Understanding an Alcoholic’s Mind

When you are coping with active alcoholism it’s only natural to want to have a better understanding of how an alcoholic’s mind works. Because their behavior is so bizarre and an addicts thinking is dysfunctional, for some reason we expect them to act like normal human beings. Whatever that means, I am still trying to figure that one out.

If you want to have a better understanding of what an alcoholic thinks about or how their mind works I highly suggest that you attend an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting. I’m not really sure how to define exactly how the thinking process of a problem drinker works, but I can clue you in on a few things.

Here are a few things that I do understand:

  1. An alcoholics thoughts will convince them to always tell you what they think you want to hear.
  2. Very rarely will they ever admit to telling exactly how much they’ve had to drink. Depending upon who they are with, they will tell one person they only had three and to a drinking buddy it was entire case. By experience, I know that they hardly ever can keep track of this sort of thing.
  3. The road they are on is always paved with good intentions, but never leads to actually carrying them out. For instance, the active alcoholic in my life would always say that they were just going down the street to their friend’s house for a couple of hours and two days later they would make it home. I truly believe that somewhere inside that sick mind they really wanted to come home in a couple of hours. It’s just that the allurement of having an open bar down the street is an appealing proposition when you are not allowed to keep any alcoholic beverages at home.
  4. Before they take that drink, their mind will tell them that they have the will power to stop after just having one or two.
  5. Another thing is that if they get violent when the drink liquor, their rational thinking, which says don’t drink it, is not backed with enough will power to actually stop them from having the drink when it is available.

Distorted Alcoholic MindThe behavior patterns that accompany an alcoholic are very complex and difficult to understand. That’s why all of the support groups I’ve been involved with teach the technique of just letting go of the problem drinker. Understanding how an alcoholic thinks is not going to make them stop drinking or even allow you any more control over the situation than you currently have.

Knowing why a problem drinker does what they do is near impossible. The AA program will be the first to teach you that alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful. It’s the baffling part that fits perfect with trying to understand what an alcoholic is thinking.

Rather than trying to get a grasp on what their thoughts are, it would be better to understand your own thinking. This is why attending fellowship support group meetings for friends and family members of alcoholics will help you with. When we get an understanding of the fact that the only thinking that we have any control over or can even begin to try to understand is our own, then we can start changing. Trust me; the alcoholic in your life is not going to change until they get into recovery. Your best bet is to forget about trying to always figure out what the heck they are thinking and why because it’s just insanity anyway. Don’t expect them to be able to explain it to you because they haven’t a clue either as to why their mind works the way that it does.

131 comments to Understanding an Alcoholic’s Mind

  • Laura

    Debbi,Thank you for your encouraging words, It took a lot of courage and strength to finally do it,but I just couldn’t exists like that anymore to much heartache and anguish. I was waiting for him to hit his rock bottom but I guess I hit mine first. I didn’t want to go down with the ship so I JUMPED! The unknown is always scary but I am making it, not letting the guilt get to me and when it does I just remember all those sleepless nights and the time when he almost burned the house down by lighting a cigarette on the stove and not realizing there was a pizza box on top of the burner because he was so intoxicated to realize it and when we could of died because he left the gas running all night because he used the stove again to light his cigarette. The time he got my car impounded because he decided he was going to buy more booze and didn’t care if he killed anyone on the road. I could go on and on with my chaotic life but I think I rather just be in the present enjoying my tranquility and my Grandson. Hugs to you and everyone on this site struggling with a loved one with this horrific thing called alcoholism.

  • Pez

    Laura said, ” I was waiting for him to hit his rock bottom but I guess I hit mine first.” !!!!

    Sometimes just one liners hit the nail on the head and say everything! Stay strong Ladies (and gentlemen) It’s worth the fight for our freedom from: Abuse (verbal, emotional, physical, & spiritual), crazy makers, insanity, false hopes, lack of love and respect, lies, usury, the games, the hurt and pain etc…… !! Amen.

    The best revenge is a happy life! Work towards your own happiness, “One Day At A Time”. WE WIN!

  • Debbi

    Laura & Pez:
    Absolutely what Laura said–great one liner!

    I was waiting for him to hit his rock bottom but I guess I hit mine first !!!!

    But I’m not an A and boy my rock bottom seems a lot worse than his! I’m the one going through all the problems–Hope I find my complete peace like you two!

  • Pez

    Not complete piece yet Debbie. Getting better one day at a time but not there yet.

  • Laura

    Debbi, I think our rock bottoms are a lot worse then there’s we are sober enduring it all while they are self medicated not knowing or caring the damage they are doing to all those around them. When you hit your rock bottom you will be able to walk away. That is when I walked away from it all. I pray that you will find peace.

  • Debbi

    I wish I had made the choice to walk away–he forced it on me. I knew in my heart that I would not walk until the final betrayal–infidelity. I think he knew this & purposely on Valentine’s Day one year hired escort service and put it on the credit card for me to see. So it was time to file for divorce. I should not have waited so long until the final vow was broken–I should have left with the very first lie! Now I know my rock bottom with everyone these days is–first time you get nasty with me and don’t apologize–I’m outta here or the first time I catch you in a lie–I’m outta here!

  • Pez

    It does change your view on the future now doesn’t it! I feel the same way. we learn wisdom now don’t we. This is our part in it all. Trust is earned not just given! I have learned my lesson.

  • linda

    Can’t live like this. I can totally relate to all these post. This a is making me sicker n sicker. O the lies. Have to get off this circle of denial. Can’t talk to him anymore..just acts like definite child. Pushing me to end the marriage.

  • linda

    Does recovery give the a sense of entitlement to whatever they want. Arguing over everything.nothing is safe to talk about.or is it they have a great need to control?

  • Amy

    Laura,know what I did that really seems to help me ~I wrote down all the terrible things he did and said, I wrote down the way we were living~ (complete chaos)I did this to keep me in reality. We sometimes have a tendancy to remember the good times (few and far between) and push the bad times aside in our memory. I didn’t think I would do this, but I find myself doing it alot more than I wish to admit.take care~

  • Paula Reynoso

    I agree that while we are worried and living an endless array of neglect and verbal manipulation and/or abuse, they are self-medicating and literally “out of it”. We therefore feel while they are for all intents and purposes “under anesthesia”. This is a complete waste of our worries, time, and lives because they don’t even care if we are alive.

    After wasting enough time with no results, the only answer is to leave them to their fate and pray and hope that something bad will happen short of death to “wake them up”.

    The truth is that they are permanently brain damaged and even if they ever recover, one sip of alcohol and we will be in the same hell again. This is just not worth it. This is such a horrible and risky way to live.

    Once I was sure in my mind that he was an alcoholic, I knew I could never feel safe emotionally with him again, even if he ever got treatment which he hasnt and wont according to him.

    I am just waiting to hear that he died of some alcohol related medical problem. He is 68 years old. What else can I realistically expect ?

    I loved this man with all my heart and he made me very, very happy. He threw his career away, me away, and sidewiped his children and grandchildren by spending “minimal” time with them.

    The brain really does control behavior and their brains are very, very diseased. Like I said to him repeatedly, “I don’t recognize you anymore”. Alcoholism changes their personalities and the longer they drink, the farther away they go. I know I will never see him or speak to him again. He has turned the tables, blamed me for everything, and given me the permanent silent treatment ……. and continues to drink religiously.

    The truth is that the only semblance of a normal life is away from them. This is absolutely essential to protect ourselves from their disease and if they choose to drink themselves to death, then we will just have to live with their extremely poor judgment. All the begging, pleading, talking, threatening, its all just an utter waste of time.

    If they cant muster the strength to do the right thing, them karma will bite them in the butt.

    I pray that God will hold him and love him after he drinks himself to death.

  • Linda

    To all, look up love bombing. That’s what my a does to me….show s up at work I love you so much, then behind close door its the silent treatment or smart n smug…..can’t take this jecal Hyde shit……need to stay away….

  • Yvette

    Hi Every one,

    I am encouraged to read your messages. I have been dating an alcoholic for a year now. I didn’t perceive it as such when we began dating. As time has passed i realize this man desires to drink everyday rather than feed himself. The reality is he lies all the time in which I despise, cheats, steals and just manipulative. I have grown so tired of the days of absences, clubbing every weekend. The weird thing is that he is a functional alcoholic and can’t wait to get off work for the next drink. In the beginning I would have a drink with him and I didn’t drink much at all! Then I realize I was enabling him. As I stopped drinking and no longer wanted to go out to bars, he start going alone rather then being with me. So I let him spread his wings and I soared. In conclusion I’ve decided to end it once and for all. I can no longer except the mental and verbal abuse, its tiring. I love him but I love me more.

  • Pez

    Great for you Yvette!! It took me 5 years you reached it in one!!! Stay away, stay far away and move on. Soooo happy our experience helped you!!

  • SC

    Good for you. No more wasted time.

  • Hi Everyone!,
    I been encourage to read u all message because I’m dating an Alcoholic, at the time I did not
    know it at first because he did not drink a lot when I was in his presence, now it’s going on 2 years
    we been dating when I confront him about his drinking he lies and says he is a drunk but he can teach
    the AA class , he also has been caught cheating, lying , and very manipulative and always want to be
    treated like a baby,,when I confronts him he blocks me , he sets days when I can see him,

    I’m a diabetic and I take insulin and as I been noticing my health does not allow me with this kind
    of stress, I need advice because I’m not educated that much about alcohol even though I had my mom
    dad, brothers, uncles died of alcoholism and all at young ages.

    I too have a disease with no cure but I’m not sitting down eating a sweet potatoe pie,and ice cream or a tall class of sweet tea.
    So I don’t understand why he can’t receive this when I tell him that it will kill him , just like if I don’t
    eat right or take my insulin and if I was to get into drinking alcohol I will die.

    I’m trying to decided do I get out of this relationship or stay and hang in there and try to help him because
    I can relate to knowing how it feel with a disease with no cure., because when my younger sister died
    at the age of 37 of diabetiies , I told myself I had this disease and much longer and that I will continue
    to fight and educate myself about diabetiies.

    My questions is do I continue to see him or get out the relationship before it becomes a problem for
    my health?
    As much as I luv him I luv me first
    sweet tea

  • Don

    I just got out of a short term relationship with an alchoholic
    She broke it off with me even though I connected with her and her daughters in so many ways
    I was upset and hurt and could not understand why after I treated her so wonderfully and connected with her daughters who’s father has never been there for them
    I finally realized that she did me a favor. Her drinking turned her into a different person
    When I told her daughters that she took the alchohol over me they said welcome to the club!
    I feel sorry for her girls but I feel more sorry for her as one daughter has moved out and the other two are getting ready to move out when they can as they are very angry and just want to run from her
    She will end up a very lonely old woman or will die sooner than not!
    Alchohol it is the scourge of our times!!!

  • S

    That’s my #1 problem…I try to understand his mind. I always say what is he thinking! I don’t want to settle. I’m tired, in my mind I am tired, but my heart loves him deeply and has such a strong hope. 22 years. He hasn’t been actively drinking the whole 22 years, he took a break for 12 of the years. It was amazing time. My son is an alocholic too, so I’ve got 2 to deal with. It’s a struggle for sure. I love them both but will learn to love myself more again.

  • Joy

    I married an alcoholic two months ago, have left him twice…only to be pulled back into the insanity. I am, however, done. He is a liar, a master manipulator, cruel, emotionally abusive, rude, arrogant…good grief…he is, most of all, sick…very sick on every way imaginable.
    I HATE him and am leaving this HELL tomorrow.

  • Emilyrose

    I don’t even know what to say. I am married to an alcoholic. He is abusive both verbally and physically. I know I should leave but I love him as he is my best friend when he is sober. I am also 7 weeks pregnant and scared to leave. No one understands so it is hard to talk to people. Even though I have friends and family who support me…. I still feel very scared and alone.

  • John

    Emilyrose, please check to see if you have Al-anon meetings in your area, most do. You will find people there who understand the pain and frustration that you are dealing with.

  • Hello. I wanted to share my experience. After years of being single, I truly thought I had met ‘the one’. We lived an hour apart and our careers meant only seeing each other once a week/10 days or so. As when you meet anyone new, a lot of our socialising involved going to the pub. It was brilliant fun at first, then I realised that everything involved drinking. I always used to go to his. I remember in the early days when we would ‘facetime’ each other, and I remember being concerned about how much alcohol he was consuming whilst we were facetiming. I ignored it (foolishly) and pretended it was in my mind. Anyway, you can’t keep pretence up.. and so many lies followed. The wool was totally pulled over my eyes. Our physical relationship never really got off of the ground. He made excuses and I really wanted to believe him. He had baggage (ie kids) which can sometimes be a problem, but then I realised there were massive emotional and mental problems which when you pile on top of all the other ‘daily life’ problems, there was just no way forward. I left him because he made no effort for me, (yet I still couldn’t put my finger on the problem!) It was only when I got a text message from the ex wife saying that he was an alcoholic, and that was why they had split up, that the penny dropped!! I felt like I had been punched, but then I knew that I had done the right thing. The ex has been a massive support to me, and I also think that my experience has reinforced that she made the right decision all those years ago… As a friend of mine said to me, the only way to be in a relationship with him, is to join him in the alcoholic spiralling, or wait till he hits his rock bottom and wants to get clean, and then be up his backside to help him, for the rest of his life (and mine)… both of those would have done me in. It is tough walking away from someone you love. I have done so much ‘googling’ on alcohol and erectile dysfunction issues. It’s a complex subject, which if you haven’t got an addictive nature, you will never get your head around. You just have to wait for time to pass, and slowly heal. I posted on here, because many comments on forums have helped me so much, so if my experience can help someone too, then I really want to. Good luck to everyone trying to get their head and heart around this tragic issue.

  • Paula Reynoso

    We can’t help them and if we try, wr will never get out of the disaster.An alcoholic or a recovering alcoholic will never be able to live a happy life with anyone. Their brains are permanently damaged and their judgment is one sip away from a life of utter hell. It is extremely difficult to accept this, but you have one life and you do’t deserve to have it stolen from you by a drug addict. Hanging out with drug addicts gets you nowhere except into the same sick bottomless pit they have dug for themselves. Get out and never look back and don’t waste a tiny second on this hell ever again:) Be free, emotionally and mentally safe and utterly reliever to have survived and relinquished your world of happiness from the deep depths of utter hell. Be happy and play forevet like a child, only this time in heaven here on Earth:)

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  • Kelly

    I would really like to have someone to talk with. I’m not sure what to do. I’m looking for someone to talk to that really understands this.

  • L

    Kelly, I am not sure how we can share information. I can share information about how I left the alcoholic.

  • TLM

    I have been married to a poly drug user for 37 years. She is an alcoholic and takes any medication that can get her high. Thankfully, for two years she was an active member of AA and gave me a mental break. A month ago the drinking started again and lies. Her drinking generally starts over Christmas and then stops for a while. I contacted her AA sponsor and she tries to help. She has been in treatment
    facilities twice but with little positive results. AA has helped the most and the support she receives there.
    I understand that alcoholism is my wife’s problem and all I can do is support.

    I read with interest and understand why the answer for some victim or persons living with an alcoholic is to end the pain by leaving the relationship and letting the alcoholic go their own way to certain death.

    I thought about it many times but love my wife and have chosen not to give up on her. Some may feel it’s foolish but it is my life and this is the decision I made. Fortunately, my son is grown and gone.

    I recall one conversation with my son about his mother’s alcoholism. I was angry and wanted to call it quits. My son reminded me that my wife has a disease no different than any disease and left untreated will lead to certain death. I then realized, I love my wife and won’t abandon her.

    GOD BLESS all victims of alcoholism!

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