey, but at least I feel like I can get past this now. It still makes my cry to think of the past, but when I do, I wish him peace and let the thought go….. Onward we go….. Thank you!

  • Wendy

    Hi Robin, thank you for your honest posting, I found it very comforting. I have been married to my alcoholic husband for 38 years. Most of those years I was able to ignore the drinking, focus on the kids, the pets, my job, but recently he retired. Since then our life has imploded. It breaks my heart to even think of letting go of all those years we spent together. We were always friends and we loved eachother, but now the man I loved is very hard to find. I found myself doing all those things I never did, like begging him to go to rehab, crying, and feeling so broken hearted. Recently he became obsessed with another woman and although nothing really happened, he ended up in his own place. She is now with his friend and he doesn’t know how it all happened and blames me and never once entertains the idea that his drinking as created this mess. The kids are furious and hurting. It was helpful for me to see that it may be possible to let go, although I really don’t see how. thanks anyway for your post.

  • Robin M

    Wendy, the way you learn to let go is to take it one day at a time, to borrow a phrase. Al-Anon will help. I also worked with someone doing EFT therapy and re-birth breathing sessions. I turned all the energy I had spent trying to “fix” my ex, towards myself and got myself to a better emotional place. The Book Co-Dependent No More was also very helpful. I was able to finally see what my role in the life we had was. I know the path ahead seams long, hard, and sad, but you can find joy again. I guess the best advice I have, is to be Kind to Yourself, don’t be hard on yourself, and seek out whatever help you need to work though your feelings. My heart goes out to you.

  • Longnights

    I’m having a horrible time letting go. My husband of three years is threatening divorce all of the time because I am constantly on his case about how much he drinks. I’m tired of him coming home at 2 and 3 in the morning plastered drunk…We argue all the time about his drinking. He gets furious and leaves and I have no idea where he is, who he is with or when he will come home. I feel like I am losing him and am so afraid he will divorce me if I don’t learn how to let him go…

  • Julie

    My problem right now is my estranged AH had the children for visitation on New Years Day and when he brought them back home I could smell the alcohol on his breath. Of course he denied any drinking but I could see in his eyes that he was intoxicated. My children said they saw him with his hands stuck in a cooler in the back of the truck pulling out a cup and then drinking what was in it. Of course i confronted him as he should not be drinking and driving especially with my children in the truck. He even has court orders not to drink during visits. When it comes to my children’s safety I have to look at him and assess whether or not he has been drinking.

  • JC

    Julie, I’ve never heard of a court order like the one you mentioned. I’m guessing he would go to jail of there was evidence that he was drinking during visitation with the kids? Could you explain a little more about the order and how it came to be?

    It seems that if there is something to enforce, then it might be a good idea to follow through with enforcement to ensure the safety of your children. If he is in violation, I would think he has to pay “all” legal costs involved as well, even yours if you initiate action.

  • Bill

    Longnights, it’s difficult when we are caught in the rage, fear and uncertainty that surrounds an alcoholic. Find an Al-anon meeting and start attending on a regular basis. Don’t just go a couple of times, make a commitment to stay involved in the program. You will find the support and friendship there that you need in order to weather this storm that you husband is creating in your life. This is the only way that you will be able to let go of the alcoholic and find true serenity while remaining married to him.

  • Caitlyn

    Letting go means accepting who they are, what they do (the drinking, lying to cover up what they know is not acceptable to the general public, and so on) and accepting you can’t change them no matter how much you will it that way. It is up to them to bring about the changes they need in their lives. That is, they need to decide for themselves they need to give up the alcohol because it is slowly eroding them and putting them into an early grave.

    So firstly Longnights, accept they are an alcoholic and nothing you say or do or threaten to do can change that fact and the unpleasantness of it all. Don’t berate them over it, accept it for what it is but don’t let it rule your lives. Set firm boundaries and guidelines for them to follow to make your life bearable and livable.

    Don’t be afraid of that you have no control over. Don’t let the thought of being divorced over rule you. If it happens then so be it. You can’t change it. Look at why you married him in the first place and be content with that and the reason for it. Your negativity (fear of divorce and driving him to it) is taking over your logic thought patterns. Don’t allow it. Recognise the fear is unsubtanciated. To over come this fear try to visualise what would happen and how you’d react to the event occuring and how you could cope. Work out strategies for that fear so you are safe in the knowledge, you will survive it if it were to happen.

    Also don’t ‘get on his case’ as you put it. It comes down to acceptance of his condition. By ignoring it you save yourself the arguments and internal turmoil. It means being strong and accepting. Notice this is the key word for you. Accepting his condition and learning to live with it by setting up guidelines for your marriage and boundaries for your sanity.

    What do you not like about him coming home plastered drunk at two or three in the morning? The fact that he isn’t with you and you crave his company? The fact that he sticks of alcohol? Or he spends all the household income on the frivolity of alcohol excesses? Or a mixture of these facts and others? Either way work out for yourself what exactly it is that you don’t like and come up with a solution so it limits the impact on you. If it’s company you crave, go out yourself and catch up with a girlfriend or parents or family or even neighbour. If it’s the stench of alcohol make him sleep it off on the couch. Whatever it is that causes you to feel bad, and angry at him come up with an acceptable solution for you to cope with his disease.

    Come back to this website any time for support from us all here. That is the purpose of this site and we can thank JC for that!

    Wishing you all the best as you work through the solutions most applicable for you in your situation with your alcoholic. God bless.

  • Julie

    JC, My court order came about because my attorney and I tried to stop visits when the children were complaining that my AH would disappear into the garage during visits at the grandparents house where he was living and come back later smelling of beer. The kids are afraid of him when he drinks because he becomes uncontrollably nasty and physically violent. Of course the judge said it was his word against mine and would not stop visits but did tack on to the visitation order that my AH was not to consume alcohol before or during visitation. The problem is this is difficult to enforce. My attorney said it will always be his word against mine unless there is a way to prove it with pictures or video as evidence. Also yes in order to enforce this I would have to file a contempt charge against him. However, my lawyer said if he ever shows up smelling of alcohol before he picks up the children to not let him take them and then when he files against me for not allowing him to see the children i can bring up in court that he smelled of alcohol. One problem is he picks them up and does not smell of alcohol but when he brings them back he smells. My two eldest children are teens and they are not fooled by him. But the courts refuse to allow the children to testify, saying they do not want the children to “be involved”. We have asked for a face to face with the judge and we are hoping this will be granted so the older kids can have their say. The biggest problem is the judge wants hard evidence and this is so difficult to obtain when i smell the alcohol on him and see the glazed look in his eyes. Not sure how to gather this as evidence. Any ideas?

  • Sally

    Julie, call your local police or state highway patrol and report him for drunk driving if he shows up smelling of alcohol again. Discuss the option with your lawyer. For sure I’d call the cops and report a DUI if the jerk showed up smelling like a bottle AFTER he’d driven my kids home! Court orders aren’t worth the paper they’re written on if there aren’t teeth in them to force compliance. If he ever touches those kids when he’s drunk and violent, take them to the emergency room and get any marks documented. Drunks are dangerous, and drunk drivers should all be charged with attempted murder. Good luck!

  • Julie

    Sally, the thing is for me to keep that action in the front of my mind when he does show up intoxicated. But it won’t happen again because i will no longer trust him to take the kids anywhere and have told him i will do the dropping off and picking up for visitation because of his actions. Done giving him chances and thinking that the fear of jail or court will make him make the right choices. Obviously he is further gone than i thought. However, i wish i had called the cops and reported him as DUI. But the thought occurred to me a while after he had already left.When he was here trying to start arguments with me and the kids the old feelings and fears came back and it was difficult to think straight. At least now I have a more solid plan in mind and hopefully will go straight to it if he shows up here uninvited or intoxicated again. Thanks for your comment!

  • JC

    Julie, you’re doing great! Thanks for sharing more on this delicate situation. If the situation arises again, where he is driving drunk, now you will be able to set the emotions aside and do what you have to do in order to initiate not accepting unacceptable behavior. I do like the idea of you doing the majority of the driving. Even though you are carrying more responsibility than your ex, the children’s safety is the priority in this situation.

  • Sally

    Julie, JC is absolutely right. Doing the driving will also give you more control of the situation, and that will hopefully help give you strength when he tries to start arguments with you. You go, girl! Keep in touch. This site is a God-send to those of us who have had or do have a drunk in our lives.

  • Julie

    Thanks JC and Sally. I agree. And it feels good to stand up to him when he always wants everything his way. I am more concerned about the children’s safety than his having a temper tantrum because he wants everything including visitation to go his way.

  • losthope

    iwas married for 13yrs,ended in divorce, he was very selfish,had addictions to alcohol,drugs,we have 2 children who are adults now. after
    divorcing him I starting seeing my high school boyfriend(19 years later). we have now been together for almost 12 years. we have a6 yr son together.He(my boyfriend) is an alcoholic…typical…lies,begs,borrows,steals, to get his2 to 3 big 32 0z bottles of beer every night. as soon as he cracks open the 2nd beer, I become neverous,anxious,i have to be careful what I say, how I say it. he will ignite into a rage in a split second..and then I doomed for the rest of the night by his yelling,cursing,degrating name calling,etc..then the next day he’s sorry and he is”going to quit drinking” then the next day, starts again. I have no family here, no friends here, I feel alone, I feel like leaving him would hurt my son, because he loves his daddy so much, the guilt just eats me alive. just looking for some advice, not judgement. thankyou!

  • Amy

    This exactly what Ive been going through..I look like a wreck..im naturally thin and have lost 20 pounds..im worn out..I would have to get up and go to work on about 2 hours sleep because he would keep me up all night..trying to fight…or hollering..or meowing like a cat..he would go down in the basement and turn off the electric..I would go to work..he would go get drunk..the next day he would spend laying around hung over..he would wake up say how sorry he was..or wake up and blame me..some crazy shit…when he knew I had just about HAD IT..he would say I know I need to stop drinking ,,go to A.A. for a couple days..may I add during those couple days he was so moody I couldnt stand him sober..I could go on and on…the advice I am gonna give you ..is the advice that was given to me..RUN and dont look back…advice I wouldnt and didnt take until I simply couldnt take 5 more minutes of living like this..my son and I are going to the beach this morning..for the first time in a long time..I hear through the grape vine my ex was out last night drunk even with bail conditions…how do I feel about this…HAVE AT IT>..just say far away from me…though I do feel back for his son..who is now stuck with a father who has left him sitting alone all day while he is god knows where passed out..I do love the kid..and I would go get him..but I cant until his mother has him due to the restraint I have on his dad…good grief..

  • marcia

    Hi. Just curious if you received my question and brief summation of my situation? It’s been about a week since I made my comment. I don’t know how long it takes for you to respond…Thanks in advance.

  • MG

    I was so glad to find this site – its been really helpful as I come to terms with the harsh reality that the man I love is an alcoholic. And in a very advanced stage of the illness. I met him in the summer of 2012 when we were both attending a summer course of study. We were in a beautiful place and having a wonderful time. We became good friends over the course of 3 months. He was the kindest, most generous, caring, sensitive and honorable man I had ever met. He was an ex air force pilot and spectacularly intelligent. He was good looking as well. In fact, he seemed like the perfect guy. Towards the end of that time we became involved. He was the one who “made the move”. We had what can only be described as a magical couple of weeks before school ended. I couldn’t believe my luck. Here was the man I had waited my whole life to meet. We were both in our 40’s so had some “life experience”.

    We had to part ways because we live in different places, but planned a visit in the near future. When I next saw him a couple of months later it was all fabulous.

    Then, a couple of months after that, I went to visit him. I was the first person he had let into his house in years. The reason was obvious – he was a hoarder. But, I thought, its okay, he’s just messy. Apparently it was common in his family.

    He had only one other friend – a much older woman who I had met during the summer when she came for a vist. She was not, shall we say, particularly pleased at what she found when she arrived – that he had (in his words) “found someone”. At that time she made it very clear what she thought of me and acted like a teenage girl in her extreme jealousy. He was still kind and attentive to her and I encouraged his friendship with her. He even went away on a month long road trip at the end of the summer with her that had been planned for some time even though it meant leaving me earlier than he would otherwise have to. As he said to me – he was honoring his commitment to her and wasn’t his integrity the thing I most liked about him? That was true.

    Anyway, by the time of my second visit, they had fallen out and I was now his “only” friend. He decided that he wanted to stop the romance and be “just friends”. I was, of course, shocked and saddened. And stuck in his house for 2 weeks. The reason he gave me was that he had lost his friendship with her and didn’t want to lose mine. I think, deep down, he blamed me for the loss of that friendship because if I hadn’t come along, she would still be there. I tried to explain to him that she had feelings for him and was simply jealous. He wouldn’t believe it. Somehow we managed to find a balance between friendship and relationship – it was never clear which it was that we had. But I loved him and he was very caring and attentive to me. But, there were days when he would simply stay in bed, completely depressed. And nothing I did could raise his spirits. He wouldn’t eat. But he would drink. That’s when I started to get the idea that maybe he abused alcohol.

    2 months later I had a quick visit with him and we had to leave a sightseeing tour because he had a panic attack. It was frightening. We had to hurry back to the hotel so he could have a drink.

    2 months after that I returned and we began a 3 month stint together. I was moving house and he had offered to come and help me. It was a very long road trip from his place to mine and so we made a mini-vacation out of it. I was between work and homes and decided to spend time with him. While we were traveling he drank but not to excess. But when we got back to his home he started drinking heavily. It was not uncommon for him to drink 10 – 15 beers during the day and then one or two bottles of wine at night. He rarely seemed drunk though, and never had a hangover. He said he had to drink so much to fall asleep. He stopped sleeping in the bed with me and spent every night on the sofa. I asked why and he couldn’t tell me. He “still felt the same” about me. I just had to “trust him”. The issue became mine. In retrospect I think it was so he could just sit up all night drinking and not disturb me.

    Days would pass by where he did nothing. Didn’t eat. Didn’t even shower. Made no attempt to do anything with me. He was still kind and caring. Never raised his voice. Was always concerned that I was happy. He “just wanted to make me happy”. But, of course, I knew there was a problem. I would joke with him about the amount he was drinking. He knew he drank too much but didn’t seem to want to stop.

    Eventually I had to leave and return home. It was an incredibly sad day for us both. What I didn’t realise was that it affected him a lot more than he let on. He was the typical “I don’t need anyone” kind of guy. 2 weeks later he called me to tell me that he had woken up in a police cell. His truck was missing. Apparently he had been drunk and disorderly in public. He had no recollection of where he’d left his truck. Fortunately no charges were laid, but he was clearly a mess. I couldn’t get down there immediately so he ended up calling the former friend. She, of course, rushed right over. Eventually his truck was found, but he became afraid to drive because he couldn’t now trust himself not to drive drunk. And since most of the day he was very likely over the limit but not apparently drunk his world closed in.

    During all of this I spoke to him daily, often for over an hour. I had always been the person he turned to for help. I was going through a lot of difficulties with my new life and he was always checking up on me, making sure I was okay. He had promised to come and see me and help with some things and that he would “always be there for me”.

    The day approached when he was supposed to come up and help me but he finally admitted he couldn’t come. He didn’t trust himself to drive that far (a 2 day drive), nor was he well enough to fly.

    I was upset. I needed his help badly. I was shocked that he didn’t come. I kept thinking “no he’ll come”. But he didn’t. But he still called every day. I know he felt very guilty and that he knew he’d let me down.

    I finally tried “tough love” and told him that he had to get help or he would die. And that he had to take responsibility for what he’s doing. He said he was afraid to go to a doctor because they might not be able to fix him.

    He kept getting worse and worse. Finally the older woman just moved into his house and hasn’t left. She’s been there over a month and during that time he has withdrawn from me. Initially he cut short our conversations because he felt that it upset her to know he was talking to me. But then it was that he simply didn’t want to talk to anyone. Since I was the only other person in his life, that meant he didn’t want to talk to me. I still tried but he started not answering the phone. I began to get upset and feel really rejected. He offered to buy me a ticket to go home to Australia and be with family for a while. I wouldn’t take the money – it was too much. He said he “just wanted to see me happy”. I was planning a visit to see him next month.

    But, he stopped responding to emails asking after him. He wouldn’t answer the phone unless I called 3 or 4 times (yes….now the craziness was infecting me!) and when I spoke to him he was angry and clearly didn’t want to talk. If I expressed my sadness at that he would just get more angry. Tell me he “couldn’t do this”. At one point he told me he was “just trying to stay alive”.

    Meanwhile, the woman was supporting him – doing everything for him, clearly encouraging him not to talk to me (she’s a particularly manipulative person), running him around because he won’t drive himself, taking him to the ER last week suffering deydration…in general allowing him to not take responsibility.

    I kept trying to find out what was going on – had even resorted to the obit section of the local paper because I was that worried and hearing nothing. He had told me that he wouldn’t even tell me if he was going to rehab. Somehow I was now the enemy.

    Yesterday I finally got hold of him and he told me that he wasn’t “the one” (he got that right at least!) and that I “pushed him down further” – and all I had said was that I was calling to see how he was. I got upset and said that his actions were hurting me a lot – on top of all the other stress I have going on. He said that he had tried to buy me a ticket but I refused it. I said that it had been too much to accept. And then the kicker – he said that in the scheme of things for him, spending $2000 to have me not call him would be worth it.

    I don’t know that anyone has ever said anything to me that was so incredibly hurtful. I was just devastated. I had not, in fact, called him in over a week, so it was not as though I was hounding him. And I genuinely was wanting to know how he was because I was worried. I have been there for that man through so much. Long tearful phone calls in the middle of the night, having him pass out in the midst of calls, making sure he was physically safe when we have been together, caring, loving, coaching, building up his self-esteem, taking him beautiful places…the list goes on.

    Some of what I did I now see as enabling. I also see that as soon as his original enabler returned he no longer had a need for me. I only recently found out that her enabling has been going on for years. To the level that she used to call him every day to make sure he was up and ready for the day – so that he would get to work or class on time. He’s a 44 year old man!!! But in reality, he’s a child. And she’s his mother. So now the addict is living with the dealer more or less. And there is no room for any other relationship in his life.

    I’ve been reading all over this site about how to not take it personally – this is just what alcoholics do. He is a textbook case. My research has revealed that he is in fact in a very advanced stage of alcoholism – clearly this has been going on since long before I met him. I suspect the only thing that ever kept it in check was that he had to fly planes.

    It terrifies me that the fact that this woman is with him all the time and doing everything for him will only hasten his disease. He now takes no responsibility for anything. He has pushed me away.

    One of the very first things he said to me was that he never wanted to hurt me. He has absolutely broken my heart. Not only with his hurtful behaviour and words, but by the simple fact that he has disappeared into this disease. A man with so much talent and ability. A lot to give the world. We had such a beautiful thing together and that has been lost.

    So, my question is this….do you hang in there and just try to ignore the hurt and damage, or do you just walk away? Right now I can’t imagine my life without him, but then, on the other hand, the “him” that I knew and loved has gone.

    I did go to an Al Anon meeting but I found it so sad – nobody there seemed to have any positive story. The alcoholics in their lives never recovered. And I can’t bear to think of him that way.

    I have been the person pushing him to get help – at the time I thought that was the right thing to do. But I guess it wasn’t. That’s no doubt why he hates me now.

    I’ve never had so much sadness in my life. I remember how perfect everything was and I just can’t believe its come to this. He was my hero – and I told him that. What I didn’t know was that he was so broken. My beautiful, beautiful friend. I miss him so much.

  • Cat

    We’ve been married for almost 20 years and have 4 beautiful children. I have no idea what happened a few years ago, but he his ‘self medication’ has torn everything apart. Our teenagers are having terrible coping issues and the little ones are so confused. I’m scared he’ll fall apart completely if I leave and yet am left with the feeling that’s what I have to do. I love him, I truly do but I can’t let him affect the children like this. I know, I should say affect me too, but still working on it. Thank you for the article. I’m still here, I don’t know what’s ahead, but it’s nice to know there is help. Still working on it.

  • CMM

    You story sounds just like mine I’m 10yrs into our marriage and he to has returned to his original enabler. I have never had such sadness in my heart watching the talented man sink deeper and deeper into this disease.He’s been hurtful when in the begining it was all about me and protecting me. We have to detach and get our lives back together and move on. The men we fell in love with are gone and they never will be back

  • Grace

    I have been angry with myself for the past 10 years. I always knew he drank too much. But still here I am 10 years later, married with a child. I read many of the replies and I could relate to many of them….the verbal abuse, the lies, the money being wasted, the sleepless nights and then having to go to work the next day, etc, and then the apologies and empty promises. I guess I’m afraid to be alone, but in many ways I have been alone for a long time. I’m so tired.

  • Denny

    I recently canceled an engagement with an alcoholic.
    We have been together for about three years. In that time I was seeing behavior signs of alcoholism. Sudden bursts of anger at little things, no patience, control and possessive issues. He found it very hard to have a good time or enjoy himself with friends and family without drinking or being drunk. The first time I met his family, his father was drunk. Christmas eve his father was drunk and falling down.
    He started lying about his drinking, blaming others for his drinking.
    He also has a 10 year old son by a previous marriage. There seems to be alot of animosity between his ex-wife and him. He drinks in front of his son also.

    I made the decision to call it quits after the lies, deception, manipulation, let down. One specific situation that really bothered me was the idea he had of his son moving in with us so he wouldn’t have to pay child support anymore. I confronted him about that and he denied the idea that it would ever happen.

    He has no life after work, no friends. He says I make him happy, but he has drained me of my energy, power and happiness. I am afraid that his son will end up the same way and I don’t want to contribute to his scheme.

    He is functional, but an alcoholic is an alcoholic.
    They don’t change.

  • Rissa

    Sadly my x-husband never seems to reach bottom. He has been homeless 3 times now and gone through state programs. As soon as he is on his own he starts drinking again. He was a functional alcoholic for years. An intelligent man, he is in IT when he works. We have an adult handicapped child, it stinks I am the only functional parent she has. That is a lot of responsibility for one person. The responsibility and joy are mine to keep I suppose.

  • Robin

    Rissa, It is so very hard to watch them go down into that hole of alcohol. My ex husband just got out of a 40 day in- patient program Monday, and started drinking again on Wednesday. It’s all so very sad, but until they want better for their lives, we cannot save them. It’s sad to see, and very hard if you are still in the marriage, but there is nothing you can do but take care of you and your son. Al-a-non can help you cope and find your strength. Also, a great book called Co-Dependent No More was very helpful to me. I wish you light and love.

  • Nicole

    Can you give me any guidance on how to let the guilt go? I have been with my boyfriend for 10 years now and it seems he would be clean for a year and then go back to alcohol for a few months then would stop because of me telling him I’m leaving him. Recently his drinking started again and again he calls me crying because I left him homeless and alone. I really do not want to be back with him because I know his sober ness will only last for so long but I feel guilty for telling him I care and I love him but not being there when he’s crying.

  • Julie21

    Nicole, The way i finally after many years got rid of the guilt was to finally accept the reality that i am not responsible for him. He is an adult and he is responsible for himself. He will tell you that you are leaving him homeless. A responsible adult will find a way to keep a roof over his head. I am a single mother of 3 and i was barely making $800 a month when we kicked my ah out. He had been making $700 a week and fought giving us financial support during the pre-divorce proceedings. We survived however for 18 months without any support from him(when the courts finally ordered his wages garnished he lost his job due to drinking) and i kept the kids fed and a roof over our heads. I am a responsible adult. He only needs to take care of himself and he needs to step up and do that. You need to feel inside that you are responsible for you and your children and no one else. He needs to take care of himself and if his addiction is making that difficult then he needs to get the professional help to help himself and then he will become responsible and be able to take care of himself. I know exactly how you feel. The guilt and the feeling to want to help and care for someone kept me in an abusive relationship for 21 years. It was only the realization that caring for him how he wanted me to was hurting our children and myself that finally made me see the truth in the relationship and take action. And you know what? He has exactly what he wants without me. he just found someone else to cater to his wishes. And i say good riddance. Let his parents and the people he is hanging out with and drinking with deal with him. We no longer have to and our lives are more peaceful. Please check out the website Empowered recovery.com. I read the book they offer and joined the website and it is so powerfully helpful in exactly what you are trying to accomplish. God Bless and do not let guilt confuse and control your actions.

  • Dee

    I have read all the posts and they have offered some comfort to me. I’m almost 51, I was set to marry my ex fiancé in a weeks time, everything was booked, purchased etc. two weeks ago (three weeks before the wedding), he went off on one of his binges, and that was it for me. We had been together for 19 months, and he had done this to me on at least 8 previous occasions. He would just go, like not come home from work, sneak out while I was in the shower etc, and be gone for 2 or 3 days or longer with me not knowing where he was, who he was with, whether he was alive or dead. At first, I was frantic, not knowing what had happened. I had been with a couple of alcoholics previously and they had never done this kind of thing. It was strange, he could go for maybe 2 or 3 months just having a couple of drinks after work, a few more on Friday nights, but then the urge to get plastered for days on end would get the better of him and off he would go, to some of his drunken mates and drink constantly for days. When he had had enough, he would stagger home and I stupidly took him back every time. It wasn’t only these binges that would upset me, Lots of special occasions have been ruined because he was drunk and either took off or made it unpleasant. I had given up going out at night with him to a pub or club because he would get drunk and embarrass me and I couldn’t enjoy myself because of the fear of him embarrassing me, or when we got home he would take off to his drunken mates to drink more. When times were good, they were brilliant, we had some good times going camping, for drives etc and he could be so kind, caring, generous and loving, but other times he was just awful. Personality changes that were scary, he would become so nasty and hard, even when he hadn’t been drinking. He would reduce me to tears, then make fun of me crying. I know that I have done the absolute right thing, if I married him, my life would be hell, but what hurts so much now is that he hasn’t even called or messaged and apologized. After all I did for him, after all the planning etc that I did for the wedding, money spent etc, it just seems like it all meant nothing, I meant nothing. All I’ve gotten is a couple of drunken messages and then a sensible one tonight asking to meet with me to organize to collect his belongings, to which I said I would organize it after the weekend. I don’t want to meet with him, I will pack all his things up and put them in the shed with his tools etc and he can get them when I’m not here. It just hurts so bad, not that I necessarily miss him, the “black cloud” that I always felt was hanging over me has gone, and good things have happened to me since he’s been gone, but thr fact that I obviously meant nothing to him. He used to condemn me all the time cause I didn’t trust him, which I didn’t. How can you trust someone that lies to you and takes off, not knowing where he was, what he was doing etc and turning his phone off. It just hurts so much, particularly he knew fully well what would happen when he went off so close to the wedding. I just don’t get it, I guess I never will.

  • one day at a time

    I have 3 children with a man ages ranging from 1year to 15 years old. He is a heavy drinker. I left almost a year ago and met the man of my dreams. I made a mistake and came back to my childrens father because he asked for my help at becoming sober. I felt so guilty and thought that this was my only chance at a normal life-with or without him- because he would constantly harras my new boyfriend and i, tell the children all sorts of lies about the new boyfriend, so much so that the new boyfriend started to feel uncomfortable around the kids because he thought he was making things harder on the children and i. Anyways, i came back to help him and its back to the same old things. Ilearned to let go of the control all own my own, but before reading all of this i thought that i was just becoming used to the situation and then my biggest fear was how am i ever going to reach the end of my rope on get up enough courage to leave again? I cant stay here any more. It feels like im loosing myself. How do i help my kids realize that all the stories he makes up are lies?

  • Barb

    Denny, I don’t know if you’ll ever see this, but your story is almost exactly like my story. I’ve been with my boyfriend for just over three years, and his son was almost 11 years old when we met. I’m reaching the point where I feel like I need to leave him. I should’ve done it over a year ago when I moved out of his house and an hour away. I caught him texting other women that he had met online. I’ve had so many reasons to leave him, but I start to feel lonely, and have this crazy desire to feel needed. He tells me all the typical lines about how I’m the most wonderful person he’s ever met. He’s the paranoid type when he’s drinking. Who am I texting? Am I really with my friends or other men? I continue to make the effort by visiting him almost every single weekend and often enabling him by making sure that his son is taken care of on the weekends that he’s there. My boyfriend also has boundary issues with his ex, who is also an alcoholic. I’m trying to work through all the reasons I feel like I need to stay. There are so few, compared to the reasons I need to leave. He hints at suicide sometimes when I talk about leaving. How do you leave knowing that he could kill himself? Not sure I could live with that guilt, even though I know he chooses his own path. I had never been around an alcoholic before this. I’m a rescuer and he’s a child in need. Ugh. Why can’t adults just take care of themselves???

  • Jenny

    I’ve been married for 13 years. When I look back at the beginning, I can clearly see that he was always a binge drinker. But I feel like it has been getting worse. 6 months ago he quit his corporate job and bought a bar because the stress was killing him from work. He drank a lot when he was working corporate (binging 3 times a month) and I always blamed it on the work stress. However, now he has no work stress. We moved to a new state where I don’t know a soul. He works at the bar and then hangs out with the bar patrons either at his bar or another twice a week, binging of course. I stress over how he could lose the liquor license for the bar if he gets a DUI and I beg him to let me pick him up. He never lets me. I’m so afraid if he loses the liquor license we won’t have enough income to survive (and we have children). When he gets home, we argue over why did he have to drink so much and why won’t he let me pick him up. Sometimes he gets violent. I can see it in his beady eyes when he’s been drinking and then I flinch every time he comes near me out of fear. This makes him upset and he eventually does swat at me. He calls me horrible names and tells me I’m disgusting and he wants a divorce. I don’t know anyone here and he always tells me that he will keep the kids and not give me any money. I’m so tired. I just want my husband back. I want him to want to spend time with me and the kids and to just not drink so much. I’m tired of having to worry so much about everything. I wish I was back home with family and friends because I have nobody here to lean on. I want to learn to let go and even though I’ve read all of the comments, I find it impossible to do.

  • K

    Thank you for all of your insight. I have read everyone’s post and feel the power iin your understanding. My boyfriend and I have been together for four and a half years. We have helped each other cope with many difficult times, including the deaths of loved ones in horrible ways. I have known for a long time that he is a functional alcoholic, but I chose to love him in spite of it, and still do. However, I began to feel uncomfortable at a spiritual level because I never confronted him about his drinking. I felt like a liar and a fake, accepting the behavior that my heart knew to be unacceptable. I now realize that my compassion made me a perfect enabler. I finally did confront him, fully expecting that it would go badly, and it did. But I was not prepared for the effect his denial and twisted truths would have on me. I am trying hard to accept that he is afraid to accept the truth of his addiction and not internalize the accusations that he places on me (that I don’t really love him, that I manipulate him and am trying to make him a doormat to my needs). I would like the conflict to end, but I can’t go back to living his lie. We are both hurting.

  • Reed

    Who would have thought 3 months ago that I would be attending AL anon meetings and writing a story about how alcohol is affecting my life? I could never have guessed this would be my situation. I have a new neighbor. We’ve been friends less than 3 months. It was an instant friendship. We have so much in common and yet so much that is not in common. We come from different backgrounds. There are no drugs nor alcohol in my life before I met my friend. At her recent birthday party, my friend got really plastered. It was my first time seeing her so drunk that she was a real mess. I instantly felt sorry for her when she called me the next day to apologize. I asked her if she was doing AA. She said no. A couple of weeks passed and she did not have one sober day. Then one day she called me to tell me that she had stopped drinking (but not doing AA). The next day we had a great time together doing our grocery shopping and having lunch together. I noticed that day that she brought home a bottle of wine. I said, “Do you really want to do that?” She said, “Oh, it’s not these small bottles that get me into trouble, it’s those big boxes of wine that do it.” Things have progressed downhill from there. I became her babysitter. Her boyfriend encouraged her to spend time with me so that she would not be home drinking. I have learned that she has a DUI and that she was fired from her job. One day she came over to my house to help me do some painting and she admitted to me that she has dug through my cabinets and opened drawers in my home. I became suspicious especially because she kept telling me, “There are two things I don’t do. I don’t lie and I don’t steal. I got to thinking that really she does lie. I have witnessed her lying quite a few times. Over the last few weeks I have witnessed her stealing things from restaurants (stuffing food in her purse from the all-you-can-eat buffet and walking out of the grocery store without paying for things. Her boyfriend makes her buy everything on a debit card. So recently to get cash, she has been offering to buy things for me at the grocery store. She tells her boyfriend it is a gift, but it’s not. I am paying her back in cash. My husband recently intervened and called her boyfriend and told him about the situation. Over the last several weeks she has become extremely demanding, controlling and manipulative. I have hardly slept at night. I feel like a there is a noose around my neck. When I set boundaries with her, she finds ways to get around my boundaries. I have found myself liking her less and less. I don’t know what the real person is like. Is all of this alcohol (and perhaps drugs) or is she really like this. I keep wondering. I want to severe ties, but she may cause problems for me in the neighborhood with other neighbors. I don’t think she can be trusted. And I am so weary.

  • Stuck

    I have been with my fiance for over 7 years. He is an alcoholic. He moved in with me at my house and has been in and out of minimum wage jobs throughout our relationship. I make decent money and I didn’t want money to be a reason to not be with him because when he is good he is really good. His drinking has been out of control for many years and I should have ended our relationship sooner. Now I am having a hard time getting him to leave my home. He has no one around, the vehicle is mine, his family is several states away. He won’t leave. I offered to by him a bus or plane ticket to be near his family for support which was not accepted. He is very emotionally abusive when he is drinking and my children (which are not his) should not have to be dealing with his increasingly abusive behatior (only to me at this point) Of course he is doing the it is all my fault talk. He sees nothing wrong with his drinking. What advice can you give me on how to get him out of my house. Do I need to call the cops? Do I have to give an eviction notice/ then cop? I just wish he would leave…

  • Meri

    I feel helpless. My husband defends his alcoholism. My problem is he won’t leave. HE refuses to work, he literally quit his job. I am working. Should I just walk away from my home that I worked so hard to have because of his refusal to leave? I do not know what to do.

  • […] unconditional love with the alcoholic 2-Do our best to detach from the alcoholic 3-Let go of the alcoholic 4-Stop enabling the alcoholic 5-Use tough love with the […]

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