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.

130 comments to Understanding an Alcoholic’s Mind

  • Rachel

    C,

    Are you still with him?

  • LINDA

    Rachel, Yes! My A has told its me, I’m crazy. They portray the doting husband in public, but are the opposite in private. That’s their game. Don’t want any one to see how they truly are but us. Look-up gas lighting ,they are very good at it. Also read up on Narcissism And sociopath personality. My A works in public works , which is involved with local police, so I can’t go to them. He looks like the good guy. I have not called police for that reason.
    Sorry to all that believe in AA But I believe its Just a Liars club. Marriage counseling showed what my A needed to deal with from his past, Was fine in front of counselor but when we got home was very angry at me, An it still comes out of his month , like I said it, But the counselor told him not me. Projecting,
    C
    You can’t believe a word they say, I have notice when speaking to my A he try’s to project things on me. everything he says he is Guilty of. Just say to them, Sorry u feel that way! Doesn’t always work. Best to walk away.

  • C

    Rachel: Yes. He left a week ago to stay at his other house. I am moving.

    He was drinking whenever he was awake – beer, wine, martini, manhattan. He said there is little liquor in beer! I would buy lemonade, iced tea, Gatorade, orange juice, etc., and he would have a glass very infrequently. I have asked him to go to the doctor to get medicine to stop the cravings, but I have read the A’s are obsessed with alcohol – how is that cured?

    When he is drinking in the morning, he calls his sisters, his daughter, son – some work! I am mystified that no one has told him to get help. I do not attend any of his family functions because I know I would start screaming at them for not putting him in Rehab.

    I, too, have been drained dry – have no feeling for this A, who will not do anything to turn his life around. He thinks all women want him. I have decided to let them find out that he is totally unable now – he will go out to dinner, have a few beers, come back and have a Martini and sleep. I’m done!

  • Rachel

    Linda

    You are so right! That’s exactly why he does to me, nice in front if people then mean when we r alone. He disrespected the night b4 I confronted him about it, and like I said b4 said I need help. Yesterday I went to a family function without him (baby shower) I didn’t hear from him all day & when I got home he was sleeping by 9:30! I stayed awake looking on line about dry drunks & never knew what that was. And it’s exactly what you & Mike said, they don’t change, they stay the same, thier personality and could be that way for a long time. I think everything hit me at one time & I started to cry, I never thought I would be in a situation like this. He’s was so consumed by himself b4 he stopped drinking. & ignored me & didn’t pay attention to me & so far that still has not changed. He woke up last night about 1am, took his pillow & went to sleep on the couch said he couldn’t sleep. Now I have a feeling he’s ignoring me today. I is usually get a good morning, but nothing. This is the normal drill and the cycle continues. I still care about him but the abuse is getting to be too much. I feel so depressed. I’m going to an al-anon meeting today @ 1pm. I don’t know what else to do.

    C,

    Good for you! I hope everything works out for you in a good way. No deserves to live like that. I wish u lots of love & luck. I hope u find the person who will love you the way you deserve to be loved.

  • Rachel

    I’m just so tired of hurting..

  • LINDA

    Rachel;
    My heart is with you! I pray for everyone on here. This disease is so hurtful to all that are around it. We all what are husbands or wife back. I believe all their hate and bitterness comes out on us, it is a disease of their mind and soul and their taking us down with them. Rachel please keep trying to fine want makes u happy N alive. That’s what I’m working on. so join me and finding are self’s.
    Nature made me feel alive. U have to find what u love. Don’t ask for their input. Do you do any crafts? U need to focus on u!!!!!!!
    Know that your in my thoughts,

  • Rachel

    Linda..
    Thank you & my heart is with u too :). This disease is unlike anything I’ve experienced in my life. Yes I have plenty of things I an do, I’m starting to do more but at the end of the day it’s so hard. Today I got an ultimatum!! My A told me Either I go get help or he’s him gonna break up with me on Monday. Cause he can’t take it anymore!! Really!!??????? I’ve done nothing & I need the help or he’s askin me to leave our apt!!! I was stunned & looked at him cause I was in shock!! I’m negative to his recovery!! He’s sober 28 days!! And I’m the one who needs help. I’m speechless!!

  • C

    Rachel: I wish you lived in Maryland so we could share a peaceful meal together and get back to ourselves! When I get stressed, I drive to a mall and just walk around, have a nice lunch and look at all the pretty things! Everyone is happy to help you – not putting you down and upsetting you.

    The ultimatum should not surprise you – they do that. In fact, on this site I have seen men leave and go to another drinker. They want to be able to be themselves – drunk, etc., without any responsibilities or courtesies to us or anyone really. I have found that being with an A gets worse – you won’t believe your ears or eyes if you stay – he will get worse.

    I did go for help and the woman could not believe looking at me that he was treating me so unkindly. She listened to the phone messages I saved on my cell phone and she said he is a bully. So much for me getting help! She also said he drinks because he wants to – not because of me or anyone else causing him to do so.

    I am exhausted – I have tried to force myself to get involved in conversations with others to focus on what I like to do, etc. It must take time, because I have not mastered focusing on me while I have thoughts about him! Hope you will turn on some great music and dance in your house – ride a bike or take a walk to clear your head. It helped me. Best wishes.

  • Rachel

    C,

    I wished we lived closer as well. It would be really nice to share a meal & help each other. Hope you are doing well today.

  • Rachel

    Mike,

    How are you doing? We haven’t spoken in a couple days.

  • Rachel

    C,

    My brain is fried I meant to answer your comment. I don’t understand how the A feels they have the right to give an ultimatum! My A says how much he wants to be with me & have things work out, & love me blah blah blah. That’s what I hear right now. I know we are both in similar situations but what I can’t fathom is why we stay!! I guess hoping they will once be that wonderful person we once met.

  • C

    Rachel: So glad you contacted Mike – I always learn something from his posts.

    Hope you are doing well. Yes, I keep thinking a medical happening will snap him back into reality! None of our friends know anything – they see only the best of him. A’s are wonderful actors!

  • LINDA

    Rachel, Their words tell us one thing, their actions say other, that’s how they keep us in denial. We want soooo much to believe their words, but they are nothing but lie’s…Witch keep us on their Merry-go-round. The truth is not in them. Remember Action speak louder that words.

  • C

    Linda:

    Excellent comment. They say they will travel or do something and it doesn’t happen! Mine used to say he was going to cut the grass, fix something, go on a day trip, etc., didn’t happen. He would sit in a chair, watch TV and drink. Also, he would argue even about the weather!! I believe now that he was jealous that I had so much energy because I rarely have a glass of wine. I don’t like the taste of liquor so my energy level was normal – his was dulled.

  • Bill

    Alcoholics most definitely say things to us that they think we want to hear.

  • linda

    I need to get
    Of this merry go round. I’m really getting sick.

  • Rachel

    I understand everyone’s comments & I so much appreciate everyone here. You’ve really opened my eyes to what’s happening around me. I need to get myself strong & do what’s best for me. The merry go round is really getting old. The moods, even when they stop drinking its the same thing just not AS bad..

  • LINDA

    Rachel, I agree with u ,I need to get strong for myself, needed to get off this merry-go-round. Feeling like I just exist here. Doesn’t talk to me about anything. Not even counseling. wish you well!

  • Rachel

    Linda…

    We def need to get strong & im so mad & recentfull that I’m put in this situation. I’m in the parking lot of an al-anon meeting & getting a panic attack having to go in. I’m so angry that this has happened to me.
    I wish there was a pill & an exercise that could bounce everything off & get back to my normal life. Definitely without him!!

  • linda

    Rachel good morning. The anxiety is back this morning. Have to get busy enjoying my day. I too have alot of anger the more I try the worst my a gets. Wish he would leave. Sharing my feeling makes him made. That is just strange to me. I’m not suppose to have any. That their denial.
    Make your day great.

  • Rachel

    Good morning Linda..

    I’m sorry ur anxiety is back, I hate that feeling. My A does the same exact thing to me. Every time I try to to say my feelings, he gets mad & he’s been sober for 31 days. Your not alone. I’m gonna get myself strong & I am out of here. I can’t take it anymore & you need to do the same thing. When I first made a comment on this site, Mike was nice enough to share his experience & his advice really worked. They don’t change I’m seeing that, everything is based around him & now he’s in AA & more about him. he says he doesn’t need my negativity to get in the way if his recovery! what!? i did not create the lies & resentment i feel towards him. my ultimatum was the breaking, i thought what nerve you’ve to give ME AN ULTIMATUM! i said that was it, Ive been with my A for 2 1/2 years & im young & have my whole life ahead me, i deserve better then this! I want to be happy & be myself again. He took that away from me & now I’m taking it back! Thank you to all here for your wonderful advice!!
    Linda, it’s your turn, my mom always says “you shouldn’t spend a single day unhappy”!

  • linda

    U go Rachel

  • linda

    You go Rachel

  • Rachel

    Thanks Linda.. I’m trying!
    How r u doing??

  • JC

    Rachael, I love what your mom says. She sounds like a wise woman. One of my favorite things to day is: “it’s good to be alive!”

    Already today, I’ve spent time with my girlfriend (best friend), walking on the beach to meet up with several Al-non friends. We swam, conversed with friends and had some great fun in the sun.

    So far, so good, this day has been filled with some happiness. I am so grateful today because there is little to no drama in my life.

    It really is “Good To Be Alive!”

    I’d say to those who are going through really tough times today, make a list of things you are grateful for and focus on those things. Reach out in love to people who you care deeply about and you know will appreciate you. Making a decision to smile and have a good day can really change the course of our day. Keeping life light and enjoyable can be a challenge at times, but the rewards are tremendous when we are able to do this.

  • Debbi

    Yes, good to be alive–every day is a battle for me since a bad health diagnosis and never knowing if tomorrow might be the last–but so far so good. You actually have to live like today might be your last day. Reach out to loved ones & remember our average life span is 72 years. The first five we won’t remember and possible that the last 5 may have many health concerns where we can’t enjoy it. So that leaves 62 years. Do your math, how old are you? How many do you have left? How many more summers like this beautiful one do you have left to enjoy or holidays. Make every day count!

  • linda

    Rachel
    I’m doing ok. How about u ,my ah is not drinking or drugs that I can tell. But this jeckal Hyde is hard to take. Can’t even talk about anything. We just exist. Glad I have my work. Make it a great day.

  • Brooke

    I just recently got into relationship with an alcoholic. Never knew he was one prior to beginning the relationship (trust me), as he didn’t take a drink for the first month we were together. He is, I guess what you would call, a binge drinker. He will stay sober for weeks at a time, then something sets him off and he will literally down 4 pints of vodka a day for almost a week straight. Come to find out, he has been in and out of rehab, has maintained sobriety in the past for years at a time, but never sticks with it. We have been together 6 months and he has literally missed out on 6 weeks combined of our relationship together from his binge drinking. He completely blacks out during that week, doesn’t remember anything. The sweet, healthy & fit, gentle, brutally honest, sensitive man I normally have, turns into a lazy, lying, useless, mean, irrational, passed out jerk for a week. Once he sobers up, goes through the withdrawals, and comes to, he can see the mess he has made and what all he has done. It depresses him, he cries and vows to do “better this time” and I always believe him but not anymore. I’ve heard the bullsh*t too many times now. I knew NOTHING of alcoholism before and how they behave, but since being with him, I’ve done my research and I don’t like what I see. I TRY to understand him, to get on his level, but ultimately I will never understand because I’m not an alcoholic, but neither does he! He admits he has no idea what compels him to go buy that first pint of vodka, knowing what is bound to happen. He, too, has had his rounds with AA, the therapists, the doctors, etc and always has an excuse for why he can’t go seek help. “AA is just a cult”, “therapists always say the same thing”, “doctors just tell you to stop drinking and go to an AA meeting.” I am beyond frustrated. I love this man when he is sober. We have NO problems WHATSOEVER when he is sober, but I am becoming too exhausted and I don’t want to lose him. I actually confide in one of his therapists on a daily basis, and he told me that “people who are in relationships with alcoholics or addicts always have this idea that they can ‘save’ that person, but you can’t. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you or don’t want you, because ultimately there’s nothing you can do to make them stop. It’s solely and completely up to them to save themselves. And with that being said, YOU have to save yourself also, don’t drown with them.” I can only rack my brain so much trying to figure out what I can do to make things better, before I give up completely from exhaustion. The therapist (who is a recovering addict) also told me “sometimes the only thing that make alcoholics/ addicts wake up, is consequences. Sometimes people have to hit the bottom and shatter before they put the pieces of their life back together and climb up.” We’ll see……

  • Brooke:

    You have no idea what exhaustion is until you have spent months/years with an alcoholic. The lying, finger pointing, lack of ambition, constant picking at everything you do and the list goes on!!! You will want to hit him.

    There are so many excellent posts on this site that will give you insight so you can make a decision. Everything I have ever read about dating an alcoholic starts with “run”.

    Hope you are focusing on yourself. They only get worse and you won’t believe how much worse until you are living it. Take care.

  • linda

    Coreen
    Totally agree with u. They do get worse even if they aren’t using. Thought I would get my husband back. This jeckal Hyde is hard to take

  • Debbi

    Hi Brooke:
    Looks like you have reached that point that so many of us reached but in a way lucky for you that you found out very early–some of us married for many years before the symptoms you are seeing reared its head. Your therapist is absolutely right on all counts & I just want to add that the consequences your therapist mentioned only come about when boundaries are set. So set your boundaries and if you decide that it is not a relationship you want to be in any more at all–set that boundary and stop the contact. Please let us know what you decide and how you are doing. My thoughts are with you.

  • linda

    I have a question? Do are a go back to when they start to drink n drug. My a shows behavior of a twelve year old. Pouting ‘ect. Does not talk.

  • Karens

    Brooke, I so agree with the girls, especially with your relationship so very new.
    This type of behavior only gets worse. Life is so preciously short. After 27
    years had I known what I know now I would have ran away as far as I could go
    to avoid the lies, badgering, well every thing that was already said.

  • Rachel

    Brooke:

    I’d have to agree with the ladies. I’ve been with my a 2 1/2 years it does get worse. The verbal abuse just gets worse, the finger pointing etc. and he has been sober for 33 days. Just because they think the alcohol is gone the ugly personality Is still & still blaming me for eveyting that has gone wrong.. but I just left my a 2 days ago.. I’m sad & angry & tired of the bullying. It’s hard it seems like a love hate relationship, I’m miserable with him & I’m miserable without him.. I think they have a certain charm & once they’ve latched their claws into ya. It’s so hard to break free. Good luck Brooke and yes I agree with the ladies. Just like Mike said to me Run now b4 it’s too late.

  • Julie

    Linda, yes they act the age they were when they started using. I read that the emotional growth stops when they start using. And this makes sense because mine started using when he was 13 or 14 and he definitely acts like a 14 year old.

  • linda

    Julie
    Does each time they relapse,they go back ? My a acts like that when I share my feeling or try n talk about something important

  • tammy

    I have been dealing with my A husband for over 12 years. The ups and downs have made leaving very difficult. I wish there was a rock bottom. An A is very cunning and baffling just like the disease in itself. I continue to pursue my career and build a life for myself. Detaching is exhausting…

  • Julie

    Linda mine acted like a 14 year old in everything he did. He acted like that all the time. When we were dating he could be a polite young man but i did not realize until we got married that he never grew up emotionally. Of course my AH has other issues like narcissism and I think he is a sociopath. He has feelings of entitelment and does not care how anything he does effects anyone else. Only that he gets the results he wants out of his actions and treatment of others. BUt he did stupid things that young teens would do such as burnouts in the preschool parking lot when picking up one of the kids from preschool. He thought it was funny even though he had not been drinking before getting my son. But i heard about it from the teachers the next day. He has done so many things that an adult mature male would know was inappropriate or unsafe but he has the carelessness of a child who does not know any better. Tammy, After 20 years of dealing with so much from my AH and many things i did on my side to make things better because i had hope, i decided that my children and i deserved better. I could see him only getting worse and my life and my children’s life(even with detachment) would hurt as a result of his behaviors and his choices. The only way to protect ourselves from him was to get out and so we did. We still are fighting battles with him because he still tries to impose his problems on us and wants us to feel sorry for him. He too seems to have no bottom. But at least we do not have him as a constant threat and chaos in our home anymore.

  • Linda

    Julie,
    I believe my A is a twin. Tried to talk again last night. nothing but arguments, just bazaar. He just wants to deny my feelings. What hurts most is my sons, they look at him like he’s a big hero. doesn’t drink or do drugs. He is one way in front of people another behind closed door. Jeckal Hyde. I have 33 years with this A. Wish I had my husband. Hope u are doing well.

  • Julie

    Linda, i understand that. My children nicknamed their father “The Poser” because he did the same thing. They said he would pose as a good father in front of other people and then with just us he was totally different. But eventually he could not hold it together even in public or in front of others and the truth has come out. Little by little in front of almost everyone. He has lost friends becasue of his behavior but of course he blames me for that too. I know the truth though even if he refuses to see it. Stay strong and believe in yourself. Just remember he controls his own behavior. And from the sounds of it he can control it when he wants to so he could be that good person behind closed doors if he wanted to. You just need to decide what the reality is of who he really is and act accordingly. Which one is he really? Jeckyl? or Hyde?

  • linda

    Julie
    Wish my grow sons would see it
    Just what to cry. I need to make a move. Thank sooo much . I have left my a at least three time n came back. Looking inside myself as to y. On fifteen at work need to get back. Hope your enjoying this beautiful day

  • Julie

    Linda, I wonder if your sons are just in denial. I have to say i commend my children for seeing him for what he was before i would even admit it to myself. But i have soem smart kiddos. Maybe your sons know the truth deep down inside but do not want to deal with it so they pretend they do not see it. Stay strong and don’t let it get you down.

  • linda

    Julie
    I’m sure this a has lied to them also. They can’t even talk to me. They just evolved me unless he’s here. Which they could see. You are probably right. Denial I know their a third party. He is so smug. Laughs at me when I share my feeling. Doesn’t care about my feelings just dents them or laughs. I believe he really hates me. Wish I could just expose him for what he is.

  • Linda

    Julie,
    Glad your kids see him for what he is. The POSER, It is also called staging. What’s everyone to believe he’s a Good Guy. But we see what they really are. Today My A told me I was being smart went I told him to have a good day. ???? What the H is that about.? Nothing I say is wright…….

  • Julie

    You are absolutely right. Nothing you do or say will be right or good enough. That is why i chose to stop trying to please my AH and to make my life better for me and hte children.

  • linda

    Julie
    I can’t even stand to talk to him. He just called from work to argue. Makes me feel like he’s entertaining someone or staging . He can go from arguing before he leave’s to talking like a nice guy on phone. Or revised. Glad I have my work to get away from him. Using my tools from allon. Have a great day❕

  • Laura

    O my feels like I am reading my own life’s story!I recently left my marriage of 29 years to my A husband who mentally abused me for many years. I used to think that the only way out of this chaotic life was going to be when he died,I felt so weak and didn’t have the courage or financial means to leave. The last month of being at home with him I prayed like I never prayed before for the courage and strength to get a way from this toxic man, I guess the good lord finally heard and answered my prayers he blessed me with a low income apartment that I could afford with my babysitting income for me and my Grandson whom I am raising since he was 4 months old, he is 9 years old now. I am free from all those chaotic sleepless nights.There were days where I thought I just couldn’t go on, if it weren’t for my Grandson I think he would of drove me to insanity. It has been a long long hard life and it’s not even a life for him or myself it was just existing more like it. My A is addicted to Vodka he is unable to work anymore because of it. He became a totally different person than the man I married. It was like I was the enemy he had so much hate and anger for me but yet he didn’t want to be away from me,I would leave one room and go into the next room to get away for his diarrhea of the mouth but he would follow me and continue the verbal abuse through the door and on his sober moments which as rare he had not one word to say to me. He tried rehab once and almost made it 30 days but left a week before! only to go right back to it. He said several times that he wanted to stop drinking that he didn’t mean to become that way but that it was to hard to try and stop that the urge was to much to control.Well I educated myself about alcoholism through reading a lot and sites such as this one that I learned how to detach and learned that I did not cause it nor can I change him or cure him. So I walked away and I actually have peace and tranquility in my new sanctuary!I still here from him but I can actually hang up the phone when he starts being abusive I don’t have to listen to it anymore! I am in control now. I have my days when I feel down and I start to miss the man I married and feel the guilt for walking away but it was my health,sanity and grandson that I had to put first. I pray for all of us on this site may you all have peace in your lives.

  • linda

    Laura
    Thanks for your encouraging story. I was away from my a for a year

    Should never had talk to him on the phone. I left words drag me back.
    Need to get the courage to leave again. And cut all communication. I keep praying for that. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Debbi

    Laura:
    29 years of marriage and now you have some peace and able to enjoy your grandson–that took INCREDIBLE COURAGE for you to do all that. Your story is an inspiration here to others. I know about the detaching and having to move from one area of the home to another as they follow you around. That was a good sign of you learning to detach. When you detach and just listen to what they are saying you realize you don’t even want to engage anymore and moving to another room is a sign you achieved that detachment before you left. Your guilt after leaving is normal & we all go through it and have our “2nd guessing remorseful” feelings but just as you saw that if you did not take care of you, who would be there to take care of that lovely grandson. Enjoy him and your new peaceful life and don’t feel guilty–you helped stopped a cycle by removing your grandson from that environment. That took great courage; you are a hero to be applauded!

  • Laura

    Linda,
    I pray that you find the courage to leave again if you are in a bad situation.It’s not to fair that we give so much of ourselves to these selfish A’s and only to realize they are never going to change. be strong you left once before you can do it again. Hugs to you

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